It was a morning flight to Kolkatta and I could not help but feel a twinge of sadness as the plane left Bangkok. I only had a couple of weeks left before I had to return home and now I was leaving South East Asia where I had had so many wonderful adventures. Still, the beach in Palolem in the south of India beckoned, but I was now starting to feel a little worried if I had made the right decision. I had found returning to Loas not as good as the first time I had been there and returning to Palolem could well be similar? Also I had booked my flight home from Mumbai before returning to Thailand in July and subsequently had an amazing time in Thailand, so I was now starting to think that I should have spent my final weeks down by the south western Thai islands instead of going back to India.
Things started going wrong before I even landed in Kolkatta. My cold of previous days was still hanging around and had got into my sinuses. This meant that when the pressure in the cabin changed as the plane went up my ears would not pop. Soon there was tremendous pressure on my ears and the pain was agonising! After a little while I eventually managed to pop them which sent a fresh sharp arrow of pain direct to my brain. Then we had the descent…
Relieved to have landed with my hearing intact (seriously!), I staggered out of the airport building and came across the waiting taxi rank. I remembered when I had gone from the city centre to Kolkatta airport the cost had been 300 Rupees but the taxi drivers were trying to charge me 900 Rupees!! I argued with them for ages because 900 rupees was actually quite a lot of money (about 12 quid) but they wouldn’t back down. Eventually after a lot of faffing around and taking to different backpackers I managed to get a taxi with a Russian girl to the Metro station.
About halfway through the journey it started to rain and I mean monsoon type rain. Soon everything was soaking wet and low points in the road were flooded with water. The traffic was crazy as well with the roads almost completely jammed up with lorries, rickshaws, cars, bikes and people. Eventually we arrived at the metro station and at first the driver stopped in what can only be called a small lake as the road had totally flooded. I managed to persuade him to drive onto slightly higher ground before we got out into the pouring rain and ran to the station, where we found out that we had arrived at the train station and not the metro station, which was somewhere nearby!
The train station was filthy, crowded and noisy. It was hard to tell which was the right train to catch, because although there was an information board telling you the destination, we did not know which destination we wanted to head towards. The only officials were a couple of cops in the distance and the person selling tickets, but he had a small crowd of people pushing towards the window in an attempt to buy a ticket first. I was not really in the mood for it all to be this hard, but the Russian girl seemed to be quite happy with everything. She found out the location of the metro station and asked if I would like to join her?
I decided against it. I knew that once I had taken the metro it would not take me directly to the backpacker district where the guesthouses were anyway. I decided just to sod the cost and get a taxi. So we said goodbye, I spent about half an hour waiting for the rain to stop and then walked back down to the street, only to find no taxis and one big traffic jam!
Even though it had stopped raining at this point the streets were still a little flooded in places and there was nowhere clean and dry to put down my backpack. It was hot, I was sweating and still ill. I was by now in a foul mood and just really, really wanted to find a bed. Eventually it happened. I got a taxi and it was only another 400 Rupees. I got to the guesthouse street, found somewhere half decent and crashed out for a while.
The rest of the day was spent recovering and relaxing, although I did find a chemist who sold me a steroid nasal spray (probably illegal in the west by the sounds of it) which I was assured would help sort out some of the symptoms of my cold and went to a very posh restaurant down the road in my backpacker gear for dinner. It was a place where the dishes were brought out to the table and then someone else spooned the food onto the plate for you! Excellent food.
I was up at 5.30am to get an early morning flight onto Mumbai. The taxi drive out to the airport was only 250 Rupees and on the way in the pre dawn light there were a couple of interesting sights. First off in the city centre a man was killing chickens on a doorstep, with no chopping board and the chicken bodies going onto the pavement on one side of him and the heads onto another. Also out nearer to the airport was a load of lights and displays going up as apparently that day was a key festival day when everyone would be off work and on the streets. Soon enough anyway I was at the airport and on my flight to Mumbai.