we skim through the calendar to check our schedules, we often struggle to
decide how to spend our mini-vacations with holidays surrounding the weekends.
Rather than visiting the eateries you come across in FoodBank, we bring you a
more fun and exciting way to spend quality time with friends and family during
vacation- five places in Bangladesh to go to for adventure/camping activities.
The Base Camp
Located in the outskirts of the city in Rajendrapur Chowrasta, Gazipur- Base Camp offers excellent accommodation and a number of activities. Some of their thrilling on-tree and on-ground activities for visitors include cycling, zip-lining archery, monkey-pass, forest trekking and of course, the ultimate ‘sitting-together-surrounding-the-camp fire’ experience! Base Camp offers accommodation in bungalow rooms, non-AC nature rooms and weatherproof tents as well as varieties of everyday meals- depending on your budget and choice.
Getting its name because of the seven streams flowing inside the forest, Satchari (meaning Seven streams) National Park of Sylhet provides an unforgettable experience like no other! Visitors indulge in the flora and fauna, surrounding themselves in the lush greenery of the beautiful forest. Being one of the best birding destinations of Bangladesh, this park provides you the opportunity to catch sight of some of the rarest species of birds. There are also tea gardens nearby for visiting; altogether, a trip there would surely mean a wonderful time amidst Mother Nature!
There are also quite a few adventure activities recently started in Satchori.
Nazimgarh Tent Camp
Imagine getting to choose between dining on the river-banks of the green-blue crystal clear Shari river or dining on a hill overlooking the mesmerizing Meghalaya hills. Indeed, Nazimgarh Tent Camp, also located in Sylhet showcases nature in its purest form. Offering weatherproof tent accommodation, Nazimgarh Tent Camp also provides cycling, boat riding, canoeing and kayaking, trekking and zorb balling activities. It also has three separate restaurants- one of which is set beside a beautiful river and the other on a hill with the beautiful mountains of Meghalaya in view.
Munlai gives its guests a memorable experience because of its uniqueness; unlike other places in Bangladesh focusing on simply giving you and your family/friends an enjoyable vacation, Munlai camp also involves the Bawm community. With a two-hour drive from Bandarban, the picturesque setting amidst lavish greenery, hills and the river Sangu- you reach in the serene land of the Bawm community who greet you with blissful smiles. Along with comfortable and hygienic homestays with necessary amenities, you also get to experience boating, camping, trekking, kayaking and the country’s longest zip-line. Moreover, enjoying the mouthwatering local Bawm cuisine served in native style using bamboos under the twinkling starry sky is definitely something you do not want to miss!
Neocampers can be described as the family-friendly version of Base Camp; powered by Base Camp itself, Neocampers is ideal for family groups and school field-trips. Targeted at school children to indulge them in day-long fun activities and learn skills alongside mainstream education, Neocampers involves many enjoyable activities similar to Base Camp, guided by professional trainers. In addition to physical activities, workshops for carpentry, pottery-making, treasure-hunting, bird watch, campfire and basic BBQ facilities are also arranged here. Located in Savar, Neocampers definitely gives you a fun, challenging and learning environment away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I learned a new word the other day. Scintilla. Which means, a tiny spark of a feeling. Beautiful, isn’t it? Ever since, I’ve been dying to use the word properly, somewhere relevant. And when I got the green light from my editor to write about the hotels I stay in when I travel, I found an opportunity to use this word in a proper relevant context.
That’s right, a tiny spark of a beautiful short-lived moment is exactly how it feels to stay in small mid-range hotels. You see, hotels are not just a bed to sleep at night. They are much more than that. They are a collection of stories and experiences, a platform where travellers pass by and stop for a while, leaving their own stories and memories. When you think about it like that, hotels are no less than storybooks. And the small hotels? The stories formed in these small hotels are just cosier than the ones in five-star hotels.
Here are a few reasons why staying in small hotels is better than you think.
1. Easy on the ol’ wallet
To get the obvious out of the way, small hotels don’t take a toll on your wallet. Most of the small hotels are priced cheap to mid-range. There’s no point in paying a hefty sum of money to stay in a hotel if you’re planning to just spend the nights over there and go exploring the entire day. But of course no harm in paying for a bit of extra luxury either. No one’s judging.
2. A cosier environment
Small hotels offer you something that high-end hotels won’t. A cosy homely feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find fellow travellers as you crammed in a small lobby or small rooftop makeshift eatery that’ll serve you authentic local delicacies. Or the receptionist who’ll always greet you with a smile and go out of his way to help you travel a bit easier in the region.
3. Authentic cultural experience
High-end hotels play it by the book. The more or less same amenities and the same experiences everywhere but in a different style. That isn’t the case with small hotels. Most small hotels are located in a local neighbourhood, run by the locals, offering the best of the local cultures. If you truly want to experience a region, try staying in one of the small hotels for the best authentic experience.
4. A story to tell
There’s always something different about each of these hotels you’ll ever stay in. Each one has a different story to tell and a different experience awaits you in each one. I’ll never forget the lovely 2 AM conversation I had with the front desk clerk of Chinatown Inn in Kuala Lumpur. Or that one time I slept in and the family that runs Bich Duyen Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City cooked me a warm breakfast because it was too late in the day to find breakfast in the city.
These are the experiences that don’t go on your Instagram. But these are the experiences that make travelling worth your time and money.
I call myself a traveller when in reality, I really haven’t travelled much. But in this short span of my travelling journal, I have come across experiences that I’ll cherish forever and stories that I’ll keep telling every day. If you’re travelling somewhere new, don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Because when you open yourself up to the new and the different, that’s when you truly travel.
The art of boat making is an ancient craft and one of the oldest living technologies in the world. The intricate craft of boat making is an essential part of the rich tradition and culture of Bangladesh.
Being a riverine land, boats were, and still are, an integral part of the rural life of Bengal. From the Moyurponkhi nouka of the prince from a faraway land or the Shampan of the fearless sea explorer, boats have been a crucial element in our folklore, folk music, and mythology.
The rich boat-building heritage and skills have been passed down orally, for thousands of years. However, those tales and skills are now on the verge of extinction with the advent of motor boats.
Bangladesh once boasted the largest fleet of wooden boats, exceeding over a million. These boats used to come in all shapes and sizes, with different functions and designs.
Here are some of the most famous boats from Bangladesh that you should know about:
Indigenous to Cox’s Bazar and Kutubdia area, the Shampan was a large sea boat of Bengal with a triangular mast. Throughout history, many songs, folk stories, and poetry have been influenced by this beautiful vessel.
Indigenous to the Kutubdia area, Shuluk was the only known large sea boat of Bengal with a double mast. Although this boat was widely famous in its time, the Shuluk is now entirely extinct. Back in its days, this large watercraft was used for transporting salt and other cargo across the sea.
The opulent Goina was a dream houseboat which sailed on the narrow channels of the Padma river in Rajshahi. Goyna translates to ornament and much like ornaments, it’s beauty was a standout. Used by the Zamindars (landlords) for leisure, the Goina had a harmonious balance between elegance and performance.t
Chand-Nouka (Moon Boat)
The arches of the crescent moon are reflected within the curving lines of the chand-nouka. These moon boats still dot the coastlines of Southern Bangladesh. The mid sized fishing vessels sail out to the open sea with the tide, only to return with the next. In earlier times, the celestial shape of the chand-nouka, allowed the boat to sail in either direction, although now, with the introduction of the engine the primary utility of the shape has forgone
Starting its journey from the river banks of Potuali in Gopalganj Sadar, the illustrious Corpai treads along the native waters of the Modhumati River. A true symbol of the working class, the Corpai boat transports grains, rice, and heavy cargo.
One of the largest riverine boats of the country is the malar boat. Made on the banks of the Padma and Brahmaputra in the heart of Bengal, these majestic boats were primarily used for transportation of cargoes including livestock. With one of the most recognizable shapes, the malar frequently shows up in paintings of typical Bangladesh riverscape. The last remaining large sized malar boat has been converted to be used by tourism purpose by Contic cruises. The large red orchard sails outlined against the blue sky is a sight forever lost in Bengal.
A cross between a river and seagoing boat, the Podi which is found in the southern Khulna belt, is one of the few unique boats that have adapted to the saline water. Squat and wide, the Podi was specially made for carrying heavy cargo through the tidal rivers of the Sundarbans. Originally the Podi boat was used by the golpata gatherers during their seasonal foray into the mangrove forest. The golpatas, being the primary material for thatching in the southern belt, was then sailed back upstream with the tide.
Fortunately, Friendship, a non-governmental organisation, is saving Bangladesh’s boat building heritage from extinction through its activities on cultural preservation. Their activities include helping to create a sustainable livelihood for the boat builders. The organisation also documents the ancient techniques of boat building and raises awareness through exhibitions around the world. Handcrafted replica of model boats which serve as a record of boat building techniques can be purchased to further support their efforts.
Additionally, our heritage of boats and boat making is so rich that Bangladesh National Museum has an entire separate gallery dedicated to boats of Bangladesh. Do check it out when you can.
Facts, figures and photos are sourced from Friendship.
In this hectic life of work, studies and constant roundabouts of quizzes and deadlines, our lifestyle somewhat becomes mundane. Travelling is one of the many ways let off some steam.But, what holds back most of us from travelling is obviously the cost of it. The plane fare, hotel, food and the list goes on.
But fret not. We have ten cities for you to visit under a budget of 40,000 BDT.
Because life starts when you really start living and we want to give you a nudge on that!
Born in a valley, Kathmandu is surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. And is known for the mountains, temples and the cleansing of the spiritual aura. It is truly a magical place to be if you want to surround yourself with the mystery of nature. Kathmandu has all of it.
From an unworldly sunrise at Tiger Hill to hot steaming momos in Batasia loop, the adventures in Darjeeling would be one of the most magical trips you can afford to do in a budget. It is also very well known for the temples it bears such as the Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda, Observatory Hill and Mahakal Temple. But one can never be in Darjeeling and not see the monasteries! With unusual architectural style and great historical background, each monastery s have a story to tell. Samten Choling Monastery, Yiga Choeling Monastery, Dali Monastery and many more awaits!
Surrounded by mountains, this small town in the peaceful country of Bhutan can be your ultimate getaway. From the ancient Rimpung-Dzong fortress in Paro valley to a spectacular hike to Tiger’s nest, Paro never falls short on adventures and surprises.
Into the dreamy world of Kashmir
If you are a new traveler and Kashmir is your first place to travel, then kudos to you because it is a very good place to start your journey to the unknown. Kashmir is well known for rafting, hiking and of course the mountains! November is a good time to visit since there aren’t many tourists seen around the popular spots. Try to stay around the local areas or get acquainted with a local family to know Kashmir better. Multi day trekking, horseback riding, hiking in Sonamarg, rafting at Lidder River and many more exciting trips awaits!
Sin Chao Hanoi!
Capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a crowded city of night market and venturing into places like the Hoan Kiem Lake, eating the best delicacies in Tai Hien Street, traveling to Ni Ling, Sapa Valley and many more beautiful places. The living and food costs are affordable and you can take a motorbike taxi for going to places for saving some extra bucks.
The former capital city of Myanmar Yangon is known for the Pagodas because of their magnificent architectural designs and the tranquility of being in a space which promotes spiritual cleansing. If you are interested in taking pictures of rich designed buildings, church and temples and Pagodas, Yangon is your spot!
Explore Phnom Penh
If this is your first trip to Cambodia, then you better grab a list because Phnom Penh has many things to offer for you to explore in a very affordable rate. Starting from exploring the beautiful royal palace, to walking around the National Museum to taking a ride by the ferry out to Koh Dach is honestly a dream come true.
Cleanse your soul with Chiang Mai, Thailand
Starting from having a heart to heart conversation with the Monks of Wat Pha Temple to adoring the elephants and spending a handful amount of time with them, Chiang Mai has endless possibilities for you to escape reality and explore the beauty and joy of nature. If you are into adventure then do not worry because Chiang Mai, has zip lines, paragliding, rock climbing and many more!
Manila is one of those places you can travel by yourself given if you have the right maps and instructions. The city holds historical representation through Intramuros, indulge in the most delicious delicacies in Binondo, the Manila Chinatown and various other museums and palace.
We cannot finish this list without including Jakarta, one of the most budget friendly places of all times. Jakarta is a friendly place with cheap transportation, beautiful monuments, amazing nightlife and delicious street food. Indulge yourself with the best things when you travel here
One of the key things to do before travelling anywhere on a budget is listing down places you want to stay and travel to. Let this year bring you joy and many adventures to enjoy!
Traveling is something we Bengalis love to do. We might act a bit old school when comes it, but you would rarely find a Bengali who doesn’t fancy traveling. Back in the day, our parents would probably start planning for a tour six months before a vacation starts. Now, in the age of information technology we fancy eating street food in Bangkok one fine morning and we might find ourselves doing it the next weekend. And yet, few old timer traveling myths still remain embedded in our habit.
Here are 4 such traveling myths that are completely wrong.
Myth 1: You need to buy plane tickets months in advance to get the best deals
Wrong. This might have been true ages ago when air traveling was not as frequent as it is now. Back then, airlines would hike up the ticket prices at the last minute because options were so few.
These days, it’s the opposite. With so many budget to high-end options, airlines scramble to fill in half empty seats as the date of departure comes close. Moreover, if you try to book a ticket months ago, you are most likely to see the static prices rather than dynamic ones. The ideal time to book your air ticket would be 4-5 weeks in advance.
Myth 2: Packages know best
While some packages might offer convenience once in a while, in most cases packages will rip you off. And the offers are almost never the best you can get. Comes with the added hassle of doing everything by the package terms and conditions.
If you try and explore by yourself, chances are you’ll cover the trip with half of what the package programs ask of you and get more out of your traveling.
Myth 3: Duty Free is a good bargain
This is a very common myth among those of us who frequent in airports. Duty Free items means that they are not taxed. However, it doesn’t mean anything about retail prices. There’s a higher chance that you’ll find the same goods at a much lower retail price in local market.
Myth 4: It’s a good idea to change your currency at the airport
Almost never. At airports, the transaction fee is built into the exchange rate percentage. And that means you’ll get a bad rate at airports almost all the time. It’s better to change your currency from your bank before traveling. Or do it in a local money changer once you reach your travel destination.
We often hear people saying that they prefer cars over aeroplanes because aeroplanes might crash. That fear, however, is misplaced and as irrational as it gets. Chances of a plane crash are much lower than a car accident or a lightning strike or a shark attack for all that matters. In a survey done by the American National Safety Council in 2015, they found that an average American has a 1 in 114 chances of dying in a car crash. While in the case of aeroplanes, the chance is 1 in 9,821. Sadly, no such data exists for the Bangladeshi counterparts but it is safe to say that the numbers would probably look similar. The fear around planes is understandable, however. For when an accident happens, it is usually more fatal than a regular car crash. Accidents do not happen very often. But with proper air travel safety ensured, the chances of a fatality are much lower even if the plane crashes due to an unfortunate event.
Ironically, whenever we get on a plane, the most ignored part of the journey is usually the safety instructions by the cabin crew. Here’s why you should pay more attention to them next time on:
Switch off your mobile phones/Turn on airplane mode
During every air travel, the cabin crews instruct us to turn off our mobile phones, especially during take off and landing. These warnings are often overlooked as we keep talking on our phones or using it even when the plane is taxiing and taking off. This simple rebel act of not caring enough can cause serious fatalities as the mobile phone signals often interfere with the radio signal communications between the pilots and the ATC. Slight gaps in information exchange can lead to serious disaster. Keep this in mind the next time you’re not switching off your mobile phone following the instructions. Your life may as well be in your own hands.
Following the emergency procedure instructions
So, you’re sitting in your seat, all strapped up, waiting for the plane to take off and the cabin crews are blabbering and making weird hand gestures and all, boring right? Life savers actually. Do pay attention to what they are saying, how to use the oxygen mask, how to put on the life jacket, where the emergency doors are and how to open them etc. In case of an emergency, you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you don’t know what to do just because you weren’t paying attention. Those boring blabbers and weird hand gestures can save your life.
Seat belts are your best friends
It’s best to wear seat belts all the time even when the lights aren’t on. If the lights are on, do not open your seat-belts in mere disregard. Even if the plane isn’t in a crash, a serious turbulence can throw you off and injure you and other passengers. They are there to keep you safe. Use them. It doesn’t hurt.
Keep calm and wait for the plane to stop
This is perhaps the most complained issue about our air travels. Please, wait for the plane to come to a full stop before you unbuckle and start getting your overhead luggage out. This is serious as most of us tend to ignore this one. If the plane is still moving on the runway by the time you’re walking about with your luggage, waiting to get out, there is all the chance in the world that if the plane skids or anything happens, you will be one of the firsts to suffer from an injury whereas if you were seated with your seat-belts on, you might be saved! Why take our chances for granted, right?
Even though most of these will be covered by the cabin crew’s instructions and best if you follow their words, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with a bit of a heads up. So here are a few basic air travel safety on a plane journey:
1. Always keep wearing the seat-belt when the lights are on. Best to wear them all the time.
2. Keep your dining boards up and towed during take-off and landing.
3. In case of a drop in the air pressure, oxygen masks will most likely come out. Wear yours first before helping others. In case you’re travelling with a child, wear yours first and then help the child wear it. This is important because you may last a maximum of 15-20 seconds without oxygen and if you collapse, you cannot take care of the others.
4. Always follow the crews’ instruction to locate where the emergency doors and life jackets are in case of an emergency
5. Do not carry sharp objects, inflammable objects and canisters in carry on.
Despite all the fear and concerns, Air travel is still the safest medium to travel. If you aren’t convinced, look up the stats on Google. Numbers do not lie. Stay safe and Happy Travelling!
Travelling isn’t like it used to be before. You set out with a paper map in your hand and face things as they come your way, that’s not only old school but time consuming, to say the least. And there are so much to see and so many things to do in a new place that it baffles our minds.
Thankfully, the age of information technology is upon us and as always, it boils down to mobile apps.
Here are 4 apps that will help you plan efficiently and get the best out of your next travel destination:
It’s safe to say that you can trust Google with your eyes closed. Google has rarely gone wrong with their ventures and Google trips isn’t one of the odd ones. Google Trips is a simple, straightforward app that stores your ticket and hotel reservations from your linked Gmail account, your day plans and your saved places all in one place. It also recommends you nearby points of interest and places to eat.
Google Trips also offer customized day plans with routes mapped out for you. Simply brilliant.
2. Culture Trip
Culture Trip offers detailed reviews and blogs from professional travelers and travel guides. Want to learn how to travel like a local in a new place? Culture trip should be your go to. Culture Trip’s blogs are simply the best thing for you if you want to truly experience a new culture.
All you need to know about a place will be available to you down to the last detail. From guides to the best locations to where you’d find the best street food stall, Culture Trip has it all.
3. Lonely Planet
What started as a small venture by a traveler couple, quickly turned into a global travel guide that’s known all over the world. Lonely Planet’s travel guides are detailed, has reviews from locals and other travelers and an interactive map that shows you exactly where all the points of interests are.
Lonely planet offers the best-verified insights to a location and the city guides are really all you need while travelling.
From the best hotel deals to the cheapest flights from different airlines, TripAdvisor covers virtually everything travel related. TripAdvisor certified hotels and restaurants are considered the best experiences by travelers all over the world. You’ll find reviews and recommendations from locals and seasoned travelers. And the TripAdvisor forums are insanely helpful in planning out your travel itinerary. Ask away anything you want to know and you’ll definitely get a reply.
These days TripAdvisor has become more like a traveler social media that lets you create a profile, a travel timeline, share your pictures and stories and a lot more.
Sounds too good to be true? Welcome aboard this week’s travelogue that will take you on a journey all the way to the far north of Bangladesh, Panchagarh. The isolated corner of Bangladesh and the only place in the country where you can view the Himalayas from.
If you are, like me, broke to the bones and cannot afford a trip to Darjeeling or Nepal to bask in the magnificence of the Himalayas, fret not. Panchagarh is the hidden gem of Bangladesh’s travel scene and an exciting destination that has a lot more to offer than just the Himalayas.
Getting to Panchagarh
Buses to Panchagarh leave from Shyamoli every night. Hanif and Nabil Paribahan are two of the most trustworthy services in this route. Both AC and non AC buses are available and the tickets will cost you 1200 TK and 600 TK respectively. This will be one of the longest bus journeys you’ll ever take in Bangladesh, so prepare accordingly. Of course, the bus will stop on breaks two times on the way so there’s nothing to worry about.
The bus will drop you off in Panchagarh town in about 12 hours. By the time you reach there, it will be well past 7. Have breakfast in any of the local hotels. Take a minibus or an autorickshaw to Tetulia, the last border town in Bangladesh to the north. It’s a 1.5 hours ride from Panchagarh. If the weather favours you, the Himalayan mountain range will be visible on your way to Tetulia.
Where to stay
In Tetulia there are two mid-range tourist hotels and two government rest houses. To stay in the government rest houses, you must take prior permission from the officials. You can get the clearest view of the Himalayas from the government rest houses. Right behind the rest houses, there’s a river and on the other side of the river is the Indian border. At night, you can see the border lights lit up and BSF guards walking around.
6AM in the morning is the perfect time to view the Himalayas as the sun rays fall directly on the peaks and that gives a clear and spectacular view of the mountains. Beneath the mountain range, you can see smaller hills and tiny lights flickering on and off. That’s Darjeeling. At night, you can often see tiny spectrums of car headlights running down on the spiraling roads of Darjeeling.
Although October-November is the perfect time to see the Himalayas, often it is not visible due to bad weather over at India. In case you’re unlucky this time, don’t worry. The daughter of Himalayas also has magnificent tea gardens, ancient historical ruins such as Maharaja Dighi and one of the smoothest and most beautiful roads in the entire country. Panchagarh won’t disappoint you at all.
The Himalayas are a magnificent sight. It cannot be boiled down to a few words of appreciation in an article. And we’re not even going to try. Pack your bags and head over to Panchagarh to see it for yourself. Let us know how it made you feel.
Visa processing is one of the most troublesome parts of travelling to a foreign land. Getting an approved visa takes a fair amount of time and money in most cases, not to mention the long list of requirements that come with it.
Consider getting a Thai visa, for example. You have to show your bank solvency, your purpose letter for visiting Thailand, hotel and plane booking confirmation and so on. That’s not all, they’ll even call your universities or workplace to check if you really are who you say you are. Combine that with a hefty sum of money a.k.a the processing fee and the uncertainty of not getting approved, and that’s your Thai visa processing experience.
Bangladeshi passport ranks 94th in the Global Index of Passports, making it one of the weakest passports in the world in terms of ease of travelling. But even being ranked in the lower half of that list allows us to travel to 41 countries without a prior visa. Not so bad for starters.
Here are 5 such countries you can travel to without a visa. Pack your bags and pick one from the list.
Bhutan, the small Himalayan country full of happy people, requires no visa for Bangladeshi citizens. Drukair or Royal Bhutan airlines operate flights from Dhaka to Paro. You can also travel by road through India. In that case, you must get a transit visa for India.
2. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka offers Bangladeshi citizens on arrival visa. Famous for lush green hills, ancient Buddhist ruins and beautiful sunny beaches, Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination for a quick trip outside the country. Jet Airways operate flights from Dhaka to Colombo with one stop in Delhi.
The daughter of Mount Everest, Nepal has on arrival visa facilities for Bangladeshi citizens. Visit Nepal to experience a rich cultural heritage of the Nepalese people and lose yourself in the magnificent serenity of the Himalayan mountain range in Pokhara.
Famous for its beautiful beaches and green countryside in Bali, Indonesia requires no visa at all for Bangladeshi citizens. There are no direct flights to Indonesia, but Malindo air operates from Dhaka to Bali with a long layover in Kuala Lumpur. Find out what you can do during a layover in Kuala Lumpur here.
The land of the famed Caribbean pirates requires no visa for Bangladeshi travellers either. Visit the Jamaican islands if you’re in for something different than usual. The experience, far from home, is one of a kind. The country of Usain Bolt welcomes you.
A few more countries that don’t require prior visas for Bangladeshi citizens include Maldives, Fiji, Rwanda, Barbados, Myanmar and Kenya.
Thank you for reading this article. If you like our content, support us and help us grow by sending your feedback, suggestions, stories and questions to [email protected]
One of the oldest and the busiest cities in the world, Kolkata nicknamed the city of joy, is also the proud holder of a very befitting title, the cultural capital of India. The city of Kolkata is full of people, colours, scents and noises of all kinds and a rich cultural heritage to boast about.
Kolkata is a coveted destination for all the history buffs, cultural explorers and spiritual travelers. This is the city that saw the rise of modern India and is the birthplace of the Bengali renaissance. For someone from Bangladesh, there is no better destination to travel to if you want to embark on a journey of discovering your roots and heritage.
Anyone who is looking for the experience of a lifetime on a tight budget, the city of Rabindranath and Satyajit Roy welcomes you.
Traveling to Kolkata from Bangladesh is as easy as it gets. There are trains, which take roughly 8 hours, daily buses from Dhaka with a journey time of 12 hours (+ horrible Dhaka traffic) and of course aeroplanes that will land you in Dumdum airport in just about 2 hours or so. Indigo airlines would be the cheapest option if you’re planning to catch a flight.
Trains and buses will cost you the same, which would be a lot cheaper than an aeroplane. Trains operate between Dhaka to Kolkata four days a week from Kamalapur, tickets are sold as early as one month prior to your travelling dates. Check with the railway website for more information on timings and other details.
A number of buses operate daily on the Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route. The best option would be to get a ticket for the BRTC-Shyamoli service. The staff is efficient and helpful and will get you a “VIP privilege” during land immigration, which can be a lot confusing than regular airport immigration. A round trip should cost you around 4000 or less, including taxes and other charges.
A place to stay
If you’re traveling by bus, they’ll drop you off right in the heart of the city, Marquis street. Just adjacent to Marquis street, is Sudder street, the central backpacker’s district. You’ll find a number of cheap to mid-range hotels on Marquis and Sudder street. Just walk into any if you haven’t pre-booked one.
If you’re looking for a cheap stay with quality rooms, check out Ashreen guest house on Cowai Lane. Right in between Sudder street and Hogg’s market, the Ashreen guest house has 3 star rated rooms, in terms of quality, for a jaw-dropping cheap rate. Just don’t expect a proper 3-star hotel facility. You get what you pay for.
Many of these hotels are in heritage buildings that are hundreds of years old and are meant to keep it that way. Whether you’re looking for a heritage stay or a quality upgrade for a little value for money, finding a stay in Kolkata is an absolute no-brainer.
Explore, explore and explore
Kolkata is a crowded and crammed city. It has its own fair share of dirt and filth. But every street in Kolkata has some sort of history and culture associated with it.
The streets of Kolkata are a bold mixture of the old and the new. When Job Charnock of the East India Company first arrived in the banks of Hooghly in 1686, he realized the potential of the region for English settlement. For the next 150 years, English colonists would clear the jungle of Hooghly and establish roads, erect buildings in British architectural style and turn Kolkata into the first capital of the British Raj in India. Kolkata still bears the sign of its glorious past. Old British colonial buildings still adorn the streets of Esplanade and Park Street. The Park street cemetery houses the graves of 200 years old British families who were the first to arrive in India.
College street houses the largest street book market in Asia alongside the Calcutta University, the first institution for westernised higher education in India and Asia. Calcutta University and the subsequent educational institutions in Kolkata would, later on, produce some of the brightest minds in Bengal and create an educated and politically conscious middle class who were the pioneer in the movement for Indian independence. The college street is also home to the infamous Indian Coffee House. The intellectuals of Bengal would come here often to discuss literature, politics and everything in between over a cup of coffee.
This is the same coffee house Manna Dey wrote his famous song about. And it is believed that Roma Roys and D’Souzas really did exist.
There’s Victoria Memorial, a magnificent structure built by the British in memory of Queen Victoria. Built with a mixture of Victorian and Mughal architecture in style, Victoria Memorial was quite literally erected because the British happened to be jealous of the Taj Mahal in Agra wanted something as magnificent as Taj Mahal for the Empress too. Whether it served its purpose or not is of course, for you to decide.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is near to the memorial. It’s an 18th-century church built in English-Gothic architectural style, for the increasing number of English populaces in the city. The church is open to all and visitors are expected to maintain civic and silence when visiting the church. The church also houses a number of Graves inside its walls. Some of these graves belong to prominent British bishops, reformists and Lords who died in Kolkata.
Birla Planetarium, the second largest planetarium in the world is close by and Birla Mandir, a magnificent temple with intricate marble stone carvings on its walls, is about 20 minutes taxi ride from the planetarium.
The famous Howrah bridge stands proudly on the Ganges river. Go to the Mullickghat flower market very early in the morning to witness one of the largest flower markets in Asia alongside the morning view of the Hooghly bridge.
Jorasanko Thakurbari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Thakur is a must visit. The house is now turned into a museum and you can get inside the rooms Rabindranath and his family used to stay. The house also served as a center for intellectual practices during the renaissance period and now doubles as the Rabindra Bharati University. Satyajit Ray’s ancestral home is also nearby.
Visit the Indian Museum, the largest in India to witness the vast and rich collection of our ancient civilisation and heritage. Top it off with a quick visit to Sir Stuart Hogg Market, commonly known as the New Market. The market built mainly for the British back in the 1800s now houses hundreds of shops that sell everything from antiques to traditional clothes. Shopping in the Hogg’s Market is an unforgettable experience.
Visit the Kalighat temple. The largest temple devoted to Goddess Kali or Durga. It is one of the 51 Shakti Pithas in Hindu mythology. According to some historians, the etymology of Kolkata is directly related to Kalighat. Mother Teressa’s house, Nirmal Hridoy, is right adjacent to the temple.
Above everything, the most important aspect of traveling that I’m an advocate of is that, take random aimless walks down the streets and alleys of a city. Breathe in the smell of the city as every city has a smell of its own. Experience lives of the locals like the locals do. If nothing else, it enriches the soul.
The magnificent culinary journey
It is needless to say that food in Kolkata are practically crafted to our taste buds. The street foods are to die for. In Madge lane, right opposite to the New Market, you’ll find stalls selling hot Pav Bhaji, Chicken Paneer Kebabs, Chow mein etc. Don’t forget to try the Kulfi Falooda.
In New Market, you’ll find Nizam’s which have been around for 100 years selling delicious Kosha Manghso, Chicken Roll, Chicken Kabirazi etc. Head over to Baba Rolls in Park street to try the mouth-watering hot kathi rolls. The momo chain “Wow Momos!” sells some of the best pan-fried momos in the continent.
In college street, you’ll find Hindustan Dhaba. They sell the best Punjabi thali in the city. A hearty lunch at the dhaba is not only easy on the wallet but also one of the most delicious meals you’ll ever get to try. The juicy butter chicken and tandoor roti alone is enough to make one come back to Kolkata just to try it one more time.
You’ll, of course, go to the coffee house when on College street. One heads up is that the coffee at the coffee house is nothing special to be absolutely honest. But it’s the conversation that people come here for, not the food.
You’ll find some of the best South Indian idly and dosa in Friend’s Eating House behind the new market and their masala chai is a must try. There’s a small stall in Hartford Lane, near Ashreen guest house, that sells snacks like sandwich, omelettes, toast, chai and many more. They open early for breakfast and close late at night. Head over there for a cheese omelette if you’re not feeling too adventurous. The boy who runs the stall is a talkative young chap who can recommend you a thing or two.
And the best for the last, Roshogollas. Kolkata would not be Kolkata if there were no roshogollas. Try Bheem Nag and KC Das to taste these delicious sweets and maybe get a box or two home.
Getting around in Kolkata
At times it feels like Kolkata never moved on from the colonial times at all. 1958 models of Hindustan Ambassador yellow taxis and Royal Enfield motorcycles ply the streets along with trams, a forgotten mode of transport in most parts of the world.
Kolkata has the oldest running tram system in the world right now and getting a tram ride is a part of the Kolkata experience. Human run rickshaws are still found in the streets.
There are of course buses and conventional Uber rides. Kolkata also has a metro line which happens to be the first and the oldest underground metro in India. Travelling in the metro is cheap and fast for covering long distances. However, get one of the trademark yellow taxis to cover short distances and places where the metro will not go. Make sure you bargain well. They’re not very costly anyway.
As night falls over this 300-year-old city, you should take a long look at the city from somewhere high enough that overlooks the old colonial buildings and crowded streets. The scent of incense would swirl into the sound of Azaan and the church bells would remind you that time is almost up.
You’ll get your return bus tickets from the same counter where you were dropped off. Or you could always take the train or the aeroplane, the choice is up to you.
As your bus/train will keep taking you further away from the city, you wouldn’t know what it is that’d keep calling you back. Is it the coffee house? Esplanade? The yellow taxis? Or is it the hundred years old night over Hogg’s market that stands witness to numerous events of history and culture? You will only know if you get back again. Kolkata, as always, welcomes you.