On 14th April, we started the day with lunch at Peter Cat, a visit to the Birla Planetarium followed by St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a boat ride at the Prinsep Ghat. As dusk settled down in the sky, we were exhausted and craved hot tea.
Dacres Lane, near Esplanade, houses one of the oldest and most sought-after shops, Chitto Da’s stall or Chitto Babu r dokan. During any time of the day, one can find a crowd of office goers, residents, and travelers relishing tea, butter toast, chicken stew, or fish fry while sitting on the long benches on the opposite foot. It’s not a fancy or upscale eatery, but the kind that satisfies the nostalgic soul of a foodie. We gorged on tea and butter toast, while the kid ate a fish fry.
By the time we got into the car, it was around 6:30 p.m. and a trip to the Ecopark didn’t seem like a viable option. Also, the kid was super tired from running around and doing other activities. So, we headed towards Minto Park to spend some time at the Iskcon temple. We witnessed the evening aarti there and drove back home to New Town.
Kolkata is a heritage city, rich in so many spots worth visiting that a day’s outing can never do justice to the heart of a traveler. But we want the kid to know and appreciate his birth city as he grows up. So, we decided to start taking him out on such short day trips. We hope to carry on the tradition of sightseeing new locations in the city as and when it fits into our schedule.
Hope you enjoyed reading my series as much as I loved writing the blog posts.
When we left St. Paul’s Cathedral after covering Birla Planetarium and lunching at Peter Cat, the watch showed 4:30 p.m. The kid wanted us to stop at Maidan to play football, a ritual we followed on most weekends during winter. But we had a different plan in mind and convinced him to a fun ride at a destination new to all of us. We reached Prinsep Ghat, the favorite spot of every movie director depicting Kolkata on the big screen (remember ‘Parineeta’?)
The child ran in the park, leading us to the ghat. We rented a boat for the four of us for around thirty minutes. The boatman rowed towards the opposite side of the ghat only after we put on the mandatory life jackets.
Initially, the kid was a little scared since the boat swayed in the river. Once he discovered the joy of splashing water, there was no looking back for us.
Of all the places we visited in our day’s outing, the ride on the Ganges against the backdrop of the yellowish-orange sun setting in the pinkish-blue sky became the most memorable part of our trip. I captured some gorgeous snapshots of the setting sun and the Vidyasagar Setu, before sailing back to the ghat. The kid was so happy about the ride that he made us promise to bring him back for another trip soon.
On the way back, we saw the Chakra rail; the kid happily posed in front of Fort William. It was already 6 p.m., and we craved tea. Through Burrabazar, we headed to Dacres lane towards our fifth destination. Stay tuned to know which place was next on our list.
After Peter Cat and M.P.Birla Planetarium, our third destination choice was St. Paul’s Cathedral, the largest church in the city. Every year, we visit the church in December when it is decked up for Christmas. It is located adjacent to the Planetarium. So, we parked our car inside the premises to visit both places.
A portion of the church is still under renovation, but one can still sit inside and soak in the silence of spirituality. After spending some time in tranquility, we took a look around to appreciate the architecture designed in an Indo-Gothic style. Next, we went to the children’s play area in the backside. The kid had a great time on the swing and slide while also running behind squirrels.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of my favorite places in the city to spend some time alone. In 2018, when I had just begun blogging, I wrote a detailed blog post about this spot. Needless to say, we would again return here on or before Christmas.
We spent some time in the garden area before driving out towards our fourth destination. Stay tuned to figure out where we took the kid next to have a gala time.
After our first destination, Peter Cat, we headed over to the Jawaharlal Nehru Road for our second stoop, M.P. Birla Planetarium. The kid has recently developed a fascination for the solar system and space. We got him a couple of age-appropriate books to satiate his curiosity about the planets. But he is always looking to know more. So, we thought of taking him to one of the shows currently running about ‘Cosmic collisions.’
After parking our car, we got the tickets by standing in a long queue. The second line was for entry, which was longer than the first one. Honestly, it was a big turn-off in the scorching heat. After getting inside, we realized that one could sit anywhere they chose to. We decided on sitting in the last row to have a better view, though the seating arrangement doesn’t make much of a difference once the show begins.
It was a mesmerizing experience. Once the movie began, we felt transported to the enormity of space. At times, the kid was baffled because most phenomena were beyond his age and understanding. However, that didn’t deter him or us from enjoying the experience. After the thirty-minutes show (which we felt was too short), we walked to our third destination in the vicinity. I’ll share more details in the next blog post.
Photography is prohibited inside the planetarium, so I’ve shared pictures only of the entrance and the garden area outside the building. You can find details of the planetarium on their official website.
Last month, we finally managed to find a day when the kid had a holiday, I didn’t have pending writing work, and it was a day off from duty for the husband. So, we took the kid out to explore the city of joy. Since it was peak summer season, we left around noon to eat at our favorite restaurant, the heritage place called Peter Cat at Park Street. After many decades, the eatery is still relevant amidst severe competition. It’s noteworthy that the joint hasn’t lost its nostalgic touch.
I won’t get into details about the history of the place since a lot is available on the net. But it’s essential to mention that this is one of our frequent places to visit and the quality of food stays consistent and unmatched. While we had fish makhmali and dum ki rann for starters, let me share pictures of two iconic dishes synonymous with this eatery – Chelo Kebab and Mixed Tandoori Grill sizzler (our choice for the main course dishes).
This blog post is the first in my ‘ Exploring Kolkata in a day ‘ series. Stay tuned to find out which was our second destination on the day of our outing.
Hello travelers, hope you are enjoying the ride on #XploreBharat express that has covered eight destinations until now with the most recent trip to Kashmir by Saba yesterday. Today it reaches a part of the country famous for its natural beauty and unique customs – Meghalaya in the mesmerizing North East.
The backstory –
In 2002, my first post-graduation took me to Delhi. My address for the two years that I lived in the city was the North Eastern Students Hostel/House for Women. It was here that I was introduced to the variety and richness in our culture. The North East stands out from the rest of the country for being a matriarchal society where the man leaves his premarital home to stay with his wife and her family and also takes up her surname. It took me more than one and a half decade to start exploring this part of the country but I am glad that it began with a family trip to Shillong in Meghalaya in Oct 2017.
In Sept 2017, two things happened – I started this blog and my son turned two. While junior T has been traveling with us since he was one and a half months old, it had mainly been to sea beaches and places of historic significance. So, my husband and I decided to make Shillong as the first hill station destination for him. Needless to say, the excitement of an unexplored destination was equally appealing to both of us.
The journey –
Shillong has a fully functional airport though Air India is the only flight operator that connects Shillong to a handful of cities. Though there was a direct flight from Kolkata airport to Shillong, we felt that the best way to travel was to take a flight to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati first and then cover the rest of the distance by car. It takes three to three and a half hours from Guwahati to reach Shillong by road. Most of the resorts usually arrange for a pickup and drop facility on request though cabs are also available on hire. The journey is quite comfortable because of the four-lane roads which never get too steep. Also, the entire stretch is filled with a gorgeous view. There are a couple of eateries on the way for a quick meal like Jiva restaurant.
The stay –
While there were multiple options available within the Shillong city namely Hotel Polo Towers, The Habitat, Tripura Castle among others, we decided to stay in the boutique resort Ri Kynjai (click here for detailed review) in Umiam district, a little away from the main city of Shillong. The location of the resort is its biggest asset. It is just opposite Lake Umiam also known as Barapani which is one of the main tourist attractions in the state. Overlooking the Umiam lake and mountains, the resort had all the modern amenities without compromising on the feel of royalty and tranquility.
Places to visit –
The places for sightseeing includes
- Umiam Lake – It is also known as Barapani and offers boating facilities to visitors.
- Don Bosco Museum – The Museum houses and documents the various indigenous cultures, arts and crafts of North East India.
- Elephant Falls – It is also known ‘The Three Step Waterfalls’ because it consists of three falls in succession.
- Shillong Peak – It offers a panoramic view of the city.
- Shillong golf course – It is one of the largest golf courses in Asia.
- Butterfly Museum – It is a delight to take a tour of this museum
- Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians also referred to as Shillong Church – The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers RI Bhoi and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
- Lady Hydari Park – This place offers a spectacular view of flowers, birds, and animals. A portion is allocated to the Zoo that houses animals like bear, deer among many others. Fishes in the ponds, variety of birds and a colorful and well-maintained garden with flowers in full bloom is a sight to behold.
Local market –
No visit to Shillong can be complete without a visit to the local market known as Police Bazar. Shillong is famous for its bamboo handicrafts, cheap electronic goods, and woolen clothes. This market provides ample option for each though I would like to advise that almost all the prices are negotiable and thus bargaining is a virtue to shop here. The market also has a huge sweet shop Delhi Mistaan Bhandar that caters to the taste buds of people from every corner of the country (their jalebis are definitely a must-try). There’s also a movie theatre Gold cinemas at the end of the street.
Local cuisine –
While Sao Aiom, the in-house restaurant of Ri Kynjai provided us with the option of a Khasi cuisine along with Indian and Chinese varieties, we ended up having Bengali cuisine like Prawn Malai Curry instead. In fact, there are multiple restaurants in and around Police Bazar that serve different varieties of dishes, especially Chinese and Tibetian. One place that is a must visit is Cafe Shillong overlooking the buzzing Don Bosco Square with a beautiful ambiance and serves the best Irish cafe along with a host of continental dishes (I loved the steak here). Another place that serves good pork dishes and momos is Cafe Shillong Heritage inside the Tripura castle.
The road trip from Shillong to Cherrapunji takes approximately two to two and a half hours but for someone like me who gets enthralled by the beauty of nature quite easily, I ended up asking the car to stop at frequent intervals for capturing some gorgeous sights. This is the kind of experience that stays with one forever because the emotions felt while walking amidst the clouds is something that goes beyond words. The entire stretch of the journey is picturesque with the Sun playing hide and seek. Cherrapunji has multiple waterfalls worth, notable among them being the Nohsngithiang Falls, also known as the Seven Sisters waterfalls. The double-decker living root bridge is the next most sought after tourist attraction. Cherrapunji also a few accommodation options like Hotel Polo Orchid along with a bunch of home stays.
Two more places around Shillong that deserve special mention are Asia’s cleanest village Mawlyngong and the crystal clear Dawki river.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Shillong is between October to April. Ideally, the weather is most pleasant during October-November and in the month of Feb – March. We traveled during October 2017.
Recommended Itinerary –
A trip to Meghalaya can best be scheduled keeping two days for Shillong, one day for Cherrapunji, one day at Mawlyngong and the last day, rather a night for camping near the Dawki river.
Shillong gets quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist season and the roads are filled with traffic, causing an unnecessary delay in movement. Hence it is advisable to start the trips a little early so that the crowded roads can be avoided before vehicles start crawling at the pace of a snail.
My two cents
Shillong will always be memorable on a personal level for being the first hill station journey of my toddler. However, the emotions run a little deeper since it is the simplicity of the Khasi people and the serenity of the place that has ensured a permanent place for Shillong in my heart.
Hope this destination leaves you with a smile on the face and a desire to plan a trip to this city very soon. Tomorrow the express will leave for its next destination as Sanjota take control to direct it towards Hampi. Until then, have a safe journey and don’t forget to read, comment and share this post.
Author’s note –
A big shout out to our sponsors KAIV and FABZANIA for taking this Blog Train experience even further.
KAIV is a personal grooming accessory and appliances brand offering a wide range of world-class products.
FabZania is an upcoming food, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle web portal.
Yesterday we celebrated India’s 70th Republic Day. The hoisting of the National Flag followed by the singing of our National Anthem and remembering those who laid their lives for the sake of our country made us all feel proud. But why should we limit this feeling of patriotism to just a few days of the year? Our team of eleven bloggers as part of #BlogBoosterIndia has decided to come up with travel diaries highlighting the essence of various cities of India. From a small town Murshidabad in the East to the gorgeous Goa in Central India, from Delhi in the North to the picturesque Varkala in the South, we aim to cover seventy cities through seventy different posts as a tribute to our motherland. We aim to take you on this memorable trip through our articles and pictures. We hope that you will enjoy this ride as much as we love brainstorming about this series.
However, if you want to board this train, not just as a mere spectator, but would also love to share your travel stories and experiences with the world, we would love to have you on board.
Rules & Regulations:
To commemorate 70 years of Republic India, ‘BlogBoosterIndia’ group is hosting #XploreBharat blog train from 1st February 2019. A total of 70 posts will be posted by different travel-loving bloggers touching 70 beautiful and unique places of India.
All you need to do is write a blog post on your chosen city of India as part of Xplore-Bharat on your own blog(you need to have a blog to be a part of this journey). And share the post with #XploreBharat hashtag on all social media platforms. To showcase your association with this blog train, this image needs to be a part of your blog post.
If you meet the following criteria, please fill up the form through the link given at the end of this post.