Saturday, February 6, 2010

End of Elephants and Entering India

On February 6th we woke up early for our last day as mahouts. We started off by hiking into the jungle to pick up our elephants where we parked them the day before.

First we greeted the elephants.

Then it was time to board. What better way than to ask the elephant to duck its head then take a flying leap aboard?

One final bath!

After the morning dip we paused to grab a picture with our mahouts.

After this it was time to go :( We headed back and grabbed our little certificate pack, complete with a VCD of rather blurry shaky video of us in action, and jumped in a taxi to head back to Chiang Mai.

From Chiang Mai we flew to Bangkok, cleared Thai security, and flew to Kolkata. At Kolkata while waiting in line a charming Indian chap decided to jump the queue and then ignore the girls who were organizing the queue when ordered back into line. We doubt he'd have tried it were male staff minding the queue. Rod was feeling helpful and encouraged the fellow to resume his original position in line. The queue-girls smirked at the line jumper as he rather shuffled back into his rightful position.

After getting our tickets we got our first taste of India's airline security. The US is somewhat ridiculous these days but India is solidly in the running for most ridiculous. The highlight (which was to recur) was that they felt that spare batteries were a security risk and tried to confiscate them. Or perhaps they just wanted a bribe. Luckily when Pavan started protesting in Punjabi they relented and allowed us and batteries through.

The Kolkata airport was dingy, poorly organized, and plentifully stocked with gentlemen with assault rifles. Really makes one feel safer. To transition from international to domestic it was necessary to walk outside, through a construction area, and into a tiny, even dingier, little terminal. Inside this terminal mosquito's are plentiful. Unfortunately our mosquito repellent is a security risk so we had to deal with them the old-fashioned way: trying to squash them with our hands. Once on the plane everything was very nice. Kingfisher airlines is an odd experience: they take good care of you and the flights we took with them were always nice; however they often operate out of miserable terminals that put a bit of a taint on the experience.

On reaching Delhi we negotiated for a taxi, probably got ripped off, and eventually reached our hotel. As usual the taxi driver spent the drive delivering pitches for how cheaper hotels were available in better locations (and with more driver kickbacks). Once we told him we'd already paid and made it clear we didn't want to switch the pitch changed to be about driving us around for the day.

Eventually we reached the hotel, learned the free internet was only at a crappy workstation downstairs, went upstairs, found out hot water was only available limited hours, persuaded the management to turn back on the hot water, and finally got a shower. In order to get the hot water turned on we had to go through an endless debate about two buckets. No bucket is involved at any point but that didn't stop them from talking about two buckets for a quarter hour before finally agreeing to turn the boiler back on. Bloody odd. Oh well, at least we had hot water and a bed. Our plan for the next day was to get a train ticket from Delhi to Agra to go see the Taj Mahal. Two weeks in incredible India !!

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