We woke up at 5am today to go to yoga with Harry… But it was full on monsooning. We got ready anyway and sat with about seven others out the front to wait for him. He arrived just before 6 and said we can still do yoga if we have raincoats. Everyone’s faces were like, meeeh we could just go back to bed so easily! And being our holiday day from volunteering it was a very tempting option. Lovely Harry then offered to drive us on a little tour for an hour as we’d all woken up for yoga (not his fault with the weather but clearly he felt bad) so five girls squished into his car and went off. Four of us went back to bed hehee. Well we got an extra hour and a half and then for back up to get in our city tour car at 9am. The guy was nice enough but spoke about 4 words of English and wasn’t the chatty type. Me being me I asked his name and introduced us but of course I couldn’t pronounce his name for the life of me and he didn’t care for ours. Off we went in the sodding monsoon rain. It was a bit sad as we could hardly see out the windows for the rain!
First stop on the list was Eden Gardens – this turned out to be the cricket stadium which was quite eerie in the pouring rain. We didn’t even get out of the car, he just did a drive by. Next we drive over Howrah Bridge which was pretty impressive. It’s a huge steel structure that minus the rain would make for a great photo. It’s the sixth longest cantilever (suspension type) bridge in the world and the two pavements either side are 15 feet wide! Necessary for the pedestrian traffic believe me. Third stop was Belur Math (got the booklet here with me) which is a huge temple ground and headquarters of a huge mission movement – 40 acres in fact. The driver dropped us at the big gate and literally grunted at us to get out and go. There really was no verbal communication the whole day between us haha, but hey. So we ducked under the ugly umbrella we borrowed from the pile of left stuff and set off in the rain. This place basically is an oasis of beautiful gardens, albeit under a foot of water by today, housing about 7 temples dedicated to different people and supposedly has visits from people from all sorts of religions from all over the world. We were the only foreigners there today. It sits on the Hooghly River, a branch of the Ganges, and right beside the signs forbidding washing of clothes and bodies in the water we witnessed three people doing just that, then wandering back through the gardens wrapped in a towel back to their homes in the slums outside the gate. Seeing things like this as the norm takes getting used to. We wandered around taking everything in – the buildings are beautiful – but no pictures allowed I’m afraid.
Next was a place called Dakshineswar Temple, which we got to via a long market road selling everything you could think of plus lots and lots of offering baskets that the locals were buying to offer to the gods. We left our shoes with these few guys for a couple of rupees and actually I enjoyed walking in the puddles. This place was HUGE. Again, no pictures allowed inside but basically you walk through a gate (after filling in a sign in book for foreigners) and it opens up to a huge outside arena, like 2 football pitches, with lots of little individual temples around the perimeter. There was an oven/fire burning in one corner where people were lining up to burn their baskets and others were going into the mini temples and ringing bells and then exiting the other side. We walked around (gutted again I couldn’t take photos – Aita you can feel my pain!) and then returned to the shoe shack and the carpark. The main entrance gate was an impressive one but for some reason there were swastikas (don’t know how you spell it) all over it – something to google later.
Next place was Marble Place. This is a palace built in 1853 and jow a museum/gallery. Three floors of galleries and paintings and artifacts etc. It was all pretty random but interesting, we spent quite a bit of time getting list wandering around the halls. Again all barefoot but this was all inside and kept absolutely spotless and with a security guard on each door.
Next and last stop – by this point we were very tired and starving and it wasn’t the best idea to stop off and eat something off the street – was a beautiful building called Victoria Memorial, dedicate to the Empress of India. Again it’s surrounded by huge gardens and apparently this is the place for couples to come as they can be as romantic with each other as they like, as in the street PDAs are seriously not allowed. You’d probably be killed for it. So the whole outside part was full of couples of all ages canoodling and kissing and sitting together – was quite sweet actually. Was totally waiting to see more than I wanted to though but kept myself busy taking lots of photographs (you’re allowed to outside yay!).
By 3pm we were absolutely done in – most of the six hours were obviously spent in the car which was a roller coaster ride as usual. It is quite fun but there are moments when you genuinely think you’re going to be crushed by an enormous bus that isn’t going to stop and your driver won’t stop either. Absurd. Crazy. Bonkers. On the ride home in one of the traffic jams 2 men clocked us and were on either side of the car tapping on the windows and wanting money. It was only a little bit scary, my one only had one arm and was using his stump to bang on my window. We guiltily ignored them. When we got back to our sweet hotel we headed straight to Blue Sky for some food to relieve our banging headaches. We also had very loud Indian music in the car all day and although at the time it was cool I think the combination of that right behind our ears, getting in and out into rain and 36degree humidity, then back into an AC car – when we got back we were both dizzy and our heads were thumping. As soon as we sat down and ate it subsided significantly so all was well again.
Then back to the room for a siesta for Javi and to finish my Jodi Picoult book, then we went to Raj’s Spanish for a snack – patatas bravas and tortilla haha, was actually really nice! Crashed when got home which brings this blog to the present time, so now I’ll pop upstairs to the wifi zone to publish this, then off to bed.
Last day at Prem Dan tomorrow so I will be taking photos of the ladies and no doubt cry a lot. Then the Indian party in the evening at Raj’s!