We flew to Calcutta from Hong Kong and stayed at the Oberoi Grand Hotel. It was a lovely place and one of the oldest hotels in the city. Our thinking was that it would give us a needed refuge after exploring the city and we were right. Calcutta is everything we imagined and more. The good side: friendly people, women in brightly colored Saris everywhere, beautiful old buildings and cheap shopping. The bad side: air pollution, heat and humidity, bad traffic and garbage in the streets. Calcutta has a serviceable subway system and also a tram, busses and taxis. We used the subway once, but mostly got around by taxi, all of which were bright yellow cars called Ambassadors produced by Hindustan Motors. There were no cows walking around as we expected (we heard they prefer Delhi), although there were lots of sheep in the Maidan, Calcutta’s equivalent of Central Park. We saw many colonial-era buildings literally crumbling to the ground for lack of money. Calcutta was originally built by the British, yet it is a city that has resisted western media, multi-national corporations and other cultural imports. There were no restaurants or shops that were familiar to us. One afternoon we met with the brother of Todd's college friend Devan Capur. Hemant, his wife and their darling son took us for lunch at their club, a green oasis in the middle of the city and we had a wonderful time. After lunch the girls were delighted as they got to ride horses around the golf course. Hement told us that Calcutta and the surrounding state of West Bengal had been a stronghold for the Indian Communist Party for more than 20 year and their policies were clearly not working. Calcutta sights we visited during our stay included the Maidan Park, the beautiful Victoria Memorial, the crumbling Marble Palace and the (also crumbling) St. John's Church where we found the Black Hole (of Calcutta) monument. Our hotel had a great bookstore, where we discovered a book called The Age of Kali, by William Darymple, which offered us much needed insight into the Indian psyche.
Kona Moment: Watching the girls swim in the pool in the evenings while sipping a glass of wine felt like home.
Starbucks: No, but we found a local coffee shop called Barista that served delicious iced mochas.
Weird McDonalds Menu Item: No McDonald’s - not a chance here.
Cultural Moment: Buying traditional Indian sari dresses for Lauren and Katie was very entertaining for us as well as the sales staff at the small store near the BBD Bag area.