Sunday, December 11, 2016

Namashkar India (Part 2 - Kolkata, Here We Come!)

Now, the journey started.

First, you have to know yang kitorang cuma ada 10 hari je okay untuk cover our India trip. Low self esteem gila bila kitorang mingle and sembang dengan other tourists/travelers especially those from Europe, their trip was for at least one month, and they would frown and be surprised gilaa bila kitorang bagitahu we only have 10 days.

Sorry, we are working ladies okay. Company release cuti kitorang 10 hari ni pon dah bersyukur. LOL

Okay, for our trip we will cover these places:

  1. Kolkata, West Bengal
  2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (my fav!)
  3. Agra, Uttar Pradesh
  4. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
  5. Jodhpur, Rajasthan
  6. New Delhi, Delhi

Tapi honestly, as for Kolkata and Delhi, those are our tempat persinggahan je. And, kitorang takde lah aim nak cover those places in depth sebab kitorang tahu yang we don't have much time, so we only go the places yang PALING menarik hati kitorang je.

So kalau ikut map, we are covering the four states in the North of India, from East to West.

Perjalanan kami bermula pada Jumaat, 25 November 2016. Bertolak menaiki Air Asia ke Kolkata. Flight kitorang amek pukul 10.35pm and arriving Kolkata at 12.30am waktu India.

Time zone India is two hours and thirty minutes later than us in Malaysia so kalau ikutkan kitorang sampai takde lah lambat sangat.

Well, actually kalau compare dengan orang lain, our timing ni memang berani mati lah kiranya. Sebab masing masing dah lah first timer, lepas tu berani ambil flight malam yang sampai midnight pulak tu kan, kau apahal daring sangat? LOL

Tapi, alhamdulillah urusan kitorang dekat sini pun dipermudahkan. Honestly, I was told by my own colleague, Manoj, an expat from India yang kalau turun kat airport Kolkata tu, we have to be extra careful because there would be a lot of scammers and taxi drivers who would take your bags and force you to take their taxi..


Maybe because we arrived Kolkata pun already midnight and demand for taxis and auto pun tak banyak waktu tu. So, bila settle je urusan kat imigresen and tukar duit, so we took prepaid taxi to our airbnb which located at Spacetown housing complex, situated only 3km away from airport.

I would suggest you to take prepaid taxi whenever you see any counter that offer the service. Why? Because prepaid taxi is a lot cheaper and the price is fixed. So you boleh lah rasa safe sikit from kena tipu ke apa kan and the taxi is cool! Feeling old school gitu. 

Our airbnb is soooo cozy and a little bit oldschool. Imagine the elevator is the one like we used to watch in old English movies which uses the grill and you can see outside the elevators move up? Ha, macam tu lah our elevator dekat airbnb tu.

Picture taken from google, for your reference

Everything about Kolkata excites us. The fog. Oh, the fog! At first we thought that it was because the air was polluted. Imagine, all the way from airport to our airbnb, the visibility is so low that all we see were all mist and fog! Turns out it was normal during winter, and the temperature at the time was around 16 degree Celcius.

So, our airbnb is only a room with attached bathroom and it was comfy enough for the both of us. Too comfy that we don't mind waking up late in the morning despite masing masing semangat terlajak nak explore Kolkata kononnya! Hahaha

The next morning, we woke up around 8 am and we are ready to prepare our own breakfast, since Farah (Lupa nak kenalkan, I went to India with this wonderful girl named Farah) brought some porridge with her and I brought mushroom soup and the airbnb comes with water heater, so why not lah kan? We must take the most important meal of the day because we have long awaited adventure ahead of us!

So, using the water heater, we took some tap water and heat the water. But, the result was disappointing. The water appeared cloudy. We thought it was the water heater, so we tried again for the second time. The result came out the same. Cloudy water. After three trials, we decided to contact the owner to ask for some hot water for our breakfast.

Jayant, our host, was such a kind lady so she gave us two mug of water, and some breads and jam for our breakfast. When we look at the mug, both of just couldn't help but laugh and brave our heart to just drink the water.


Even the water in the mug was CLOUDY! So, yeah, remember the vaccine I asked to take? This is the time it might get very useful. 

But, alhamdulillah despite we were drinking cloudy water for our breakfast (nasib baik bubur nasi Farah and my mushroom soup did not turn out to be cloudy too LOL) we haven't experience any tummy ache or even diarrhea. Maybe our tummies are just made for India! 

We checked out from the airbnb at around 9.30 and using OlaCabs apps, we managed to get transportation to go to our first destination, Howrah Railway Station.

A bit about OlaCabs, if you want to use the apps, you first need to have Indian number. A series of number will be send to your India phone number, then you can use the apps. That's why it's very important to have Indian number.

Also, if you don't want to use OlaCabs, you can use Uber too. Personally, Ola is a lot cheaper than Uber. Why don't I suggest you to use auto or cab? Because in the place where we were residing, cabs are hard to find, and also it's a little bit expensive. Autos were nowhere to be seen in here, in Kolkata.

So, we were waiting outside the Spacetown Complex for our Ola. Dalam apps tu mentioned that he's only 5 minutes away, but we were waiting for almost 15 minutes tapi tak sampai sampai jugak. Until somehow we saw in the maps that the car is exiting our complex.

Apa lagi, berlari lah kitorang mengejar kereta tu. I called the driver and when he picked up, I'm like 


He kept moving. Me and Farah were already out of breath, and remembering that we are now in Kolkata, where Hindi is the mother tongue for the Northern part, I screamed,

"Ruko! Ruko!" 

*Ruko means stop in Hindi

And then, the car stopped and reverse after he noticed us chasing him. It was hilarious knowing that the first word we used in India is Ruko (stop) instead of Namaste. Lol

Turns out the driver did not know English at all. He did try to converse with us using Hindi and we can see from his look that he was frustrated that he can't converse with us. He was trying to explain about Kolkata to us knowing that we are tourist. It was amazing to see his effort but somehow midway he stopped explaining stuffs to us because he can see our confused face yang tak faham satu benda pun. Kesian dia.

Actually, he was the second driver that we called. The first driver has arrived but he got lost finding our location. He too, did not know how to speak English and we did asked for assistance from the local who lived there to try giving directions to our Ola driver but the driver was too confused that we have to cancel the ride.

It was quite surprising that not all local knows how to speak English despite Kolkata is considered as a big city.

Our excited face to start our first journey!

So, the driver took us to Howrah Railway Station (HWH). The biggest and oldest railway station in all of India. It was so big that it has 23 platforms operating and even cars can go inside the platforms to send passengers. To go to HWH, we have to pass through Howrah Bridge, one of India architecture pride that was built in 1935 and opened to public in 1943. The bridge still look new despite its old age.

Howrah Bridge at dusk as seen from HWH

Sorry, gambar tak cantik. We were not allowed to take pictures or even take a camera with us when we were on the bridge. And to find a good angle to take a picture of the majestic bridge was almost impossible unless you took a boat cruising the river beneath.

The majestic Howrah Railway Station (HWH)

In HWH, we looked for the cloak room to put our heavy bags. Good things about all the railway stations in India, they have cloak room where you can put your bags up to 7 days for a very cheap price. It's usually Rs 15 per bag per day. So, for us, it was Rs 30 which means only RM 1.80 per day. Anyway, for you to use the cloak room, you must have a train ticket. If you fail to establish your train tickets, your bags are disqualified to be stored in the cloak room.

Farah as seen queuing for our bags to be stored in the cloak room

We arrived HWH at around 11 am. And for your info, all the way from our airbnb to HWH is around 10-15 minutes, and what we noticed was, here in India, life started late. Meaning to say, it was almost 11 am, but there were a lot of shops that are still closed. And there are a lot of people who are still getting ready to work, and still taking shower in the roadside. Yes, kat sini orang mandi kat tepi jalan je. Masing masing beratur with their clothes, takin turn to wash their clothes and showering.

But the traffic, oh the traffic in Kolkata is the worst! (in a good way) I thought Delhi would be worse, but no, nothing beats Kolkata. There were a lot of cars, motors, cabs and people crossing the roads. The noise...please la sesiapa yang tak tahan bising, and jenis senang sakit telinga, get ready lah okay. People honk a lot here. It was a courtesy to honk in here.

Also in Kolkata, like I said before, there were no autos but there a lot of yellow cabs here. Feels like New York!

Yellow cabs everywhere!

In Kolkata, we basically take our time to walk through the city. We managed to go to Malik Ghat flower market, New Market Kolkata, and take a relaxing stroll on the Howrah Bridge.

When we walk along the street of Kolkata, what we managed to see is the survival of people here. One of the thing that I saw that really touched my heart and made me grateful with the life I had was when I saw a family of five, four of them children aged from 3-6 years old with their grandmother (I assumed due to her old age). They were sitting at the road side with a packet of biscuits and the grandmother is segregating the biscuits to the kids. Each kids get almost the same amount. And the biscuits were not in its original forms anymore, there were broken to pieces to give it an illusion that they have a lot of biscuits.

Maka, nikmat Tuhan yang mana yang kamu dustakan?

Also, there were people living in a tent by the road side. They put up a tent using a piece of clothes and pipe/wooden stick. In the morning you can see some women cooking using pot and stones. Like what we used for camping. Life is hard in a big city like Kolkata, but people here are surviving with what they have. We do not encounter any beggar coming to our cabs while we were all.

In Kolkata, we ate our lunch in this wonderful restaurant named New Aliah Hotel. It was a muslim restaurant serving beriyani and we ate our first biryani here. The restaurant is situated near Lal Bazar. We took prepaid taxi from HWH to the restaurant.

Along the way, in the taxi you can see that the buildings in Kolkata are all designed with the influence of British. It has this sense of style and elegance. One of the building that I noticed was the old Hong Kong House that house HSBC bank. The building was originally for the bankers from China called Shangkers and Honkers (Shanghai and Hong Kong Banks). The banks has resided there during its first opening in 1867. More than 100 years old and still standing strong. Amazing!

The Hong Kong House as previously mentioned.

So after lunch, we went to New Market for some shopping. I did shop for few bangles here. But not the famous Indian bangles. I shopped for bangles like the one in Bajirao Mastani. Hahah. It's so cheap here and you can find a lot of kurtis for prices that are as cheap as Rs 200 or RM 14! 

Kolkata New Market

We went inside one of the complex in the New Market in search for ready to wear lahengas because we want to blend in like local lah kononnya. But to our high taste and insufficient money in hand, we only managed to look around je lah. LOL

But before that, we tapau food first for our next journey to Varanasi. The train is going to take a 13 hours long journey and we need food for our dinner and we want meat! So we take away kebabs from one of the muslim restaurant inside the complex. Don't worry, there are a lot of muslim in Kolkata and it's not hard at all to find any delicious and decent muslim restaurant in here.

Our train to Varanasi is scheduled at 2000hrs so we managed to get back to the station at around 6 pm and after identifying which platform the train is going to arrive, we decided to hang out in the waiting room.

Funny thing about HWH is, our ticket status was both confirmed, but Farah's was CNF and mine was RAC. Meaning, I have to share with another person. So, we would like to ask the counter if we could share together, and if we are going to be in the same coach. We went to the Enquiry counter and there's this lady attending us. But, the lady was sooooo lazy that when we showed her our ticket, instead of taking our ticket, she used a stick (bukan stick pun, more to ranting kayu) and showed us the number that she has written earlier and explain to us in Hindi, and was not bothered with the fact that we are not an Indian.

Haha we are supposed to be mad at the situation but I think it was funny and we were still to ecstatic with the fact that we are in India that we decided that would be a good story to tell later, which it was!

So, I guess that's that for Kolkata. In the next post, I'll tell you about a mystical land, the Shiva city, called Varanasi, where magic happened.

See you!

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