Climatic conditions in Odisha are tough for an outsider to survive here. The same makes travel across towns in the state even more difficult for a person like me who is used to comfort in summer. Yet there are plenty of places to visit here.
I was looking for places to visit during a weekend. I had always heard of Mayfair Gopalpur being an exotic location to spend a weekend luxuriously. With a couple of days in hand, I decided to explore beyond Gopalpur.
I caught the afternoon train from Bhubaneswar travelling south to Brahmapur. Tickets were easily available online for the same day and there was hardly any rush in the train. Some vendors would come occasionally to sell tea, coffee and snacks. It’s a two-and-half hour long delightful journey and passes by easily while sipping coffee and gazing at the coconut trees from the window of the train. It was a relief to see that the station wasn’t too crowded when I reached there.
I reached Brahmapur at about four o’clock and looked for auto-rickshaws to take me to Mayfair Gopalpur that was some fifteen kilometers away from the station. Autos however are not allowed inside the serene property of Mayfair Resorts.
The famous lighthouse at the beach shouldn’t be missed when one goes there. I had seen a lot of photographs of the lighthouse on the Internet. I too, checked it out as I took a walk on the beach just before sunset.
One can look at the sea waves and sit for hours near the shacks inside Mayfair Resorts, Gopalpur. The service is impeccable. I wish I could spend about a week in the resort, enjoying the room, the beach, the beauty of the broken boat that had crashed at the place years ago during a cyclone and now has grown weed and grass all over it, converting it into a statue of décor.
The next morning I woke up early, booked a vehicle because the purpose was to go beyond the luxury of resorts and check out the places I had come to see.
When my colleague suggested this place, I didn’t even spend a second wondering what the name could mean. Once I reached there after two hours of travelling in the morning by car, it was clear to me. Tapta : boiling, pani: water. It was a natural hot sulphur water spring. But I was lucky I didn’t wonder what the name meant beforehand since otherwise I would have carried a towel and a pair of spare clothes so that I could bathe in the hot spring. A hot spring in Odisha didn’t mean a natural jacuzzi; it meant a temple.
There was a Shiva temple at the location, the hot water was supposed to be simply touched and prayed to. The outer walls of the temple were adorned with multi-coloured small erotic sculptures. The idea, as explained to me by a guide me at the temple, was that one should leave erotic thoughts outside the temple while entering it.
There was a lovely tree that stood near a small bridge just outside the temple. There were pieces of red cloth and bangles hanging from its branches, each piece of cloth a wish from someone who must have travelled far to kneel here and pray.
Leaving Taptapani behind, I proceeded to the place I had heard a lot about – PadmasambhavaMahavira Monastery. I travelled on roads decorated on each side with Buddhist prayer flags – colourful and following the direction of the wind. It took me only a few minutes to reach the first spot. It was not the main monastery. It was a beautiful home to Buddhist prayer wheels that should be rotated only in clockwise direction. As I rotated the wheels, I walked in a square and returned to where I started from. It was a lovely place with a multitude of tourists and photographers. There were two large prayer wheels that needed at least two persons to rotate them. I couldn’t even make a degree’s impact on my own.
Within ten minutes of driving, I reached the main monastery and I understood why Jirang is called the Tibet of Odisha. Padmasambhava Monastery is an architectural marvel. Surrounded by corridors that lead to classrooms for the monks, the monastery looks quite picturesque. I reached it exactly at the time the monks break for lunch. I quickly read the inscriptions on the walls and imbibed the beauty of the decors – images both grand and terrifying in a certain way. The Tibetan population of Odisha seems to have created its own peaceful world at this place, away from the cacophony of the towns nearby.
I left the place at about four in the afternoon. My car driver insisted that I see the Khasada waterfalls, not too far from this place. I imagined myself finally dipping in water in the heat but to my surprise, it was filled with frolicking boys.
So I proceeded towards my next stop – the deer park maintained by the forest department. The traveller in me, keen on finding some peace away from city-life rejoiced at the peaceful surrounding. There is nothing much to be seen here but greenery around you makes you feel wonderful and fresh.
Before catching my train back to Bhubaneswar in the evening, I made sure to buy some fresh mangoes from the street vendors at Berhampur – some fresh memories to bring home.