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Reisverslag A long time ago, in a country far away
5 januari 2017
A long time ago, in a country far away
Previously on “Alex in Asia”: I traveled India, then was in Kolkata in a really beautiful hotel.
We will now continue “Alex in Asia”.
The hotel was nice enough to actually stay in the entire time I was in Kolkata, but I decided I should at least see a part of the city. I’d discovered Uber in India when I was in Jaipur. It’s actually pretty awesome. You get prices like you’d get for the tuk-tuks after half an hour of negotiating, but it’s an actual car. And you don’t have to negotiate. So I took an Uber to the Victoria Memorial, which was really nice actually (also known as “Kolkata’s Taj Mahal”, since the British didn’t want to be outshined by an Indian’s building), went to the museum inside. Now, there’s something that was very different from museums I’ve visited in Europe here: People kept moving. There were lots of signs with a lot of text there, so I decided to get out of the way of the humongous throng of people and stand still to read one of them. Then I realized why people kept moving. During the three to four minutes it took me to read the sign, no less than five people touched me to see whether I was real. No, seriously. Two of them were actually startled when I moved in response to their poking me with their fingers.
Anyway, after this weird experience, I took an Uber back to the hotel. Then that evening I took an Uber to the town to see how Kolkatans celebrate New Year’s Eve. And apparently, it’s much like they experience museums. They walk around in throngs, not stopping that much. They eat and drink. And then, when it’s midnight, nothing happens. No fireworks, no people running around screaming, no music, no streamers… Nothing. Some people on the street stopped to wish each other a Happy New Year, and some of them even did the same to me. But that was it. I was told that fireworks had been outlawed a couple of years ago, so it made sense. No wonder the hotel door was closed when I got back at 0.30. Eventually, I convinced them to let me in, though.
The next day was spent just walking around the city. It was ok, I enjoyed myself, but nothing special happened. And then it was time to pack because I was flying to Myanmar (through Dhaka) the next morning. I’d booked an Uber, so I was sure to make it to the airport in time. Except... the Uber driver’s phone suddenly crashed and I couldn’t convince him to drive anyway. I even offered him to pay more than what I’d pay through the Uber, but he didn’t budge. So I tried to get a taxi, but he wouldn’t give me a reasonable price (not to mention that I didn’t have the amount he was asking for in cash anymore…) so I was really worried I was going to miss my flight. I mean, I had some time left, but there was no way to get there.
Finally, I remembered that I could just get a new Uber. So I did and made my flight with plenty time to spare. The flight itself was fine, the plane was hardly full, and then in Dhaka, They ushered us out, into the building, then through the passport control. However, I didn’t have a visa, so I tried to explain, and eventually someone understood and pointed me to the stairs. I went up, and there was my gate. So I went through the airport security again, sat down and I was immediately called to start boarding… the same plane I just got off. I did get a better seat though, next to a Bangladeshi woman who worked for the American Embassy in Yangon. She told me a lot of interesting things to do (like eat sushi – as you can see, we really connected) and when we arrived I thought the flight had taken only a couple of minutes.
Then the wait began. Paul would be arriving this evening. However, my flight was slightly early, and his was delayed a bit, so I was waiting for almost 6 hours. Then we went to the hotel I’d booked for the first night, not too far away from the airport. He was shocked how dirty and unsafe everything was, whereas I’d been impressed with how clean and safe things were. I guess that’s culture shock from India versus culture shock from Europe. Anyway, the next morning we went out and had some fruit. Paul really liked the pineapple. Trust me, this is important.
We then took a taxi to the center of town, where our next hotel was, and walked around. Paul was enthusiastically taking pictures of wires and anything to do with electronics since apparently, it’s not completely up to Dutch standards. This is, of course, the understatement of the century, with wires sticking out everywhere, open to the elements, etc. But anyway, to me it was really fun to see it through his eyes – since I’d gotten used to seeing that everywhere already.
Then, as if in a dream, there it was. I never expected to see it again, but it wasn’t a mirage. A sushi restaurant! We went in, and since it didn’t smell like fish, I decided we could stay. We then walked around a bit more, finally having a beer on a little terrace overlooking the river.
The next day, we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It means Golden Three Mountains. Also, Dagon is one of the historic names for Yangon. We walked through a nice park to get there, then took an escalator up to the actual temple. Which was a first for me. For Paul too, by the way. Paul had to wear a man-skirt, we got a tour, learning a lot about Burmese Buddhism, for instance, that most people become a monk for a couple of years. It’s not so much something you dedicate your entire life to, as it is in some other countries. More like a social service everyone should fulfill at some point in life. After the excellent tour (he even pointed out through which gate Obama entered the temple) we went to the Reclining Buddha temple. On our way there, we met a monk, who explained some things about this temple and the Seated Buddha one, across the street, and then invited us to his living quarters. We went with him and talked for about three hours, while he served us fruits, traditional Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, and more tea than we could drink. We learned a lot about him and his life, and the role that Buddhism plays in it. Definitely one of my highlights of this trip.
We walked back, which may have been a bit too much walking for Paul. He was getting tired. We had some street food, which was nice, then walked back to the hotel. On our way there, we saw a couple of guys practicing their Dragon Dog Dance for the fast-approaching Chinese New Year.
The next day, we would be leaving, so we bought train tickets for Upper Class. We then went back to the monk to bring him a fridge magnet. I should explain: I had Paul buy a couple of fridge magnets so that I/we could give them to people when they were especially nice or special to me/us. Then we went back by local bus. Paul’s first time on a local bus in Asia. He was so excited. We got off near a park and walked around there on the broken and rotten wooden bridge, also quite an adventure. We got a taxi to town, to the start of the walking route we wanted to do. The taxi driver told us he wanted 4 times as much as we were willing to pay (because of traffic) but since we knew where we were, we decided to just walk to the walking route. But then the taxi driver called us back to drive us anyway.
The walking route was nice. We finished in a Hindu temple, where I could actually teach Paul a lot about Hinduism. We went shopping for a bit and then suddenly had to hurry to the train. The door to the platform was already locked, so the guy checking the tickets unlocked it for us. We got on the train and seconds later it started moving. Upper class apparently means chairs that can recline a bit. Also, there turns out to be a sleeper class… So we were ready for a bad night’s sleep…
Oh yeah, if you got this far, I want to reward you. Here are the links for my previous photo albums:
Foto's bij verslag (8)
10 maart 2017 07:24 | Door: Vincent
Leuk Alex! Xxx