Monday, November 30, 2015

No, I wanted New York, not New Jersey

Kolkata (Calcutta) November 30th

I am in a nice hotel in the Salt Lake area, and unlike Brigham Young this isn't the place.

This area was planned to be the a adjunct to Calcutta proper. It was planned to be the business and technical hub of the city. Unfortunately for me as a tourist is it about forty-five minutes to an hour from Kolkata proper. To make matters worse I reserved for 3 nights, expecting to be in the heart of the city. I guess I am in the heart of the city, just not the city I had planned. The hotel has really been very solicitous, we shall see what we can work out tomorrow. For now it's comfy and secure.

After I last wrote I did decide to stay on the hotel property and just relax the afternoon and evening away. Wrote a scathing review of the Hilton and a not so flattering one on the hotel I was staying at for TripAdvisor.com. Scoured the world wide web for air connections from Mumbai to here and did the same for hotels. The plane one worked out perfectly, and the hotel worked out imperfectly.

I fought sleep though the afternoon and at seven went down for dinner. Thai sounded good for a couple reasons. One it wasn't Indian curry and two maybe it was spicy enough to get things back in normal working order. Time zone changes and dehydration kind of upset the normal routine of things.

The Thai restaurant in the hotel was the fanciest, swankiest Thai restaurant the world, or at least I have ever seen. At home Thai restaurants are mostly come as you are. This one business casual wouldn't have been out of place. Maybe even desired. White linen napkins placed on your lap by the employee who seated you. I have never understood this action. Do they think I am too lazy to pick up a half ounce piece of cloth or that I am too socially inept to figure out why they would have a handkerchief on the table. Either way it does make me a little uncomfortable.

Then came the 10 page wine list. Ten pages of wines in a Thai restaurant? What happened to the 4 choices of beer and maybe some Saki ? I gave in to the theme and ordered a Shiraz, which came cold from the refrigerator. Chilled red wine, this too was new to me.

An Amuse Bouche was presented along with four kinds of dipping sauces. Running from mild tomato, to spicy mustard to a very hot chili honey. I was diggin' on that last one.

Some soup and the old standby of Pad Thai and I was dining in style. It was as good a Thai meal as I have ever had. The price though was expense account prices. Meaning “Someone else is buying, so lets go expensive”. Or what I call a Credit Card meal.

On the way back to my room a western woman nearly ran me over. If I hadn't stopped abruptly she would have sent both of us on our respective asses. I said in my most sarcastic tone Excuse me for being in your way”, she said with that nose in the air that the French have perfected to high style “Par'don?. I didn’t pursue it any further. Americans are know for being loud and overweight, French are renowned for being rude and she epitomized her country men and women perfectly.

Got to sleep close to ten and again with the weird dreams. German food? Maybe French, maybe Mexican, but German food? I'd almost rather have English food. Well maybe that is pushing things too far. Anyway slept until almost 5 am. Got up, checked mail, did the shower thing, tried to get my plane ticket printed. Eventually about 7 had breakfast and checked out for the airport.

The airport was about what you would expect, no actually it was better. International airports are generally show pieces of that particular country, domestic airports 500 meters away from the same International airports are generally dumps. Mumbai's domestic airport is beautiful. Nicely set up, clean, where everything seems to work. Of curse there were the lines and some controlled shoving, but I would put it up against most International airports I've been to and it would win hands down.

The concourse is lined with high end shops and there is even a food court that had names familiar to me. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Domino’s Pizza and Subway sandwiches. I should have gone up and had a look for myself, just to see who was staffing the Subway. In the US most of the Subway's in my city are owned and staffed by immigrants from India. I wonder if the ones in India are staffed by Anglos?

The flight was two and a half hours of reasonable comfort. My row was three across wit the middle seat empty. The yowling future head of the household only yowled and screamed during take off and landing, and his feet were to short to kick the back of my seat.

All was good and easy until I tried to get a taxi an couldn't remember the name of my hotel. Sonata? Sonesta? So … something. It was in my email and I was in a Wi-Fi free zone. Not a free Wi-Fi zone. Give me your phone book and I'll find it. The taxi company didn't have a phone book. Is there a place where I can use a computer to look at Trip Advisor, I'll find it right off that way. Down that way to the communications center.

The communications center was a six by six cubical with a mobile telephone and a dial up internet connection. For my dollar and a half, I got 4 minutes on the inter web and the name and address of my hotel. The Sonnet.

Back to the prepaid taxi stand and after much discussion with his colleagues to figure out where this place might be, even with the address. He looked at me and said “Salt Lake !?!?” I should have gotten a clue about that time. The next clue was that it wasn't getting more crowded as we went along. If anything it became more and more open.
 
The hotel is in Kolkata's suburbs. An area designed in the 80's for business and industry. It is nice and open with beautiful new building and absolutely no character. It is an hour away from Calcutta proper and that is if the traffic is going your way. I booked 3 nights and hope they will understand that I made a huge mistake in booking. It did get a great review in Trip Advisor and it did say it was in Calcutta, just not in this part of Calcutta

From what I have seen of Calcutta so far (just my taxi ride to the hotel), I am not very impressed. Even with Mumbai's crushing poverty I didn't get the depressed feeling that I have of Calcutta so far. Maybe it was that dilapidated building we passed named the “Swastika Hotel – For working women”. (A hotel full of Nazi prostitutes?)

Regardless of first impressions, I'll know better tomorrow once I get to the real city and can walk it a bit.

Sorry no pictures today, unless you want a nice shot of a King sized bed with 4 pillows.

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