An exciting ride, then a long boring wait.

Siliguri Travel Blog

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Just get us to the airport in one piece!
Our main mission for the morning was simply to get from the Cindrella Hotel in Siliguri to the airport in Bagdogra, about 10 miles away. This was easier said than done, considering the possibility of large crowds and demonstrations on the way. Because "there might be trouble on the road," (the hotel manager's words) the hotel chartered a bus (safer than car) to bring its guests to the airport at 10am. Because of this last-minute strike in Darjeeling, thousands of tourists are trying to leave all at once, so we were happy to have an early ride even though our flight wasn't 'til 4pm.

The bus left at 10:15 am, and although it was a short distance, it took about 40 minutes.
Demonstrators on the way to the airport.
The traffic was heavy and varied: everything on wheels or legs could be found on that road. Rickshaws, bicycles, carts, cars, buses, vans, trucks, donkeys, horses name it. Chaos! A man from the hotel clung to the door of the bus, hopping off periodically to direct our intrepid driver through particularly hairy areas. We passed a long line of marching demonstrators, and I was basically face to face with them from where I sat on the bus. They seemed non-threatening, but then some of the guys started banging on the bus. The bus driver quickly pulled off onto the "shoulder" (more of a ditch really), punched the accelerator, and whizzed right through the whole mess. What a ride!

There were many armed soldiers around the airport area, and we were reassured that there would be no interruptions to air travel. Luckily I had a printed copy of our e-tickets, or we wouldn’t have been able to get in the airport, since they were checking this at the door.
Waiting. Sweating.
We made it through the first security screening to find a series of queues with no particular order. We got into one of the lines, and then an airport employee told us that we were too early to be in that line. So we went upstairs to kill time and sweat (there was no AC in the airport). Luckily I had The Time Traveler’s Wife to keep me occupied.

After a couple hours in the stifling heat, we lugged our bags back down to security. It was really busy. The line was formed into a curlicue of sorts and had no rhyme or reason. We got pushed and jostled, but it seemed the airport employees were looking out for us and telling us what to do (perhaps because we looked completely clueless?), so  we finally we got our bags through the X-ray machine. At the other end, airport workers were putting security bands around the luggage, and there was a complete log jam of people waiting to pick up their bags.
Bagdogra airport before it got busy.
We basically had to fight our way in and out again! Crazy. I kept thinking about how the Japanese could come in and show these people a thing or two about order!  

Then it was time for the SpiceJet check-in line, which was very, very long. After standing in this line and being rudely shoved and bumped by carts for 15 minutes, I was annoyed as hell and Steve was seriously ready to deck someone. The fact that it was about 100 degrees did nothing to improve our black moods!  

Finally we got through this line and found we did indeed have seats on the plane (I was worried something would go wrong due to the sheer number of people trying to get out.) As an extra bonus, we got exit row seats. Leg room!

Then it was time to stand in ANOTHER security line. More waiting, more sweating, more rude loud people. Ugh. I was SO ready to be done with India at this point. But no: we are off to Delhi and then to Agra. It will be several days until we are done with India. Looking on the bright side, things can only get better. I think.  

cmgervais says:
Oh, me too! Some trapped tourists got hurt there in some violence, several days after this posting. People were stuck for many days! Terrible situation. It doesn't further anyone's cause to hurt tourists, who are the main source of their income! I just don't get it.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
portia says:
wow! way too exciting for me! glad you got out though.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
cmgervais says:
Hey you! Hi!

I read in the newspaper that as of yesterday there were some tourists still trapped in the area, and things were getting kind of hairy with road blocks, etc. It's all over the newspapers and on the news here.

Thankfully they issued a 15-hour halt to the strike so that the remaining visitors could escape!

It was all exciting and interesting, but I did not feel scared for my safety at any time. But I am glad we got out when we did.

Thanks for your note. Say hi to everyone.
Posted on: Jun 12, 2008
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Just get us to the airport in one …
Just get us to the airport in one…
Demonstrators on the way to the ai…
Demonstrators on the way to the a…
Waiting. Sweating.
Waiting. Sweating.
Bagdogra airport before it got bus…
Bagdogra airport before it got bu…
Steve gets hung up at Security Lin…
Steve gets hung up at Security Li…
Finally on our way! Photos were pr…
Finally on our way! Photos were p…
photo by: cmgervais