It seems that just putting your Tent anywhere in India is both not the done thing unless you are up in the mountains somewhere and also based on today, not easy to find a space. I can’t imagine anyone would really care though but I reckon on a serious amount of visitors. Rumours include, most will just stare silently ALL night, perhaps a little unnerving?
Last night Calcutta threw up a nice 600 rupee (£7) room. Super basic and just perfect and I’m reasoning that once I get out of this huge City it can only get cheaper. I don’t even need air-con, maybe an extra blanket even.
The ladies & gents running the hotel are starting the day just perfectly with there excellent English and steady supply of milky sweet tea. Life is rosy. Seems sensible to ask where is the place you go for breakfast and what should I have. “End of the road and turn left Jason, you’ll find the Abdulla Cafe and I recommend the Winter special. Order a few Tandoori Roti’s and Beef Nahari.”
“Oh and if you are wondering, we are Muslims, that’s why we are eating beef and this dish is spicy as well too warm you up in Wintertime, you wont get this in Summer or anywhere else, its a Kolkata/Bengal special”.
I forgot my camera but its a beautiful looking red/brown colour dish with 2 lumps of melt in your mouth beef, more sort of soup consistency and just the right amount of spice, more flavour, less fire. The roti is like our Naan, ive managed 4 and a kind of fried roti or two with dal inside. Ive got a new buddy, in fact 3 new buddies sharing my table and one who speaks great English and we’ve had a great chat but something tells me he has something else too say. For the record the first class breakfast comes in at a ridiculously cheap 40 rupee plus a 10 rupee tip. (about 60 pence).
Its correct, our business is not yet concluded. He asks me if he can give me his business card (Ive already learned he is a trainee clothes designer in the family business). “Follow me Jason, I’ll get you a business card”. It all smells of an opportunity to sell me stuff. Its not an uncomfortable feeling following him into some windy dingy underground passages and its a kind of retail outlet with some nice looking craft sort of stuff for sale.
I’ve never been much into retail therapy and its simple to explain that I just don’t have room for stuff. “Do you like to smoke Jason? You know SMOKE?” which would have benefitted from a nudge nudge wink wink “we have some nice Hashish”. Well, when in Rome and all that.
So maybe 10inches of licorice stick sized Hashish wrapped in a beautiful red cloth with gold edges is presented and its suggested we retire to the rear office, its haggle time. “So if I get caught with this what’s gonna happen?” I’ve asked “For you Jason, as a tourist, nothing. Its the dealers that get nicked”.
I’m used to being seen as a money opportunity, its kinda fair enough but no amount of haggling is going on here and £80 is just too much and his reasoning that its the same money as the Uk doesn’t cut any slack with me.
I’ve already been invited twice for a sneaky smoke by passers by, but riding through Calcutta stoned ain’t no plan. Anyway the point is I’ve been warned that friendliness is often a mask for more in India but someone’s always selling something wherever you are in the world and we’ve gone for a chai after. Seems to me you can be nice and a salesman.
Yep Calcutta is supremely amazing and a big slow stop – start journey to leave. Strange thing is the traffic is definitely bonkers with a large amount of ‘no rules’ but I’ve been in hairier places. Ho Chi Min City & Tehran for example. Its a close run thing though but its so much fun as it always is.
So here I am right now with today’s big mystery. Its a kind of dull main road but with huge amounts of food for the eyes ALL the way. And the mystery is this. I’m seeing plenty of suitably cheap looking ‘Hotels’, that’s what the sign says, but when enquiring about rooms I’m told we have no rooms. “do you mean you are full” I’ve asked each time but it seems that ‘Hotel’ means usually food, not beds?
For sure the English is a lot thinner here so I just can’t get too the bottom of where I will find rooms and so when at just before 5pm I’ve been ambushed by darkness and the biggest most beautiful huge sun and sunset I’m left with one very shiny and expensive looking actual Hotel. I get this feeling because underneath the neon ‘Hotel’ sign, also in neon is the proud statement ‘ISO 9000 & 9001 standard.’
The 24hr food is more restaurant than street and at about £3 for a meal is by no means expensive and tonight’s Korma is outstanding and served with super attentive and very friendly Indian hospitality and I’ve probably been introduced to every Local, who are all extremely excited (and quietly confident) about tomorrow’s 3rd Test against England.
Hmm.. £17 is a budget buster (and that’s after some negotiations from the original price of £30 quoted). Gonna have to suss this one out or I could be on the football pitch tomorrow night. After all, “Welcome too India’ has been shouted as I’ve passed many of them today and the grass is a nicely cut length. Nothing wrong with a bit if grass eh?
Tonight’s plan. Go and watch the Bollywood film on the TV outside with a load of Indians and tomorrow morning get on the road early, find that Hotel early and sit outside and just people watch. Thanks India, you are incredible!