Kolkata Adventures by Nicky Millar
Another blog entry written by Nicky Millar, for more about who she is, and about her awesome travel/volunteering adventure check her blog.
Kolkata, what can I say. WOW! Honestly, not sure if I was naive in my expectations or the recent read of City of Joy was too fresh in my mind, but this city is not at all what I anticipated!
Arriving from Varanasi, I went straight to Kolkata Backpackers Homestay, one of my favourite places to stay in India! Rajarshi not only provides the yummiest breakfast on the block, but goes out of his way to help you enjoy and explore his amazing city. The house is a couple of metro stops away from the infamous Sudder Street, and for me that was a bonus, it meant that one is forced to explore the city beyond the 500m backpacker radius and also enables you to experience Indian hospitality at its best!
Staying in the city for a week, I was actually engaged in an exposure visit with a local NGO (based in Salt Lake City, a fun 2.5 hour addition to our daily commute), but during the weekend and in the evening I did manage to get a feel for the city which as alluded to above, I loved! The people so friendly and helpful, the food sensational and the colours breathtaking—overall an exciting place that you cannot help but get caught up in.
The main drag near the Indian Museum, Sudder Street and New Market is a natural magnet to locals and tourists alike, and you can really go wild with the shopping if you let yourself. cheap cheap cheap! As with any market place (in the world), you will get some attention when going through the “aisles” but nowhere near the intensity that you experience elsewhere in India. In fact, my second best outing (although not strictly shopping per say) was down to the flower market under the Howrah Bridge at the crack of dawn! The sights and smells were just a splendid way to start the day, and the banter among workers was rather catchy. Unfortunately I did not manage to see the traditional wrestlers that sometimes come down to the ghats in the morning, but still got to experience the morning ritual of all those who live nearby which is humbling in itself.
Victoria Memoral Park, Kolkata
My favourite jaunt however had to be to Victoria Memorial Park! If you knew me, I feel you would be somewhat confused as this is quite uncharacteristic of me, but if I could recommend one thing it is to get yourself a picnic, pay the Rs 4 to enter the grounds (I actually didn’t enter the Memorial building itself) and absorb the atmosphere. I coincidently went on a weekend, which was fabulous as it had a happy family crowd that was content to bask in the sun, play badminton and master the skill of selfies. It is a serene place, a million miles from the Indian bustle (in reality not even 500m away) and provides a wonderful glimpse into the inspiring family‐centric attitude of this country.
A commentary of Kolkata would not be complete without mention of Park Street, the fancy part of town! Here is a strip of all the shops, restaurants and bars you could ever want and only a mere hop, skip and a jump from Sudder Street. I was fortunate enough to be in this city for Christmas, and while I had not the willpower to tackle the crowds here on the 25th, I frequented many times prior to the big day and was so warmed by the festive spirit! The entire street was lit up and filled up with Christmas cheer, treats and delicious foods! It this is anything to go by, Kolkata really celebrates every holiday and boy does it deliver!
My final word of advice is to get lost! Seriously, this is a city that you have just got to feel and if there was ever a place to lose your way this would be it. You are invariably spurted out in some recognizable place or the locals are always willing to help, and if worst comes to worst there are a gazillion quaint yellow taxis ready to whisk you to wherever your heart may desire!