After four months of travelling, including over three weeks in Bhopal, we needed a holiday. While everything so far has been an experience, we felt more physically and mentally tired than before we left. Sometime you just need the experience of not really doing anything. And in a relaxing way, rather than in a on-a-train-for-30-hours way. With this in mind, we did what all good holidaymakers do and headed for the beach. It wasn’t a beautiful beach, it wasn’t even a particularly relaxing beach, but it was a beach nonetheless. Puri is one of The holiday destinations for middle-class Indians, particularly from Kolkatta, plus middle-aged Westerners. That sounds perfect, right?

As usual, the train took longer than expected, and after a gruelling thirty hours, making friends with a liberal-minded Indian whose eyes didn’t fall out of his head when he found out we are a couple but not married, eating lots of channa masala (which is not chickpeas in sauce, but chickpeas in salad and lime) and Lucie getting her breast grabbed through the train window by a sad-act sleazebag, we arrived.

Our hotel – Z hotel, check it out – was exceptional. It was the old home of the person who ran the town (I can’t remember what that’s called) and had the obvious grandness implied. Our room basically had a four-poster bed, and  there was also a TV room (with selection of movies for the evening), a veranda, and an awesome view from the roof, overlooking the sea. Tourist heaven.

Puri itself has little to offer, but a combination of sand, sea and fish was good enough for a 4 day holiday. If you’re ever in the area, go to Raju’s for freshly caught from the Bay of Bengal kingfish and mackerel. Unfortunately, the fishing business seems to be totally trashing the turtle population: every day we would walk across the beach and find numerous dead turtles washed up, with crows pecking at their eyes and dogs chomping their entrails. If you can put this out of mind, the fish tastes damn good…

One possible outing from Puri is to Chilika Lake. Here you can see some famous dolphins playing in the shallow lake, spurting water from their mouths and generally larking about. This makes it sound quite exciting, but to be honest the experience is quite fleeting, and you may find yourself spending more time desperately trying to take a photo rather than actually enjoying the moment. On an important note, TAKE THE TOURIST BUS. Seriously. We made the poor decision, laughing at the foolish tourists who pay so much more than we did so, of choosing to go by local bus. A 48km journey took four hours on the way home. This works out at about 7.5 miles PER HOUR. You could cycle faster than that… The road isn’t even particularly windy or hilly. I actually have no idea how it took so long.  Lucie said that in Midnight’s Children there’s a bus where the bus driver suddenly decides to go to Pakistan and gets off the bus, leaving it full of passengers, who spend two hours clinging to their “hard-earned places” before they realise he’s not coming back. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. The people standing up on that bus probably took the delay as totally standard!

Having had a few days off, we headed off to Bhubaneswar to begin our careers as investigative journalists… We’ll tell you all about the horrors of GM and the heroes fighting it soon enough. In the meantime, check out www.stopgm.org.uk.

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