Why Calcutta, India should be considered for your 2018 destinations? That’s a really good question! The answer is because travelling to an isolated private spa resort is not going to expose the core of your authentic self. Walking into the unknown will. We caught up with travel journalist, Alistair Banerjee to get a perspective of the city that will surprise and enlighten you to all that Calcutta has to offer.
Here’s Why You should Consider Calcutta, India your 2018 Destination–Kolkata, or still better know as “Calcutta” to the Western world, is a city that invokes a rather sad side of India. It’s a deep-rooted perception that’s been shaped by media documentation in the 80’s and 90’s in which many journalists often focused on two particular aspects of the city: the massive slum, and Mother Theresa helping orphans and sheltering them at the infamous Missionary of Charity.
As a traveller, I often find myself in the same city twice. Sometimes, due to my assignment or a layover. One thing true about big cities is that they always change how they look while the intricate social fibre that defines them stays unaltered. Street names’ change, names on the buildings change, new overbridges built, food scene becomes more pronounced, the neighbourhood becomes cleaner…things get banned…things get unbanned.
Kolkata is one of those cities. It has gone thru major changes over the last 300 years. The city used to be the capital of India during the British Raj and many downtown area buildings still showcase English architecture from the 19th century.
Kolkata is safe. Two potential issues you will have here as Caucasian is 1) street beggars literally following you and asking you for some spare change, and 2) remember that street hawker that you wanted to buy a souvenir from? Well, he keeps you as long as you don’t buy the product. Keeps as in — keeps negotiating the price.
In India, you have to haggle. Most items sold in the streets and even many small stores don’t have any price tags. You will have to ask for it and accept the price as told by the vendor. But remember, you can and will bring the price down. How far lower the price will go will depend on your patience, and ability and willingness to negotiate. I had to buy a new Samsung phone charger as they use different three-prong outlets here. I was able to bring the price down to $4 (252 INR) from the initially quoted $15 (1000 INR). The haggling part was not done by me. Thankfully, I was with my dad who knew how it worked much better than I did. Besides, haggling is just not my thing…even though I’ve to admit, I got better at it during a trip to Thailand.
At Park Street, Magnolia, Kwality and Peter Cat are restaurants I’d recommend if you’re trying to avoid street food. Else, if you’re a little more adventurous like me and you want to try the delicious local street food, do try the Phuchka, Ghugni, Bhelpuri and Chicken rolls (the best roll you’ll probably ever have). Let taste budsebuds experience the sweet and sour magic that these foods have!
- Take a tour of the summer retreat of Queen Victoria at the Victoria Memorial.
- Visit the New Market to buy great gifts at dirt cheap prices.
- Go to the India Museum which is the oldest museum of its kind in India.
There’s a lot more to do and visit in this city…but the humidity, especially in summer months can be debilitating and you are likely to feel more tired than you usually do. And if humidity doesn’t get to you, the constant honking from rickshaws, buses, cars and bikes will keep you always so awake that tiredness will get better of you than usual.
It would be unwise of me to hide from you what you may not like about a particular place. I hope you don’t take my post as a discouragement to your plans to visit Kolkata. I hope it prepares you better so you can avoid those bad-mood moments as much as possible, and that you smile at the end of your trip.
The Bengali people, as most Indians, are mostly religious. However, the state was under a Marxist government rule for decades which also makes it one of the most secular states in the country. Many important India social reforms started in this city by the Bengalis. Notably, the right of a widow to remarry, eradication of polygamy, the abolition of child marriage, and activism against caste discrimination. The Bengalis also are some of the most well-versed and educated people you will come across with a strong emphasis on education starting at home for all at a very early age.
If you want to see a side of India where people like to engage in deep social and political discourse, if you like eating fresh-water fish-based delicious Bengali dishes, if you want to visit some traditional temples and great museums, if you want to buy souvenirs and silk-products without having to shell out a lot more in Mumbai or New Delhi, visit this hidden gem and the third most populous metropolitan area in the country.
Best time to visit?