After dealing with agents and browsing through pamphlets we decided on a cottage type hotel which had “international” in
its name…..People put such titles so casually in India…A roadside stall or a more posh stall i.e. dhaba
selling biryani or punjabi non veg cuisine also writes “international”…..Indians having been an colonised nation in past,have always been fascinated by foreigners on some subconscious level….from the time of Huen Tsang to Edwina Mountbatten….. So in spite of slow service, first floor being under construction (quite hazardous..mind it…even some bricks fell down one afternoon from a just built wall!!!!) and the cottage being international in the sense that except us, all other occupants were girls from England, Israel etc; it was a good bargain and right on the beach with the ocean 30 metres away…Would have been a better bargain if I’d a brother and would have gone along with us…u can guess why……Would have been a worse bargain if I’d been with husband….As Ganeshaspeaks.com puts it “You would want your man to have eyes only for you and no one else in life. ” Heh Heh….The British girl was our neighbour and quite courteous in the way that she used to do “namaskar” to my mom. My father and me didn’t have the privilege of her greetings.
In the late afternoon of the day we arrived, my parents went to see the ocean while i kept sleeping….And afternoon nap for me more often than not ends in me getting grumpy and irritable. It’s definitely not a power nap for me. So I was grumbling all evening for being left alone. Then we again went for a stroll after dark and the beach light being out of order, it was quite scary to walk across beach in darkness..And then I got the night view of Bay of Bengal…..Looking so omnious in night..A dark unknown water world…So wild and powerful…I wondered how do people go on journeys across seas and oceans…..I have always been a staunch follower of terra firma and will continue to be so….u know both feet planted on ground type.. Heh Heh!! I love water, I surely do, from the shore.Then later we went for a quick ride around the city.
1st day…..My parents went on an early morning romantic walk to see the sun rise over the ocean…..As for me the desire to see such a view gets curbed by the desire to have morning sleep….This “morning sleep” is so better than the “night sleep”…. My parents being larks and catching worm type of early birds are unable to understand this pleasure and thus have not yet given up their persuasion to make their two daughters early risers….Hope floats I guess….
The plan for the day was to visit Lord Jagannath Temple. Our “international” hotel didn’t have any facility of providing hot water. So after having bathed in luke warm water (entirely credit of the climate..Thank you Lord!!) and having arranged a “paanda” (aka agent of God…the god depending on the place..in this case Lord Jagannath) to escort and guide us in the temple, we set off.
Oh my God!!! no…no….Oh Lord Jagannath!!!!! Trust Ministry of Tourism to be so callous and indifferent so as not to develop such tourist places for earning money. I mean India has so many places having lots of tourism potential but our government is just not tapping such resources. The “Incredible India!” tag line is restricted to a few places like the Taj, Goa etc. The street leading to the Jagannath temple is host to a large vegetable market, three wheelers, rickshaws, dirty water in sewers and cows. We were amazed at the indifference of the government to develop such a prospect of tourism knowingly. Well….I guess they dont bother because only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and we Indians comprising mostly of Hindus have become inured to such sights, roads and places…There is nothing shocking in spitting while driving or cows sitting on the busiest roads or markets and stalls at most inappropriate places, encroaching into walking /driving space.
So after submitting our mobiles and camera, we washed our feet and entered the 8000 yrs old temple consisting of many temples inside, carved out of hillocks. Here and there various types of prasads were available and once you take it innocently, the pandas ask for money….It is a whole business going on there…Godliness on sale….There were a line of old men (brahmins i suppose) sitting on a place slightly out of reach and women worshipers were walking below trying to touch their feet by standing on their toes…one old man even extended his feet so that the lady can touch those..god knows what was this custom…The place was so crowded that our hired paanda held our wrists and literally dragged and pushed us inside the main temple to see the Lord. Since when did God become so inaccessible?? We not being among the good god-fearing Hindus who know all the customs; didn’t quite fit in. The paanda had to keep asking my mom to cover her head with sari pallu.. and our attitude “lets get over with it as soon as possible” was pretty clear. The only thing that appealed to me was a kitten i met at the place where they cook food for all devotees i.e. bhog . Huge oven by god! After exchanging some miaows with cat we left for our hotel.
Then we came back to our hotel and had breakfast. A rented car came to take us to Konark to see the famous Sun temple. The 13th-century Sun Temple
(also known as the Black Pagoda), built in Orissa red sandstone and black granite by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236-1264) of the Ganga dynasty. The temple is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site. [This information has been provided by the courtesy of wikipedia]. While driving to Konark, we crossed a place called Chandrabagha. The view of the sea from there was awesome , but due to afternoon time we couldn’t enjoy much. The snaps didn’t come well too due to so much of sunlight. We also crossed some forest area but didn’t get to see even one deer.
The Sun temple was really grand…such a huge structure made of stone…so much creativity and hard work. Its surrounding gardens were extremely beautiful. Huge elephants and other creatures made of stone were there. There were many “guides” who pestered to hire them to show around and tell story. Some foreigners had hired them. We, Indians, knew better. I took many snaps and bought a lot of souvenirs from outside stalls.
The food shops outside the site don’t serve tasty food. But we drank very tasty coconut juice and ate pulp. Then we returned to our hotel and had our lunch. Our “international” hotel served very tasty food and a lot of it in cheap prices so I was happy. After our afternoon nap, we went to the main beach of Puri; “Sworgodwar” meaning gateway to heaven. Here the beach was very crowded and all the prominent hotels were on the road adjacent to the beach. It was already sunset when we went, so couldn’t enjoy much. There was a large market too but as we were tired from our day trip, we just did window shopping. We planned to come back the next day in early evening. From there we went around a trip around the town. Visited a Buddha temple where stone sculptures were kept for sale. Exquisite work but very costly.
The next day the same rented car came to take us to Chilka Lake. Chilka Lake is a brackish water coastal lake . It is the largest coastal lake in India. The driver told us Chilka is famous for its crabs. We were tempted to eat crabs and had decided to buy from there. The fun part of Chilka visit consisted of boating ; the activity of which both my Dad and I were afraid. So we just roamed a little , took snaps and sat in the adjoining park while eating chips and feeding crumbs to crows.
While coming back, I’d to undergo the torture of listening to Himesh’s songs which our driver had put on. Also Dad bought 3 crabs weighing one kilo and gave them to the hotel chef to prepare for us. I was looking forward to my dinner that night more than i usually did. When the crab dish came I could find only two crab bodies. Supposedly our hotel chef couldn’t resist and kept one for himself. I admit I was grumpy as I am not at all generous in matter of food.
In evening we went to Sworgodwar and enjoyed a lot. Even Dad went to wet his feet in the waves crashing on the shore. There was a foreigner couple bathing intimately and thus were the centre of attraction. At the beach there were local people selling “pearls” and “stones” collected from sea at prices of Rs 5-25!!!! There were camels for giving ride and chairs were available on rent at the rate of Rs 10 per hour to sit and enjoy. We “rented” chairs as the beach was quite dirty and because Mom saw a camel doing shit and the owner covering it up with sand.
Then we bought some snacks from the Mongini’s outlet and sat by the “Marine drive” to enjoy. After that we went shopping and I bought knick knacks, dress material and gift items for colleagues back home. Beautiful idols made of stone and coral were available. Came back to hotel. After dinner we went for a night walk on the beach. Unlike my parents, I didn’t dare to sit on the sand as all crabs , big and small were climbing out in night.
Next day was our last day in Puri. All of us went for early morning walk on beach. The ocean at each time of day has different sights and different effects. The morning chill, the fog, the boats going out to earn livelihood…..whereas in night the darkness, the sound of waves crashing in the silence of night, boats returning home, a feeling as if we’re standing at the edge of the world. Dad and Mom went for some last minute shopping. In late afternoon, Dad and I went for our last view of the Bay of Bengal, to take in the vastness of the elements of earth before we left for station.
After giving suitable tips to the boys who worked as waiters, we left for station. Next day we reached our home with the memories of a wonderful trip.