Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans

27th May 2015

Trip members: Karthik and family Trip date: 27-May-15 to 31-Mar-15 Trip Route: Chennai - Bhubaneswar - Puri - Konark - Puri - Kolkata - Sunderbans - Kolkata - Chennai

Bhubaneswar, Puri, Konark - Kolkata

Bhubaneswar - Puri - 61 kms Bhubaneswar - Konark - 81 kms Konark - Puri - 35 kms Bhubaneswar - Kolkata - 442 kms Day 1 - Bhubaneswar, Puri Day 2 - Konark, Puri, Train to Kolkata Day 3 - Kolkata local site seeing Day 4 - Sunderbans Day 5 - Kolkata site seeing and return to ChennaiPlaces to see - Bhubaneswar

Lingaraja Temple (4 kms from Airport)

Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves - 7 kms from Lingaraja temple

Nandankanan Zoological Park (19 kms from Airport)

Nandankanan Zoological Park - Puri - 79 kms

Day 1

We boarded the flight to Bhubaneshwar from Chennai around 7:00 AM and reached Bhubaneswar by 10:00 AM. We had pre-booked a cab from Puri and our room in Puri at Jamindar's palace. We had breakfast at Hotel Food Junction - some Idlis and dosas and first went to Lord Lingaraja Temple . We had lot of advices from localites and social websites about the Pandas who shall be hunting tourists from hotels to parking areas and all around the temple. So, we asked the drive how to go about it. He suggested that you tell the Panda that you want to do just Darshan and not any special poojas in the beginning itself and maximum give 100 bucks. We also said if we don't go with a panda, we will be constantly chased by various pandas until we have one, and the occasion would be horrible.

We took a panda from the parking area and told clearly like the driver assisted. Do not expect pandas to be too religious and special; they would be having pan-filled mouth and talking to you as if they know everything. Beware that you do not get engaged into any poojas/involved discussions. Pandas too explain the history quite well and some of them ask you whether you like to perform any pooja; some of them just make you do special poojas. So, be aware.

The Lingaraja temple is quite old and involves history of Lord Harihar - Shiva and Vishnu togather. Of the Linga, the bottom part is available as like the Linga and the top half represents Lord Vishnu. The temple also has 2 flags - representing the symbols of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. There are lots of other deity temples around the main temple and they all symbolize revolving around the main deity.

Photo of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India by Karthik Ramanathan

We returned back and found that we had lots of time to sleep - 7 PM ! Why not visit Lord Jagannath temple as well ! Yes, we did it. We took an auto for Rs.80!! - strictly drivers are not ready for bargaining and dropped us closer to the temple through narrow streets - about 1 km from the temple. Vehicles are not allowed on the roads near to the temple. The whole of narrow streets see lots of hot-hot snacks and sweets - be ready to taste them!!

Lord Jagannath temple - after having safely done with Lingaraj temple in the morning, was waiting to see whats-in store at this temple with experience with Pandas! We are not allowed to carry mobiles, cameras, bags into the temple. We need to make use of the cloak rooms and chappal stands to park these. I had deliberately left them at hotel room to save time; and in 45 minutes, we were able to leave our chappals at the stand ... UFFFF !! What an experience. the whole place looks like a festival - very crowded, people shouting all around and moving in all directions !

After a police security check, we managed to get into the temple; hunting of pandas was quite less here compared to the Lingaraja temple, may be, because the crowd was big :) ! We had sail by the crowd and got some good darshan in 20 minutes. The temple is prone to woe the tourists by its popularity and so are the pandas; almost was put into a trap, but realized and just got out! We were out of the temple in an hour after satisfactory dharshan. Do not miss to see all the deities around and one can spot Konark Sun God as well here. We returned to the room by 8:30 PM, had decent dinner at Jamindars palace and rested.

Day 2

After a long Day-1, for day-2, we had booked a cab for visiting the Sun temple and Chandrabaga beach for Rs.1050, which was okay, from the lodge. We checked-out and reached the Sun temple around 10 AM. Konark is 37 kms from Puri. We took a guide for Rs.200, which was important for a temple of such huge history and popularity, and for us to understand all these. One needs to walk 500m to reach the place, The place is now with Department of Archaeology and a regular temple for prayers. The guide explained us the history so well on the need of building the temple, the Chandrabaga river and now the beach, the destruction and restoration attempts. All made lot of sense after having visited the other two temples of the Orissa golden triangle.

Photo of Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha, India by Karthik Ramanathan
Day 3

Reached Kolkata by 8 AM and had the cab waiting for us ready. We had a guest house booked for us through a friend and checked-in. The plan was to do site-seeing as much as possible and leave the rest on Day-5. Day-4 was planned and booked for Sunderbans - 1 day trip through Sundarban Chalo tours.

Photo of Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Karthik Ramanathan
Day 4

Sunderbans - the biggest mangrove forest and delta region for our share of viewing animals, the expectations were to view beings like crocodiles, water monitor, spotted deer, different kind of birds. If we are lucky, we might even be watching a Royal Bengal Tiger in the natural habitat. Our expectations were limited not to see a Tiger, as we understood it is indeed a very rare sight to see tiger on the banks in daylight. That too in summer, very very rare.

The guide echoed our thoughts as well. All through the cruise, we did see spotted dear, wild dog, bunch of wild board, few water birds like crane, kingfishers, water lizards, etc. First stop was at the Sajnaekhali watch tower. The guide joined us in this location. The whole of Sunderbans is viewed us animal-habited islands (48) and human-habited islands (54). Wherever there are human-habited islands facing animal-habited islands are presented, there is nylon net laid, which acts as a mental barrier for tigers to reach the other side to hunt humans or cattles. Tigers are very good swimmers and known for frequent attacks on human-habited islands in Sunderbans.

The Sajnaekhali sanctuary has some species of turtles and a watch tower. We could not see anything special from the watch tower apart from a view of the Sunderbans mangrove forest. We also spotted a wild monitor lizard moving around. Sajnaekhali hosts a information centre, which provides lots of useful information about Sunderbans and the fauna-flora of the great mangrove region.

We then boarded back and found travelling ourselves between animal habited islands and interest grew more to sight something interesting. We had our lunch in the boat around 1 PM - rice, dhall and potatoes. Quite tasty food! We continued spotting kingfishers and water birds and reached Sudhankhali by 4 PM. The trip was untiring and not so boring as we kept looking for something to see.

Sudhankhali is the last spot of the trip and we were instructed to spent much time in the watch tower by our guide as we can spot something. This place has a man-made lake. We sighted a rare species - white kingfisher, we saw it go into the water and come out flying with prey in its mouth!! After around 20 minutes, there were a bunch of wild boars that ran towards the water and it was a great moment for us, as we were about to leave. The guide told us that the boars are in a hurry to drink water and run away as there might be a tiger around. He also said, we might not be able to see the man-eater, however, it might see us and not prefer to come out of the hideout! We saw some yellow and red crabs as well.

We then started back at 4 PM and reached Godkhali at 5 PM - for the tiring road trip back to room! Overall, a must visit for each one to visit this place to see how wonderful the place is. Citing a tiger may be interesting, but, do not intent to trip to see a tiger. A nearby zoo would do it :). Sunderbans - enjoy a great ride in water around the islands and the mangroves. Tiger seeing is a boon or a bonus, how you prefer.

Day ended with yummy chapattis, sabji and palak dal!

Lazy start for the day. Checked-out at 10 AM and reached the Dakshineswar temple - Durga temple. The temple is expected to be crowded, however, the queues are maintained well and dharshan can be done quicker. Good news is : there are no disturbances of guides or pandas! A very pleasant dharshan and one also gets to do poojas oneself for the 12 Lingas around the temple. Cameras/photos are not allowed inside the temple premises. The temple is open until noon and opens again at 3 PM in the evening.

Photo of Sundarban National Park, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Karthik Ramanathan

The Orissa triangle represents - Bhubaneswar (dedicated for Lord Shiva), Puri (Lord Jagannath (Vishnu)) and Konark - the Sun God. We could understand the history better when we visited Sun temple, Konark the next day.

After the darshan of Lingaraja temple with the pands, we paid him 100 bucks and sent him; we continued one more round of darshan by our own at ease now. The Sun was soaring at 40+ Celsius !!

Next, the drive drive us to the Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves. These are similar to small ones, one can see at Ajanta/Ellora. These 2 places are just opposite to each other and requires a moderately difficult climb to the top of a small hill. We climbed to the top of Udayagiri hill and the whole city was below us. It was a beautiful sight and we can see the whole of Khandagiri also from there. With the Sun soaring high, we decided not to enter Khandagiri which required a strenuous climb to the top and was flooded with too many monkeys!

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

We decided to break for lunch. The driver drove us to a very good restaurant - Hotel Priya - pure vegetarian. the food was very good and we thanked the driver for getting us to a very good restaurant - Jeera rice, Dhall, Rotis and Aloo Sabji. Next, we went to Nandankanan Zoological Park. Rs.50 is charged for the safari ride to see White tigers, Bear, Deer and Lions. On a soaring day of Sun, the animals were too tired to greet the tourists and the safari was not so eventful. We had been taking lots of water all through the day with glucose as well! The biggest surprise at the zoo was guides were thronging all around - OMG... guides in zoo!! We would see lots of peacocks during the safari. Rest of the zoo can either we visited by foot or through battery operated cars - for which tickets are available at the entrance. Specials to see here are White tigers, Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Orangutan, Giraffe and some good range of reptiles. After a very tiring day, we started towards Puri.

We checked-in to Hotel Jamindar's palace for one night. We had booked train to Kolkata on next day night - overnight by train. After reaching the hotel, we saw the Puri beach was 1 minute walk and immediately refreshed to go to the Puri Model beach. Unexpectedly, the beach was very clean and breeze was very pleasant given the humidity during day time, We were in the beach from 5 PM to 6 PM. We did not miss out on yummy-yummy rasagollas and hot-hot samosas on the beach ! They are so good and one cannot afford to miss. The whole of beach crowd was buying from the one-two guys

selling these! They were selling real hot!

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

One gets to know about this temple in youtube - very detailed. Do see this if you are planning to visit Konark. Also, the Sun dial was more than impressive. The way the temple was built considering so many things, by astronomy, by philosophy, by medicine, by spirituality is more than amazing.

We spent close 2-3 hours in the temple and then visited the Chandrabaga beach - 10 kms from the Sun temple. The beach is again a very clean and long beach. We reached there by noon and it was too hot! Evenings would be definitely great here. You may want to plan accordingly.

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

With soaring Sun, we decided to give away plans to visit Chilika lake and checked-in to Hotel Mahabir Sheraton - oh yeah ... AC room! Had some average lunch in the restaurant and took rest. We went to the Model beach in the evening, spent 2 hours. There are water sports as well there and an sure-shot time killer in evenings. Gulped couple of Chapatthis in the hotel room and headed to Kolkata on the Puri-Howrah weekly express. No disturbances in the train, err... no TTE, Great trip in Orissa and now to Kolkata.

After some thin breakfast of breads, biscuits and pooris, our day started around 10 AM. We first went to Belur Math at 11:15 AM. There is a museum inside the premises on Paramahamsa's contributions and some on Swami Vivekananda. We went to main temple and spent around 15 minutes there. The place is located on the banks of Ganges and there is a ghat in Belur math. Few people take bath and that was our first close view of the great river. One is allowed to take photographs near the bank, but, not at other places in the premises.

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

It was almost noon and the Dhakshineswar temple might have closed. Rest of the places are on the other side of the city and driver suggested us to complete the other side and plan the temple for Day-5. I normally oblige to the advices of localites as they would be aware of many things than tourists. It took more than 1 hour to reach the Park street , the happening place of Kolkata.

The driver took us to a small vegetarian place - Shah's Kitchen. This place is so little, yet, the food was tasty and homely. We ordered Thali and it was very good and sumptuous. Post lunch, we first went to Mother's shrine, but it was closed and shall be open by 3 PM. We then visited Victoria memorial . The place was definitely grand. The entry ticket is Rs.20 for the palace and the garden together. The memorial is closed on Mondays and public holidays. The palace is clean and well maintained; given the sunny weather, the garden was a great place to rest and most of the people/tourists were under the shades. Photography is not allowed inside the memorial palace, allowed only from outside and the gardens; however, allowed to carry the camera.

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

We spent close to one hour here in the palace and next visited Princep Ghat.

Princep ghat is a happening place in Kolkata, especially in the evening. By the time we went, around 3 PM, it was deserted. Princep Ghat is the beautifully laid riverfront by the Hoogly river. There is also a railway station as a part of the Circular railway service in Kolkata. The ghat with James Princep memorial, the railway station, the grand bridge, beautified riverfront, makes a must visit in Kolkata.

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

The driver then took us around Eden gardens and then to Mother's shrine - House of Mother Therasa. The place hosts the shrine - tomb of Mother Therasa and some collection of her photographs on all the work done by her. All along the way from Eden gardens to Mothers shrine, one would go by the Maidan - greenish fields where folks play football and cricket all around. The rare sight of green fields in scorching sun in India!

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

Then, was the shopping time at . Few shops were open for bargaining, others not even Rs.5 lesser. Nevertheless, the stuff on platforms were of decent quality and much cheaper compared to the showrooms in Chennai. Did some indicative shopping and escaped back to the room. Quite a tired day, had excellent Chappattis, Dhal and Aloo-Bhendi sabji and ready for the great day - Sunderbans !

We had booked the day-trip with Sunderban Chalo group. The scheduled pickup time was 5 AM and were picked up at 5:30, after some niggle in car. The road trip is for 3 hours - to Godkhali - close to 90 kms from Kolkata. 1/3rd of the roads are good, 1/3rd - bad roads and 1/3rd no roads!! So, be prepared for it.

Sharp 8:30 we boarded the waiting boat - an 8-hour trip in Sunderbans. We boarded, the boat started and we were served with tasty puris and potatoes. Good breakfast and we were ready to see Sunderbans! The trip was a package and this included AC individual Car, Guide (English speaking), Boat Cruise, Food (Breakfast, Lunch, Tea on boat & on the way), Mineral Water, Permit, Camera & video camera permission. The trip includes visit to the watch towers - Sajnaekhali and Sudhankhali.

We then had some snacks at Bhikaram by noon and went to the Science city . The tickets are distributed across entry tickets, Space theatre, Time machine, 3D-Theatre and few more. One needs to plan what all they want to do, plan the time and then buy tickets at the entrance. There is cable car - connecting the entry and the far end of the park. One can opt to use cable car and reach the end and see one-one and complete or otherwise.

Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan
Photo of Orissa Golden Triangle Tour - Kolkata - Sunderbans by Karthik Ramanathan

The Space theatre had a Antarctica based show, and it was very good. Do not miss this. The Mirror magic in near the space theatre was also very nice and quality time for kids. Overall, the science city is maintained very well; there are small eateries all around. A must visit for family with kids.

Bought some sweets at a popular shop - Balaram Mullick and returned back to Chennai. An excellent and relaxing trip!

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