On this episode of Talk Travel Asia, writer Tom Vater returns to the show to talk about one of his favorite cities: Kolkata, India. Tom had previously been on Talk Travel Asia to talk about his work as a travel writer back on Episode 18: Travel Writing with Tom Vater.
Kolkata, also known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. According to Wikipedia, it is the seventh most populous city in India with a population of nearly 5 million in the city proper and a suburban population that brings the total to over 14 million, making it the third-most populous area in India.
Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River and featuring India’s oldest operating port, Kolkata lies approximately 80 kilometres west of the Bangladeshi border. Nicknamed the “City of Joy”, Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is considered the “cultural capital” of India. As six Nobel Laureates have been associated with the city it is no surprise that our guest today finds it a great place to inspire his writing.
Before bringing Tom on to talk about his experiences in Kolkata, Scott and Trevor talk about some of the things they’ve been up to over the past year since they last published regular episodes of the show. Trevor talks about going to the east coast in July: the first time in almost 10 years. He was in the Jersey Shore for 4th of July, Manhattan for a few nights, and of course Hawaii in between. He got some good summer south swell surf and explains that it was an awesome trip.
Scott: I’m not sure all the places I’ve been, but I think it includes Ko Phayam in Thailand; Kep, Kampot, Ko Rong in southern Cambodia; Bali for our work AGM, Tokyo for work and then mountain biking in the Nagano area, Matsumoto for a day, HCMC for work, Singapore for CNY, Rachaburi, Thailand, George, Armenia and Azerbaijan with my Dad, Luang Prabang, Laos for a half marathon, – quite a few spots.
Scott and Trevor then talk about if they’ve ever been to India before and what their impressions of travel there is like. While Scott has been to Mumbai twice: once to do an update to a guide map and the other time to take a course about Happiness. Trevor gives impressions of what India seems to be like.
You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening. There are several sponsorship levels: $1 – Vagabond (thanks for helping to keep it going); $2 – Day Dreamer (much love); $25The Big Kahuna (we’ll give you a shout-out and send you a postcard from Asia); $100 You Da Woman – Man!! (talk about you on the show and send you something from Asia)
Today’s Guest: Today’s guest, Tom Vater, is making his second appearance on the show. Tom was on Episode 18: Travel Writing with Tom Vater. Tom Vater is a writer and publisher working predominantly in Asia. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and a number of other publications. Tom is also the co-author of several documentary screenplays, most notably The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature on the CIA’s covert war in 1960s Laos, and he has published several non-fiction books, including the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin. He has published several novels, including two with Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based crime fiction imprint of which he is the co-owner.
Trevor had the pleasure of meeting Tom in Kratie, Cambodia while he was researching his book about Cambodia and Tom was researching the Moon Travel Guide to Cambodia, which is now offered as the Handbook to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh.
Most recently, Tom was selected by the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan in Kolkata to participate in the annual Indo-European Artist Residency which gathers Indian, French, British and German artists together in a house and provides space and money to create four pieces of art over a two month period: Tom used the opportunity to write three crime fiction novellas about the city.
Today, Tom joins us from Koh Phangan Thailand:
To listen to Tom Vater answer the following questions,
- You mentioned before the show that you have been in India every year since 1993 and have worked there extensively, when did you first go to Kolkata and why?
- What are your favorite things about Kolkata: what compelled you to return again and again?
- How is Kolkata different from other major cities in India such as Mumbai?
- You had also told us earlier that you consider Kolkata one of the world’s most beautiful cities: how do you define this beauty?
- On a more practical note for our listeners, what are some must-see and -do things for visitors going to Kolkata?
- Are there any special foods or must-eat dishes or restaurants you can recommend?
- Tell us something about the city that you could only know by spending significant time there as opposed to just passing through as a tourist.
- Your new novel is set in three different time periods: 1999, 2019 and 2039. First tell us a bit about the book and then let’s discuss how you went about prophesying what Kolkata would be like in 2039.
- You mentioned to us before the show started that you also took part in a photo exhibition at an art gallery: What was that like and what kind of art scene is there in Kolkata?
- How about in the area surrounding Kolkata: what are some of your favorite day-trip destinations from the city?
- If someone has never been to India and has three-weeks, what do you recommend they see and do?
- What’s next on your writing agenda? Anything more in or about India?
You can sponsor anywhere from $1/month upwards. These funds will help us cover costs of keeping the show going. Visit PATREON TO DONATE TO THE SHOW or the link from the left-side of our website, or search Talk Travel Asia Patreon. Thanks in advance for supporting the cost and helping to keep the travel talk happening.
Links about our guest:
- Episode 18: Travel Writing with Tom Vater
- Tom’s new thriller: The Man with the Golden Mind
- Tom’s blog: TomVater.com
- Crimewave Press publishing house
- Tom’s Clippings
- Tom on LinkedIn
To learn more about Scott & Trevor:
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Groovy Map Seoul
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
- Follow Talk Travel Asia on Twitter
- Follow us on Facebook
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Vine
- Theme Music by Jamie Ruben
Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish).
PLEASE DONATE TO THE SHOW – we appreciate your support to keep the podcast happening (thanks)!