Before embarking on your journey to Kolkata, the City of joy, you must ask your inner traveler a very important question: what is it that you seek in this city? If the answers circles somewhere around you satiating your wanderlust, then, your travel itinerary will take you through the path most trodden, like a traveler. But if it resonates with the lines of Robert Frost,’ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference’, you are an explorer. Only through the eyes of an explorer will you be able to see a side of Kolkata, that the city keeps hidden from regular tourist. Let the treasures unfold…
Start your day at the MallickGhat Flower Market
The first thing that catches your eye at this flower market at the foot of Howrah Bridge, is the multitude of colors around you. Even before that sinks in, the mesmerizing aroma of flowers envelopes you. The place is an experience in itself, as you watch the buyers haggle away and you get a chance to buy exotic flowers one sees only in coffee table books. You need to be an early bird for this one as the market opens as early as 5 AM in the morning.
How about a brunch at Chinatown next?
TerettiBazaar, as the locals know it as, is only one of its kind in India. You can witness a mélange of Indo-Chinese culture and get an authentic dose of Chinese food here. The lanes are reminiscent of old day Beijing. Gorge on some steaming dumplings or momos and pack a jumbo takeaway of sausages and rolls to last you till the next meal. With times the place has upgraded its food scene and there are some good restaurants too in the area, like Beijing and Big Boss.
A stroll in the park…err Cemetery
South Park Street Cemetery is an offbeat way to explore Kolkata but a thrilling one for sureand not in the least spooky. This historic cemetery is the largest nineteenth-century Christian cemetery outside the USand though it dates way back to 1767, it still hasn’t lost its charm. It’s like seeing the history of the city through the architecture here. Tombs built in Gothic and Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture are a visual delight. It is a lesser known fact that this cemetery is also the burial ground for the founder of Kolkata, Job Charnock.
Pay homage at Amitabh Bachchan Temple
Revel in that fan-girl/boy moment when you visit this Temple, even if youaren’t an Amitabh Bachchanfan( but then who isn’t?). This temple is dedicated to the iconic superstar of the Hindi movie industry Bollywood. The place is serious business for ardent fans of the actor, for you will see them worshipping the shoes worn by him in one of his legendary movies and beautiful montages showcasing his life’s work. The highlight of the temple is a twenty-five kg statue of Amitabh Bachchan which took the artist Subrata Bose three months to make. A visit to this temple while staying at hotels in Kolkata can give a complete overhaul.
Move aside the boring car….for here comes the majestic Tram
The only city to still have this old-world charm alive and kicking is Kolkata. If you haven’t taken a ride on the tram on your trip to Kolkata, you have not felt the pulse of the city. The tram network of Kolkata is more than a hundred years old and is the oldest one in all of Asia. These trams may look beaten down from the outside but you simply cannot miss the romanticism that they reflect, a romance that the city has with these beauties.
See the artists at work
DurgaPujo and Kolkata, you just have to take the two names in one breath, as it is one time of the year when the city is bursting with colors, resplendent with splashes of vermillion everywhere. Kumortoli is the potter’s colony in Kolkata where the narrow gullies are full of stores and artisans bringing the idols of Goddess Durga and other Hindu Gods and Goddesses to life. It is an enriching experience to see them working almost in a trance while sweat trickles down their brow.
Now, these are snippets that an explorer discovers when trotting along the lesser known lanes of Kolkata. So, that is what you need to decide now… do you want to be the explorer of the traveler?