When you think of exotic holidays in India, it is possible that Orissa may not figure on your hit list. This state sandwiched between West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh hasn't been much of a draw with tourists who would rather go to Goa for its beaches or Kerala for its backwaters. But the fact that Orissa isn't uppermost in tourists' minds works in its favour, really. Its beaches and lakes are not as crowded and polluted as other tourist spots elsewhere in the country.
If you want an off-beat holiday, this once, go to Orissa.
There too, instead of pitching tent in the state capital of
Bhubaneshwar, which would be oh so obvious and boring, we suggest that
you go to Gopalpur-on-sea. The name is unusual, so is the place. This
quaint and quiet seaside town, 180 km from Bhubaneshwar, is bereft of
day-trippers and holiday-revellers. The allure of this place is also
heightened by the fact that Gopalpur-on-sea resonates with a rich
Rich maritime history
Even prior to the British era, Gopalpur was a maritime hub under the Kalingas, only then it was known by another name, Mansurkota. The British renamed it Gopalpur after an 18th century temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. During the British
Raj too, Gopalpur-on-sea was a vibrant sea port from where trade
activities were carried out. Rice, silk and pearls found their way to
and fro Burma, Sumatra and Bali. As a result of these activities,
Gopalpur became quite a happening place and enjoyed a reputation of
being a pleasure resort where dance and parties was a regular feature.
This was patronized by the British and the wealthy Bengalis. The ruins of a jetty still invoke nostalgia of an era gone by.
Sleepy fishing hamlet
But with the departure of the British,
this place fell back into a lull and lapsed into being a sleepy fishing
village once again, so much the better for the modern tourist. If the
beach at Puri is for the masses, Gopalpur is definitely for the
classes. The azure waters, golden sands and casuarina-lined sea front
make it a haven for those who seek to soak in the sun and meditate. The
sea stretch of Bay of Bengal that presents itself here is great for
surfing and sailing. An ancient lighthouse adds to the old-world charm
and provides a watchtower view of the bay that is simply breathtaking.
Accommodation for all pockets
Fortunately, there is no dearth of good places to stay in
Gopalpur; in fact accommodation is available to suit all budgets, from
the exclusive star-class hotels and resorts to beach shacks. Colonial
structures and bungalows that are converted into guest houses, serve
well, too. For super duper luxury stay, there is the Oberoi Palm Beach,
which incidentally happens to be the first hotel that Mr. Oberoi of the
famous Oberoi hotel groups acquired.
Sea food is another great attraction out here. Fresh fish is
caught and cooked for the tourists, the only catch being that the wait
really whets your appetite. And why not, languorous pace is the
hallmark of this beach town!
Asia's largest brackish lake
While Gopalpur can be a holiday in itself, you may want
to course your way along the east coast upwards to Puri and Konarak.
But before you do a trip to the largest brackish water lake in Asia,
the Chilka Lake is a must. Chilka is a famous wetland and wildlife
sanctuary with amazing variety of resident and migratory birds. Here
canoeing, kayaking and boating facilities are available for touring the
islets. As you glide through the waters uou can witness the dolphins
putting up a spectacular display for your benefit. Around Chilka there
are lakeside resorts and hotels to camp in, but in the tradition of that place they are truly laid-back.
Needless to say, the Jagannath temple of Puri, which is one of the char dhams
or prime pilgrimage centre for Hindus, and the Sun temple of Konarak
are a must-see. The Sun temple, built in the 13th century, is an
architectural marvel and is famous for its exquisite stone sculptures
Olive Ridley turtle
The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary may not exactly be in the line of your holiday itinerary, but it is worth stretching time and distance
to accommodate it. These shores are home to the giant and
much-endangered Olive Ridley marine turtles. The turtles come in droves
(in millions) to nest and roost at the Gahirmatha beach. This place is
also rich in its mangroves diversity.
Of course, there is lot more to see in Orissa, even in and around Gopalpur, such as Bhubaneshwar and Nandankanan, famous for its white tigers. Also, when in Orissa, it is absolutely imperative to keep time for shopping for Orissa has some great handicrafts. Some of the things you must buy are applique work canopies, awnings or beach umbrellas, pattachitra paintings and colourful ikat fabrics.
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- The Indiaparenting Team