Our trip to India started with a 2 day stay in Kolkata.
We landed in a cloudy Kolkata on December 2018, leaving behind us the clear blue skies of Paro (Bhutan). It felt immediately like a big change from where we were just a few hours earlier.
Getting off the plane was wild. Everyone seemed to be in a rush and had no problem in pushing you, to get through. We approached the immigration desk. While we were waiting for the officer to review all our documents, Luca started dancing around singing the “magic school bus” song. He made also the most serious person around us smile! We forgot for a moment the stress of getting off the plane.
Arrival in India
We walked out of the airport, in search of our hotel pick up. People everywhere! We were greeted shortly after by a smiling Rikhia, manager of the bed & breakfast we were staying. She was holding a sign saying “The 5 World Explorers”. Unfortunately the hotel car broke down, so she came to pick us up with two Ubers. She didn’t want us to have to deal with the hassle of trying to get a car here in Kolkata. Soon we understood why.
In Kolkata, also if a taxi says “no refusal”, if they don’t want to take you somewhere, they will refuse you! In fact on our way back to the airport two days later, the uber driver did change his mind after loading the car. He got our bags out and took off! I had never experienced something like that! This was the first lesson we learned in India!
Driving around Kolkata
As we drove through the chaotic streets of Kolkata, it felt like time had stopped to a past that today’s generation doesn’t know anything about. For the 2 of us, who grew up in Italy, it felt simply like a jump in the past! However for our kids it was a completely different experience. They were curious but also a bit anxious from the driving.
We learned right away the driving rules of India: good breaks, good horn and no rules! Everyone honks their horn and most of the time you have absolutely no idea why. People drive however they want, wherever they want. At one point our taxi wasn’t willing to wait any longer in traffic and drove on the sidewalk. Patience clearly isn’t in their DNA. This was the second lesson we learned in India, after being there for barely 2 hours!
I’ll be honest, the chaos, the traffic, the noise, the recklessness of drivers as well as people walking the streets was a real shock for the 5 of us. I think we were all sick to our stomach once we finally reached the hotel! Yes, we did wonder why on earth we had decided to come here.
As the car approached Calcutta Bungalow, the feeling of chaos and shock released a bit. This little building felt cozy and welcoming right from the front door. Our kids explored the reception immediately and found old-type writers everywhere. They had never seen them before, other than in museums. Where however they could not be touched! They loved that we had one in our room too, so they could type messages on it. For them, it was the coolest “old” feature of this place. For us, it was simply something we used years ago.
Calcutta Bungalow is a lovely bed & breakfast in a restored 1920s townhouse representative of a golden era in Calcutta’s architecture. It is located in the heart of the Bengali part of the city that the British referred to as the Black Town.
They have six bedrooms with all modern amenities and typewriters of course! We were exhausted by the trip mainly due to the cultural shock so we needed to relax. Luckily the rooms all come with Netflix and YouTube enabled smart televisions so we could enjoy watching something before dinner!
Calcutta Bungalow offers a delicious breakfast with fresh healthy ingredients. However, they have an active kitchen from breakfast till dinner. So we were able to order also a delicious dinner for each night we were there. They asked us what type of cuisine we wanted, one night we went with Bengali and the next Italian.
On the day of our arrival we went all the way up to the rooftop to check out the view. There are houses everywhere! This area has greenery, and it is a great spot for yoga and hanging out. Plus it is a great place to spend sometime outside without the risk of getting runner by a car!
The staff at Calcutta Bungalow has been absolutely lovely to us! They were attentive and kind to our kids. However, what we are most grateful for was finding them at the airport to greet us. They made us feel comfortable right away, considering we had just landed in the country. For us what makes a hotel special first of all is the staff and then the amenities. Calcutta Bungalow is a special place to us because of them!
Calcutta walking tours
We didn’t have much time planned in Kolkata. Just a full day, so we decided to explore it with a walking tour. After 6 months of travels, our way of visiting a city has changed. It isn’t anymore about seeing all the sites, but actually feeling part of the place we are in. By walking the streets, observing the everyday life, trying to be part of that reality rather than just keep a distance. This can be hard at times here because of our skin color that attracts lots of attention!
Calcutta Bungalow offered us the option of going on a walking tour around the neighborhood with Calcutta Walks. It was the best decision for us! We met with our guide early in the morning and started exploring a small corner of the huge city. We walked through the market and visited a few sights. However, most of all we had a first feel of the Indian everyday life: we almost got run over 10 times and we took photos with many locals. There was a constant honking for no apparent reason and much more. By the time we got back home we felt completely overwhelmed from the chaotic life we had experienced outside. It would take a while to adjust to this completely different energy.
This two hour tour was great. We were very happy with the knowledge our guide from Calcutta Walks shared with us. He made us feel the love he had for his city and that is very valuable to us. Specially when you are trying to adjust to a new reality, listening to someone that is able to show you all the positive aspects, really helps to direct your focus. Calcutta Walks offers many different types of tours and not only on foot, so you might want to consider contacting them if you are in Kolkata!
When we visited Kolkata we had not planned for a long stay, which was a mistake. We didn’t think about the cultural shock we were going to have coming from a quite country like Bhutan to a very chaotic city like Kolkata. Our regret is not giving ourselves the time to really enjoy it in full. We were still at the beginning of our travels and were going through places at a faster pace.
Kolkata has a lot to offer. Just remember to give yourself the time to adjust to the Indian vibe, specially if you are coming from a smaller country. Once you adjust to the Indian rhythm you will also learn to love its energy!
Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in India!!!
Check out the hotel we stayed at Calcutta Bungalow!!!