India’s second largest city, home to 14 million people and like no where else on the subcontinent. Though still typically India, dirty streets, constant blasts of horns, spit marks everywhere, non existent traffic rules, gridlocked roads and extreme poverty. Kolkata mixes things up a little differently with colonial era buildings, leafy parks and a few traffic lights.
The majority of visitors that have arrived by land will get off at the huge Howrah Junction terminal. For the city itself, hop on a ferry outside and nip over to the pier closest to your hotel. Taxis are everywhere, and despite laws requiring them to use their meter, and despite each one having painted on the side ‘no refusal’, it is virtually impossible to get a driver to use their meter, and, refusals are more common place and than acceptance.
Accommodation is very expensive by India standards, something which hasn’t quite affected standards. Cheap dives can be found on Sudder street, just down the road from the Indian museum.
Whilst in Kolkata I decided to write a list of all the places I wanted to go, and then walk it. And that is what we did, so here is my…
Kolkata walking tour:
Start/End: Rabnindra Sadan Metro station
Difficulty: Other than usual India roadside dangers and heat, the walk was easy.
Time: Full day
Nehru Children’s museum
Quirky, and all things considered a complete waste of time. Just a display of dolls and a few sculptures, but proceeds from the admission go to children’s charities in the city.
Gorgeous building set in unimpressive grounds. Typical scam in that all foreigners, including kids above aged 3 must pay an extortionate 500INR for entrance to the museum, or just 10INR to mooch around the grounds.
Continue on to Fort William and then Dalhousie barrack, before walking up the riverside to Eden Garden, one of the worlds most famous cricket grounds. Off the corner is Raj Bhavan which is invitation only, but good place to nab a few photographs. Heading back towards the river, pass the High Court and the Banking Museum (we didn’t go in). Just up the road you can either walk through millennium park, which clearly hasn’t been touched by a brush, or lick of paint since the millennium, or continue up the road past the Prince of Wales visit Memorial. Swing back on the inside towards the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary and Armenian church.
Mullick Ghat flower market is just beneath Howrah bridge, we walked up and across the bridge, back to the ferry port by Howrah junction and the hitched a boat back over the river to Babughat.
We strolled back over towards the Indian Museum which we opted not to go into due the crazy foreigner prices which again would’ve fleeced me $30 for me and three kids. We continued down to the Planetarium but the missed the English showing which was at 1.30pm. Continuing down we then found ourselves at St Pauls Cathedral, had a look around and then finished our day back where we had started.
This walking tour does not take in Mother Theresa’s places, so either head up there with a taxi, or save them for another day.
Walking in India is an art in itself.
But I genuinely believe the best of India is seen this way. Comfortable footwear, plenty of water and a large does of tolerance is all you need. Well, and Google maps saved offline on your mobile phone.