Imagine, if you will, an average city street off downtown. Add store fronts, up and down both sides of the road, that extend beyond the curb and that have goods on display right down on the road. Plastics, metals, wood, cloth, everything possible. Add about 6 large dump truck sized trucks carrying various goods. Now add 8 to 10 cars and as many motorbikes. Your imagined picture should be getting crowded by now. Next add 10 bicycle rickshaws with trailer beds also carrying small and over sized goods. Finally add as many people as can possibly be crammed into every spare square foot of space and then add some more. Some of the people are carrying goods on there heads. Now cause all this to move in both directions with as much noise and commotion as possible. Add Debbie and Murray into the middle of this human traffic jam. We were stopped, nothing was moving, not even the pedestrians. When we started to move we, the peds, all moved in behind a big truck like the infantry behind a tank. After 20 steps things froze again, and so it went for 20 mins or more.
If I do not experience anything else while in Kolkata, I will be satisfied. This morning, we saw the city at its finest.
The Howrah Bridge extends over the Hooghly River. We had read that about 2 million people cross the bridge every day. We had to go have a look. As we walked towards the bridge, we felt like we were swimming upstream during the salmon spawning run. We pulled over to the side once we got level with the road to watch the traffic. There are four lanes filled with mostly taxis and buses flowing continuously. The volume of traffic and people was just astounding.
We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to cash our Canadian Travelers Cheques. I will let Murray tell that tale.
We have never had any trouble cashing traveler’s cheques. Even though almost every website I have ever read has dissed them. I even carry them in Canadian funds and for some reason people think that is ludicrous, as they believe that you should only carry US funds. I refuse to pay a fee to convert money to US dollars and then pay another fee to convert to the local currency.
This trip has been a pain to cash our cheques. It started in Bhutan. We were with a guide in that country and we were on a schedule so we didn’t have much time to mooch around and check out all the possible locations to cash cheques. We tried one bank and they would not cash T cheques at all. The next bank would not cash Canadian currency cheques. I happened to open a US bank account when our dollar was exceptionally high so I had purchased some US cheques on a whim. The whim proved to be astute because we did not feel good about taking up too much tour time to check all the other banks so I gave in and cashed a couple of hundred in US funds.
Then we got to India, a member of the Commonwealth, so you would think that they might accept Canadian money. Which they will. It is just that the banks will not cash traveler’s cheques unless you have an account at the bank. We tried 5 or 6 banks and all had the same story. I was getting frustrated and asked the young man at the last bank we entered how in the hell a tourist is suppose to get money. It was not reasonable to expect us to open up an account but I could not cash cheques without one and I was running out of money. He said the equivalent of ‘hang on’ and he made a phone call. He called a money changer, more specifically an international currency dealer and arranged that he be at his office so we could change our cheques.
We walked about 20 mins further down Shakespeare Sarani and after asking several people, found the location of Pheroze Framroze. It is not exactly a household name nor is it easy to find but I would recommend this establishment to anyone wanting to change some money. Mr. Bappaditya Roy, known to English speakers as Roy, was a great help and we cashed our cheques for a good rate with no commission. There was a small charge for taxes and holding fees but it was minor. After spending the entire afternoon being turned away at banks our steps were much lighter from the office of Mr. Roy to the metro.
- Pheroze Framroze and Company Private Limited
- International Currency Dealers
- 212, Chandan Niketan, 2nd Floor, 52-A Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata
The route home entailed another human traffic jam. We were on the metro at rush hour. Again we experienced how a North American’s idea of personal space differs from other parts of the world. There was nobody pushing from the outside to get more people on the cars as I have heard they do in Japan, but I am not sure you could get 10 more people on our car. As the train passed the south edge of the city center there were more people getting off then there was getting on a we could once again take a full breath.