Exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata

17th Oct 2016
Photo of Exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata 1/1 by Utpala Ghosh

Hyderabad to Kolkata – A Flight To The City Of Joy

Kolkata has always fascinated me because of its rich cultural heritage and contemporary political issues. Being the British capital of India, the city has a history of over 300 years. Perhaps, that is the reason why the city is so full of life in spite the political turbulences and scams all around.

The never say die attitude, the laid back happy-go-lucky demeanor of the people who just need an excuse to have a good laugh and good food is simply incredible. Hence, I planned to spend my first earned leave of this financial year in Kolkata.

I am a software engineer by profession and photographer by passion. So my sole companion, my camera follows me wherever I go. And ever since I watched Kahani, the photographer in me was kicking me to explore the age old beauty of the city and capture some of the best moods and moment of the city.

When it comes to the best services at an affordable price, the only name you can think of is Indigo Airlines. I used the travel app on my mobile to get the best deals and discounts for the Hyderabad Kolkata flights. With extensive flight availability, flight schedule and all relevant information about the flight, the travel app came handy in booking the tickets through a very easy and smart interface.

It was an early morning flight. But there is more to it. When I reached the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad, it was still dark. The time of the flight departure was about an hour apart from that. But least to my knowledge and much to my surprise, the flight took off at the break of the dawn.

We all have seen sun rise from the best of the venues on earth, but being up in the sky when the first ray of the sun strikes, was the first ever experience I had. It was an ethereal experience as the sky turned black to crimson and then gradually the sun light spread all over. If the beginning of the journey was so blissful, I could imagine how wonderful the rest of the trip would be.

Indigo Airlines - Give wings to the voyager in you

Photo of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Utpala Ghosh

A Luxurious Stay In Vedic Village Spa Resort Kolkata

My flight landed in the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata at 8:30 AM sharp. The sun was pretty harsh by that time as I could feel the pinch on my skin as I got down from the plane and walked through the runway. The hotel I booked was at a ten minutes drive from the airport. Here again, my travel app came handy in getting the best hotel deals in Vedic Village Spa Resort.

I collected by luggage and walked out of the airport to reach the taxi stand. The taxis in Kolkata are the best conveyance mode for a stranger. You get a taxi standing at every round about. They run on meter so you have no fear of getting cheated. I boarded the taxi and headed towards my hotel.

As I reached the resort, I was received with warm hospitality by the hotel staff. The Vedic Village Spa Resort Kolkata is a multi-residential luxury resort that offers state-of-the-art infrastructure and excellent services. It matches all the parameters of international standards of hospitality in every aspect.

Set at a backdrop of farmland, water bodies and ample plantation all around in the rapidly emerging satellite city, Rajarhat, the resort exudes a country side feel. As I walked past the crisp and sophisticated interior to reach my hotel room, I was greeted with a smiling hotel staff at every point.

The options for accommodation are segregated into Earth Villa, Deluxe Villa, One and Two Bedroom Suite, Standard Suite and Studio Room as per the facilities, space and ambience to suite the pocket size and requirement of the visitors. I opted for a studio room. My hotel room opened up to a lake and a line of coconut tree that marked the skyline. The room offered a fine blend of modern facilities and rustic environ.

After checking into my room, I took a quick shower and headed towards the restaurant. My hunger pangs needed to be satiated by an awesome buffet breakfast spread. The resort offers excellent fine dining options through Yagna, the multicusine restaurant, Bhoomi, a specialty restaurant, Agni, the Lounge Bar and Chai, the tea lounge.

Vedic Village Spa Resort, Kolkata - Your date with tranquility

Photo of Vedic Village Spa Resort, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Utpala Ghosh

Nicco Amusement Park – A Fun Filled Day Out

The first tourist destination that I decided to visit was closest to my hotel. It was the most popular amusement park of the city, Nicco Park. The travel desk at my resort, arranged for a taxi which took about five to ten minutes to reach the destination.

Often referred to as the Disneyland of West Bengal, Nicco Park provides a perfect environ for spending time with family and friends. Stretched over an area of 40 acre, the amusement park offers 35 attractions providing recreation and entertainment for a recorded 24 million visitors every year.

Nicco Park was built in a joint collaboration between the Government of West Bengal and Nicco Corporation Ltd. It was opened in the year 1991. Earlier, it was known as Jheel Meel.

Nicco Park not only provides recreational rides, it also provides detailed information about the entire mechanism that goes behind the operation of a particular ride. Hence apart from being entertaining, the park also endeavors to be educative.

The amusement park is planned creating a fine balance between natural landscape and man-made structures. It has ample open space and greenery apart from the rides and food joints. It offers beautiful floral display, sprawling lawn and water bodies for boating purposes.

The park also houses a Solar Energy Village that displays a host of functions of unconventional energy resources. Keeping up with the eco-friendly motto, the park has a Green House selling various plant saplings.

The best part about Nicco Park is that the rides are equally enjoyable by the people of all age groups apart from a few high velocity rides which are restricted for the heart patients. Among the 35 rides, the major highlights include Moonracker, Toy Train, Tilt-a-Whirl, Paddle Boat, Water Coaster, Water Chute, Magic Carpet, Flying Saucer, Cyclone, River Caves etc. The Giant Cyclone measuring a 750 meter height with seven drops as high as 55 feet happens to be one of the largest in Asia. Another highest point is the Eiffel Tower that provides a panoramic view of the park from the top.

Nicco Park, Kolkata - Meet your toddler self again

Photo of Nicco Park, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Utpala Ghosh

Marble Palace Zoo – Nostalgia Of The Bygone Era

The photographer in me was getting desperate by this time. The outstanding city frames from Kahani came haunting all over again. ‘It is third day in the city already. What are you waiting for?’ No my camera did not start speaking. But if it could it, these would be its words. So I decided to visit Marble Palace Zoo.

North Kolkata has some of the oldest buildings, most of which are in shambles at present. The reminiscence of the glorious past, the narrow lanes lined with houses that dates back to nineteenth century. Many have plants coming out of the cracks of the walls. And yet people are living in them. My camera shutter went flap flap flap to get some amazing shots of these houses.

I reached the Marble Palace Zoo in a hand pulled rickshaw. This is yet another age old practice that the city has managed to retain. It is against humanitarian ethics of the present but if you ask the rickshaw pullers, they would still prefer to hold on to their only means to earn their living.

Finally, I was at the venue, the Marble Palace Zoo. The marvelous nineteenth-century mansion exudes the glory of the bygone era. It is one of the most elegant constructions that has been preserved to this day. It recreates a colonial nostalgia and one can just stand and admire the architectural excellence that it portrays through the marble walls and floors.

Marble palace was built by a rich merchant and connoisseur, Raja Rajendra Mullick in 1835. The mansion reflects upon its owner’s love for art and his sophisticated taste. The antique Victorian furniture, paintings and work of art by renowned Indian and European artists are conserved to this day. As you take a walk around the mansion, the sprawling outer yard exhibits some of the finest western sculptures.

Raja Rajendra Mullick has to his credit, the honor of establishing the first zoo in India within his mansion. The Marble palace Zoo is an aviary which is home to some of the beautiful bird species such as pelicians, hornbills, storks, peacocks and cranes. The other sections of this small zoo contain monkeys and deer.

Marble Palace, Kolkata - Glimpses of the rich heritage

Photo of Exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata by Utpala Ghosh

Metropolitan Building – The Pride of Kolkata

My next visit was to the Metropolitan Building. The massive building is located at the heart of the city in Esplanade area. It is an important landmark of the busiest commercial hub of the city. A wee bit crowded for my liking, the footpath is almost encroached by the hawkers of different kinds. You have to make your way through the crowd.

Originally known as the Whiteway Laidlaw department store, it served as a department store in British India. The baroque style architecture complete with domes on top, a clock tower and tall arched windows stands as an insignia of the lavish and fashionable shopping destination in the colonial era.

The construction of the building dates back to 1905. The building was taken over by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. after independence after which it came to be known as Metropolitan Building.

At present, the Metropolitan Building has been occupied by various retail brands that have opened their showrooms in the ground floor. The top floors are used by tenants who live in the box like quarters.

It gives me goose bumps to think how this building has witnessed to changes in time, people and lifestyle from the British era to the present times. The stores have changed, and so have the assortment of merchandise, the seller, the buyer, but the place has managed to maintain its grace and substance through all these years. Invariably the Esplanade area would not be the same without the Metropolitan Building.

The century old construction has reportedly undergone a lot of repair work off late. Recently it was even repainted. At the back side of the building lies the most popular shopping destination of Kolkata, the New Market which is a place with a promise of ‘you name it and you get it.’ The extensive and the most exhaustive shopping hub offers everything from apparel, to dirt cheap leather bags, to all the latest branded stores, jewellery to eateries of sorts.

The place is not just crowded; it is rather thickly infested with people even on a week day. And I heard that it remains the same way all through the year. As I sneaked into the protection of the iconic yellow ambassador taxi to get back to my resort, I sighed a breath of relief to get out of the crowd.

Metropolitan Building, Kolkata - at the heart of the city

Photo of Exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata by Utpala Ghosh

Vidyasagar Setu Kolkata – A Star Attraction Of The City

Vidyasagar Setu or the Second Hoogly Bridge is a toll bridge that connects the twin city of Kolkata and Howrah. Named after the renowned educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who was the forerunner of women education in India, Vidyasagar Setu spans over the Hoogly River.

With a stretch of 823 metres long curve connecting the two edges of the river, Vidyasagar Setu happens to be the longest cable–stayed bridge in the country. It also ranks among one of the longest bridges in all of Asia. The cables are arranged in the order of a fan. The beautiful lights arranges on each sides of the bridge in a linear patters add to the glitz to the night view of the city.

Hoogly River is a favorite recreational hub for the people of Kolkata. The river bed is marked with some of the beautiful ghats that provide boating and cruising experience for the people. The Vidyasagar Setu towering on the top adds to the charm of the place. I decided to spend an entire day by the river.

Just like any other place, this area of the city was equally crowded. But the best part is that you can turn your back to the crowd and face the sprawling Ganges right in front of you. It is a beautiful experience.

The day breaks with people taking a dip into the river. The calmness of the river is marked with small boats, or large carriers ferrying people from one shore to the other. On the other side of the river lay some notable satellite cities like Chandan Nagar and Sreerampore.

I sat on a concrete bench in the Princep Ghat experiencing the entire hustle bustle happening all around. As the day proceeds, the loud traffic fills the air, breaking the tranquility. And then comes the pleasant evening. Watching the sun set by the Hoogly River is a very beautiful experience.

I booked a boat and decided to stay on the waters for the next few hours. As the sun went down, the sky turned crimson with white specks of cloud strewn all over. As you look at the sky through the cables of the Vidyasagar Setu, the sheer beauty of the moment touches the heart. A much known melancholic tune echoes…. ‘hmmmm… chingari koi bhadke toh sawan use bujhaye…’

Vidyasagar Setu, Kolkata - a piece of tranquility amidst the hustle-bustle of the city

Photo of Vidyasagar Setu, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Utpala Ghosh

Victorial Memorial Hall – The Pride Of The City Of Joy

The Victoria Memorial Hall, jocularly referred to as Victoria Memorial was built commemorating the fond remembrance of Queen Victoria. The pristine white mansion stands as an insignia of the British Raj in India. It is one of the major tourist attractions for travelers from all over the world.

The memorial is an architectural marvel in itself. Made of Makrana marble that was transported all the way from Jodhpur, the pristine white building exudes grandeur and sophistication in every bit of it. The foundation stone being laid in 1906, the memorial finally got inaugurated in 1921.

Victoria Memorial Hall houses a collection of Victoria memorabilia. The Royal Gallery is marked with paintings depicting major events from the life and reign of Queen Victoria that include her coronation, her marriage with Prince Albert, the baptism of her son, her Jubilee services, her son’s wedding and many more.

These apart, there are some work of art by world renowned European as well as Indian painters. The exhibits in the museum and art gallery also include postages, stamps, manuscripts, Mughal miniature, statues and sculptures, books as old as 1870, arms and armaments. The memorial is open to visitors from 10 am in the morning to 5pm in the evening throughout the week except for Mondays and other public holidays.

The recreational arrangement in the Victoria Memorial Hall includes two sound and light shows in English and Bengali that takes place in the evening. The venue is a favorite among the city people as a picnic spot. The sprawling manicured lawn with beautifully arranged floral garden and water bodies over a stretch of 64 acres of land around the memorial provides ample space for people to spend some quality time with friends and family.

As the night falls on Kolkata, the crown of the city, the Victoria Memorial Hall is illuminated. The enchanting aura of the mansion cast a spell on the beholders. The grandeur and regality echoing the majesty of Queen Victoria, it is as though, she is right here lover looking the city from her royal throne.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata - Reminiscence of the Colonial Era

Photo of Exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata by Utpala Ghosh

Letting The Hair Down At The Aquatica Park Kolkata

The last visit of my Kolkata trip was at the water theme park Aquatica. The city gave me a treasure of memories through all the heritage buildings, the people and the food. However, after visiting Aquatica I can say that the trip would not have been complete without visiting this water park. So I decided to let my hair down to get wet and wild.

Sprawling over a 17 acre land, Aquatica was established in 1999. It is one of the largest water parks in the city. Aquatica houses a range of low velocity to extremely adrenaline rushing water rides.

With a meager 300 rupees entry fee, you can enjoy a day full of water sports. The many rides include Lazy River, Multi-lane Race Surfer, Malibu Body Slide, Black Hole, Aqua Dance, Courtrallam Falls and Tornado.

Aquatica being the only water park in the city is infested with people from all over the city. It makes up for a ideal venue family outing as well as friendly gathering. The park is designed to create a balance between water bodies and greenery.

There are exhilarating rides such as the black hole and tornado. In one you pass through a dark tunnel to slide down into the water while the other is only restricted for the adults as it involves risk.

The star attraction is the aqua dance which is enjoyed by both kids and the adults. The rain dance gives you the chance to let your hair down in the artificially created rainfall and rock to the music.

Aquatica has a well appointed food court offering delicious food and beverages. After exhausting myself in the water sports, I decided to taste some of the local delicacies in the food court and sip into a steaming cuppa coffee.

The ending of the trip had to be with a bang. And it could be no other place apart from Aquatica. I even got some amazing shots of kids and young crowd as they enjoyed the water sports. Caged in my camera lenses, these moments will always remind me of the lively people of Kolkata who are the souls of the city of joy.

Aquatica, Kolkata - Fun Unlimited

Photo of AQUATICA, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Utpala Ghosh