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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 1

    Friday, September 14, 2012
    Kolkata, India

    A beautiful mural at Yangon airport in Myanmar.

    After I said my goodbyes to the staff of the Motherland Inn II (well, a couple of them, anyway), I jumped into a taxi bound for the airport in Yangon. The sky poured rain on and off as the driver swerved around all of the potholes in the roads leading North. I broke out the camera and shot a few last clips of Myanmar’s roadside life as it streamed by. I was caught off guard by men who rode their bicycles with a big bunch of dead chickens tied to the back. I forgot all about those guys. I tried to get a good shot of them, but all I ended up with was a shaky, zoomed-in job that looked unintentionally “experimental.” I arrived at the airport a couple of hours early, which was barely enough time to look at a whole giant mural depicting a traditional Burmese royal parade.

    I was stoked that Air India didn’t make me pay extra to check my backpack, and they provided a pretty good, spicy veg meal, even though it was only a two-hour flight. I guess those perks come with the hefty price tag of $300. If Air Asia flew that route, it would only cost half or one third of that amount, but you’d have to pay for the extras. After disembarking at the small and ramshackle airport in Kolkata, India, I was surprised by three things: how uncrowded it was, how I sped through immigration in less than five minutes, and that my backpack was right there on the luggage carousel when I walked out. Amazing. What I thought would be the biggest airport nightmare of all time was actually the best airport experience I’ve ever had. Next, I booked a pre-paid taxi at a booth inside the airport. This is necessary to avoid dishonest drivers outside who will tell you your hotel is full or closed, and then take you to one where they’ll make a commission.

    An Air India jet prepares to fly from Yangon, Myanmar to Kolkata, India.

    On the way into town, my eyes were greeted by a cornucopia of colorful sights and sounds. Unfortunately, my bad camera battery had already died, so I missed snapping photos of gnarly shanty towns, a man pedaling a bicycle with a bunch of colorful Hindu statues tied to the back, women in multi-hued saris, brightly decorated buses and trishaws, crumbling, grime-colored buildings, some sporting swank new stores sporting the latest trendy clothes and electronic gadgets. Since I had already visited places like Bali, Java, Malaysia and Myanmar, I didn’t experience any culture shock at all. India is just way more crowded and the bustle is more in your face. After an hour of getting jostled around in burly traffic by the abrupt stop-on-a-wooden-nickel-and-go antics of the taxi driver, I arrived at the Sunflower Guest House, rode up five stories in a tiny elevator lift with an attendant and checked in.

    For dinner, I splurged at an amazing Indian restaurant called Teej, which greeted me with a midget wearing a turban in the doorway and a quaint stairwell festooned with paintings depicting Mughal life. This place is really formal, with proper waiters in black suits and red turbans who treat you like royalty. I ordered a vegetarian sampler plate with a bunch of small bowls around its circumference containing various curries, potatoes, sweets, etc. and some naan bread. Tangy and insanely delicious, it easily rivaled the best food I’ve had in Bali and Thailand. When I ordered a bottled water, the waiter showed it to me before he opened it, as if it were a bottle of vintage wine. I snickered inside, then called it a night.

    P.S. I changed the name of the tour from Tropical Heat to All These Colors because three of the four cities in North India I plan to visit–Varanasi, Agra and New Delhi–lie North of the Tropic of Cancer, therefore they are not tropical.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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