Kolkata is one city that has always interested me! It definitely did not fail once we got there. We attempted to cross the New Howrah bridge only to be entangled in a neverending jam with buses and the famous yellow ambassador taxis. After what felt like forever we made it across and found ourselves surrounded by amazing architecture…sometimes Kolkata looks like New York or a European city with beautiful aged colonial buildings flanking either side of the tree-lined streets. We had to meet Dhanjal Uncle, our friend Manmeet’s Dad close to Chinatown. He was going to let us park our bike at his shop and help us with any bike fixing. Uncle also helped us find a place which was a great relief!
Truth is, we couldn’t experience all that Kolkata had to offer…we spent a lot of time figuring out the bike shipping to Bangkok (Thailand). Finding a shipper was not a problem as one of our good family friend’s back in Houston had given us the contact of a shipper in Kolkata, Narinder Uncle. As soon as he met us he took us under his wing and helped us through the entire shipping process. He put us in contact with another shipper that could do this bike thing and he treated us throughout our stay there. We really felt like we were with family! After getting all the necessary paper work we crated the bike under the burning sun with the help of Dhanjal Uncle. We had kept the original BMW crate and shipped the bike in it from Houston to Delhi and then had moved the crate to Chandigarh. Sunny shipped the crate to us in Kolkata…we became kinda attached to that crate! The thought of having to dump it in Bangkok made Nick nervous. We started crating the bike at 9am and finished by 1pm. Thing was we had to crate right outside of the cargo terminal because we still had no airway bill in hand. The guy who was supposed to sign it did not show up for 2 days. After running around for the signature and getting it, Nick and the shipper convinced them to let us put the crated bike in the cargo terminal for the night. That would mean it would have to be fork-lifted in. Some of the fork lifter guys had seen the bike in the morning and told their boss about it. The boss gave them orders not to fork lift the bike. Usually they do this for free and we were assured it would be for free but when the time came, the head office wanted almost Rs.3000 to have it forklifted 50 meters into the terminal. We really had no other choice and had to pay the amount even though we knew it was money that went into the pocket. Nick had asked for a receipt with the company letterhead, they just typed something up on Microsoft Word and printed that. The corruption did not end there…the customs officer wanted another Rs.3000 to inspect our crate…the next day! We said hell no. But all of this just got to us. We went home tired, hot, and defeated. We knew we would deal with this throughout Asia, but everytime it happens, it’s a stab in the heart really. It’s not about the money, it’s the principle. We didn’t do honest work at home to have it put in the pockets of officials that haven’t seen a hard day of work in their life. These guys should be burned at the stake for their bullshit.
The next day we pumped each other up to take them on. After getting the necessary stamps again…we had to get the customs official from a different terminal to inspect our crate. He requested we send him a car. Shut the front door…really? We tried to explain, we don’t have a car. Eventually our shipper went to get him in a taxi. Talk about nakhre. The guy came and Nick did a good job of answering his questions and diverting his attention from possible money-making distractions. He signed and stamped our papers but not without getting upset with our shipper as to why he had him inspect the crate in front of us…that prevented him from asking for money…he wanted Rs.2000! The nerve…really! Another official came asking for another Rs.3000 to sign a paper. We refused both bribes. They ended up signing and stamping anyways. Our crate was good to go on Thai Airways for Bangkok! Thank you God! Think about it…Rs.11,000 if we had paid all the bribes. That’s more than $200…almost 20-30 days in any Southeast Asian country. Like I said…burn em at the stake…..
The next few days we were able to spend time sight-seeing…the planetarium, Victoria Memorial, the Maidan, Hogg Market etc. We also got a chance to spend time with Dhanjal Uncle and Narinder Uncle. They both really helped us immensely and we felt like they had our back while we were in Kolkata. Very soon we would be leaving our comfort zone!