My next stop is to The New Market, famous in Kolkata. I arrive by rickshaw, spotting people bathing in stagnant puddles of mud and slush out front of the complex. To wander through the maze of shops and outlets is an experience in itself. Everything you could possibly imagine is available, but the self-appointed guides who badger tourists at the front gate are best avoided. They will take you on a trip to see the stalls that give them the best commission, and nothing else. They are very hard to shake off, persisting even when ignored and a real nuisance.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid all eye contact when you first enter the place.
An Ipod or even just headphones would be very handy right here.
India is a developed country when it comes to computer technology, and Kolkata has several cybercafes. But the bureaucracy is terrible. I was refused to use a computer because I didn't bring my passport. So I had to go back to the hotel and get it, then sign a receipt with passport number, name, birth date, hotel name and my signature.
Unique Suggestions: Bring you passport.
"VOLUNTEERING" (for which i paid a hefty sum) was done through a UK-based company (who shall go un-named) However, the Organization within India (SANLAAP) is essentially geared toward protecting the children of/and working prostitutes, to give them a chance to see that there are other options & to assist in providing them with education & psychological assistance, etc. a very worthwhile cause. it's unfortunate they are coupled with those in the UK (ok - will get off my soap-box now!)
have been visiting more red-light areas/drop-in centers & are expecting that next week might bring some sort of proper schedule. The project seems it will benefit more, if we use our own initiative. Disorganized would be a mild understatement, but as one person put it, we in the "Western World," plan for weeks, months & years ahead. These people don't have the luxury of knowing if they'll be around tomorrow... If you think of it like that, it's an easier pill to swallow. We're thinking that, aswell as teaching English, we might organize a play or performance - charging spectators a few Rupees for the pleasure. These kids are amazing... & will truly be the reason that makes this experience worthwhile. These children, aged anywhere between 3 and 17 (though some don't even know their own age) just melt your heart. They're so loving & are absolutely thrilled to see us coming! They scream "Aunty! Aunty!" and rush to grab your hands. The smallest things make them so happy... simple, silly things... It is really touching to see & yet so sad. To see such a young person... a baby, who is so innocent - and yet not. They know so much... things a child shouldn't know.
Their clothes are dirty & often held together with safety pins. But they are more often than not, with a smile on their face. SANLAAP gives them a "safe place" to visit, whilst heir mothers are entertaining customers. Here, they have some informal education (as most don't attend a school) and are given a meal to eat. It's a wonderful organization. what we take for granted.....
Unique Suggestions: check that the "NOT FOR PROFIT" organization that you are 'volunteering' with - is actually "not for profit," as they have claimed. i learned the hard & expensive way...
Fun Alternatives: all else failing... i've heard from all volunteers at Mother Theresa's Mission - that it was, in fact, voluntary... and in hindsight, a better way to go.
Though Kolkata is quite safe even for a woman traveler, traveling alone, as compared to Delhi and Bombay, the Calcutta taxis cheat outsiders and the foreigners as they don’t' know the road. There was report in newspaper recently that a woman traveler was taken to Taj Bengal hotel from airport for rs1500/- on the pretext of not knowing the road. This is common in all cities, but one has to be careful. In Howrah station and at airport pre-paid booths are available, take the taxi from there to your destination
Unique Suggestions: Please always take the taxi from pre-paid booth from the airport and Howrah and sealdah station. Try to obtain a taxi fare chart from the driver. i will give you a rough idea about the fares from the station and the air port to the city. From the air port at dumdum to central Kolkata or to near Sudder Street/ Park Street/ maidan area or the taj Bengal hotel the fare is about rs180-rs250 or about USD4-6/7. From the railway station at Howrah or sealdah it will be less than rs.100/- or USD 2. In case you feel that he is taking you for ride settle for the amount suggested, at least he will not take you around the whole city.
Fun Alternatives: There was a report in today's newspaper that a taxi driver returned a bag full with gold ornament and jewelry worth 4.5 lacs to the rightful owner. This means not all drivers are crooks. If something goes wrong, please note down the taxi no. and report to the nearest police station. Calcutta police still have some heart left. They will help. If you can spend then take a cab from the traveling agency, your hotel manager will help you to get one, from ordinary car to Toyotas or even Mercedes. Please check rate before finalizing. Normal a/c cars charge rs.1000/- per day for 8 hrs journey of 70-80 km.
Most tourists in India travel by train. The famous spots are all served by rail - Benaras, Puri, Jaipur, Agra, Goa, Madras etc etc. These train trips more often than not involve sleeper travel - that is, overnight. The trap is that when you board the train there is a rush and some measure of confusion. This is where the rascals come into the picture. They make friends with the foreigner, try to be helpful, assist with baggage etc. You think they are fellow travellers, but they are not. They are simply waiting for you to be momentarily distracted and then they walk off with your smaller luggage. Tourists put their handbag on the seat while they settle bigger luggage overhead. In a second or two, the 'helpful' stranger is gone, and so is the small bag. Tip: Never never never leave the money bag, wallet, purse, valuables off your person - by day or night. Never.
Another trap is that when you sleep a potential thief will hold near your nose a hanky with a` chemical in it that will make you sleep deeply; or during waking hours will share a biscuit with you, or a cup of tea, in which there is a similar chemical. When you are drugged, the mischief takes place. Never never never take food from a stranger in the touristy spots of India.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid all food offered by strangers.
Put you small bag on your person, always in FRONT, never behind.
Be friendly, but always mildly suspicious and on your guard.
Fun Alternatives: By all means visit the tourist spots of India - and there are many - but always be slow to be over-friendly with strangers, no matter how helpful they seem to be.
Yes-- the famous Calcutta traffic jams!
The underground Metro which came up some years ago has eased the situation somewhat, but the chaos up above still reigns - at least enough to be called just that!
I have been once sucked in before in the post office while need to buy a postal stamp.I've paid for about 10 rupee and the person who attended me was asking if I ever have a small change. So I thought that he may not have any small change for refund so, I handed over my coin and then he was trying to confused me with those small amount of refund and after awhile I found out that he was giving me less refund after I walk off .So I have been scamped by him. he was taking it for his own pocket.
Generally, they are like to scamp people in order to get few rupee but after that incident I much more carefull cause I travel with really tight budgetation.
ehehek eheek... (sobbing).
I'm not sure this is tourist trap, but this guy sure trapped us. He was the local candy salesman, and we gave him a lot of business. I love international candy bars... (anybody know where I can get a Lion Bar in the U. S.??)