Bhutan, Mt. Everest then Kolkata, India
Day 167: Country #20
Despite the late night hanging out with my new Bhutanese friends, I woke early and watched clouds gliding over the mountains.
After breakfast, we set off to the airport to fly back to the rest of the world – a world that measures success not by happiness, but by production and money. As we flew over the barrier separating these two world, the Himalayan mountains, a barrier so high that even the mountains rise above the clouds, the clear blue sky revealed Mount Everest in the distance.
Kolkata immediately shocked me out of the peaceful state of mind as I found myself back in hot humid weather with loud hordes of people. Whereas the entire country of Bhutan is under 1 million, Kolkata alone is India’s third largest city with over 15 million residents, more than 20 times Bhutan.
I searched around and eventually found the metro station where for the shockingly low price of 5 rupees ($0.10), I rode all the way into the city. I had to cram in with a bunch of other people and there were no doors to keep people from hopping on (or falling out), but the breeze was comfortable.
Kolkata doesn’t have much tourist infrastructure so I had to book with an Airbnb style accommodation in a family’s house located near the metro route. After a bit of searching, I settled in and headed out to explore the city.
Everything felt a bit like Bangladesh, from architecture to religion, lifestyle and traffic, but I knew there would be differences, so I sought to observe them. I made my way north to Congress Park, then toward the city center to look for a tourist center, but only saw people going about their day to day lives. One particular sight that caught my attention was “typewriter street”, where people were filling out official government forms, possibly for the illiterate.
I headed back pretty early because I didn’t have a sense for crime and safety rates and because I was absolutely tired. The constant honking started to irritate, made extra ironic by the traffic police signs about concern for citizen psychological well being.
I rely heavily on cans of coffee from convenience stores to keep going on days like these. They are always safe to drink and relatively cheap. I also use a can of coffee as my version of the “Big Mac index” to evaluate the price of food and cost of living in a country and between different neighborhoods.