A Victorious End in Kolkata
It was still dark when we left our guesthouse in Varanasi for our early morning train ride to Kolkata – and to reach the main road, we have to walk through the winding alleys again. We were so agitated as we walked through the small walkways as we’ve thought that anytime someone might burgle us on our way but fortunately that didn’t happen. After reaching the main street, we hopped into a cycle rickshaw to get to the city railway station. We’ve thought of getting an auto rickshaw so it could be faster for us to reach the station but only cycle rickshaws were available in the area, auto rickshaw are still located few meters away and we didn’t want to walk farther anymore.
We had arrived at the station with our train not yet in sight. Announcement broke in that it will be delayed for half an hour or so, which later on became an hour and a half. Lesson learned, checked the train schedule first online before going to the terminal so to avoid the stress of waiting. As soon as our train had arrived, we hopped in to our designated coach and looked for our seats.
Travel time to Kolkata from Varanasi takes about almost 13 hours by train. Yes, 13 freaking hours! Actually, it’s just fine for us to travel such span of time – I can watch movies on my phone, listen to songs from my iPod to pass the time but the downside of our train ride was we were in a regular sleeper coach. We weren’t able to secure seats in at least an AC Tier 3 coach in advance; hence, we had no choice but to book seats in a regular sleeper coach. Our train ride couldn’t have been tiresome and grueling if we had seats on an AC coach but for us, riding in a regular sleeper coach, it gave us a lot of distressing experience, most especially encounters with co-passengers taking our seats.
It was already late evening when we had finally reached Howrah Junction Railway Station in Kolkata. It was raining when we had arrived at the city. We were so tired from the train ride that we’ve just decided to take a prepaid taxi getting to our guesthouse, Sunflower Guesthouse which is just located at 7 Royd street in Kolkata.
One thing I liked about India is each places have its distinct personality and part of it is the transportation. Every places that we’ve been to in the country constantly surprised us with different type of vehicles and how they looked like. Like in Kolkata, where the cabs looked differently compared to Mumbai and Delhi.
After checking in to our guesthouse, we then just had our late dinner in a restaurant nearby, went to bed afterwards to rest so we can have sufficient energy to get around the city the next day.
Touring the City
It was already past 9:00 AM when we went out from our guesthouse to roam around the city but before we get the wandering started, we went to a nearby pizza restaurant and had our breakfast first.
I like Kolkata. Contrary to what I’ve read online, the place gave me an aura of being in a somehow more modernised city of India. Not because of the structures but how cultured the people living on this city. But somehow maybe it is just because our guesthouse is strategically located in a central business district of Kolkata, where it is nearby the shopping area and fancy restaurants which made it very convenient and pleasing for us.
Blessed Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity Motherhouse
After having our brunch, we rode a cycle rickshaw to get to our first tourist spot for the day.
It was already around lunch time when we were able to reach the Blessed Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity Motherhouse or in short term, Mother House. The house is where the body of the famous Mother Teresa laid to rest.
Mother Teresa who died on September 5, 1997, was a Roman Catholic Religious Sister and missionary of Albanian origin who lived most of her life in India of which, since 1948, she was a citizen.
She was internationally famed for being a humanitarian and an advocate for the poor and the helpless. She is known for dedicating her life in helping the poor, sick, orphaned and dying while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion from India throughout other countries.
The Mother House is the headquarters of the international religious congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.
Mother House can be visited everyday except Thursday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM but closed to public from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM. The Mother House remains closed on August 22, Easter Monday, and December 26 every year.
Calcutta Jain Temple
After visiting the Mother House, we went to Calcutta Jain Temple which is situated in Badri Das Temple Road in Maniktala by cab.
Calcutta Jain Temple which is also called as Parshwanath Temple is a Jain temple and a major tourist attraction in Kolkata. The complex is subdivided into 4 temples: Shitalnath Ji Temple, Chandraprabhu Ji temple, Mahavir Swami Temple and Dadawadi.
It was already past lunchtime when we reached the complex, and unfortunately it was closed. We’ve learned that the temple closes from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM everyday. Its visiting time are from 6:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. We didn’t want to wait for hours for it be opened again so we’ve just took some pictures of the complex peeking from the gate rails.
After taking few snapshots, we had then left the area and decided to get to our next destination, Belur Math Shrine which located in Newland, College Square in Kolkata. Unfortunately, it was also closed when we arrived and will not be opening until 3:00 PM.
I can’t understand why tourist spots here closes during that period. Is it their lunch break or some sort? But that’s too long for a break!
Anyway, we couldn’t wait for it to be opened again to the public so we’ve just decided to leave the area and moved to our next stop.
Victoria Memorial Hall
The Victoria Memorial Hall is a large marble building which was built between 1906 and 1921. It was said that the structure is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria.
The Memorial Hall is situated in the centre of a green park and by the bank of the Hooghly river, near Jawaharlal Nehru road. It is a favourite destination not only by the tourists but by the locals as well, as the garden surrounding it is very ideal place for people – families, lovers and friends who would like to spend time to chill, to bond and to pass the time. There are also castle-horses like outside the park that can be rent for a ride around the park.
The memorial hall is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. Entrance to the memorial hall is free but video and photography are not allowed inside. What can be found inside the hall are exhibits, arts and paintings.
After visiting the famous memorial hall in Kolkata, we went to the nearby New Market and looked for some souvenirs to buy. We couldn’t find any decent one so we’ve just decided to get to a mall that I’ve been eyeing to visit to when I saw a cool jacket from an in-flight magazine during one of our domestic flights in India that says that it’s available in a mall in Kolkata.
After doing a quick shopping, we then had our dinner in a fancy restaurant situated close to our guesthouse. It was our last dinner in India so we’ve thought of having a splendid one to cap off our trip. We treated ourselves with sumptuous dishes in celebration of getting through the two weeks Indian odyssey.
At around 9:00 PM, we went back to our guesthouse. We took our luggages then rode a taxi going to the airport. It was a night of mixed emotions. We were so delighted that finally, we can go home but also feeling sorrow that we we were about to leave India in a few hours. A country that we have loved so much – on its gracious and mayhem characteristics.
It was past 10:00 PM when we had reached the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. It wasn’t an easy one, to leave this country just like that. Emotions were taking over us as we checked in for our flight. Now, I couldn’t tell if the two weeks journey that we had was enough for us because as we walked through to get into our designated boarding gate, it felt like I still wanted more of Indian travel experiences. Our victorious travel across the different districts in India just made us much interested in exploring more of the country’s incredibly wonderful sites.
01:45 AM of September 30, 2013, the time when our plane departed from the airport of Kolkata. The last moment when I had seen this surprisingly interesting country. Yet one thing is for sure, that wouldn’t be the last time I’ll be visiting the country.