Travel Review

Visiting Kolkata – Part 1

The Great Banyan Tree, Botanical Gardens Kolkata

I felt Independence Day (15th August)  was a good time to look back into Indian history and learn more about the past of my country. Though East India Company and then British colonization of India started in Chennai, it was Calcutta (now Kolkata) where the British Empire established itself. Calcutta was the capital of British Raj and they ruled the Indian subcontinent from there for more than 130 years. For me it was one of the metros that I haven’t had a chance to visit.

For the long weekend last week Friday to Sunday (15, 16, 17 August 2014) I decided to visit Kolkata with wife & son. I had booked the flight tickets and hotel booking 2 weeks back. It was not like I narrowed down in Kolkata right away, I couldn’t find rooms in any of the popular tourist destinations – coastal resorts in South India/Goa/Andaman or Agra (I haven’t seen Taj Mahal too so far) were all booked.

We flew from Chennai to Kolkata by SpiceJet on 14th August that left Chennai at 8:25PM and reached Kolkata at 10:45PM, we couldn’t leave earlier as my son had his school on Thursday. The flight departed late and we landed in Kolkata’s Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport at 11:45PM. Having left from Chennai’s “new” Airport which is known for its poor maintenance,  the first thing that struck me in Kolkata was how how well maintained the big airport was. This was not the Calcutta I expected to see, which was known for its communist rule for many decades and its anti-capitalist sentiments.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

In the next 40 minutes we drove via Kolkata’s IT Hub in Salt Lake City (Sector V) and reached our Hotel, Taj Bengal in Alipore, Kolkata. The hotel was impressive, with greenery inside the lobby area and huge corridors leading to the elevators.

Taj Bengal Lobby

Taj Bengal Lobby

After a good night sleep, when I got up and opened the curtains I was greeted by sight of tri-colour balloons being flown next door – they were celebrating 15th August (Independence Day in India) in a grand way.

Tri-colour balloons celebrating Independence Day (15 August)

Tri-colour balloons celebrating Independence Day (15 August)

Panning my view through the window from left to right I was surprised to find more delightful visuals. On the left was a view of Vidyasagar Setu  (known as second Hooghly Bridge and as Golden Gate Bridge) and on the right was the view of Victoria Memorial Hall. There could have been no better way to start a vacation.

View of Vidyasagar Setu from Taj Bengal

View of Vidyasagar Setu from Taj Bengal

View of Victoria Memorial Hall from Taj Bengal

View of Victoria Memorial Hall from Taj Bengal

We had a whole day ahead of sight seeing for us, so a good breakfast was in order. Apart from the regulars, the buffet breakfast served local dish – Phulko Luchi with Daal and Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), we had our full and left the hotel ready to capture the sights of Kolkata.

Phulko Luchi with Daal and Mishti Doi at Taj Bengal breakfast

Phulko Luchi with Daal and Mishti Doi at Taj Bengal breakfast

To continue – Kolkata trip Part 2.