If you ever hear anyone say that Kolkata is not a place for tourists, tell them they’re wrong! Kolkata was one of the most tourist friendly cities I visited in India, with street signs and sidewalks that allowed for easy navigation. Ronnie, our unofficial itinerary planner in India, highly recommended that we visit Kolkata, and I’m glad we did. Ronnie had lived there for his schooling, and we could see why he enjoyed living there so much! Kolkata was one of the most modern cities we saw in India. We also attracted significantly fewer looks than in other parts of India, and practically no one asked us if we needed a tuk-tuk (although there was one point when we would have appreciated it… we had a taxi driver refuse to drive us to Sudder Street, the backpacker area.)
We spent one day in Kolkata exploring the Victoria Memorial, which houses the best museum we saw in India.
The displays truly painted a picture of the impact of colonialism in the country, and in Kolkata in particular. I wish I had been allowed to take pictures, because there were some pretty profound statements that left little to the imagination. One I remember is that, “Calcutta gained the most from the colonial power of any city in India; it also had the most to lose.” The surrounding grounds are also very pretty, and frame the white building beautifully.
We also stopped at a mall, in the pursuit of purchasing some Clinique products. This had been the plan since week 2, when my face had felt
Iike leather. One hint for long-term travel: don’t abandon all your face products (unless they would fill your whole backpack). My skin was thirsting for some Clinique 3-step action, and has been very happy since I procured some.
We spent the whole day on foot, so we decided to go for a taxi ride back to our guesthouse. This was when we could have used a tuk-tuk at our fingertips. We were waved off by the first taxi driver after bargaining a bit too hard, and were shot a disgusted look by the second. I guess taxi drivers in Kolkata can afford to be choosy!
We also visited the South Park Street Cemetery, which gave us another look into Kolkata’s colonial history. The Cemetery is home to many ostentatious memorials, inscribed with flowery descriptions. I really found it interesting how much of the city’s history is steeped in colonial influence. The cemetery was a nice spot to visit, because it was nice and quiet, but almost eerily quiet.
A lot of our time in Kolkata was also spent dealing with my UPS delivery of more malaria pills sent by my parents. It was a bit of an ordeal, but they finally arrived! Another hint: take way more malaria pills than you think you may need.
After two terrible nights at the Capital Guesthouse, where we slept on a piece of plywood with a millimetre of foam on it, we rocked some serious relaxation at the Hyatt for a night (a generous gift from some wonderful people).
We ate some deliciously fancy food, drank some wine for the first time in a
long time, relaxed by the pool, and slept like angels on the feather pillows. We also took the opportunity to wash our silk sleep sacks that we’ve been using every night… and were very glad we did, after seeing the colour of the water in the basin… We packed up again the next day, said a bittersweet goodbye to India after a roller-coaster 5 weeks, and headed to our next stop – Cambodia!