I'm in India and I'm still alive

Kolkata Travel Blog

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Victoria Memorial as seen from the Maidan
Alright!  Still alive in India!!!

When I landed in Kolkata it was unfortunately a Sunday and being the silly girl that I am, I didn't think about how banks are usually closed on Sundays.  Nevermind that I was in an international airport.  Lucky ATMs either!  Just a Thomas Cook that took cash or travellers cheques.  I don't use travellers cheques.  Ever. 

So I kissed my emergency stash of US cash goodbye and said hello to the rupee.  I got a prepaid taxi and I was off to Sudder Street, the main traveller's street in Kolkata. 

It's not that this place really is scary, it's just that I just spent a nice leisurely month vacationing in Thailand, and India.
A building in the BBD Bagh district
.....well, it's unlike ANY country I've ever been in.   My 4 months backpacking in China at least prepped me for dealing with the crowds, the dirty streets, the chaotic traffic, the squat toilets, and the men peeing on the streets.  But it's just not the same.  The urge, as my solo woman traveller, to hide in my dorm room all day was very enticing!  But I got hungry so that plan didn't work out.

That was two days ago. 

I'm doing much MUCH better now that I've had a chance to explore the city a bit more and get adjusted to life in India.  First of all, the food is DELICIOUS.  I'm sure this is repeated by many a traveller but here it is again.  DELICIOUS.  And dirt cheap!  I'm loving that!  I especially loved that notion when I had very little money as I waited to find a bank to open up this past Monday.
the alleyway of vendors by my guesthouse
  I can get a great meal for only Rs 35 which works out to about $1 US. 

The other difference I'm noticing is in the kind of traveller that comes to India.  Everyone here is older, mellower, and many are much more travelled than me!  Today I spent the day exploring the city with these 2 guys I met yesterday: an American that has spent the last 2 years travelling around India, Nepal, Indonesia and the Phillipines, and an English guy who just came back from backpacking through Bhutan.

For all of you out there who know nothing about travelling through Bhutan.....well, let's just say that that man was probably the FIRST to ever backpack through Bhutan!  Visas to Bhutan cost $200 US PER DAY and you can only enter as part of an organized tour group.
view from the staircase of my friend's guesthouse
  And you only get to visit the western affluent parts of Bhutan.  My buddy met some government official on his last journey through Asia and was personally invited by the government to visit Bhutan as an independent traveller.  Talk about the best travel stories!

Next to these guys, I'm a rookie traveller with zero interesting stories to share.  But I figure I'm much younger, and most notably, I'm a woman.  It's just not the same.  You can try to explain to men what it's like as a woman solo traveller, but they'll never get it.

For example:  Just walking around the streets of Kolkata.  My friends dressed in the same clothing they could be wearing at home.  Lots of male tourists just wear shorts and a T-shirt.  Not the women though.  No, the first thing I did, once I got to the bank that is, was go to the market and buy some local clothes.  It's fine to wear clothes from home as long as your shoulders and knees are covered, but it's just soooo much easier to wear the local styles.  They're very light, very modest, and they're loose fitting so your curves don't really show.  In fact, when I wear my shirts from home, I drape a pashmina over my chest to hide any curves. 

It helps to dress conservatively, but it doesn't mean the men don't stare, making kissy faces, and try to grab my ass as I walk by.  Don't get the wrong impression here!  This doesn't happen every single time I walk down the street.  India is a safe place and the people really are VERY friendly and respectful, but it only takes a small handful of men to prove to any woman that when travelling in India it's important to keep a watchful eye out for groping hands.

So I'm alive, but not harassment free.  

aimeeee says:
Can you give advice on where to stay in Kolkata? I'm also a female traveling alone, and I'll be in that city in April.
Posted on: Jan 13, 2008
eightpix says:
Glad to hear that you're still alive. Good news is that traveling with experienced people will make you al the better a traveler. Soak it up.

'til I hear from you next...
Posted on: Jan 10, 2008
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Victoria Memorial as seen from the…
Victoria Memorial as seen from th…
A building in the BBD Bagh district
A building in the BBD Bagh district
the alleyway of vendors by my gues…
the alleyway of vendors by my gue…
view from the staircase of my frie…
view from the staircase of my fri…
photo by: sky69