It was, I think, two and a half weeks before my birthday that Tathagata asked me over breakfast whether I could take a leave from work on my birthday. I was immediately excited! Of course I could. It’s my birthday after all. With a hint of smile at the corners of his mouth, he brandished his phone. On the screen were two tickets to Chandipur! I couldn’t be happier!
Chandipur is a neatly nested, cozy, sort-of-a beach resort on the Bay of the Bengal. It falls under the Balasore district of Odisha and is a good 16-kilometres away from the nearest railway station. Since the monsoon hadn’t completely left the land yet, all we could see for those 16-kilometres were sweeps of lush green meadows and gushing waterways as far as our eyes could stretch on both sides of the road. A few mud and bamboo huts were scattered here and there.
After about an hour or so through the avenues of tall, dark green canopy of trees, our auto pulled up at the hotel. OTDC Panthanivas Chandipur. It’s a government-run hotel and quite opposite to what you would expect of a government-run hotel. If you are ever at Chandipur, I would recommend you to stay here without a shadow of doubt. The Panthanivas campus is huge and comprises two hotel buildings, a restaurant, a private beach, a garden, a children’s park, a large car park, a pub and a banquet hall. It has two gates leading to the sea of which one is open for the visitors. We put up at ground-floor room that faced the beautifully groomed garden. Also, Room No. 201 is quite popular since it’s one of the many rooms that have a beautiful beach-view and is available for online booking. The staff is excellent and so is the service.
Inhabitants of the beach include a handful of stalls (selling puffed rice, wafers, coconut water and a bit of rural handicraft) and the largest goat family who would push you, nudge you and poke you to eat the puffed rice off your hands if you aren’t careful. The private beach area is cemented with a series of steps leading down to the sea.
One of the things that’s unique to Chandipur is the tide. The high tide pushes the sea right up about 5-6 steps on the beach. But the low tide pulls the water about 5 kilometres away. It’s an amazing phenomenon to watch!
Chandipur beach is usually scarcely populated, making it a quiet and relaxing place. In other words, there isn’t much to do at Chandipur. So, being an adventuresome duo, we usually plan our outings in a way that stretches us out too thin. Why? Because it leaves us with a bunch of beautiful, beautiful memories and zero regrets. True to that, we packed a lot of activities for the following day.
We hired the OTDC car for the entire day. They provided us with a striking red Innova and an amazing and skilled driver, Pappu Da. If you ever plan a trip like this, ask for him. He’s the best. He is a simple, kind and helpful man who perfectly understands your expectations from the trip, which songs to play for the road trip, when to talk and when to keep quiet. In fact, most of the people of Chandipur are like him. Simple. Friendly. Kind.
Our first stop was the Balaramgadi Temple. A beautiful and relaxing temple surrounded by a pond and overlooking a rabbit park.
We made the next stop at the Emami Jagannath Temple. It’s an intricately designed replica of the Puri Jagannath temple that sits on a chariot and is spread across a vast expanse of land complete with a wishing well, fountains, tiny gardens and other temples dedicated to various Gods.
Next up. Devkund. 90 kilometres from Chandipur, Devkund falls under the Udala district. It’s a confluence of 5 waterfalls with a Durga temple at their source. Surrounded by Simlipal mountain range, the dense Simlipal forest and stretches of green fields and DRDO missile testing areas, the road to Devkund is quite another story. You would constantly feel the enormity and the beauty of Nature around you. It’s daunting and exhilarating at the same time. The road is pretty much deserted and we took a few hits of rain on the way.
Devkund is open for entry till 2 pm and you need to be in your car and out of the forest by 5 pm. The last few kilometres to Devkund is through the forest which means the road is heavily potholed. You cannot take your car beyond a certain distance. So, we parked it right before the sort-of bridge that goes over the stream formed by the waterfalls. This overpass leads to a narrow path through the forest and to the 340 steps to the temple. The stream on this day, was flowing with a particularly strong current generating from the height of the waterfall. The current was so strong that the water had turned white. Beyond the overpass, the path was deserted. Pappu Da tagged along. The 340 steps almost broke our backs but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We even spotted two wild, red squirrels with bushy tails on our way back!
A quick lunch later, we headed to Panchalingeswar. Named after the 5 Shivalingas that are enshrined inside, this temple is situated at the top of a railinged staircase of 260 steps. And we are never too tired to climb.
Last stop, the Nilgiri Palace. The palace has lost its charm but I have a strong imagination. Standing outside the old structure, I could visualize its power – the beautifully marbled floor with square patterns, the gorgeous yellow chandelier, the heavy red curtains, the large hand-swung fans, the dark wooden furniture, the grand rose-scented hall, the thick pillars, the stout cushions, the soft sound of ghazals. When I opened my eyes I could still feel the grandeur in the ruin. We even spotted the not-so-well-decked king sitting outside the palace with his army of bodyguards who didn’t look very happy about our peeking.
By the time we returned to the hotel, it was past evening and we were drained. But who can resist the sea? We quickly changed and stepped out. The sound of the sea can heal eveything. The breeze washed over us. I closed my eyes and gave in. The sea knows. The stars know. I had everything I ever wished for.
We had our return tickets booked for the next day. We spent the morning at the beach.
The only good thing about the train-ride back was the ice-cream. Not that the train journey was bad. But the feeling that the vacation has come to an end is always sore. Until next time.
If you are planning to head to Chandipur, I would recommend the off-season. That’s when you would be able to catch the wild and unkempt beauty of Nature. Also, the crowd is less. However, that would definitely come at a cost. For us, it was the Kuldiha forest tour. I’ve heard it’s a real crowd-puller. But Kuldiha forest is out of bounds during the rainy season (and we would probably come back for it someday). Even then the off-season is the best time to visit. You can’t have everything in life, you know. With a little luck, you might even get to hear some lovely stories of childhood from the restaurant manager.