Visiting Kolkata in India.

About the huge City of Kolkata, West Bengal, India - how to get there and so on.

The Lower Ganges Delta City of Kolkata was formed by The East India Company as a fortified port and trading area in the late 17th century and encompassed three villages named Govindapur, Sutanuti and Kolkata. Following sporadic attacks by the French and an attack on the Company by the Nawab of Bengal - the latter leading to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta massacre - the fortifications were developed by Clive of India into what is now the huge Fort William. Named after King William of England the fort is bordered by the Hooghly River on one side and by Maidan Gardens which is a substantial green open area on the other. Fort William (Fort William Map) is now occupied by the Indian Army and it is virtually impossible for anyone to be allowed in and take a look round the huge fortifications unfortunately.

Getting there - Flights to Kolkata, Indian Railways and so on.

The airport for Kolkata boasts the somewhat large name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport - so is known usually simply as Kolkata Airport or sometimes Dum Dum Airport (after the district it lies in). Getting the approximately 16kms too and fro the airport is usually easiest by taxi or fast buses - the taxis are pre-paid so it's best / unnecessary to consider any touts who approach you.
Direct international flights fly into Chennai from destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kunming in China. The international airlines using the airport include AirAsia, Qatar Airways, Thai Air, Air France, Virgin, Singapore Airlines and Dragonair. Domestic airlines include JetKonnect, Jet Airways, GOAir, Air India, Indigo, Spicejet and these provide sometimes many a day flights to places such as Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ranchi, Jaipur, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow.
Howrah Railway Station, Kolkata, India.Railways - the main long distance railway station for Kolkata is located on the western side of the Hooghly River at Howrah - which means crossing the river by the beautiful Howrah Girder Bridge. The entrance to the station is immediately at the end of the bridge and the whole area is total chaos with buses, autos, bikes, carts and people everywhere - and lots of traffic police with sticks failing to control any of it. The massive station complex provides long distance links to a variety of places in India including Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Jodhpur, Bhubaneswar, Vasco da Gama (Goa), Patna, Ajmer, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Pune, Ahmedabad and Puri. For anyone not familiar with the station you certainly need to use a railway porter and stay close to him since finding the right platform and carriage would be otherwise all but impossible.
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Places of Interest in the Howrah area of Calcutta - Howrah Bridge and the River, Mallick Flower Market and the Botanical Gardens.

An interesting thing to do - which does ultimately involve some walking - is to get an auto over the river to the Botanical Gardens which lie against the western bank of the Hooghly. Then from there get a ride back to Howrah Station and walk over the bridge and take a look at the very colourful Mallick Flower Market.

Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden near Shalimar in Kolkata.

Established originally in the late 1700s by an officer in the British East India Company and known as the Indian Botanic Garden, the initial purpose of the gardens was to find plants which could be of commercial value to the company such as spices and teak. The gardens are responsible for the establishment of the tea-trade in India with specimens brought in from China - the end result being the successful tea-trade in Assam and the Himalayas. The gardens were enhanced by the famous British botanist William Roxburgh with what became an extensive Herbarium - sending specimens to museums around the world.
Botanical Gardens, Shalimar, Calcutta, Kolkata, India. Botanical Gardens Pond Kolkata, Kolkata, India. Botanical Gardens lake, Kolkata, India. Botanical Gardens pond, Kolkata, India.
These days the gardens have reverted to just a huge sort of park with lots of walkways going between un-named trees - there are a variety of ponds and small lakes which are beautiful and the area is very peaceful. Sadly the border with the Hooghly River is laced with a high ugly fence which does much to spoil any view of the river. There are no facilities at all including even water - well there are a couple of water spouts but you would have to be mad to drink from them. Bear in mind that you cannot take water in with you if it is in a plastic bottle. This does of course help to keep the area free of most litter. In typical Indian fashion the area - although kept reasonably tidy - has lost it's purpose and has been neglected. Beside the river you can see quite a few greenhouses which must have once housed various plants but these are in a terrible state of repair and you cannot go in them.
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden pond, Kolkata, India. Botanical Gardens Banyan Tree, Kolkata, India. Botanical Gardens Banyan Tree, Kolkata, India. Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden Banyan Tree, Kolkata, India.
The gardens are famous for the existence of a huge Banyan Tree (The Great Banyan) which is said to be the largest in the world. There is no charge to go into the gardens however they will take a small fee if you are seen to have a camera with you.

Walking from Howrah Railway Station over the Hooghly via Howrah Bridge and looking at the Mallick Flower Market in Calcutta.

If you take an auto and get dropped off at Howrah Station then you can look at the station's chaos and then cross the river via it's beautiful old bridge and then look at the very colourful market on the east side of the Hooghly. Major Indian railway stations are always chaotic to say the least and couple this with a road junction at the end of the bridge plus the entrance to the station and the whole thing is almost unbeleivable but certainly interesting.
Howrah Railway Station, Kolkata, India.
Howrah Railway Station
Howrah Bridge  crossing The Hooghly River in Calcutta, India.
Howrah Bridge Calcutta
Howrah Bridge taxis, Kolkata, India.
Howrah Bridge taxis
Howrah Suspension Bridge, Kolkata, India.
Howrah Bridge
A little about Howrah Bridge. Originally there was a pontoon bridge linking Calcutta and Howrah which was completed in 1874 - this of course had to be opened periodically to allow shipping to pass. Eventually it was obvious that the pontoon bridge needed replacing and initially this was planned to be another floating bridge - albeit much higher up from the river to allow shipping.  However this plan was changed and it was decided to construct a suspension bridge instead. Nothing actually happened until after WW1 when The Cleveland Bridge + Engineering Company in England commenced construction in 1936. The cantilever suspension bridge is made from hight-tensile alloy steel and the entire structure is rivetted - it has a total span of 705 metres, reaches a height of 82 metres and is just under 22 metres wide. The longest span is just under 458 metres - the bridge was opened in 1943 and is one of the longest of this type of bridge in the world.
Hooghly River Calcutta, Kolkata, India.
Hooghly River Calcutta
Hooghly River ferry, Kolkata, India.
Hooghly River ferry
Hooghly River ghat, Kolkata, India.
Hooghly River ghat
Hooghly River Ferry, Kolkata, India.
Hooghly River Ferry
The bridge has quite wide walkways so is fine and safe to cross despite the incredible amount of trafic in the centre lanes. There are really good views of the river - various small boats and ferries passing by and you can see a variety of ghats on the river bank as well as a riverside Mosque. At the far end of the bridge i.e. the Calcutta side, you immediately come across Mallick Ghat Flower Market - an amazingly colourful and busy area. It's really interesting just to hang around here for a while and watch everything going on.
Hooghly River, Kolkata, India.
Hooghly River
Armenian Ghats, Kolkata, India.
Armenian Ghats
Mallick Flower Market Kolkata, Kolkata, India.
Mallick Flower Market
Mallick Ghat Flower Market stalls, Kolkata, India.
Mallick Flower Market
Mallick Flower Market, Kolkata, India.
Mallick Flower Market
Mallick Flower Market, Kolkata, India.
Mallick Flower Market
Mallick Ghat Mosque, Kolkata, India.
Mallick Ghat Mosque
Mallick Flower Market Ghat in Kolkata, India.
Mallick Flower Market
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