Four Countries in 2 Weeks: Turkey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India
India Day 1 – Leaving Bhutan and arriving in Calcutta, India. Country 57 complete! Dealing with Indian airport bureaucracy, visiting Dakhineswar Kali Temple, and catching a flight to Varanasi.
Thimphu to Paro Airport
The metallic ring of my smartphone reminded me we had a plane to catch. I looked at the time. 5 am. I rubbed my heavy eyelids and in a daze, managed to get ready.
The receptionist was waiting for us behind the front desk and took our food order. Soon after we were greeted by Namgay and Shatu for our ride to Paro Airport.
As it was still dark out and everyone was still tired, the journey was quiet and fast.
When airport came into view, the realization struck that we really didn’t want to leave Bhutan.
Our experience in the country with our friendly and knowledgable guides, Namgay and Shatu and the sincere and hospitable owner Tshenten really was something unforgettable.
I would recommend Journey to Discover Bhutan’s services to anyone interested in Bhutan. They helped us get away from the typical tourist racket and provided an excellent customized tour.
We shook hands with our guides and the next thing we knew we were sitting on a plane bound for India.
Our Drukair flight took us straight to Calcutta where we had a few hours before our connection to Varanasi.
Going through immigration, I smiled as the entrance stamp slammed onto my passport with that familiar ‘click-click.’
Country 57 complete.
As we had limited time, we wanted to check in our bags and leave the airport for a quick tour of the Calcutta.
Quick or efficient would not be the best way to describe Calcutta airport (or any Indian airport for that matter). I’ll spare the details, but we eventually were allowed to enter the check in area, check in, drop off our bags, and have a Jetairways representative sign us out so we could leave the airport.
The whole ordeal took over an hour. India efficiency at its best.
We found a taxi company that could organize a drive to a tourist site, but neither the company representatives or the driver spoke a word of English so we eventually just agreed to the 800 rupees to visit some sight they kept talking about and jumped into an old white Ambassador manufactured by Hindustan Motors.
Of course the car would not start. We were on our way back to the taxi desk to ask for another driver when some guys just waved it off as nothing and started the push start the car.
“Bang bang” and a large puff of black smoke and we were good to go!
The old Indian driver took us passed garbage mountains with ravenous herds of cows and other animals munching away. Ravens perched on the slow beasts waited their turn to feast.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived at an area bustling with local activity.
Dakhineswar Kali Temple
Having no idea where we were, we left our driver to explore the area. The many people in traditional clothing and stalls selling ceremonial items clued us in that we were in a religious site.
We found out later that our driver brought us to the Hindu temple Dakhineswar, built in 1855 on the banks of the Hooghly River. The temple is known for worshiping, Bhavatarini the goddess of the life and death cycle and its association to the famous priest Ramakrishna.
The river area was surprisingly scenic. We watched religious bathers dry their clothes, couples strolling hand-in-hand along the riverbank as chai sellers pushed their product.
Back at the airport, we caught our JetKonnect flight to Varanasi.
The airport was about an hour away by taxi to the town center. It was already dark and we couldn’t see anything but the lights of traffic.
We checked into the hotel Rivatas by Ideal and then walked over to the nearby mall for a quick McDonald’s dinner out of convenience.
As cows are considered very sacred by Hindus, beef is not served in India, not even at a McDonalds. Instead they had chicken and veggie burgers.
Scoffing down two curried chicken burgers was how I imagined ending my night, but it will do just fine.
Ready to explore the Ganges tomorrow!