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We arrived back in Chennai in India with mixed emotions. We had had a great time in Sri Lanka and while we are were happy to be continuing in India we missed the laid-back atmosphere of Sri Lanka the minute we tried to get a taxi in Chennai.
The thing we were most excited about? The food, 100%. Sri Lankan food had been good, but simple and a bit bland. We were both dying for curry which we quickly found and wolfed down with joy, for we have not hit the tired of curry threshold yet. After spending just one night in Chennai, we were reunited with the bags we left before we went to Sri Lanka (Andrea is back to looking like a pack mule with all the souvenirs she bought), repacked our bags, enjoyed a curry, and got some sleep.
Oh, I did have to take a 50km round trip tuk tuk at 22:00 to pick up a FedEx parcel that has been chasing me around India. It’s a long story but basically a package my mum sent to me with my repaired tablet got held at customs for over a month – they could never get it to me in time before we left for a new city. This time I had given them 2 weeks to get it to Chennai. It wasn’t there of course, but after some strong words and going up the managerial chain they found that my package was arriving on the outskirts of the city that night. Since I feared this was my only chance I found myself in a tuk tuk at midnight 25km away from my hotel but thankfully with my package. Lesson learned, do not ship to India with a time limit – three-day delivery meant 6 weeks.
The following morning, we boarded our train to Kolkata, a 27-hour journey up the east coast of the country. This was to be our longest trip in India and due to availability with had to get a 1st class ticket. It was expensive, but we got our moneys worth. We ended up with a private two bed compartment with larger beds and good AC. The journey passed quickly and comfortably and just after noon the next day (only about 30 mins late) we pulled into Kolkata.
Kolkata turned out to be quite fun, we walked round the former colonial buildings in their shabby but still recognizable opulence. We toured the Victoria memorial – a white marble domed building full of art and history from the colonial occupation and beyond – and just enjoyed the busy craziness of the city and all its charm. There is something beautiful in how the large India cities seem to operate with people, cars, buses, trucks, horses, dogs, and several other things all intertwining in a chaotic ballet of daily life.
The temperature has been rising though and after hovering in the high 30s we had a couple of plus 40 days. It makes everything more work and your enthusiasm to walk to see anything takes a lot more mustering, especially for the so-so things you just see because you are there. Andrea has concluded that she is not meant for the heat – she basically shuts down. All brain activity seems to stop, and I end up being followed round by a sweaty zombie. But she gets through it.
We also went to a Twenty20 cricket match for the Indian Premier League (IPL). It was between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Kings XI Punjab. It was a fun match but there was a short rain delay which meant the number of overs was shorten, and Kolkata lost unfortunately. Oh well I now support KKR and Andrea has a basic grasp of cricket even if she said that that was the longest match she would watch without the option of beer.
The next morning, we boarded a bus that would hopefully take us to Dhaka in Bangladesh. We were pretty sure that we could get the visa at the border, but we were about to find out…