Ted and Sheree Cook – azcook – India 7

Thursday, December 6, 2007
– Calcutta and Chennai, India

Thursday, December 6, 2007
– Calcutta and Chennai, India

Today was a travel day.  We caught our transport to the airport at 8 and got to the airport and checked in and waited.  We had to check in 3 hours early and ended up having a good flight on Air India Express.  We got a smoking deal (about $90 US each), but it meant flying into Calcutta first and then we got some cheap domestic flights to our preferred destination in the south.  We met some Indian rowing officials coming back from their certification exam and they gave us lots of tips about survival in India.  Everyone we have met that has been there has said it is incredible and very interesting, but it is hard travel.  There is lots of poverty, pollution, beaurocracy and inefficiencies.  We arrive at the airport in Calcutta (one of the largest cities in India) to a decrepid airport and a single immigration guy handing out the forms that everyone must fill out.  He basically stood in a rather obscure corner of the arrival area and handed out forms one at a time.  The only way we knew we might have to do this was because of a crowd packed in around him, each person with a single hand out stretching to be recognized by this guy.  He methodically passed out forms, periodically stopping to straighten the pile of forms in his hand (a no less than 45 second process).  Indians and those who have been to India before have learned to be aggressive and pushy in these situations, so this was our first lesson.  There was no real rush because the line to have passports checked wasn’t moving at all.  We were in no rush and took the opportunity to observe and visit with other travelers.  We cleared immigration finally and then waited another 45 minutes for bags to arrive.  What they were doing for the previous hour we don’t know.  Our Indian rowing friends advised us about these.  The equipment was ancient and bags showed up with long pauses between.  We then headed to the domestic terminal to wait for our next flight to Chennai.  We had a five hour layover and would have liked to get into Calcutta for a quick peek, but were warned that we might not make it back in time.  Our next flight’s check in process was a bit quirky.  We first noticed a sign listing all the things that are not allowed in your carry on baggage.  Most made sense, but when we noticed that pickles were not allowed we started to wonder.  What can one do with a pickle, or even numerous pickles, that would be a potential danger.  We welcome any devious thinkers to post replies listing possible dastardly uses of pickles.  By the way, powdered pickles were allowed (huh????).  None of the signs indicating departure gates worked.  Two signs had different boarding times.  It didn’t matter because none of it was correct.  We asked periodically and were told to wait.  We did.  Finally, out of the blue a guy came up to us and said go to gate 4 now.  We did.  The airline attendants eventually called for boarding and asked for rows 16-31.Almost everyone got up and hustled to the door and jammed in.  Several times they said only rows 16-31, nobody moved.  They started to check people through and tried to turn away the people from other rows, nobody moved and then they argued.   They eventually pushed in anyways.  Everyone eventually got on.  We can’t imagine that this process is repeated on every flight and that they don’t create roped of lines for boarding or something else.  Maybe it was all show for the tourists.  Shortly after take off the flight attendent walked down the aisle spraying an aerosol air freshener up toward the ceiling.  She must have emptied an entire can.  Wierd!  We arrive in Chennai (formerly Madras) at about 9:30 p.m. (local time) got our bags in minutes and got a prepaid taxi to our hotel.  The Broadlands Guest House is described in our guide book as a decrepid old building with heaps of character and charm, with a nice staff.  This is more or less correct.  Reading between the lines is helpful.  The building was probably once very nice and it still seems to be popular with backpackers, the staff was nice and decrepid is accurate.  It was a hell hole that would have been charming 50 years ago.  We think the bed may have been clean, but we threw our own linens on anyway, got rid of the crunchy pillow and didn’t put our bare feet on the floor.  The toilets, showers and sink were in the courtyard and were described in the guidebook as dank.  We are starting to figure out the code words the authors use.  On the window hung a sign that said “don’t leave anything of value near the window in case of theft.”  We only needed a night there before our next flight in the morning.

Posted from India:

posted Monday December 2007

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