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17 November 2005

trying to look like i knew

0730: telephone rings.

'uh... hello?'

'tea or coffee, sir?'

'no thank you.'

back to sleep.

0830: door buzzer.

'yes?'

'breakfast, sir?'

'uh... no thank you.'

back to sleep.

0900: largescale construction noises directly outside my door. i envisioned a demolition ball swinging back and forth. back to sle... [shock]. 'hmm... wonder what time i need to check out.'

0910: call to front desk.

'hello.'

'what time is checkout?'

'hello? yes.'

'what time is checout?'

'yes, sir.'

[???] 'check. out. what time is it please?'

new person on the phone. 'hello?'

'what time is checkout?'

'ah. room 206? 24 hours. you checked in at 1600 yesterday. checkout is 1600.'

'thank you.'

wow... 24 hours... that's a new one. perfect. i eventually got out of bed at 1000 and took my time packing up my things. it's strange the way most of the items in my pack make their way out of the pack in the course of one night. the hot water in the bathroom turned out to be only slightly warmer than the cold water and was a curious brown color, but i needed a shower to wake up. whether or not the questionable water would in fact clean my body or make it more dirty was secondary.

let me clarify that there _are_ nice hotels in all of the indian cities i've visited. no doubt they are pristinely clean, mosquito free, and provide copious amounts of gloriously fresh hot water. i just haven't been staying in these types of hotels. for better or worse, i've been staying in the hotels listed under the budget section of my guidebook; the rooms typically run between 200 and 400 rupees (5-10 usd). i've attempted to upgrade to the midrange hotels on several occasions but have found that a doubling in price didn't usually correspond to a doubling in quality.

at 1300 i checked out and met my driver outside. we arrived at the airport about 45 minutes later. my flight was delayed by about 40 minutes and we didn't arrive in kolkata until about 1815. darkness.

i paid rs210 for a prepaid taxi and as i exited the airport to find my taxi, a man saw the receipt in my hand and approached asking for my taxi number. it wasn't clear whether he was a driver or not, but i've come to trust my instincts... he was far too eager to help. this man was not my driver and was carrying my bags for a tip. i only had two rupees change; he wasn't pleased but he took it [before i could stuff it back into my pocket.].

it took close to an hour to get to sudder street which was the location of most of the city's budget accomodation and as such was where most of the travelers hung out. [i remember in europe trying to get _away_ from other travelers... now i was seeking them out.] i spotted some of the hotels (including the 'shilton' and 'hilson' hotels) listed in my guidebook while i was still in the taxi, told the driver to stop, paid him, and headed out on the street trying to look like i knew where i was going. i sought shelter in a dark alley where i could pull out my map to find the locations of several hotels i'd marked in my book, but my packs gave me away and i was quickly spotted by a hotel tout. i fended him off easily and after a miss at the galaxy hotel i found a room at the paragon hotel.

the room reminded me of a prison cell, but at rs170 a night (approximately 4 usd) it was unbeatable. unstoppable. it was a classic. concrete floor, two dirty beds, bars on the windows. the internal locking mechanism is a piece of wood that is placed across the two doors, lord of the rings style. the exterior system is a deadbolt that takes a padlock. i didn't feel like wandering sudder street in the dark, walking from hotel to hotel with my pack on. i asked the hotel manager if mosquitos were a problem and pointed out the wounds on my forehead. 'no, no mosquitos.' no mosquitos? perfect. where do i sign? i'll take it.

i dropped off my bags and then immediately went out for some food. spent the evening reading and writing.

posted by paul on Thu 17 Nov 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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