Weekend means a breath of fresh air to the mundane city life. That happiness of spending a couple of days doing whatever our mind wants doubles up when we plan a short trip to the surrounding countryside or hill-station. Such short trips help us to accumulate enough oxygen, literally and figuratively, to make life healthy and happy.
This time, we decided to spend the weekend in Bakkhali. Though we have visited this not-so-crowded sea-beach a couple of times, still the attraction of strolling on the beach, with the typical smell of seawater and sea fishes around, is always inviting.
We started our journey early in the morning, around 6.30 am. Bakkhali is approximately a four-hour drive from Kolkata, but crossing the Hatania-Doania river on the vessel is often a challenge. There are two vessels, one small and one large; the larger one generally is used to commute eight/ten-sitter cars and other big vehicles. As Bakkhali and Frasergunj are centres of commercial fishing, every day, hundreds of fishing trawlers and numerous small boats accumulate their catch here and, then they are packed and transported to different parts of the city. As per the government’s rule, these fish-carrying trucks are to be given priority while crossing the river on the vessel. The tourist vehicles, hence, have to wait if there is a crowd. However, this time, we proved to be lucky and cleared the vessel passage in less than one hour.
As it was a sudden tour, we had no prior booking and, we decided to stay at the Bay View Hotel in Frasergunj instead of Bakkhali. More than hundred years ago, a British lieutenant general, Andrew Fraser bumped into this side of the Sundarbans while on a hunting spree. He fell in love with the scenic beauty of the place and built a bungalow. The place was later named Frasergunj to commemorate Lt. Gn. Fraser.
Bakkhali beach is a place to relax. One can savour the fresh fried fish sold by the local vendors or walk around to visit the Crocodile Park which is at a stone’s throw from the bus stand. If you want to stay in Bakkhali itself, the WB Government Tourist Lodge is perhaps the best place as far as my experience goes.
Frasergunj is quieter tan Bakkhali with an abundance of greenery around along with birds. As a birdwatcher, it made me happy to wake up in the morning by their twittering orchestra! The beauty of the early morning in Frasergunj is bewitching.
But what really came as a surprise to us was the trip to Henry’s Island. Henry’s island, as the name suggests, was discovered by a British surveyor. Among the numerous islands in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta basin, Henry’s Island is comparatively bigger. The State Fisheries Department has developed the place and, fish farming is extensively done here (50 hectares). The department has also built up a few lodges here with all the modern amenities. The condition of the road from Frasergunj to Henry’s Island is quite good. It took us about an hour to reach there. We spent the whole afternoon in Henry’s Island, had a sumptuous lunch while resting at one of the lodges, went up the watch tower to have a great view of the island and finally went to the nearby beach.
I need to mention this virgin beach especially as the view was mesmerizing. A cobbled road amidst the rows of mangrove trees will take you to the beach. Whitish-golden sand, slightly bluish calm sea and the azure sky upwards created a magic-realism for us. There was nobody else and, it seemed that we were the only living beings in this beautiful world! The beach reminded me of the Kilauea Beach I read about in the Phantom (Aranyadeb) stories in my childhood.