As a traveler, we often tend to choose, all those hyped up destinations. I understand the logic behind, opting for the publicized destination. It makes us feel comfortable and not many people like to venture into unknown territories. Orissa is one such, not the much-publicized destination, but then at times taken an unbeaten path, have its advantages.
I traveled to Orissa, in the month of March. The weather was pleasant, neither too hot nor humid. Before visiting Orissa, I did my share of research and was pleasantly surprised, to see many interesting places. People generally travel to that side of the country for religious reasons i.e. Puri, but if you want to have a calming vacation, within budget, then this is the place for you.
When we landed at Biju Patnaik International Airport, we were pleasantly surprised, to see a less crowded airport. I wanted to hire a cab to Puri but my travel mates wanted to travel by local bus to get the hold of the place. Trust me, it is a wise decision, the buses are not overcrowded and you get to experience the local crowd. The connecting highway from Bhubaneshwar to Puri is very good. In fact, the bus passed through few villages, while studying the houses, I realized, that most of the houses, had a heart made on the wall, where the groom and the bride name was mentioned. On inquiring further I came to know, that people conduct marriage rituals in their houses, that’s why the name is painted on the wall.
I have mixed feelings for Puri, honestly one needs to be on guards, the moment you step out from your hotel, someone would be ready to fleece you. So you must be firm enough to say “No”. Oriyyans are a gentle lot and they do not create unnecessary troubles. Do visit Jagannath temple, would suggest purchasing Prasada from outside. Otherwise, the Pandas inside the temple will hand over a Prasad menu card to you, which I found pretty repulsive. Transport will not cost much over here, be ready to bargain or best go for a rickshaw puller. In the evening visit, Puri beach comes alive. Late evening, a bunch of priests descend on the beach and start the aarti and pooja ceremony. You got it right, they are praying the mighty Bay of Bengal. Most of the people join the ritual, it is a spiritual moment and filled me with peace and calm. There is a night market, from where one can buy a souvenir, to commemorate the travel. A lot of bargaining happens here and one can get some genuine products made from seashells. Spend a nice evening on the beach with family, don’t forget to taste the samosas and rasgullas, which the hawker will be selling at cheap rates.
A visit to Chilka lake is also advised, word of caution here, when you board the boat, they will make a quick stop at a small island, where a person will come, carrying some sea shells, they will break them in front of you and a pearl appears. They will try to sell those pearls, rubies even emerald claiming they are authentic. Please don’t buy them, as they are fake, the shells are glued together. If you want to enjoy the boat ride, and want to see dolphins, then this place is for you.
My next stoppage was at Konark, it is beautiful and tell us so much about our rich cultural heritage. From there I moved to Bhubaneshwar, this city contains warmest of human beings, I have ever come across. Travel by local transports, without the fear of getting lost, as there are people ready to guide you. And when I say ready to guide you, they know what they are speaking. Visit to State Museum, Regional Science Center is a must. I went to Nandan Kanan Zoo, it is good, but not for me, as I prefer seeing animals in their natural habitat.
Catch a local transport, most of the temples are nearby, it will be fun exploring them.
So pack your travel bags and get ready for Orissa.