River tourism takes off in style this season, aboard the RV Bengal Pandaw, on the Ganga. The 10-day cruise on the historic Kolkata-Varanasi stretch — apparently un-navigated since 1930 — is the result of an MoU between Southeast Asia-based Pandaw Cruises and the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. And it swells with the promise of recapturing the romance of the region’s colonial past. Dropping anchor at places en route — like Plassey, British cemeteries in Munger in south Bihar, opium-country Ghazipur in UP, Portuguese churches in Bandel and the French colony of Chandannagar in West Bengal — the 50-odd tourists on board get a crash course on India’s imperial ‘ties’. The cruise also showcases other spectacles such as the aarti on Varanasi’s ghats, Buddhist sites, the Golghar grain silo in Patna, Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary and Baranagar’s miniature temples. With a naturalist on board, tourists will be introduced to the Gangetic Plain’s rich wildlife as well. A ride on the 28-cabin vessel, with teakwood and brass interiors and special shallow drafts to reach remote areas, costs between Rs 1.2-1.8 lakh for foreigners (tariff for domestic passengers has not been fixed yet). One only hopes, however, that unlike Nano, the RV Bengal Pandaw won’t run into rough weather on the Hooghly. See www.pandaw.com.

Leave a Reply