It is New Year time and many of you would have partied in Goa. But for many of the others, the Goa plan just doesn’t seem to work out. For all you folks we bring another beach option – Digha. We visited this shore of Bay of Bengal recently and are very happy with the experience.
We took a flight to Kolkata and there are many modes to reach Digha from here. One can drive (great roads), hire a cab, take a tourist bus or take the train. Whichever mode of transport you choose, it takes about 4 hours from Kolkata. We wanted to experience more of Bengal and took the train Tamralipta Express. It started early in the morning from Santragachhi, a satellite railway station in Kolkata and dropped us in Digha by noon.
Given the enormous popularity of Digha among the people from West Bengal, it is crowded throughout the year. The rush increases in school holiday seasons though. To balance the crowd, the adjacent area has been developed as New Digha which is a tad less crowded than Digha. There are many hotels and restaurants in Digha and boarding or food should not be a problem even if one has not booked ahead. But we had already booked an Oyo room in old Digha that was about 15 minutes taxi ride from the station.
The sea is quite close to where we had stayed. It was roaring aggressively – Digha sea is way more violent than that in Goa. The waves are bigger and energetic and high tides can be precarious. Although the sea strongly beckons you to dive in, it could get fatal if one does something silly like entering the sea inebriated or going very deep without professional support, . There are warnings all across the beaches and coast guards patrol the place throughout the day and evening. The weather was equatorial – bearably warm and sticky. The beaches are lined with pine and date palm trees.
The beach in old Digha was slippery. One of us had slipped there the previous evening. The other one slipped while saving the first one. Just like the second biscuit that gets dipped in chai while saving the first one. The beaches in New Digha were more suitable for bathing. So early in the morning, before the sun became very strong, we gathered our towels and some money and headed to New Digha on e-rickshaw (it is called tuk-tuk here) for the dip. Any valuables and wallets were left back in the hotel room. Once we reached the New Digha beach, we kept our clothes with a nariyal wala in barter for buying coconut water.
The sea was friends with us from the word go. The water was not very cold although the waves reached up to our height at times and drenched us completely. Once we got adjusted to the salinity and the tide, we waded inside. We went till the point where there were people and that was quite deep. The crowd was family friendly and we saw people of all ages – children to seniors bathing in the sea. There were trained lifeguards in the sea so people felt safe. Sea bathing was our most important activity in this trip and we spent about 2 hours in the water at each go.
The other must-dos include walking along the beach and in the pine forests, eating fried / grilled fish from the stalls near the beach. The fish here is collected from the fresh catch and hence the bhetki, pomfret and the tiger prawns that we had at the shack was as tasty as it can get. There is no dearth of tea and coffee stalls here. We loved the jhal muri and bhel puri at the beach. Oh yes, drinking in public is not allowed but there are enough wine shops for you to have a tippler in private.
Shell and mother of pearl figurines and ornaments are available at various stalls here and we found these got a lot of female attention. We bought some souvenirs for folks and friends from here. Cashew is a local produce and is widely available for sale. We tasted and bought some of this as well.
Last but not the least, we loved the early morning walk to the sea beach to see the sun rise. The interplay of bright colours on the sky and its reflection on the shimmering expanse of water is a picture in the mind for life. And yes, this was a lovely action time for our Nikon. The sun rise in Digha is well worth sacrificing the early morning sleep.
We spent 2 days and 3 nights in Digha and that is comfortable timing here. However the sea is addictive and you can stay longer spending time by simply sitting on the beach and counting the waves. It could be a meditative process.
In fact, we are told one can also visit other beach areas such as Mandarmani and Mukutmanipur from Digha. These sea sides have also been developed by the Government of West Bengal as tourist spots. Digha lies on the Bengal-Orissa border. So if you have an extra day, you can cross over and visit the ancient Shiva temple at Chandeshwar in Orissa as this is only approximately 8 km away from Digha. We however did not cover the above sites in this trip as we did not have extra time and Digha was sufficiently engaging any way.
And, as we are told, Digha trips don’t get cancelled so often.