In the last 2 months of 2022, I was given the opportunity to travel to India for a work secondment. I signed up to travel to India without any expectations, but the entire experienced turned out way better than I expected, all thanks to the warm hospitality I received throughout my stay in Kolkata.
30 October 2022 (Sun): Kolkata City Tour
As part of my long stay (at least 30 days) at JW Kolkata, I was entitled to a complimentary city tour. Basically I get to use the hotel car and driver for a day to travel around Kolkata, wherever I wanted. So on my first weekend in Kolkata, I decided to go on tthe tour and check out a few tourist attractions in the city. Since I have an entire van for myself, I asked my team members if they were interested to join and be my tour guides. =P Huge thanks to Saiyam, Ila, and Rupa for agreeing to join me on short notice and graciously be my 'tour guides'.
We met up at my hotel at 8am and departed together in the hotel van. Our driver, Ziaul, was already waiting for us. It was Sunday morning so traffic wasn't bad at all.
We arrived Dakshineswar Kali Temple around 8.30am and I was surprised to see so many people there on a Sunday morning. Apparently, this temple is always crowded on weekends because many locals come here to give their offerings. Besides, I've been a hermit working from home for the past 2.5 years so it had been quite a while since I've seen so many people...lol! Entrance is free.
I was glad I visited with this temple with the locals because I would have been so lost and overwhelmed not knowing what to do. My team members had already told me the day before that I'd need to take off my shoes before entering the temple and asked me to bring along a sandals. I went prepared and wore my sandals thinking that I'd just have to take off my shoes before entering the temple, as in a building (like taking off your shoes before entering a house). What I didn't know was that we'd have to deposit our shoes and belongings (including mobile phones) at the deposit counters before entering the whole temple area. Yes, walking with just socks/barefoot outdoor as well. If I had known this, I would have left all my belongings in the van to save Saiyam the trouble of having to help me deposit my backpack. Anyway, I'm super thankful to have them helping me out and even went all the way back to the van to get me my socks coz he was worried the floor would be too hot for me to be barefoot.
We could only take photos outside (before the entrance) since photography isn't allowed and I didn't have my phone. Yes there are pretty strict about checking for mobile phones at the entrance with a pat-down, like going through airport security...lol!
We left Dakshineswar at 9.30am and arrived at Belur Math around 9.45am. Unlike Dakshineswar, Belur Math had less people and was a lot more peaceful. This place is notable for its architecture that fuses Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, and Christian art and motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions.
After a quick 15 minutes visit at Belur Math, we headed back into the city for more sightseeing. Snapped some random photos along the streets of Kolkata, and the iconic yellow taxi. All yellow taxis in Kolkata has the same model...the Ambassador Classic, and they are slowly vanishing from the streets due to their age and the competition from Ola and Uber.
We arrived Victoria Memorial at 10.45am. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kolkata. This iconic structure is dedicated to Queen Victoria, the Empress of India from 1876 to 1901.
A bit of history lesson from Google...Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was the former capital of British India. Similar to Malaysia, India was also a former British colony, which explains why we share a lot of common in the 'British English' we use. The British ruled the Indian subcontinent for around 200 years between 1757 and 1947.
The building and surroundings are very nice, and we were lucky with the beautiful weather and blue skies because the city is usually hazy and smoggy.
Next was a quick stop at St. Paul's Cathedral at 11.30am. This white-colored cathedral was the first new-built cathedral in the overseas territory of the British Empire, and was completed in 1847.
Arrived our last stop of the day, Mother's House at 11.50am. This convent was where Mother Teresa lived and died, and is the last resting place of Mother Teresa.
Wrapped up our tour with lunch at Peter Cat on Park Street after a successful morning of sightseeing. We were lucky to get there early at 12.20pm and was able to get a table immediately as we saw people waiting in lines outside of the restaurant as we were eating. This is a popular restaurant in Kolkata. I ordered the Chelo Kebab (kebabs served with buttered rice, mutton seekh and a sunny side up), which is their famous must-try item.
We decided to call it a day after lunch and headed back to the hotel. This tour was definitely a good way to kick-start my 2-month stay in Kolkata. Thank you again to Saiyam, Ila, and Rupa for the warm hospitality and showing me around Kolkata. Also thanks to our driver, Ziaul, for driving us all around and making it so convenient for us to visit each locations. =)
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