by Jon Carr
on Sun, Mar 20, 2011 at 6:15 PM
This is part of an ongoing series in which Seattle duo Brain Fruit travel through India, Istanbul, and Berlin. You can find all the previous entries here. —Eds.
Kolkata, North India. We've arrived after almost 3 weeks in India. Time for a quick review. This is where you search "India map" on google and look up the cities before reading any further. Let's start from the beginning:
We first landed in the West Coast megatropolis of Mumbai, 7 coastal islands connected by urban development and refuse alike. Mumbai was described to us as "slowly dying" by an elderly Indian man on the train; We found it a masterful juxtaposition of feces-covered dumpster and Bollywood-studded Gucci store with private security. Old tradition in Mumbai is certainly waning and being replaced by a pseudo-western modernity of decades past. Regardless of its somewhat juvenile state, it seems that much of the modern infrastructure shouldn't be regarded as any sort of death. To my eyes, Mumbai is a greying space waiting to rediscover itself as a distinctly Indian social center.
A coincidental meeting with a posh Brit in our rotting Salvation Army hostel turned into an expense-free private tour that seriously topped anything we could have done in 3x the amount of time. I still yurn for our complimentary hostel breakfast: three slices untoasted white bread, a hard boiled egg, a banana, and a cup of scalding tea.
On March 9, we took the rail south along the coast from Mumbai to Goa: The land of horrific psi-trance, sunburned ex-pats and party hippies. Tourist culture has irreparably attached itself to this region and bubbled into a tropical paradise for tourists who don't want to deal with "brown people culture." I mean, why not get your $5 footlong and hit the chillin' beach bungalow club for a couple of Tuborgs, bro? The A/C dancefloor is even decorated just like your favorite glow-in-the dark bowling alley. UGH.
Goa was certainly not all bad. We met and traveled with the outstanding Australian native Michael Clarke for several days. Thanks for being awesome Michael. When the landscape was not littered with garbage and human noise, it was quite breathtaking and peaceful. Essentially, if you saw the motorcycle chase video we uploaded below you saw the best thing we did there.
March 15, flew from Goa to Varanasi (Northern India). Varanasi IS India, as well as a city Garrett and I have both vowed to return to in the near future. The city is situated on the west bank of the river Ganga (Ganges) and is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. A beautiful, spiritual center up to it's neck in it's own filth and decay. A piece of intense art if I've ever seen one.
March 19th, Sleeper Class Rail to Kolkata
Fourteen hours on a famously dirty/dangerous train—supposedly one of the worst sections in the country in terms of robbery and cleanliness. Note to self regarding Sleeper-Class trips: Wear long sleeves and bug repellent, EW! The upside: Nothing got stolen (thanks to avid padlocking), and I scored a free chai and necklace from a family that wanted me to marry their (thankfully still single) daughter.
Click to Enlarge
Upon arriving at our usual dingy hotel (375 rp ~ $8 US) I discovered something interesting under my mattress. No, not more bugs; An X-ray of an Indian man's respiratory infection!! Always a nice touch. Thank goodness it's time to play Holi (get covered in crazy chemical dye and light huge fires in the street). Many indians have worked the 364 days since last Holi festival. Religious significance aside, Holi is a highly anticipated day off to party hard starting at 8 am. Hopefully my camera survives.