The maddening bustle of the metropolitan city can drive one crazy. While Kolkata has a plentitude of historical monuments and is soaked in rich culture, heritage and foods, yet there are moments when one wishes they could run away and be lost for a while in the midst of nature. Raichak on Ganges is a perfect day-long getaway option, about 50 kilometers away from Kolkata, on the Diamond Harbour Road. The journey is not entirely smooth but offers interesting sights of a busy suburban market life along the way.
A BIT ABOUT THE PAST
In 1783, the Raichak Fort was built to protect the travelers from pirates who took the river route to rob and destroy the ships. After the British left India, the fort lay barren and neglected until the late 1990s when it was converted into a hotel. Today, Raichak on Ganges, is an exotic resort nestled in the midst of nature.
The resort boasts of villas, rooms, and apartments. The rooms of Ganga Kutir overlook the pristine waters of the Ganges and offer mesmerizing views. Sundarawasala, are duplex pool villas with the luxury of a swimming pool right outside your doorstep.
A DAY AT FORT RAICHAK
While spending the weekend in Raichak on Ganges is ideal, in my brief holiday to Kolkata, I could only manage a day at the resort. Dining at Sonar Tori, the flagship restaurant is an experience. A walk up the ramp makes way to a baithak- khana. Vintage furniture, rustic decor, big urns, paintings in distressed frames, and artifacts greet the visitors. It’s like a walk down into the old world yore. Crossing a courtyard with seating under a thatched roof the alley enters into a zamindar baari. It is a room soaked in history and showcases the erstwhile grandeur and lavish lifestyle of the Zamindars with the architecture having influences of Hindu, Islamic and colonial styles. King sized bed, a huge bronze platter on the wall, a roundtable with numerous antiquated brass oil lamps, huge portraits all combine an element of royalty with old world charm.
Sonar Tori is a restaurant with a character of its own. Conceptualised and designed by the well-known designer Sabyasachi, it is no surprise that the decor takes your breath away. The cluster of brass urns make for a spectacular ceiling chandelier and the sketches, the handwritten quotes and poems of Rabindranath Tagore on the ceiling keeps you intrigued for a few minutes. The melodious songs of Rabindra Sangeet fill the room and the brass pieces and the sepia photographs that adorn the walls welcome you to the warmth and hospitality of Bengal.
Be ready! The food on the menu is a journey through the entire course of Bengali traditional thali with the non vegetarian fanfare. This traditional thali includes Luchi, Gobindo bhog rice, Begun Bhaja, Shukto, seasonal vegetables, moong dal, Chingri malai curry, Bhetkii Paturi, kosha mangsho, pulao, and chutney. Payesh, Rajbhog and Mishti Doi make perfect endings to a good meal. No denying the thali is fit for a king or in Sonar Tori, fit for a zamindar and perhaps why its aptly called a Sonar Tori Zamindar Thali and is priced at Rs 1500 plus taxes. The Sonar Tori Bhojer Thali caters to people who don’t fancy red meats or crustaceans but prefer chicken instead. The thali then includes Kosha Murgi, a varied form of Kosha Mangsho using Chicken in its place. (Rs 950 plus taxes)
For the vegetarians, the Sonar Tori Grameen thali offers a medley of flavors in the variety of vegetables served including Jhingee Aloo Poshto and Chanar Kalia and is decently priced at Rs 750 plus taxes.
One of the most beautiful spots where I spent a lot of time was the place where boats have been placed on the greens just below Sonar Tori. I spent a good half hour taking one shot after another. Overall, Raichak on Ganges is truly a photographer’s delight. There are a thousand nooks, corners, and angles that can reveal some stunning effects.
A long walk around the property serenaded with greens took me to the riverside. I inhaled the purity in the air and watched a lone fisherman catching his lot from the river. A solitary goat passed by. The fragrance of white blossom of the frangipani trees wafted in the air. Everything was calm and perfect. It’s moments like these that are so essential for us to refuel our worn out souls before the madness of the city life engulfs us once again.
The sky was getting deeper. I headed off to “Reflections” the coffee shop in the resort for a cappuccino and cookies before I headed out. There’s so much more I wanted to explore that would be left undone like taking a ferry across to Haldia or the walks and boat rides along the river or to learn more about Bengal’s colonial history at Raichak Fort. Perhaps, it’s good that I wasn’t able to accomplish everything. It will give me another reason to return soon. As the car drove out of the property I looked back. The fort looked majestic and glowed in the warmth of the lights. I gave it one last long look to capture in my mind before the car turned and sped off in the depth of the night.
Things to remember:
- The best way to travel to Raichak is by car. The distance from Kolkata is 50 km and takes approximately 2 hours.
- The Diamond Harbour is an interesting tourist place. This is the place where the Ganga turns south to merge into the Bay of Bengal.
- Chingrihkali Fort and the lighthouse at Diamond Harbour are other places of interest. The Chingrihkali fort was built by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century and was used as a warehouse and a place where the soldiers lived. It lies in ruins but makes an interesting place to visit. Close to the fort is the lighthouse, built two decades ago, that continues to guide the inbound ships on a dark night.
- Raichak on Ganges is an ideal place for nature lovers. Take long, leisurely walks around the resort and along the river. Relax. Indulge in a spa at Anaaya at the resort.