‘Alpa kichu‘ means ‘little bit’ in Bengali. When you’ve already had loads of sweets, ‘alpa kichu‘ is also how you convince yourself for having some more of those Bengali delicacies. It is thus impossible to come back from Kolkata without gaining ‘alpa kichu‘ weight 😁
Anways, let me get down to the travelogue drill.
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Packing for Kolkata should be light. I mean, pack clothes with lighter fabric. The climate is pretty humid. Walking as little as 100 meters is going to make you sweat. If you are from Mumbai or Chennai, you should feel at home here 👍
During my visit in August 2018, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most of the city was under construction. Especially due to the impending metro work. Another thing that I noticed was how the flyovers and metro lines are dangerously closer to each other and other buildings. There are some old-fashioned high rise buildings that appear to be decades old. A reminder of Kolkata’s past glory. Did you know that Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) was India’s capital under the British Raj from 1773–1911?
Kolkata is a large city and often shows up as one of the top 3 largest cities in India. Some of the areas like New Town Kolkata are going to give you developed country feels while areas like Bara Bazaar Market will bring you back. You may notice plenty of small bylanes, they just add to the old world charm that Kolkata gracefully carries.
Kolkata offers a bunch of options in this department. The buses, cabs, metro, they are all there but you have an additional choice – The Tram! The tram comes with its own caveats though. I felt that the tramways were restricted to the older parts of the city. Since older parts of any city tend to get congested as time passes, the tram today is in a position where it gets stuck in traffic!
Ola is convenient. You can also book the local yellow taxis from the Ola app itself. But unless you are used to the humid climate, I would suggest you to avoid Non-AC travel
Places to see in Kolkata
Where do I begin? Well let me begin by clarifying that Kolkata has all those usual tourist spots you would visit on a family vacation. Palaces, gardens, museums, you name it. Since I wasn’t on a family vacation and had very limited time, I carefully selected few places based on my preferences, internet research and suggestions from the IIM professors (BTW I was in Kolkata for an IIM Calcutta training program, a relevant blog on that here). Below are some of the places I touched upon,
- Park Street: famous downtown area for shopping
- Victoria Memorial: looks alot like the Taj Mahal because of the extensive use of white marble
- Sreeleathers: they have multiple outlets, pretty famous for leather goods
- Legendary Bengali sweet shops: Balaram Mullick and Ganguram’s
- Biswa Bangla Gate: since I put up in Novotel, this spot was quite nearby. Although nothing much to do here but it is something to see for its architecture
- Bara Bazaar Market: old charm of Kolkata, I savored the famous Biryani and Chaanp at the Royal Indian Hotel
Then there’s the famous Howrah Bridge, Shahi Minar, Eco Park, Clock Tower and other places that I gave a miss. Do note that traffic is bad and with the city being huge you can expect longer travel time. So do account for longer travelling times. This reminds me that taxi drivers can be quite chatty if you want to open up a conversation. Here’s the story of Bidhan Chandra Roy. An ex-Chief Minister and, as my Ola driver defined him, the Shah Jahan of Bengal!
One of the most charming things about the people of Kolkata is their general sense of pride for everything that defines them. From their language to the food. I had cab drivers that returned 1 rupee coin. Compare that to a city like Bangalore where you should by default round off all amounts paid to cab drivers and never expect change in return.
Now all that being said, do I recommend Kolkata as a place you must go on a vacation? Not really. What is a vacation to you? If your answer is a large busy city then by all means go for it and add Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai to that list.
But should you visit Kolkata if you get a chance? By all means! Pack your bags and get on-board for the love of the best sweets you will ever have!