Travels in Tea, India: Part 3

kolkata 1

In Kolkata I ended up staying in a very cheap, barebones, locals-only hotel, in a neighborhood where I was the only westerner for miles; because it was the closest hotel to the convention center, only 3 km away.   I could walk to the convention. All other hotels (re: higher rated and more expensive) were all 6-10 km away from the convention center.

The moral here is never trust the pictures you see on internet travel sites.  I certainly got a chance to see “authentic” Kolkata, not just the touristy parts, although I saw some of that too.

The most annoying thing about clichés is that they are often true.

Kolkata, a teaming mass of humanity …
Lots of people, noisy crowded streets, mullahs chanting, music constantly being played over public loudspeakers, public ablutions, the poorest poor-the richest rich, friendly/helpful people-lots of stares ‘what’s he doing here.’

Smells: spices-people-industry-motor fumes-trash and litter.

Hot-dusty-dry, mosquitoes, livestock all over the roads (not just cows), dirt roads, CRAZY drivers, push carts, stalls with all manner of goods, lively, thriving, throbbing, pulsing … Kolkata – City of Joy.

View from my hotel room, toward the back of the hotel.

View from my hotel room, toward the back of the hotel.

 

View from my hotel room, toward the back, doing the laundry.

View from my hotel room, toward the back, doing the laundry.

 

View from my hotel: toward the front- the street the hotel is located on.

View from my hotel: toward the front- the street the hotel is located on.

 

For the record, this was not the roughest hotel room I have ever stayed in – that would have been in Guthrie Center, Iowa.

Near my hotel room and the convention center: fishing and washing seem to go together.

Near my hotel room and the convention center: fishing and washing seem to go together.

 

Shopping near my hotel room

Shopping near my hotel room

 

More shopping near my hotel.

More shopping near my hotel.

 

Kolkata, street scenes: near Chowinghee Road

Kolkata, street scenes: near Chowinghee Road

 

Kolkata street scenes, more shopping

Kolkata street scenes, more shopping

 

Kolkata street scene: yet more shopping

Kolkata street scene: yet more shopping

 

Kolkata street scene: it’s starting to get crazy.

Kolkata street scene: it’s starting to get crazy.

 

To make the shopping easier.

To make the shopping easier.

 

kolkata 13

Fruit and vegetable stands were all over India, this was a larger one. These are in lieu of what we call traditional grocery stores-the product looked great and was very fresh-think of our farmer’s markets.

Hogg Market: more fresh groceries; those are chickens running around in those cages.

Hogg Market: more fresh groceries; those are chickens running around in those cages.

 

Hogg Market: you can get the exact cut of meat you want.

Hogg Market: you can get the exact cut of meat you want.

 

Carrying product to the market

Carrying product to the market

 

Sisters making bracelets to sell at the market.

Sisters making bracelets to sell at the market.

 

kolkata 18

It took a long time, but I finally found some tea in Kolkata.   I hadn’t even seen a chaiwallah.   The Cha Bar was located inside Oxford Books, the best book store in Kolkata, of course in the touristy section of town.

kolkata 19

It actually was a pretty neat layout. A pretty good selection of 50 or 60 teas.

And they offered food, not a full blown restaurant, but sort of like a café or diner.

I was going to order some Indian food, but then I noticed this which unfortunately really reminded me of something back in the States.

kolkata 20
I figured I had to try the India version of a McDonalds knock off.

kolkata 21

This, along with a pretty good Assam black tea from the Khobong Tea Garden (of course with the assumption that sugar will be used), actually wasn’t bad.

Later on I did run across a real McDonalds, but they don’t serve hamburgers (this is India after all; cows are wandering around the streets-not residing between two pieces of bread). Why are the most ubiquitous American exports those things that we are kind of embarrassed about?

Kolkata is very cool, a little unsettling, and definitely can make you feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Up next, the hills of Darjeeling.

-Bill

 

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Posted on April 10, 2014, in Tea, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Sounds like your stay in Kolkata was quite the experience! Did you see any chaiwallahs later on?

    • For those who don’t know a chaiwallah is, it is an Indian street vendor that sells small cups of home-made chai.

      It was interesting, I didn’t see a single chaiwallah in Kolkata, and I was expecting to and I was looking forward to it.

      But when I got to Siliguri (the closest city to Darjeeling with an airport), I saw chaiwallahs all over the place, and it was great fun to try the different chaiwallahs version’s of chai. I was told by some of my hosts that, in general, in northern India (and Kolkata and Delhi are the two biggest cities in northern India) tea drinking is somewhat looked down upon as a lower-class diversion. Now, this is a sweeping generalization, and it surprised me a lot, but I had a couple of people mention it to me. But this might explain why I saw no Kolkata chaiwallahs. While in Siliguri, the town is so close to Darjeeling and Assam, and the main business of the town is tea, they would have chaiwallahs.

      Either way, the chai from the Siliguri chaiwallahs was FANTASTIC !!!!

  2. Some really interesting photos. I should be going to a wedding in India next year and looking forward to it.

  3. I think the MN State Fair is the closest I’ve gotten to that kind of density ;)

  4. Thank you for all the nice pictures and stories about your experience at the “World” Tea Expo. Perhaps, the name was bigger than the event but this gave you time to explore things you would not have had the time for otherwise.

  5. Your pictures were fascinating! It would be so fun to travel and experience other cultures. But shy of that, I’ll enjoy their culture through their tea.

  6. Thank you for sharing your travels and teas. You are expanding my world.

  7. Now I’m curious to know about your rough experience in Guthrie Center. And trying the McD’s is completely understandable. We had the same impulse when we visited Japan, though we later found the local fast food chain MosBurger to be more enjoyable.

  8. I wish McDonalds served good tea. It’s always great knowing how many things tea complements so well…

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