At 530am local time (1230pm PST), Niklas and I arrived at Copenhagen Airport, 30 minutes earlier than our Singapore Airlines ETD of 6am. After completing our immigration check (two minutes!) and being warned of the cold by the lady immigration officer, we set out to pick our luggage and brace ourselves for the freezing cold. It’s 3 degrees, says Merete, Niklas’ mom, as she and Claes, Niklas’ dad, met us. As I prepared myself to cross the revolving door between the airport’s comfortable 22-degree temp and the ear-numbing 3 degree temp outside, I still can’t believe that we finally are here in Copenhagen, in Denmark, in Europe!
I am not necessarily a fan of prince charming and fairy tale endings but I’ve always been interested with royalty and period films centered on their lives—such as the movie Young Victoria. So much so that when I was in Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta as in the British Raj’s former capital in India, I decided to visit the Victoria Memorial.
Before my visit, which was part of my 10-day vacation dubbed “The Great Eastern Journey”, I did not even know about Victoria Memorial. Or what it is exactly. I only assumed that it was, like the Gateway of India in Mumbai, a colonial structure meant to commemorate the power of the British Raj during their reign in India.
Julie has been to Kolkata a few times before (since she lived in Bhubaneshwar which was just an overnight train away) and apart from Mother Theresa’s tomb (which I missed coz they’re closed on Thursdays, the day I was there!), the Victoria Memorial is the other place she recommended for me to visit. Jane, my co-volunteer based in Kolkata, gave me directions after we three decided to split up in the afternoon to do our own thing.
I can’t remember the directions anymore but Victoria Memorial and other colonial structures and areas are found in the Esplanade locality. I think once you are in Esplanade, tourist spots are basically walkable. You can also ask for directions, which I did. As I said, Victoria Memorial is one of the top attractions and the guava peddler (the red chili and salt mix was too good!) easily gave me directions to just turn right from the main street and follow the road called King’s Way. He said I won’t miss the Victoria Memorial.
True enough, I found it. I mean, the Victoria memorial is a massive structure made of what I assume is white marble. It truly is hard to miss. Hehe. Besides, as long as you know how to ask directions, in broken English, Hindi or body language, people in the street can help you find the place you are looking for.
Speaking in Hindi, at the entrance gate, actually helped me score a 10-rupee instead of 150-rupee ticket. With my northeast Indian features and a simple “Ek ticket do, saarji!” phrase, I managed to get the local price. And no, it was not illegal as I held a residency permit at the time. So, with that and because it was too hot with too many people in the queue under the scorching sun to enter the Victoria Memorial building itself, I chose to eat my red chilli-ed guava and some biscuits under the shade in the garden, while the birds chirped away.
After my food ran out, and realizing that the queue isn’t really getting shorter, I decided to fall in line and wait for my turn to enter the building. Actually, the Victoria Memorial did not have as much items as you would expect of a museum. And, I didn’t enjoy it much since there were too many people at the same time, walking around in a line as in a procession. And photos are not allowed inside the halls! Not that there was a sign but I saw that the guards meant it when they snatched a camphone away from its teenage owner who tried to reason with them but ended up getting scolded at. Scary.
It was better after the first area by the entrance as the hall was bigger (I assumed it’s the center area, under the dome) and was again much better once I climbed up to the next floor. Not that there was much to see in the floor itself but because it gave you a view of the garden at the back. It made me feel like Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice at Derbyshire with Mr. Darcy. (cheesy!!!)
After letting my imagination flow, I moved on to the back garden to enjoy a greener and more peaceful part of the grounds and see the Victoria Memorial at a different angle and perspective.
I liked what I saw. I mean, I liked it enough to recommend for you to visit it whenever you happen to be at Calcutta. Especially if you are interested in architecture. Apart from eating yummy Bengali fish curry, riding the trams and pulled richskaws, might as well add the Victoria Memorial to the list and enjoy the scenery and gardens and be transported to the time of royalties and majesties!
I miss Mumbai. There, I said it. I lived in Navi Mumbai (New Bombay, totally different twin city) and I would go to South Bombay (aka SoBo) whenever me and my friends would go out for dinner and drinks. Why SoBo and not in Bandra, the party/gimik capital of Mumbai? I think it’s mainly because it is more accessible and hanging out in Colaba has a more chill vibe. Not to mention, I personally find South Mumbai more pleasant to walk through, with more character and history than the upscale Bandra area.
Needless to say, South Bombay and Colaba is also the most touristy. But hey, when you live in the city, you don’t really mind the mix of the local and foreign crowd. You enjoy it. People-watching and all. Being a foreigner myself, though I am not as tourist as the newly-arrived ones anymore, I always find something new to discover in Mumbai.
Anyway, I am not in a talking (writing) mood much today. Unless I want to end up too nostalgic to function. Haha. Therefore, I would jus want to share with you the images of Colonial Mumbai. I always call South Bombay the British area, primarily because the structures you would see closely resemble what you would find in London. I think (as referenced to movies and TV series).
I’ve included here a series of photographs, showing these British colonial structures. I tried my best to put them in the walking order, although my memory might be messed up already since there were some turns during these several walkthrough of South Mumbai.
I hope you enjoyed these virtual walking tour of South Bombay. Maybe you’ll get to walk through Colonial Mumbai someday too! I’ve heard several mixed reviews of being a tourist in Mumbai. Admittedly, the city can be unnerving and overwhelming but hey, give it more than a day or two and surely, you’ll get to know and feel it’s vibe too. If you need a walking guide (especially for couchsurfers), let me know and I might introduce you to a friend or two who may be able to show you around Colaba, South Mumbai and the rest of the city!
The most iconic monument of Hyderabad in Andra Pradesh (south India), Charminar is said to have been built between 1589 to 1592 BC (dates are not still debatable). It was supposed to be a monument to commemorate the founding of a new capital and the end of a plague. Charminar was commissioned by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Golconda Sultanate. Learn more about Chaminar at Wikipedia.
Beside Charminar is the Mecca Masjid (Makkah Masjid), one of the oldest mosques in India. It is called Mecca Masjid as Qutb Shah ordered the soil from Mecca to be made into bricks that were used in building the Masjid. Learn more about Mecca Masjid at Wikipedia.
Reminder: Women going inside the Charminar are not permitted alone, for some reasons I did not understand, nor explained. My CouchSurfing host Bhavesh for my Hyderabad/Secunderabad trip also was not able to explain. However, a dark secret was shared while we were on top: it’s a suicidal area, much like the famous bridges where people jump! Scary! This is also why visitors were limited to only the “first landing” area of the Charminar, which by the way is about six-floors high! So get ready! (I wasn’t as I was still carrying my weekender pack with additional sarees I just bought!)
The view from the top of Charminar lets you see the other major landmarks of Hyderabad like the High Court and Patel Market (garments and pearls) on one side, Laad Bazaar (bangles market) on another, then the Makkah Masjid area, and a former palace turned into a college and hospital. Hyderabad, actually, is called the City of Palaces, among its other monikers!