The roaring waves of Bay of Bengal engulf the golden sands, and beside it blows the flag of Jagannath Temple. Stepping on the soft sands of Puri beach is like experiencing Nirvana. Puri is a pilgrimage, that is why it is abundant in ancient stone temples.
Trip To Puri
When I planned my trip to Puri, it was on a whim. But as it was off-season, I did not face any difficulty in finding tickets or hotels. If you travel to India and want to take a look at some of the old traditions, then Puri is a refreshing place to go. It is not just about an overload of temples, but also the rejuvenating beaches.
THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS
As I live in Western Odisha, it was no biggie for me to reach Puri. I took the train Sambalpur-Puri Intercity Express (18303), which leaves at 6 in the morning. According to me, the best way of exploring India is through the Indian railways. That is why I enjoyed my train journey.
There were many bridges, over the Mahanadi River on which the train went. Along with the watery delights, you see the landscape change from arid to coconut tree studded. If you start from Delhi, then the journey becomes too long. So take a flight to Bhubaneswar, from there reach the railway station or the bus station.
There are regular trains from Bhubaneswar to Puri, but the City Bus service is better (frequent and fast).
My train took me directly to Puri, so I did not have to change trains or buses. But if your route is via Bhubaneswar (60 Km from Puri) then you need to board a train or Bus. It costs just Rs 20 – Rs. 30.
ACCOMMODATION IN PURI
There are many hotels along the Beach, that you get confused on which one to pick. I recommend you download the Goibibo app while you tour India because it offers you hotels at half the price of what you pay at the desk. Toshali Sands, Mayfair Hotels are the brand names in Puri, but they are a helluva expensive.
If $150/day is okay with you then book all these high-end hotels, if not then there are many hotels with low price. I landed an amazing deal on GoIbibo-Sagar Tarang Residency is an exceptionally new property. But the services they offered was impressive at just $25/day (which is 1500 Indian Rupees per day).
Most of the hotels here have their own restaurant, the one I stayed in had one too. But it was so darned pricey! *eye rolls*. So, I did what the best in Eastern Odisha is, I tasted the “Dahi Bara” for breakfast, “Elisi Macha” for my lunch, and “Chingudi Tarkari” for my dinner.
I know, I know, you must be wondering what I am saying. Lemme clear it up in the next section.
A hungry stomach is just a hindrance while sightseeing. Your hotel desk will keep calling you to take breakfast or dinner at the Restaurant. Who cares! Just a grilled Sandwich costs you Two hundred rupees. I will tell you how to survive in the same Rs. 200 throughout the day.
In walking distance from all the hotels are many street food stalls. I ended up in one, near the Chakra Tirtha Road. The man sold “Dosa”- South Indian Cuisine, “Aloo- Chop”, meaning Mashed Potato Chop, “Bread Chop” and the famous “Dahi Bara”- a curd based dish. It costs around 30-40 Indian Rupees.
After that, for lunch, there was a small restaurant (with no name) in Chakra Tirtha Road (near Mayfair Heritage) which made yummy homemade dishes. Pack the dishes, take them to your hotel room, and relish it. I packed “Elisi (special Odishan Fish Curry),” Raita (yogurt salad), Rice and Dal. It cost me hardly 200( and above all it was finger licking good).
It is here that I tasted the Prawn Pamphlet Masala the next night, and dare I say, it was bottle –worthy. If I could have bottled it up and brought home, I would have.
For Dinner, I went to the SeaGull Restaurant which rests near the SwargaDwar Market. I wolfed down a plate of Chicken Chowmein (Rs. 140 Indian). If you think it costs too much, then head to the nearby street food stalls that offer you all kinds of local cuisines.
And how can I forget the lip-smacking, drool-worthy Hyderabadi Biriyani? Take the fifth turn from Sea Gull Restaurant on Marine Drive Road; The Gopal Ballabh Road has the best Biriyani Joint – New Parijat Restaurant. It is cheap and tasty, and whether you pick it up as a take-out or have it here depends on your mood.
SUN HAS RISEN FOR YOU
Waking up in the early morning is a chore when you are tired. But the effort you give pays off when you see the sun peek out of the horizon. Wake up at four, get ready for comfy clothes then walk down to the beach.
The Swargdwar Beach is famous but crowded. So I headed to the beach of Mayfair Heritage Hotel which was at a walking distance from mine. I sat down, on the secluded beach and watched how colorfully the crimson sun kissed the horizon.
The water changes its color as the sun changes its distance from the horizon, it is amazing to witness the phenomenon. Slowly the intensity of the sun rays increases, and the cold dawn turns to warm morning.
It is fun just to sit there and get the sun-soaked, and collect the shells. But after a while, the cool waves seem tempting. Go, walk on the small waves, or better bath in the bigger ones.
If you stay here till 11 am, then some fishers go fishing at this time (they wear yellow, so it is easy to recognize them,) by launching their boats on the water.
The entire process is interesting to watch. After 11 though the rays become harsh and it is better to get back to your hotel room. (Keeping in mind at which time of the year you visit).
DRIVE ALONG THE OCEAN
Traveling alone comes with its cons as well, so when I heard about the Puri–Konark Marine Drive Road, I could not resist it. And even though I know a little about riding a bike, I took the chance. My guide, though (who was the receptionist at the front desk of my hotel), did not want me to break my leg or anything.
He took the responsibility to take me on the drive. There are three Bike rentals in Puri, but you need to book it seven days before your trip.
As I did not have the booking, we were forced to take my guide’s bike. The Puri-Konark Marine Drive Road itself takes 7 hours. But if you take the shortcuts, your journey time reduces to half, and you get to visit the Konark as well.
I did not visit the Konark Temple but I did see the Jagannath Temple of Puri where the famous Rath Yatra takes place.
Shopping is every girl’s weakness (well, at least to some degree). Please do not tell me you don’t like it. My eyes always keep wandering while I am out, to spot something worthy to take home. I will tell you that Puri has a lot of mementos shop. But for hardcore shopping, it is not an appropriate place.
Before I went on my evening visit to the Beach (which I did on nearly every day of my stay), I wandered around the Swargadwar market. This market is like a puzzle, so many twists and turns that you will lose yourself. There are tiny shops, crowded with tourists and the atmosphere here is electric.
Girls, buy a handloom saree in Handloom Garden. It embodies the culture, tradition, and religion of Puri in a single piece of cloth. What more? It will make your friends jealous when you flaunt that waistline of yours with Puri Handloom Saree.
If saree is a bit too much, there are shawls also to take home with you. I collected the best memento I could- some pieces of shells from the Beach. Couldn’t have been happier with anything else.