Mangaldhara Tourism Property, Barrackpore: A Lovely Staycation off Kolkata

 As we visit Kolkata frequently from our base in Hyderabad and stay out there for longish stints, we often have the urge to explore for a couple of days outside the city. This January, we were looking at a short staycation somewhere close to the city, and our friends suggested Mangaldhara Tourism Property at Barrackpore, a resort run by West Bengal Tourism.

Mangaldhara is located about 25 km from Kolkata, very near Gandhi Ghat in Barrackpore. I had never been to Barrackpore before but passed the railway station innumerable times en route to my uncle’s place at Kalyani during my childhood. The property is bang on the bank of the Hooghly River. Our web investigation reported that the resort has two varieties of rooms – river-facing and those not facing the river. There are also a couple of houseboats each having four river-facing rooms. Our friends had explicitly told us to book river-facing rooms on the first floor, and through the website booking was a breeze. We planned for a two-night stay in end-January.

We had reached Kolkata a couple of days back. The hectic days of a relative’s marriage made us pine for some solitude, and as a result, we were really looking forward to the short staycation. I had fond memories of local train travel three decades ago, and really wanted to do the Ballygunge – Sealdah – Barrackpore stretch by local train. However, the luggage with us made us unsure of whether we would be able to embark and disbark in the short time that a local train stops at a station. A lack of confidence overtook us, and we decided to make the journey by Uber Maharaj. The journey costing around Rs 900 took us through Maniktala, Shyambazar, and Dunlop in North Kolkata, followed by Belghoria and Sodepur. Within one and a half hours we were at the gate of Mangaldhara Tourism Property.

The property is adjacent to Gandhi Ghat. There is a park called Jawahar Kunj just next to it. Winter being picnic season in Bengal, the park was full of revelers with music blaring at high decibels. We checked in at the reception of the property and were promptly taken to our room on the second floor. The buildings are right on the Hooghly, with a narrow pathway in between. 

A metal bridge connects to a small jetty where the two houseboats are located. There is a small space in front of the bar and restaurant, where there are seats for enjoying the view of the river over a cup of tea. On the other side of the river, one could see the high-rises of Rishra

Our room on the first floor was spacious. The window overlooked the river, and as we found out in the evening, it provided a magnificent view of the sunset on the river. One must take care to book a river-facing room, it makes a lot of difference. One would have wished that the room window was bigger, maybe across the wall, it would have elevated the experience even more.

The restaurant on the ground floor serves breakfast, lunch, evening snacks, and dinner. Breakfast is included in the package, and is decent. You have a choice of Luchi-Chholar dal that I loved and repeated on the second day. They also serve your choice of eggs and a sweet. The restaurant is understaffed, but the staff present do work hard. In fact, overall we were satisfied with the service received in the property, it is much better than the apathetic attitude we get in the Harithas of Andhra Pradesh.  During lunch and dinner, you can order river fresh fish, we had a decent Pabda Maccher Jhol one afternoon, apart from the usual Bengali Thali which was again pretty good.

A full lunch and a sound sleep later, we were ready to venture out. The famed Annapurna Temple is only about a mile away and we decided to go there by foot. Just outside the resort, there is an auto and toto stand, from where you can get vehicles on contract to any part of Barrackpore. A shared service is also available to the railway station via the temple. Annapurna Temple was built as a smaller replica of Dakshineshwar Temple by the daughter of Rani Rashmoni. It is said that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was himself present on the day of its inauguration in 1875.

The temple was quite crowded in the evening. After praying to the deity in the main temple, we also visited the six Aatchalas in the background. Behind the temple is the temple ghat from where we had a serene view of the sun setting on the Hooghly.

The next morning, we spent some time exploring the property, after which we travelled to the Dhobighat Ferry Station and took the ferry across Hooghly to the town of Serampore. Serampore was ruled by Denmark till 1845, after which it was sold to the British. The town still has a few old Danish-style buildings. We visited Danish Tavern close to the ghat. The property has been turned into a boutique hotel and is run by The Park Hotel. After a short tour of non-private parts of the property, we had lunch at the restaurant on the ground floor. While Chicken Snitzel was par for the course, I really liked the Bhetki in Lemon Butter Sauce. There is a Flurys branch right next to the hotel, and we bought some pastries on our way back.

We were also planning to visit Dada Boudir Hotel, a restaurant that has acquired a lot of fame in the last decade for its biryani. From a humble beginning, the place is now thronged by food lovers, with a permanent queue of people waiting in front of the restaurant. However, we changed the plan as my friend Sujit, whose home at Ichhapur we were planning to visit next told us that he would arrange to get the biryani delivered in his place. The biryani is very nice, but the spice combo is quite different from the Kolkata Biryani we are familiar with. One can call it an innovative take on the same. The quality of the meat is just outstanding.

In the evening, we enjoyed the sunset at Mangaldhara before going across to Masjid More area to visit a relative. The next day was the time to check out, with my dear friend Sujit picking us up for a visit to his family home that we had been planning for many years.

Mangaldhara Tourism Property is by no means a high-end place. There is no swimming pool, no spa, and no blah blah. But for the people who want to spend a quiet weekend living by the river, this is an ideal location to explore. 

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