Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Kolkata – The City of Joy

Kolkata – The City of Joy

Kolkata (formerly spelled as Calcutta in English, until 2001), one of the largest cities in India, both in terms of population and area, is usually known as the City of Joy, City of Palaces & also the Cultural Capital of India. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. As the former capital of India, Kolkata (Calcutta) is the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought, that is reflected through the Indo-Islamic and Indo-Saracenic colonial-era architectural motifs present in and around the city. Kolkata has given birth to several personalities who are well known throughout the world for their creativity in multiple genres! With the warm hospitality & friendly nature of the locals, unbelievable varieties in cuisine, rich cultural heritage and historical sites, numerous festival celebrations going on throughout the year and last but not the least, cheap expenses, Kolkata is the ideal place to visit for a vacation, where you get so many things to explore!

The beauty of Kolkata can be seen in many ways. If you are short in time, then you have to short-list certain major attractions of Kolkata and take a glimpse of the city. But, in order to actually explore the city, even a week’s time frame might fall short to many people! And why not! The Indian Museum itself will take 2 days to properly visit all the sections. Though it might feel boring to many people but, it’s heaven for the history lovers! Similarly, the Alipore Zoological Gardens, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden (Calcutta Botanical Garden), Nicco Park & Science City will almost take a complete day to properly visit each of the individual attractions! When you are in this city, time will fly by in the blink of an eye.
Indian Museum - The largest and oldest museum in India

Apart from the mentioned ones, other places to visit in and around Kolkata are –

Victoria Memorial
Backside entry to Victoria Memorial

A ride in the Chariot (Tanga) around Victoria Memorial is a must in Kolkata

Outside Eden Gardens Railway Station

The Cricket Association of Bengal - Eden Gardens

Maidan - The largest urban park in Kolkata

Maidan - From the other end

Horses grazing around in Maidan

Here people love each other very much! Even under the scorching sun, there is no lack in commitment! ;)

Vijay Smarak - At the entry to Fort William

Shaheed Minar

  • War Memorial

First World War Memorial at Red Road

The largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world.

Howrah Bridge - The sixth-longest cantilever bridge in the world.

Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge)

Howrah Station - The largest railway complex in India

Prinsep Memorial

Prinsep Ghat Railway Station by the Bank of the Ganges

Beautification of the river bank near Prinsep Ghat

Kolkata Race Course - The largest horse race venue in India

Hogg Market (New Market) - Kolkata's shopper's paradise

The crowded Lindsay Street!

Experience one of the most happening places in the city famous for Night Life, Music, Restaurants & Pubs!

The largest library in India by volume.

From Kolkata one can also take a short trip for a day or 2 to nearby places like the Sundarbans, Digha, Tajpur, Mandarmoni, Bakkhali, Frazerganj, Bankura, Bardhaman, Shantiniketan, Mayapur, Nabadwip, Krishnanagar, Murshidabad, Bandel, Taki and many more.

Being a metropolitan city, Kolkata is well connected by road, railway and air with all the other major cities of India. Even in the city, you get the option to choose from several modes of transport to travel from one place to another. Modes of transport in Kolkata include the Kolkata Suburban Railway (including the Circular Railway), Kolkata Metro Railway (first underground metro railway in India), Kolkata Tramways (Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC): The only operating tram network in India and the oldest operating electric tram in Asia), private and state government buses, taxi, auto rickshaw and man-pulled rickshaw.
Kolkata Suburban Railway

View of the Ganges from Circular Railway

Mayer Ghat - Bagh Bazar

A ride in the Circular Railway is an experience in itself!

Kolkata Tramways - The oldest operating electric tram in Asia

The Traditional Kolkata Taxis

After a few days of stay in Kolkata, one would for sure gain some extra weights due to the damn tasty Bengali cuisine. Be it the street foods or snacks or main course or sweets; whatever it is, you can’t resist yourself from tasting a wide range of Bengali food! And especially, if you are a fish or sea food lover, then you will definitely fall in love with the city at your very first meal itself! Though it’s not required to mention, but still, when you are in the city, don’t forget to taste the city’s signature desserts, Sandesh, Rosogolla (Rasgulla) & Mishti Doi!
Some of the Street Food in Kolkata. There are numerous more to go!

Rosogolla & Sandesh: The signature dessert of Bengal

Sports fanatics can also indulge themselves in several games played around along with the locals. Some of the popular sports played in Kolkata are - Cricket, Football, Kiting & Playing Cards.
In memory of Gostha Paul, the first Indian footballer to be honoured with the Padma Shri

Kiting - One of the popular games played across Bengal

There are so many reasons to visit Kolkata but, when planning a visit to the city, one should keep in mind that the climate of Kolkata is not that friendly as its people are! With a typical humid tropical climate, it is definitely not recommended to visit the city during the summer or monsoon. The best time to visit Kolkata is during the winter, spring and the very short autumn, which is generally between October and March. Moreover, some of the biggest festivals of Bengal (Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Boro Din (Christmas), Dol Jatra (Holi), Saraswati Puja and several Music fests) are celebrated during this time of the year. So, if anyone plans their visit to Kolkata accordingly, then it will be a wonderful add-on to their experience! You will be surprised to see, how crazy and passionate the Bengalis are about celebrating each and every festival in its own way!
Celebrating with or without reason - The favourite time pass of the Bengalis

Kolkata is not for everyone.
You want your city clean and green, stick to Delhi.
You want your city rich and impersonal, go to Mumbai.
You want them hi-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place.
But if you want a city with a soul, come to Kolkata.

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Friday, 9 October 2015

White Water Rafting in Dandeli

White Water Rafting in Dandeli

Dandeli, a small town in the Western Ghats of North West Karnataka is an ideal vacation destination for those who love nature. Dandeli has been widely acclaimed for its natural beauty, the lush green jungles, rich wildlife and exciting adventurous activities, that makes it a popular getaway destination of South India; especially among the adventure seekers and the wildlife enthusiasts. Dandeli is also known as a Wildlife Sanctuary and is among one of the many tiger projects in India.

Located at the bank of River Kali, Dandeli is surrounded by thick tropical forests and is home to big cats such as Tigers, Leopards and even Black Panthers, Elephants, Gaur, Deer, Antelopes, giant Squirrels, many kinds of reptiles and a wide variety of birds such as Hornbills, Kingfishers, Serpent Eagles, Falcon, Magpie, Robin, Bulbuls, Orioles, Woodpeckers, Weaver Birds and many more.

Dandeli is situated around 105 kms away from Goa and is well connected by road from all the nearby major destinations like, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and more. The nearest railway stations are Londa, Alnavar, Dharwad and Hubli. One can take a train from their source to any of the mentioned railway station and from there, taxis & buses are available that will take you to Dandeli.

Apart from its natural beauty and immense wildlife exploration, Dandeli is the ultimate place for the adventurists where one can get indulged in several adventure sports & activities, thus keeping the rush of adrenalin at its highest during visit to this place. One of the most popular activities in Dandeli is the White water rafting in Kali River. River rafting is a must do activity in Dandeli for the adventure seekers, that takes you through Class 3 Rapids. There is a choice between a 12 km run that lasts for around 3 to 4 hours and a shorter run that is almost half in both duration and length. Though it might seem to be a bit risky at the beginning but, there is nothing to worry since, the activity is performed under the supervision of expert guides.

Note: White water rafting/river rafting activities in Dandeli are not conducted throughout the year. The typical season of river rafting in Dandeli is from October till June (depends year to year based on the water level and rainfall).

Other adventurous activities in Dandeli includes -

  • Kayaking
  • Rappelling
  • Canyoning
  • Natural Jacuzzi
  • Adventure trekking
  • Jungle Safari in open jeep
  • Bird Watching
  • Zip Line and River crossing
  • Coracle Ride
  • Mountain Biking
  • Overnight Camping
  • Sight-seeing & excursions (visit nearby attractions like Sykes Point, Kavala cave, Shiroli Peak, Supa Dam, Magad falls, Syntheri rocks, Ulavi Shri Channabasaveshwara temple, etc.)

There are several staying options available in Dandeli. However, if you are traveling during a peak season (usually between October and June) then it is advisable that you book your accommodation well in advance. Check out the official website of Dandeli for further information on accommodation and activities booking options.

I visited Dandeli with 5 other friends of mine from office (Pavan, Ajay, Naga, Chaitanya & Sainath), in the year 2013. Our visit to this place was planned over a tea break at office, on a Thursday evening, in the month of November. Bored with our monotonous daily life, we were talking about taking a break and hit out for a vacation when suddenly, Pavan came up with the idea to visit Dandeli and unleash ourselves amidst nature! The moment Pavan shared his plan; six of us were in for the plan.

Within an hour we looked over the internet for travel and staying options. Pavan’s and Ajay’s houses were in Dharwad, situated around 60 kms away from Dandeli which is also one of the nearest railway stations to Dandeli. We booked train tickets to Dharwad for next Thursday and before commencing our journey, Pavan also made arrangements for river rafting and overnight camping with The Kali Adventure Camp (Jungle Lodges & Resorts).

All set for the exciting trip! From Left: Sainath, Pavan, Naga, Chaitanya, Me & Ajay

We boarded Rani Chennamma Express on Thursday evening from Yeshwantpur Railway Station in Bangalore and reached Dharwad the next day morning at around 6:15 AM. We got divided into 2 groups. Half went to Ajay’s house and half went to Pavan’s house. After getting freshened up quickly, we had tea and snacks and then I, Ajay & Naga started in Ajay’s car. Pavan, Sainath and Chaitanya also started from Pavan’s house in his car and we met at a point, which was earlier decided.
On our way to Dandeli from Dharwad

After having breakfast in our way, we reached The Kali Adventure Camp (Jungle Lodges & Resorts) in Dandeli at around 10 AM. Since everything was already arranged, so, we didn’t have to wait much longer. We changed our clothes there itself and boarded the open hood Jeeps from the camp that took us uphill near the Supa dam in Ganeshgudi from where the river rafting starts.
The adventure begins!

The road through the jungle is mind blowing. We were not able to capture the scenic beauty on the way as we left all our belongings back at the camp. On reaching a particular point, a trainer got assigned to us. There were several other people who formed different groups like us and we all started flowing along with the water. The experience during this whole activity is something out of the world and it is a must recommended for any and every adventurist.
After some training, its showtime!

Class 3 Rapids!

Adrenaline Rush at its heights!

After this highly thrilling experience, we were dropped back at the camp. We changed our clothes and headed for our camp further inside the jungle. Fresh cooked lunch was served on our arrival at the camp. Since, it was the beginning of the season and moreover, it was Friday, so, we were the only guests in that camp, for that night! The care taker gave us one big room with 2 king size beds and informed us that all the tents were empty and we can choose any of them and sleep inside during the night.
The Jungle Camp!

The place was very peaceful. We were only able to hear birds singing around, apart from our own voices. After a short nap, we played cricket and volleyball till sunset. In the evening, the camp fire was lighted up and it was a wonderful time spent in the woods. After dinner, we occupied some of the Tents and had a nice sleep in the wild.
Volleyball in the field!

The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire! - Pamela Hansford Johnson

Camping in the wild!

The next day we woke up early in the morning and headed out for a short jungle trek. The caretaker of the camp was our guide. The early morning trek was a blissful experience with so many species of birds singing around! Nature lovers will surely not want to return back from that heavenly atmosphere. We were also having plenty of time in our hand and so, we enjoyed every moment during the trek.
Into the wild!

No, it's not the wrong turn!

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake - Wallace Stevens

The smiling faces :)

Bird watching!




Unknown Bird

The Jungle Trek continues

Taking rest under the natural shade almost at the end of our trek

Adventure accomplished!

After around 3-4 hours, we returned back to our camp, had breakfast and started again heading for Dharwad.
On our way back to Dharwad

We reached Pavan’s house during noon and had a delicious lunch that was prepared by his Mom. We spend rest of the time roaming around in Dharwad and our short yet highly adventurous trip came to an end, when we boarded the Sampark Kranti Express at night, in order to return back to our regular life!
And the journey ends here!

P.S.: Most of the pictures were captured using mobile camera (8 Mega Pixel; Xperia M dual & Samsung Galaxy S3) and very few were captured using DSLR.

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