Travel Log of the 4-day amazing River Cruise on the Ganges
Here is our travel log of the 4-day amazing river cruise on the Ganges.
A few days is all most Westerners would want to spend in Kolkata. We stayed at the Oberoi with its wonderful service and excellent restaurants. It served as an extremely comfortable “safe haven” after exploring busy Kolkata.
Kolkata is a 16 million high-energy metro and has some attractions (Mother Theresa, Rabindranath Tagore, museums, cultural Bengali events). My wife visited Mother Theresa’s home, and she wrote: “She is buried in a white marble tomb. On top of the tomb are the words written in marigold petals: “Love until it hurts”.
Her actual bedroom on the second level of the house, where she died, is the size of a closet that accommodates two narrow cots, a small bookcase and a crucifix. Nuns are wearing “dishcloths” on their heads.”
Kolkata is unique in creating an industry where the poor are trained to create deity sculptures in clay. The sculpture is then painted and dressed and offered to the river, a Puja ceremony. There is a section of streets exclusively sectioned off for this industry and it is fascinating for the Westerner to experience this process.
On embarkation day, we were taken to the Vivada terminal at the Millennium park (about 15 minutes with traffic from Oberoi). Guests were escorted to cabins, but I took the time to visit Vivada’s terminal-office which has AC and a comfortable seating area. The staff was friendly and this office can be of great use to guests.
After Kolkata, a peaceful river cruise with bustling authentic village life on both sides of the Ganges was a wonderful relief. The Indians are poor, but very friendly – hundreds (if not thousands) of them stood on the shores waving to us. We spent most of the time on the top deck just watching and mesmerized by the activity. There are many temples on both sides of the river.
The weather could not have been better – sunshine every day approximately 80-60 F with a jacket or a sweater required at night and for the early morning pilgrimages to the temples and mosques (and a cold beer required during the day!).
In the early evening we reached Mayapur where we visited Hari Krishna’s headquarters, including a temple with ecstatic dancing and singing service. Being a typical Nordic, I was not a big participant in the celebrations, but it was a unique experience.
It is my understanding that Vivada anchors it ships during the night and only sails during the day. We always felt safe onboard the ship.
On the second day, we visited a small village, Matiari in Katwa, where copper products are produced. We simply walked off the ship and into the bustling village life. We walked into “homes” where manufacturing took place. Denise wrote: “We were traveling through the Bengali countryside, visiting breathtaking temples and mosques, arriving at ghats, exploring villages that have not changed in centuries–no electricity, houses made with decorative cow dung, mules for transport, oxen plowing the fields, goats, chickens and of course dogs everywhere. Cottage industries included metal pot makers and weavers.”
The third day we visited Murshidabad and the Hazarduari Palace. Built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for the Nawab Najim Humaaun Jah. The palace has been converted into a museum and has a collection of 3,000 artifacts. We also visited KathGola, a palace complex with endless gardens, ponds and temples.
On day four, we were in Kalna. Here perhaps the most impressive 18th century terra-cotta temples are located. We also visited Shantipur, famous for its weaving and saris. And finally, we called at Chandranagor, a French colonial town. Here we went to the Duplex Fort which is now a museum of the colonial pasts (French, Portugese, Dutch, English, Danish).
We returned to Kolkata at about 6pm.
In general, during shore excursions we used ponies, rickshaws, golf-carts as transportation – or we simply walked from ship right into villages. We experienced village life up-close and personal, including copper and weaving productions. We also visited ancient temples, museums and historic European colonies.
On the Ganges, there is some fishing and some wildlife, including dolphins, hawks and a variety of birds. On shore, there are monkeys in some villages. One of my favorite experiences on this trip was watching a woman chasing a monkey, who was stealing the food she was preparing, out of her house!
There was great entertainment at night, including Indian dances and musicians. The dancers and musicians are highly skilled professionals. One night we also saw a BBC documentary on the Ganges, and one guest presented a slide-show from her safari in Africa.
The Paramhamsa ship itself needs some interior work and refurbishment and this work is scheduled for April 2017. I can’t wait to return after refurbishment when each cabin will have French balconies.
We were embraced by the extremely friendly, interesting and engaging Indian guests and I hope we made some lasting friendships.
In conclusion, the Ganges is far away for Americans, but a river cruise there offers a wonderful, safe and peaceful way to see the true India.