I remember reading an article many years ago about traveling to India. First rule of thumb – avoid arrival at night… It was stated dangerous in late night as the city’s security is always the main concern even for the locals. On Oct 3, we arrived at Kolkata airport at 1.10am, in hope that many years has past and the city had become safer. We had no idea of where to stay, fully relied on the information provided by a 3-year old guildbook we bought in Bangkok. After stamped our passports, we booked a taxi from the prepaid booth in the airport (Rs210=US$4.70), and it led us to one of those charming yellow cab – Ambassador Classic. Sitting in the cab we felt the time turned back to the 50s or 60s.

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Along the path from airport to the city’s heart Sudder street, it took approx. 45mins. The streets looked dim and quiet but yet full of obstacles – people, dogs, goats, ricksaws and other vehicles which suddenly appeared from the dark or stacks of donno what simply piled in the middle of the roads…

While our cab driver navigated through these streets in high speed, my heart was pounding real hard for the safety of dogs and people who wondered around. Some streets I thought they were too narrow for any car, our cab got through just fine, in high speed! If you think the drivers in Myanmar or Laos or Bangkok were mad, try Indian drivers!

Just as I admired the confidence and skill of our driver, in a split second of a cross road junction, our cab finally banged into a motorcycle who was also ‘flying’ through the city like no body business. In fact, they both saw each other but expected the other part gave way… No one did, so “BANG!” was the ultimate result. While Alex and I were horrified, the two drivers exchanged arguments with anger but yet in calm manners, then life went on separate ways. No one hurt! ‘Hit and miss’ seems to be their daily encounters, no big deal.

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Sudder street – the seemingly Khao San road in Bangkok – where most backpackers gather in Kolkata, was in silent darkness when we arrived. All gates of guesthouses were firmly shut. Out of no choice, we followed our driver’s recommendation, checked into Hotel Majestic International, which we got a small room with single bed, aircon and attached hot shower bathroom, for Rs770 (US$17.30). The two of us were cramped on this bed for 5 hours, as soon as day broke we were out hunting for new accommodation…

Here we were, the city of joy – Kolkata, where Mother Teresa dedicated her whole life!

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Jing

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