One can enjoy the beauty of any spot to the fullest only when it is not crowded. Hence we started shortlisting the ‘not much crowded during new year’ place and Orissa topped our list. Though there were direct trains to Orissa from Chennai, owing to our last minute planning, we had to split our journey into two based on the availability of train tickets. Our first train was Pinakini express which leaves Chennai around 2:05PM and reaches Vijayawada around 9:10 PM.  Our second ticket was a waitlist ticket in Duronto Express which leaves Vijayawada around 10:25PM. With sheer hope, we boarded Pinakini express when our second ticket was still at RLWL5. The confirmation prediction was 75% for the waitlist ticket and at around 7:0OPM, to our relief, our tickets got confirmed. Thus began our new year trip to Orissa. Look out for the ‘Did You Knows’ (DYK) sprinkled here and there for exciting information.

Our plan for 4 days before starting to Orissa:

  1. Day 1 –
    1. Pick our car at 12:00 noon that we pre booked via protectIndia travels. They promised to deliver the car at the railway station.
    1. Cover Lalitgiri, Udaygiri, Rathnagiri and halt at Kendrapara so that it would ease our next day trip to Bhitarkanika.
  2. Day 2 –
    1. Start to Bhitarkanika and spend new years eve at the Bhitarkanika forest guest house.
    1. We had our stay booked at the Gupti Forest guest house.
  3.  Day 3 –
    1. Drive towards Puri which is a really long drive.
    1. Cover Puri beach. Jagannath temple and halt at Puri.
  4. Day 4 –
    1. Start to Konark and explore the city covering all the noteworthy temples.
    1. Visit Satpada and Chilika lake boating.
  5. Day 5 –
    1. Start back to Bhubeneshwar and see some noteworthy places before boarding our return train.

The altered plan with so many twists that we were able to execute:

Day 1: Nandankanan Zoo

We reached Bhubaneshwar junction around 9:30AM on Dec 30th.

DYK – Duronto:

1) Do not opt for meals in Duronto but opt for bedroll and pillow, which will be of real help.

2) The cleanliness of the train can also be much improved considering the cost of the ticket.

I have to admit that, Bhubaneshwar has one of the cleanest railway stations in India. You can very well freshen up in the restrooms in the AC waiting halls, which are pretty clean. There are pay and use toilets at the junction where you can take bath comfortably as well.

After we freshened up, we called ProtectIndia who were supposed to deliver our car at the railway station at 12:00 noon. When we pre booked our car through ProtectIndia they had told us that there was no cap on the kilometer limit which was the main reason that we booked via them neglecting the other well known rentals like zoom. Our tentative travel plan itself comes to 1000 kms. We also had paid 500 via paytm to them. At 11:30 AM when we called, with so much lethargy, they said that the previous owner has extended the car and hence they cannot give us the car. Being new year’s eve, we were desperate to not let go of this booking and hence we asked them to arrange for an alternate. They took advantage of our situation and told that the only available car was a swift desire for which we had to pay extra rent. We heeded to that. They promised to deliver the car around 2:00PM.

Meanwhile we booked an ola to Nandankanan Zoo.

DYK’s – Nandankannan zoo:

1) They have a cloak room and they will keep your luggage safe for free of cost.

2) The safari cost was minimal.

After waiting till 2:30PM for the car, we decided to go inside the zoo not wanting to waste any more time. Around 3:40PM we got a call that our car had arrived at the zoo. We went to pick the car which is when the driver told us that they have 100km cap for one day and we had to pay extra Rs12/- for each additional km. This is when we realized that they were increasing their demands. We were not ready to say yes to everything they wanted us to do in the last minute. We cancelled our booking.

DYK’s – ProtectIndiaTravels Rentals:

1) Don’t pre book or pay any money in advance to unknown rentals.

2) Always prefer known rentals like zoom cars. DO NOT BOOK via protectIndia travels.

With no car, we were clueless, left in the streets since we had booked our first day stay at Kendrapara. We were wondering how to reach Kendrapara from Bhubaneshwer with no car. It already was half past six and owing to the lack of public transport to Kendrapara, we cancelled that stay and checked for Oyo rooms at Bhubaneshwar itself. We found a good deal at The Extended Stay. Now that we have a place to crash, we started contacting justdial to check for bike rentals at least. Owing to new year’s eve almost all the bike rentals were either sold out or overly priced. When we were about to give up with the sad thought that our new year would go in drains, we got hold of “2 and four” rentals. They were very good and quoted nominal price. We finally got our bikes and reached our room.

The room was economical and was very clean. It is highly recommended for budget stay. The wifi was fast and the owner was very helpful. Now that all the mess is sorted, we roamed the streets of Bhubaneshwar looking for a good place for dinner. The KIIT road, Bhubaneshwar is swamped with so many good hotels and shops. We literally carried zero winter clothes unaware of the weather at Orissa. Hence we shopped for jerkins and gloves. The winter wear ( jerkins, hand gloves, monkey caps, woolen shawls etc ) is cheaper there. We had our dinner at ‘Biggies Burger & more’, highly recommended for burger lovers.

DYK – Orissa Weather@December

 Orissa is really cold at night and early in the morning. The cold becomes unbearable especially during bike rides. Pack appropriate winter clothes if you are planning for a bike trip.

 Day 2: Bhitarkanika National Park 

We checked out of our OYO stay and started on our bike trip towards to Bhitarkanika national park via kendrapara. Since we planned for a car trip, we had carried heavy luggage. The owner of ‘The Extended stay’ was kind enough to store our luggage there till we returned from our one day stay at Bhitarkanika forest guest house. We dropped our big bags there and carried only the essentials for our road trip. We had to cover 163km to our Gupti forest guest house. Hence we started early around 6:00AM. Early morning drive was indeed refreshing. We made a pit stop at Hotel Binayaka Palace for breakfast. Best food was delivered at the least cost. Four of us had a sumptuous breakfast for 125. After a good 6 hour ride, we reached Gupti DFO office around 12:15 in the afternoon.

Bhitarkanika National Park is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India and houses salt water Crocodiles.

DYK – Bhitarkanika National Park

If you book your stay at one of the Forest guest house ( ), you will also get the permit to enter the forest.

We dropped our luggage at the Guest house. The guest house provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food is delicious here. The rooms are spacious and equipped with AC and LED tv with good cable subscription. They also gave us souvenir keychains. The guest house at Gupti is located in a remote village and hence note that there are not many shops around. It is essential to carry everything you need and come here for a calm and quiet stay near the forest. The only drawback was that hot water heater was not available in the rooms.

You can rent a boat by paying boat charges plus fuel charges. It is economical if you go in a group of large numbers. We booked a boat for ourselves at the forest office to explore the mangrove forest and the national park. The boat trip will last for four hours and even longer depending on the time you spend inside Bhitarkanika National park. We went only in the afternoon and hence we could not spend much time in the national park since it will take two hours to reach the forest by boat. The boat ride through the mangrove forest is highly recommended. We were able to spot tones of salt water crocodiles basking in the sun, spotted deers and monkeys. Observing wildlife at their natural habitat is a unique experience and this boat trip will not fail to give you that experience.

After two hours of crocodile spotting, the boat first stopped at Dangmal. There is nothing much here except for a museum and crocodile-breeding center. Since we skipped lunch at the guest house, we had to have lunch here at the hotel Bhitarkanika who charged us extra compared to the others. We did not ask for the menu card and hence we were not able to defend ourselves after eating the food. Hence take caution and don’t order before enquiring about the price first. We wasted much time at Dangamal and hence we got very little time to trek inside Bhitarkanika National Park. Tell your boat drive to take you first to Bhitarkanika National park and then you can see Dangamal if time permits. If you want to spot Dolphins you need to start the boat ride at Habalikhati and don’t miss out Olive sea turtles which can be spotted on gahirmatha beach. With very little time left for us to trek through the National park, we covered only half the forest and began our two hour boat ride back to the guest house. The evening boat ride was even more beautiful. It gives the feeling of nirvana, staring into the emptiness of the river surrounded by complete silence. As it got dark, the moonlight covered the river like a silver blanket. We thoroughly enjoyed the return ride.

Hot onion pakoras and chai was served to us in our room after which we got some time to relax in the room. Dinner was served in the common dining hall and owing to new year’s eve they served Chicken curry instead of the usual egg curry. We had an heavy dinner and spent new year’s eve peacefully in our room amidst the silence that surrounded the place. We bought a cake in a small village on our way to Bhitarkanika which we cut at midnight and welcomed 2018 J 

Day 3 – Lalitgiri

The next we started back to Puri and decided to cover Lalitgiri, Udaygiri and Rathnagiri on the way. All three are significant Buddhist monastery sites. The ancient monasteries were excavated by the Archeological survey of India. Two of us fell sick due to food poisoning and hence we were only able to see Lalitgiri that day. We had our lunch at Hotel Toshali Pushpagiri. The food was delicious but they took a really long time to serve. Don’t miss out on all the three sites especially Rathnagiri. Owing to our health conditions, we dropped the road trip to Puri on the same day and we halted at Bhubeneshwar for the night. Again an Oyo room ( Miskys guest house ) which was also decent. The good thing about Oyo rooms is that they include breakfast which will save a lot of your travel time.

Day 4 – Konark Sun Temple, Chilika Lake, Puri Jagannath Temple

We started from Bhubeneshwar around 8:15 AM towards Konark (6.8 km ). The bike ride towards Konark was memorable owing to the numerous paddy fields along both sides of the road. Do this ride in the morning before the sun comes up or in the evening to enjoy. Konark has innumerous temples and a fantastic historical touch to it. You can easily spend a day exploring Konark. But owing to our time constraint we were only able to cover the Mighty sun temple. The sun temple is indeed breath taking and you may need more than two eyes to enjoy its majestic architecture.

DYK – konark Sun Temple

There is a light and sound show at night around 8:00PM.

Before visiting the sun temple, visit the nearby konark museum to understand a little bit about the history of sun temple

 This place is not to be missed. After our visit to the temple, we started towards Satapada ( 87.1 km from Konark ) to visit Chilika lake. Choose the beach road towards Satapada.

DYK – Chilika Lake

Even before you reach chilika lake, there will be people who will try to stop you for boat rides on the way.

Don’t stop there and book a boat only from the Government authorized Satapada boating Association.

There are different packages depending on the boat ride timings and we picked the 1 and half hour package for 1500 which covers small birds, Irrawaddy dolphins and heavens island in Chilika Lake. Please note that there are no proper restrooms here especially for ladies. We ventured into the lake keeping an eye for the dolphins. You will be able to only get a glimpse of the dolphins and hence make sure to be on alert all the time.

After spending the evening there, we started to Puri around 5:30 (48.8 km ). The road to Puri from Satapada is small and through a village and hence make sure to start before it gets dark. The road will be swamped with stray cows causing great hindrance to two wheelers. We reached Puri Jagannath temple around 7:30 in the evening. We had chai in a small shop in front of the temple but the chai with ginger which costed only 5 rupees was heavenly. The temple stupa is breathtaking.

DYK – Puri Jagannath Temple

Mobile phones, leather belts, helmets are strictly not allowed inside the temple and you have to deposit them in the counters before entering the temple.

Be on the lookout for fake god men who may try to inflict fake rituals and get money from you for the same.

This temple is a masterpiece.

After spending an hour inside the temple, we started our journey towards Bhubeneshwar.

Day  5 – Kandagiri, Udaygiri, Lingaraj Temple & Shanthi Stupa

Today was our last day at Orissa. Our return waitlist ticket back to Chennai was in Duronto Express around 5 in the evening. Since our forward waitlist ticket got confirmed, we all had 100% hope that our return waitlist ticket will also get confirmed. With that hope we checked out after breakfast and started exploring Bhubaneshwar in the time that we had left. First we went to Kandagiri caves and Udaygiri caves in Bhubaneshwar which are adjacent to each other. The view from the top of these caves are good and they also have a Jain temple at the top. Then we started to Lingaraj temple which again has all the same restrictions as that of the Puri temple. This time we locked our phones in the trunk of our activa and gave our helmets in a shop nearby. This temple again stands out for its majestic stupa. After this we left to see the Dhauli Shanthi Stupa. This is where King Ashoka took to peace after the Kalinga war. Right after we reached Shanthi stupa, we lost our Shanthi ( peace ) because our waitlist tickets did not get confirmed. We frantically looked for alternate options in the slow network connection that we were able to access there. We finally got tickets in a bus to Vijayawada and then from Vijayawada we got train to Chennai.

Despite the shortcomings in the trip, we got a birds eye view of what to do and what not to do.

Do not believe the confirmation prediction of for your waitlisted tickets. It is always better to travel with confirmed tickets.

  1. Do not pre pay a huge sum for your bike/car rentals from unknown vendors.
  2. Always check for the price of the food before you order.
  3. If you are visiting Middle or North India, make sure you know basic Hindi.
  4. If you are up for a bike trip, travel light. Don’t forget to pack jerkins and gloves for early morning rides.
  5. Always carry a moisturizer and lip balm. The bike ride tend to make your skin very dry.

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