|It is 9 o'clock in the evening, and i'm writing this entry from the comfort of the reading room at our hotel here in Kalimpong, the Holumba Haven. Tomorrow morning we are taking a bus through West Bengal toward Bhutan, and expect to stop off en route for a two night stay at one of several wildlife sanctuaries located between here and the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. This is therefore our last night here.
We spent today in Kalimpong. Kalimpong is a pleasant town, although there is not really a lot to do here. We spent a few hours - yes, I said hours - mailing a package back to the U.S. from here. As anyone who has mailed a package home from India through the Indian post office can testify, sending a parcel is a complicated affair which takes hours, not minutes. The package must be covered with a cloth wrapper and then sealed with melted wax. Thereafter, the package gets weighed at the post office, and forms get filled out. Similar to our experience at the post office in Gangtok, we had the feeling of being trapped in some Kafkaesque labyrinth of bureaucracy during the entire process. Our experience at the Indian post office demonstrates that notwithstanding the great economic strides India has made over the last several decades in some spheres, the license raj is alive and well in others.
After our postal ordeal, we visited a small factory, Himalayan Homemade Paper, where they manufactured paper products. I had never seen how paper was made, and had little interest in the subject previously. I would liken visiting a small paper making boutique in West Bengal to visiting something akin to the Giant Paul Bunyan statue somewhere in roadside America - not something one would ever even think about or even care to see, but something one does when they are “in the neighborhood.” Our tour of the paper factory turned out to be fairly interesting, however. We even bought a couple of things while we were there, as prices were excellent.
This afternoon we also went to the bus and taxi stand and inquired about transport in the direction of Bhutan through West Bengal for tomorrow. We will be leaving tomorrow morning, and i'm happy to say we've already squared away things and have spots reserved on the bus.
I'm looking forward to going on safari over the next couple of days while here in West Bengal. It should make for a nice break from the mountains...