Perhaps you've heard of this seaside town, "Gopalpur". And perhaps you've let it slide from your consciousness, because it doesn't seem like a place which enjoys the privilege of legal marijuana coupled with the holiness of a pilgrimage center. After all, we Indians live the life as it goes in the campaign "Mann me doosra laddu futa?". But lend me your eyes for a few minutes and let me in own capacity coax you for considering Gopalpur as a getaway spot in eastern India.
Gopalpur is a town which holds a noble history as a seaport with connections to Southeast Asia, the evidence of which is still scattered throughout the town in the form of old decapitulated buildings and heritage resorts. After independence, it slid into the tag of a sleepy, forgotten town until Bengali holidaymakers rediscovered it for its tranquil seashore. Later, after the advent of the Mayfair Group, the place received a much needed makeover to boost tourism in the region. And since then Mayfair Group has tried to single handedly put Gopalpur on the tourist map. Well, they have done exceedingly well from my observations.
It was late in the night by the time we(Myself, Priyaa, Skumaran and Skumari) reached Gopalpur. The place hardly has any decent budget hotels except for the tiny ones along the promenade. Of course, there is a Panthanivas, but it does not offer an accommodation facility overseeing the beach. Our preferences were particularly upon a joint which offers budget rooms with a balcony facing beach and proximity to the market place, which bequeathed us with just 2 options. Of them, Kalinga Hotel hit us right on the sweet spot with their offering of "Common Balcony - Closest panoramic view of the beach". We paid Rs. 800 for a first floor beach view room, and believe me, never judge this hotel from its façade.
Imagine a Valentine's Day,;), 3 AM in the night, pitch dark, except for the moon and the light from the rotating beacon of a lighthouse. You are on the balcony of a hotel facing beach, shivering of the frigid winds blowing at you mercilessly, and you hug on to your dear one to get some respite. Romantic leaf straight out of a movie right?? Wrong, head to Gopalpur and see for yourself.
The hotel is a bit low on maintenance front and could easily cash their counters better if they go for a face lift. But otherwise it is the best out of all options based on the preferences cited above. And actually it seemed so.The hotel is located bang on the beach, possibly having one of the best locations. In fact, there is an exit that leads directly to the beach - to the less crowded area of the beach. It also happens to be near the marketplace, so it is easier to get transport, etc
Gopalpur lacks good restaurants which provide quality seafood. Now for the lunch, take this as a gospel truth and just head to Mayfair Buffet. Yes, Rs. 1000 + taxes will go down the drain. However, take a look at the spread of the buffet and allow it will sweep you off your feet. Ofcourse there is the Panthanivas but is a little far from the main marketplace. Buffet Timing - 12:00 - 3.30 PM. A frugal friend who might not be equally enthusiastic as you on tasting seafood and might even suggest on trying Swosti Palm Resort. Please bypass their opinion the way it comes reminding yourself of the gospel truth. You and your friend will thank me later. Keep hotel Krishna as your last option if you are rattling on a budgeted trip like us.
Confession: We tried lunch at Swosti and the experience spoiled my mood for the rest of the day. So, yeah...
This historic property, originally built as Odisha first luxury beach resort in 1914, boast of no shortfall of highlights. And as I appraise this property, it seems to be a win-win for Mayfair Group in the forthcoming years. Gopalpur on Sea has been a popular destination among the Russian tourists throughout the year. Domestic travelers visit during winters. With Gopalpur port being developed from a seasonal to an all-weather port, commercial and industrial activity is expected to cull up. Tatas too are starting their Greenfield industrial park at Gopalpur where it will be the anchor investor.
The genesis of the resort dates back to 1914 when Singnor Maglioni, an Italian, had set up the first beach resort at Gopalpur. In Gopalpur's glory days between the two World Wars, rich Bengali families, British traders and soldiers frequented Maglioni's hotel. In 1947, Rai bahadur M.S Oberoi, on a chance visit to what had again become a fishing village after the closure of East India Company, bought the hotel. This resort was the third property of the Oberoi Groupafter Shimla and Kolkata. The hospitality major was operating the resort since 1947 before shutting it down in 2005 due to maintenance problems. The Mayfair Group promoted by former cabinet minister and industrialist Dilip Ray acquired this heritage property for 10 crore from the Oberoi Group in September 2011 and decided to renovate it. And since then Mayfair Group has tried to single handedly put Gopalpur on the tourist map.
The biggest attraction apart from the beach is the quaint lighthouse overlooking the town. It was set up in 1871 and has an old classic nostalgic feel to it. Ever wondered what it's like to climb to the top of a Lighthouse? A lighthouse is strangely beautiful inside, with a spiral staircase that seems to go on forever. I have climbed a few and loved the experience every single time. Reaching the top with your lungs puffing and calves whining, rewards one a view that literally takes away the breath. You can feel the cooling breezes and the gasp of fresh air. The world below spreads in a vast panorama; you see the curves on the ocean waves, fishing boats cruising at the far ends, and you can even see the Taratarini hills in the north. The public are offered on to take on this incredible adventure climb to the lighthouse from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Gopalpur lighthouse came into existence in 1871 for assisting coastal shipping between Rangoon (Anglicized name of Yangon) and Coromandal coast ports. The steamer service to Rangoon also touched Gopalpur port in the past. Local residents reckon due to erosion of the coast in 1943, the lighthouse got heavily damaged and stopped functioning. Later, it remained unused due to World War II. In 1948, a new gas light inside a 500mm lantern was established on a hillock about 1km north from the coast. The present lighthouse was constructed on December 15, 1967.
As I wrote this, I wondered should I really go about publishing it. Gopalpur was something which I really enjoyed in a very long time. Although in my capacity, I would rather not let the world know about this place than scar the pristine beach the town anchors. Apparently my traditional Indian wisdom reckons, as the word gets out, desi-tourists will start picking "Gopalpur On Sea" for their bucket list of tourist destinations. And then, withal, next on their agenda among others, will be to drown the calm waves of the beach with their noises, littering the golden sands of the sprawling beach with whatever they got and subsequently aid in the growth of customary side-effects associated with a commercial tourism industry.
You see there is no relevance of "Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan" if Puri had remained like Gopulpur. But unfortunately, it does now and it's in our hands to not let the same fate strangle Gopulpur in years to come. With this, I rest my travelogue on Gopalpur.????