FotoFolio: The Holy City of Jagannath Puri, Odisha, East India

As part of my great East Indian journey where I saw my first snow-capped mountain in Darjeeling and learned more about colonial India in Kolkata two years ago while volunteering in India, I paid my VSO batchmate co-volunteer Sue a visit at her placement area in Puri, Odisha.

Temple sand art for Lord Ganesha at Puri Beach (shamelessly taken from Sue’s blog)

It didn’t matter that it took me an overnight train journey to get to this coastal town by the Bengal Bay. It also didn’t matter that I was gonna stay with them for just a night, I think not even 24 hours, and be back on my way to Mumbai from Odisha’s capital city, Bhubaneswar (that was a 36-hour journey from East to West I think). What mattered was that I was finally able to see Sue, who was such an inspiration to me, during the time we were both struggling and somehow thriving living and working as volunteers in a foreign land, with all its good and bad days!

In this FotoFolio entry (which was inspired by a talk with a colleague traveling to Bhubaneshwar soon), let me show you how we made the most of my super short stay in one of the four holy / pilgrimage cities in India. Too bad Julie (also a VSO batchmate who traveled with me to Kolkata and Darjeeling), Amanda (another batchmate) and Ayumi (my co-volunteer since training in the Philippines) who were all based in Bhubaneshwar were also traveling somewhere else! In any case, it was still a visit that was worth it! 🙂

Day 1: Arriving and Connecting

On the first day, I think I got to Sue’s place already around mid-day. I remember visiting their organization’s office (SNDAYP). I wasn’t able to visit the resource center she helped build (as in raised the funds and designed it) for children with disabilities as it was far from where we were.

Opening of the SNDAYP Support Service Centre for Children with Disability (shamelessly stolen from Sue’s blog)

Most of the photos here are the “fun and touristy” bits though. Too bad I wasn’t able to take pictures of her with the kids, one of whom I distinctly remember to not even being able to stand up before Sue worked with him but has since been able to walk. It was a proud moment, really, in Sue’s eyes as he rushes towards her and gives her a hug!

Train - Kolkata to Bhubaneswar
Morning after – waking up to this while on the train from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar
The restaurant adorned with Saura paintings
The restaurant by Puri beach adorned with Saura paintings
Early Dinner with Sue Mom
Early Dinner with Sue Mom
My First Crab in India
My First Crab in India – I hope I didn’t scare Sue mom when I devoured this one. Sooooo good!
Fishermen boats by the shore
Fishermen boats by the shore of the Bay of Bengal
Full setting sun
Full setting sun – the shacks give that really rustic vibe (my only issue was the trash everywhere!)
Totally not beach ready -- or can be
Totally not beach ready — or can be (yep, your full salwar kamees is a very very acceptable swimwear especially in conservative Puri)

Day 2: Wandering and Departing

By this day, I’ve already been traveling straight for like 8 or 9 days I think, sleeping on overnight trains and waking up somewhere unfamiliar. Although it was the first time for me to be at Sue and Steph’s place, our VSO co-volunteer and uber co-volunteer of Sue with SNDAYP, it felt familiar that I slept so well. Haha 🙂 I think it was also great to have someone make you a home-cooked meal. 😀

Chicken Pasta by Sue Mom for Breakfast
Chicken Pasta by Sue Mom for Breakfast
Lotus pond by Sue apartment
Lotus pond by Sue’s apartment
Temple by Sue Mom Apartment
A small Hindu temple close to Sue Mom’s apartment

After breakfast, Sue and Steph brought me to the main area, the top tourist attraction in Puri, the Shree Jagannath Temple. This temple is one of the four pilgrimage temples in India. Each year, Hindus hold the famous Rath Yatra to honor Lord Jagannath.  Even though by this time I already had my India culture-shock moment at Varanasi, I was still in awe to a) the population density of locals, tourist and cows in such a small area; and b) the devotion Hindus have for their 330 million gods, goddesses and deities.

There's some old architecture to be seen in Puri, being a very old city
There’s some old architecture to be seen in Puri, being a very old city
Gera the Explorer
Gera the Explorer (before seeing the Shree Jagannath Temple)
Gera the Culture-shocked Tourist
Gera the Culture-shocked Tourist after being in the middle of the road with a million (ok, exagerration) tourists, pilgrims and devotees
Shree Jagannath Temple
See what I mean? There’s a long queue to enter the 12th century Shree Jagannath Temple, even when it’s being repaired. Seriously.
No Entry for Non-Hindu so settled for Photo Op
If you are not a Hindu, don’t even attempt to enter lest you want to be in a big trouble. True story (not mine). No Entry for Non-Hindu so just settled for Photo Op. You have been warned!

After the quick visit to Shree Jagannath Temple area, we went to Cafe Coffee Day (imagine the Starbucks version of a coffee shop in terms of number of stores, seriously). According to Sue and Steph, this is their saving grace. Their access to something, errr, non-Indian and non-spicy whenever they miss the comforts of home.

I miss CCD coffee
I miss CCD coffee too!
Chilling with Steph and Sue Mom at CCD
Chilling with Steph and Sue Mom at CCD

And just like that, it was time to go. 🙂 But it was fun. It was among the highlights of my so-called great East Indian journey. 🙂 In retrospect, it really was. 🙂

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