3-4 days in Kolkata
Hal
India > Cities in India > India Travel > Kolkata (Calcutta)
#1
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3-4 days in Kolkata

Is Kolkata a good spot to spend a long weekend? I have 3-4 days before a business trip and I want to go somewhere I've never been in India.

I can fly into Kolkata then fly onwards to my ultimate destination, Hyderabad.

I think I'd like the city. I enjoyed Old Delhi and the rougher areas of Mumbai. The Sunderbans intrigue me, but some threads here lead me to believe they're just a muddy swamp without a lot of wildlife.

18 Replies

#2
| Maha Guru Member
Yes, there's not a lot of visible wildlife in the Sunderbans.

I believe you know the south. Kolkata is somewhat like Chennai---it's a British creation, a 'Presidency town' of the East India Co. Kolkata is now poorer and more drab than Chennai, but in the history of the last few hundred years it has been far more important, and you may be able to sense it even today.

It also has a very lively intellectual scene but you'll need to know people; it's not on display on the sidewalk. It's one of those old cities that run deep, like New York and Istanbul. Paul Theroux talked uncomprehendingly about the odd affection many foreigners have for Kolkata, but that affection is not something you can acquire in 2-3 days. That period is enough to see the few sights and get a sense of the streets. You may find it dull and backward and decrepit, or you may be able to sense that it is different.

You mentioned old Delhi. Kolkata is nothing like old Delhi because it is not old, but some of central Kolkata feels old because of all the crumbling British-era 'indo-saracenic' buildings.

Food? I'm not sure there is that much at the mid to high end. Mumbai has better food. There are some 'Bengali' restaurants for tourists but I don't think they're any good. For food you have to seek out the cheap-but-famous stuff, like the beef rolls at Nizam (don't ask about the health of the cow) or the Chinese food accompanied by the smell of tanning leather (Tangra). Or a moghlai paratha (various places).
#3
| I have a theory...

Originally posted by: hal2004 View Post

The Sunderbans intrigue me, but some threads here lead me to believe they're just a muddy swamp without a lot of wildlife.

:rofl:
OK, I haven't been there so can't speak to that directly, but it struck me as hilarious in the vein of:
The Taj Mahal, yeah that's just an old building
The Himalayas, just some big hills
Crawford Market, just a shop
:laugh:

I suppose the eye of the beholder comes into play whichever place one chooses to visit, naa? I don't have access to links right now, but I'm under the impression that it is one of earth's unique ecosystems.
#4
| Amreeki OCIcat

Originally posted by: hal2004 View Post

The Sunderbans intrigue me, but some threads here lead me to believe they're just a muddy swamp without a lot of wildlife.

I understand what you mean. It's a wonderful idea but for people who wanna see tigers in a somewhat natural habitat, be prepared for disappointment b/c it's not at all common to see one.

That said, it makes for a fun "launch" (an interesting Indian word for ferry) ride, or should I say a hairy one :D You come back feeling around to make sure you haven't lost any body parts LOL

Incidentally it takes a while to get there from Kolkata, and it's not a straight shot so often it seems like much ado about nothing by the time you get there.

FWIW, I went to high school in Cal, course it was 25+ yrs ago, but even then we'd come back from Sunderbans trips disappointed. When we did see any tigers, it was the coolest sight on earth, they are beyond awesome [praiseyou

On my last trip a mo ago, I did enjoy it for what it is, still no tiger sightings but I think the pressure was off so I was able to appreciate it as an ecosystem. Hope that makes sense?

As for the rest of Kolkata, it's not at all my cup of tea, and honestly if my parents didn't live here, ya couldn't pay me to visit even for a few hrs. It's straining at the seams even more so than other Indian cities, beautiful bldgs but crumbling, takes overcrowding to a whole new level.

OTOH if you like Old Delhi (I went to school there too pre-Cal right across from the Lal Qila/Red Fort), then you might be ok w/ Cal. Kinda depends on what it is ya like about Old Delhi...

Kolkata used to have a more British vibe, didn't feel it as much this time around. I did use to love Cal at one time, it's downright depressing now:(

BTW, pollution is pretty bad in what passes for winter there. As far as tigers go tho, winter is the best chance of seeing them in Sunderbans, particularly around sunset.
#5
| Amreeki OCIcat

Originally posted by: RPG View Post

For food you have to seek out the cheap-but-famous stuff, like the beef rolls at Nizam (don't ask about the health of the cow) or the Chinese food accompanied by the smell of tanning leather (Tangra). Or a moghlai paratha (various places).

Alas, Nizam's is gone:( There are plenty of knock-offs around tho [whoa] I couldn't pluck up the courage before time ran out to try any, so alas my double-anda (egg) double-chicken roll stayed off the menu :mad:

Tangra too is a shadow of its former self. That said, the Chinese food in Kolkata still can't be beat. There's a fantastic place on Gurusaday Rd called Mainland China that is one of the absolute best places around for Chinese food.

There are lots of fantastic restaurants still around in Kolkata, and news ones too. One thing there's no problem finding there is a good place to eat, so I'd have no worries on that front. :D
#6
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: namaste_cat View Post

Alas, Nizam's is gone:(

Really? I ate there last month. I suppose it could have been a knockoff in the exact same location.
#7
| Senior Member

Originally posted by: RPG View Post

Kolkata is somewhat like Chennai---it's a British creation, a 'Presidency town' of the East India Co. Kolkata is now poorer and more drab than Chennai.........
Food? I'm not sure there is that much at the mid to high end. Mumbai has better food. There are some 'Bengali' restaurants for tourists but I don't think they're any good. For food you have to seek out the cheap-but-famous stuff, like the beef rolls at Nizam (don't ask about the health of the cow) or the Chinese food accompanied by the smell of tanning leather (Tangra). Or a moghlai paratha (various places).


Like Chennai? [shock] After many yeas of reading about the city, this is the first I've ever seen it compared to Chennai, albeit it in a negative way. Really can't see that at all....regarding food, you couldn't be farther off the mark. Kolkata is essentially a foodie heaven and for a heck of a lot less than Mumbai or Delhi....
"I speak a strange language, sometimes even I don't understand." - D. Iyall
#8
| seeking Locus Standi
[QUOTE=hal2004;660640][/QUOTE]

hey HAL first off - APOLOGIES ["all caps" see] - for an unrelated post in this thread.

Actually I can't PM you - so am redirecting a query about the "rougher parts of mumbai" specifically Dharavi. any help welcome.
#9
| Senior Member

Originally posted by: hal2004 View Post

Is Kolkata a good spot to spend a long weekend? I have 3-4 days before a business trip and I want to go somewhere I've never been in India.

I can fly into Kolkata then fly onwards to my ultimate destination, Hyderabad.

I think I'd like the city. I enjoyed Old Delhi and the rougher areas of Mumbai. The Sunderbans intrigue me, but some threads here lead me to believe they're just a muddy swamp without a lot of wildlife.


You have a chance to visit Kolkata for few days is worth taking it, you may like or you may not. One thing you can be sure is a lot more 'human' city and you can see the rich and poor coexistence.

Life is short, if possible take a look at the city, it is possible the best city in India, it may offend some people with this remark, so be it.
#10
| Maha Guru Member
Kolkata is a wonderful city, especially for walking -- just be sure to have a scarf or bandana along to cover your nose and mouth when the pollution gets high. The air is truly terrible.

And the food is good... sometimes wonderful! There are a lot of small Bengali restaurants near Park Street, I'm told, that cater to the Bangladeshis who take the bus to Dhaka from that area of town (instead of going 'way the heck out of town to Salt Lake City for the government bus).

Don't miss the Indian Museum (corner of Sudder Street and Chowringhee) -- they have some lovely Gandharan sculptures.
The map is not the territory. --Alfred Korzybski
#11
| . . . _ _ _ . . .
Thanks everyone.

I'm still considering Rishikesh and Corbett NP, or Kochin or Ellora, or Chennai/Mamallapuram or Udaipur/Mt Abu or Ooty.... India's just too big.

I'm leaning more towards somewhere in the south. I don't care if it's 45 degrees. I've been living in 4 feet of snow and -20C temperatures for the last 3 months.
#12
| Maha Guru Member
Hal, given that you’ve already seen a lot of India, I think you’d enjoy 3-4 days in Kolkata. Other than the minor detail of being unable to breathe for the few days I was there ;), I found much to do and see, and wished I had more time. I’m sure you have a travel guide available, so I won’t iterate all the sight-seeing options, just what I most enjoyed.

Birla Mandir at night. Illuminated, it’s breathtaking. Inside, an oasis of serenity.

Practically around the corner from Birla Mandir, in “Sunny Towers”, is the CIMA Gallery (Center of International Modern Art). www.cimaartindia.com IM member jyotirmoy suggested I visit and I’m so glad he did. Contemporary art in a manageable space.

The Pareshnath Jain Temple, to the NE of Kolkata. Lavishly decorated with mirrors, crystals, and precious stones. A guide held a match that, mirror-to-mirror, reflected back on itself in perpetuity. I was quite taken with the place.

I’ve written elsewhere (in the most embarrassing thing thread, in fact[Blush]) about my visit to see the Great Banyan Tree in the Botanic Garden. It's rather an impressive sight. I went at dawn, before the garden officially opened, and so experienced it in virtual solitude, saw some interesting wildlife (an terrifyingly large monkey), women gathering firewood...really peaceful.

I also spent an afternoon at the High Court to observe Indian legal proceedings, something I try to do whenever I visit a new country. I’m sensitive to courtroom decorum, so wore SK and acted appropriate to the venue. Nonetheless, while sitting in the back of the courtroom in the gallery, I was approached by a security guard and told to uncross my legs–-I’d violated courtroom decorum! [shock] Not exactly riveting if it's not your sort of thing, but I found it interesting.

Khalighat, even pre-dawn to avoid the hordes, was rather frightening, as I was near set on fire as people pushed and shoved while others were holding open flames. Then again, she is known for being terrifying. Truthfully, I left unsure I’d even seen what I was there to see (I had, it urns out), but recommend it nevertheless! :laugh:

I also enjoyed wandering around the cemetery (the name escapes me now--not far from the Maidan), reading headstones. Again, not a big draw unless you like that sort of thing. I do.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. ~Helen Keller [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
#13
| Maha Guru Member

Originally posted by: Thoughtcrimes View Post

Like Chennai? [shock] After many yeas of reading about the city, this is the first I've ever seen it compared to Chennai, albeit it in a negative way. Really can't see that at all....


Maybe I expressed myself poorly. Chennai and Kolkata are two cities of roughly the same vintage. Different from Delhi or Agra or Hyderabad. And both are backwaters compared to the current powerhouses (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore...)


Originally posted by: tacita View Post

I also enjoyed wandering around the cemetery (the name escapes me now--not far from the Maidan), reading headstones. Again, not a big draw unless you like that sort of thing. I do.

Park St cemetery...certainly a big draw if you're interested in Calcutta's past. This now-shabby city was, after all, the glittering capital of the jewel in the crown. All these young people, dead far from home and often within 'two monsoons', just for profit.

There are actually two cemeteries kitty-corner from each other. The second one has more 'native' Christian burials, although not exclusively. The Bengali poet and infamous convert Michael Madhusudan Dutta is buried in the second one, this is the one not directly on Park St.
#14
| Amreeki OCIcat

Originally posted by: tacita View Post

Birla Mandir at night. Illuminated, it’s breathtaking. Inside, an oasis of serenity.

I agree, it is really beautiful:
http://kolkata.clickindia.com/travel...rlamandir.html
I enjoyed going there, it's pretty close to where my parents live. tacita - thanks for mentioning it.

Me, I still love Victoria Memorial a lot, and the new park next to it is a nice bit of much-needed greenery.
I’ve written elsewhere (in the most embarrassing thing thread, in fact[Blush]) about my visit to see the Great Banyan Tree in the Botanic Garden. It's rather an impressive sight. I went at dawn, before the garden officially opened, and so experienced it in virtual solitude, saw some interesting wildlife (an terrifyingly large monkey), women gathering firewood...really peaceful.

That was a cute post, no need to be embarrassed:) The original stem if you will is long gone, so I know exactly what you mean - where it begins and where it ends is part of the fun of the tree innit.

Seen that tree for 45 yrs, and it along w/ General Sherman and some other awe-inspiring beautiful redwoods in California is one of my fave trees. I love the Botanical Garden too, I'm always seeking some peace and quiet in Cal, and that's a great place to find it.

Oh my, you are a brave one for going to Kalighat! My American hubby is quite fascinated w/ Kali Ma and altho he thought Kolkata was the armpit of India ("ha! hardly", I told him LOL), he rather enjoyed Kalighat, go figure. As a kid I got my fill during visits to Nirmal Hriday, Mother Theresa's House for the Dying which is nearby.
I also enjoyed wandering around the cemetery (the name escapes me now--not far from the Maidan), reading headstones. Again, not a big draw unless you like that sort of thing. I do.

There's the South Park Street Cemetery, and not far from it the Scottish one which is in the process of a much-needed face lift. The former is where one can find Maj Gen ‘Hindoo’ Stuart. I too have a thing for cemeteries, love the New Orleans ones as well.

Actually Kolkata can be quite interesting to visit, eh [Blush] RPG - I totally get what you mean re "British creation". Oh and Nizam's, according to my dad (a huge Nizam fan), some of the employees bought what was left of it but he said it's not called Nizam's any more nor are the rolls as good. Sounds like you've been there recently so maybe he's wrong about that...Darn, if so, I missed it for no reason! :mad:
#15
| Senior Member

Originally posted by: namaste_cat View Post

Alas, Nizam's is gone:( There are plenty of knock-offs around tho [whoa] I couldn't pluck up the courage before time ran out to try any, so alas my double-anda (egg) double-chicken roll stayed off the menu :mad:

Tangra too is a shadow of its former self. That said, the Chinese food in Kolkata still can't be beat. There's a fantastic place on Gurusaday Rd called Mainland China that is one of the absolute best places around for Chinese food.

There are lots of fantastic restaurants still around in Kolkata, and news ones too. One thing there's no problem finding there is a good place to eat, so I'd have no worries on that front. :D


Talking about Tangra, you have to avoid the biggies, go to the smaller ones which cater to local Chinese.

Nizam's has seen a lot of labor unrest, I believe Bihar next door is still there, anyways, like you mentioned food should not be a problem in Kolkata.

Puchka walla at the side street close to Welland Goldsmith school near Bow street, named Kamlash is the king of Puchka, the same outfit run a Kachura stand in ChinaTown area closeby every morning is another one of the treat that will never fade away in my memory.