Kool-Kata

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

The gap here is Goa. I skipped blogging from Goa. I honestly don’t think there is anything I can say that you haven’t heard already. Really chilled, great beaches, excellent food (try the prawn curry, don’t try their local alcohol- puke).

I decided to literally cross the country back to the Nepalese border to see Kolkata on a complete whim. I had a few days left in India, so decided to make use of them.

Kolkata is beautiful. A lot of people will tell you its busy and dirty. What Indian city isn’t? The architecture was the first thing I noticed. If you are short on time, the best thing to do is to grab a yellow cab and pay by meter. He will take you everywhere you need to go. Kolkata is enormous (71 sqm or 185 skm), and with traffic, it can take about 30mins to get between places of interest.

The cabby:

 

Didn’t catch his name. Great man. Be careful though… When I say they charge you what’s on the meter, they actually double it for personal hire, and will try and strap on an extra “tip” for any waiting around between sights that they do. All in all, the bill was 900 INR for what must have been about 5-6 hours. I make that about $20 or £15. I think that’s value for money in a huge city, no faffing.

Along with my nameless cabby we became a team. Only having 1 afternoon there, we managed to see the Victoria Memorial, Kali Temple, Botanical Gardens, Jain Temple and a quick drive by  The Marble Palace.

Here’s a run down.

Victoria Memorial:

Feels like a combination of the V&A museum and Hyde Park, in fact, there were a few V&A logo’s as they’ve sponsored parts of a new exhibit there. For someone who lives and grew up in K&C (Kensington- London) this was nothing new. In fact it was a stark reminder of colonialism at it’s height in India. Breezed right through. But here are a couple of pictures:

      

 

The Kali Temple:

Something significantly more special than the Victoria Memorial. This temple was built in the mid 19th century and sits on the bank of the Hooghly River. You have to cross a busy food market to get to the main gate. Here you can get fresh fruit, fresh juice, kali statues and sweets / other offerings for the Hindu gods. The architecture here is impressive, as you walk through the main gates you enter the main compound, surrounded by 9 maroon coloured spires with the main one in the middle. Also attached the main entrance (by the river) is a  massive ghat where believers bathe during their visits. A strong current runs here but if you hang out long enough you witness some beautiful sights:

Bathing on the Ghat at the entrance of the temple:

 

 

The main spires:

 

The Botanical Gardens:

A true gem. One of the highlights in fact. I won’t delve into this too much but, this place is absolutely enormous. Got completely lost and cabby had to drive round the gates for ages til we found eachother. The place is spread out over almost 300 acres so you can understand why… In any case, the best part of these gardens is the “Great Banyan Tree”. So great in fact that it holds a place in the Guinness Book of Records. It is the largest Banyan Tree in the world. I think pictures in this case will speak much louder than words, because honestly… I have never seen anything like this. Felt like being in a forest, but it was in fact one tree with so many inter-connected branches and trunks that it made up JUST ONE TREE. If you get spare 34 seconds, check out this video on youtube of it:

Here are my shots from inside, then outside:

 

 

 

UNREAL.

The Jain Temple:

This felt a little Disney-like. Not entirely sure how to describe this one, but definitely another highlight a long with the B-Gardens. I have to say, I have never been to a temple like this one in India (says the seasoned pro…wink). No but honestly, the colours here are the main attraction. Purples and pinks and other dreamy colours. Its over 100 years old (though you wouldn’t believe it, its so well maintained), built by an art connoisseur named Ray Badridas Bahadur in 1867. It actually houses 4 different temples with a main courtyard in the centre. Really enjoyed it and I highly recommend you leave it to the last.

Main courtyard:

Time to head back to the hotel. On the way we pass by the Marble Palace, but it was too late to go in as they shut just before sunset. This, according to the guidebooks is a very interesting place to visit, housing some of the greatest antiquities in India. It’s free to go in, but you need to tip the people that run the place. Very opulent looking place from the outside. I manage to snap a shot just as they are closing the gates:

Quick note on the hotel, the Oberoi:

The Oberoi Kolkata. Probably one of the most famous 5* hotel chains in India. If you want to splurge, and truly treat yourself, I highly recommend this place. It will completely remove you from the madness of Kolkata and transport you to colonial bliss. I’m not going to lie… At 13000 INR a night ( just over $200/£150), it’s expensive. But after a long….. EVENTFUL….. 2 months, it was totally worth the treat. If you’re ever there, and have some room to do it… Go for it:

On to my final stop, Varanasi, the city of temples.

Love

K

 

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