Kolkata & the Taj Bengal

We left our hotel in the wee (and I do mean weeeee) hours of the morning today and made the trip to the Delhi airport. Once we arrived, we said our goodbyes to our driver who had put up with us all week. Two porters approached us and helped us load our luggage onto hand trucks and we all headed toward the entrance. However, at the Delhi airport, apparently you have to have your ticket printed before you are allowed inside (whereas at every other airport I’ve been to, you are allowed to print your tickets at kiosks inside the airport or at the customer service desks). Rupak’s parents had their confirmations, but mine and Rupak’s were packed away in my luggage somewhere (oops). They had to go and find an agent who was willing to print something up for us while I stayed behind to watch the luggage and count down the minutes until our scheduled departure time. After a while, they returned with a single sheet of paper that looked like it was from a 1985 dot-matrix printer with nothing but our names and flight numbers on them. In other words, I was 100% sure that wasn’t going to be good enough to get us in. With my fingers (and toes) crossed, we presented the piece of paper to the security guard… and he let us in without question. Apparently, as long as you have a piece of paper with your name and flight number on it, you can enter the Delhi airport.

Once inside, we went to the customer service desk to check our bags and get our boarding passes printed. Of course, our bags were too heavy, but instead of being able to pay the fee at the desk, we had to go wait in another line to pay a cashier, who then provided a receipt that we would then take back to the customer service agent. By the time we finally checked our bags, we had mere minutes to make it onto the plane.

It was at that time that our two porters somehow transformed into Magical Airport Superheroes.

Still carrying all of our carry-on luggage with them, they led us through the Delhi airport. At the security line, they helped us separate our laptops and chargers from our luggage (for those of you who haven’t flown in a while, when going through security checkpoints, laptops and chargers must be x-rayed separately from carry-on luggage). Once we made it through security, the real race began. Our porters took us through a maze of back doors and restricted-access hallways and corridors (some of which were completely empty except for armed military guards who stared at us like we were celebrities – I mean, why else would we be back there?!) and we somehow ended up right in front of our gate. They carried our luggage literally to the door of the airplane, where we gave them the most insane tip (pretty much all the rupees we had left) and said goodbye. In the short, stressful time that we spent together, they had become our friends. We would not have made it without them.

About halfway through the flight, it was time for breakfast. The food was okay as far as airplane food goes. I don’t even know what I was eating, but at least it was vegetarian.

Airplane "food"
Airplane “food”

When we arrived at the Kolkata airport, we headed straight to baggage claim and gathered our luggage… except for Rupak’s mom’s suitcase. After we watched an empty baggage carousel go around and around and around, an airport employee rounded us up and took us to the customer service desk, where several others had also lost their luggage.

Lost luggage :(
Lost luggage = angry Indians 🙁

Here is where my dad’s advice would have come in handy for Rupak’s parents – if you are traveling with someone, ALWAYS pack half your luggage in their suitcase and half of their luggage in yours. Unfortunately, Ana’s suitcase had ALL of her clothing and toiletries inside it. We left the airport after filling out all the necessary forms and with the assurance that Ana’s bag would be delivered the next day. Maybe.

Of course, by the time we made it out of the Kolkata airport, our driver had already left so Rupak’s parents went about getting two taxis to take us to our hotel. Rupak and I sat on the railing, swatting away dozens of mosquitos, making sure not to spit.

spit free zone
spit free zone

We arrived at the gorgeous Taj Bengal hotel, where a greeter placed flower garlands arounds our necks and dots on our foreheads, and then offered to take our picture.

Arrival at the Taj Bengal
Arrival at the Taj Bengal – check out PK’s shoes!

Porters took our bags and showed us to our rooms – we ended up with lucky number 333!

View from our hotel room
View from our hotel room

We took a few minutes to explore the hotel before meeting Rupak’s parents in the hotel’s restaurant for brunch.

Our brunch could easily have a blog post of its own. It was honestly the most amazing food I’ve ever had in my life. The food was accompanied by live music, and although it was of the “elevator music” variety (Lionel Richie, Eric Clapton, and so on), the singer was very talented and it was the perfect background to our meal.

Following brunch, we took some time to shower (this hotel has the BEST water pressure of any shower, ever, period) and relax before heading to the mall for some shopping.

Kolkata mall
Kolkata mall

Our driver was supposed to meet us back at the entrance of the mall, but for whatever reason, he was not there when we were finished and we had no way of contacting him. By some miracle, I had a business card from the hotel’s concierge. After a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out how to call his mobile phone from my mobile phone, and gave the phone to PK to coordinate a pick up from another driver. We later found out that the phone call cost over $40 because of international calling rates, but we had no other option.

Even though it was dark outside, we still had plans to visit Rupak’s uncle and cousin. They greeted us and welcomed us into their home. I was given a beautiful sari as a gift, and we ate chocolates and drank chai and chatted with each other. It was quite a pleasant evening after our chaotic day. Sadly, the time passed quickly, and we had to leave and make the trip back to our hotel.

We arrived back at our hotel late that night, completely exhausted.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.........
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz………

Tomorrow we visit the Victoria Memorial, and in the evening, we have plans to meet up with more family members for a large dinner party! Exciting!

xoxo
~t

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