“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” This is a well-known phrase and I have absolute faith in it. Cleanliness brings purity, leads to righteousness and goodness thus it propagates peace that guides to holiness. Do not confuse this to any devotional post, this is a tiny introduction to one of the cleanest cities in India. I am talking of the much touristy yet a clean and exceptionally beautiful coastal city of Visakhapatnam.
Situated in the eastern coast of India the city is bounded by the Bay of Bengal on one side and the Eastern Ghats on the other side. This geographical aspect lends a unique character to the landscape making it more and more desirable. Herds of tourist gather every year in all season to experience the charm of the city. With such numbers of tourist influx, tourism has made its way to be a source of the economy apart from the other industries like the shipyard, port and the booming IT sector.
With such huge numbers of tourists (a majority of them coming from the eastern part of India especially from West Bengal), the city is embellished in every possible way to enchant them and captivate their spirits. I was similarly captivated by the unending charm of this place. Since many years I have been delaying a visit to Visakhapatnam sighting it to be too touristy.
Finally, I was in Vizag shedding off all my initial abhorrence. The tiny dots (small to large cargo and naval ships with some fishing trawlers) on the deep blue sea was just the beginning, the gradual arrival towards the curvy shoreline got me completely hooked – then the flight landed with the view of the port and the adjacent areas. It was an amazing prelude to an outstanding show that was yet to begin and I was ready for it.
The city like any other Indian cities had multiplexes, highrises and busy roads yet all were clean with many walls beautifully painted in various patterns. The Ola cab driver who was taking us to our hotel described how this beautification process in every part of the city was done to promote tourism and I was impressed. After traversing the city roads we drove through the one that runs parallel to the coastline.
Taking into account my previous revulsion, I carefully chose my hotel away from the city crowd and the touristy places in a peaceful locality again by the sea. I was already enthralled by the beauty of the city, the road to the hotel did the rest and Visakhapatnam made its place in my list of favourites. You must be wondering how can this happen in such a short time, even without seeing much of the city. But trust me it was like magic and I was in the spell of Vizag.
Visakhapatnam has many names like Vizag, Kulotungapatnam, Ishakapatnam and Waltier. Vizag and Visakhapatnam are the only names that are used in modern times. In this touristy Vizag, I found a peaceful place near the sea to be my home for a few days. It was near the Sagar Nagar Beach with the amazing view of the Kailashagiri Hills protruding into the sea and the undulating road curving parallel to the coast.
The scene was so captivating that I wanted to spend the whole of my days sitting by the sea and admiring the seascape. I also had the lure of exploring the rest so how can I waste my time in a place. I chalked my plan and started soon with the much popular places and keeping the less popular for the later days. Again starting off in a holy way with a visit to the Simhachalam Temple. This temple is built on the Simachalam hill that is part of the Eastern Ghat hill ranges. The beautiful hill provides an excellent view of the valley and the surrounding area. The presiding deity of the temple is Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu with the head of a boar, torso of a human and a tail of a lion. The Narasimha avatar of Lord Vishnu is associated with the legend of Prahlada. (Read the story in my post on Holi.)
Hills and the sea is the best possible amalgamation for a landscape and it is here in Vizag. From one hill to the other with the sea in the surrounding, we reached the much famed Kailasagiri. Climbing a flight of stairs from the main road, there is a cable car station that can take you to the top of the hill. We took the other option and reached the main entrance in an Ola cab. This is a hilltop park spread across a huge area. It was developed by the Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority (VMRDA) with the purpose of promoting tourism.
The park is beautifully shaded with tropical trees and local flowering plants making it an attractive spot for local recreation and tourism. The Kailasagiri park also provides an aerial view of the city and the sea and any viewpoint is always crowded with people trying to capture themselves in the frame along with the beautiful backdrop. The 40 feet long Shiva Parvati statue is the primary attraction here and if not that tall it would have been a tough time for visitors to get a glance of this beautiful structure. The Floral clock, Titanic viewpoint, Jungle trails, Shanthi Ashram, and Shanku Chakra Nama are the other attraction here.
There are recreational areas for the children, specified area for food stalls and other amenities. The popularity and the scenic beauty of the park draw locals and tourists in equal numbers and is the busiest of all the tourist spots in Vizag. Even with this bustling crowd, I found my own peace in this place – the view of the open sea with the road meandering by its side, the dwarfed buildings and the cityscape was refreshing enough to ignore the gathering here.
The return from the Kailasagiri through the ropeway offered a breathtaking panoramic view and I had nothing more to ask for. The small descend on this ropeway gave me the immense joy of having such stunning views. The sea breeze blowing throughout the day soothes the burning effect of the scorching heat. Autumn to Spring is the best time to visit Vizag although tourists visit throughout the year.
When nature is so bountiful one can easily dare the extreme weather. Even though the sun was searing we managed to walk through the pleasant pedestrian path beside the road to climb up to the Tenneti Park. The park is situated on a small hillock descending down to the Bay of Bengal with the magnificent view of the shoreline arching on either side. What can be a better place than this to pass some time until the Submarine Museum opens for the day.
The soft manicured lawns under the cool shade of the big trees were the best cushion to relax watching the birds of prey getting drifted by the strong sea winds. Black kites, Brahminy kites and Kestrels were seen to rule the sky. They glided, waited still and sometimes took a plunge to grab a fish. It was such an interesting thing to watch at sitting in such a comfortable place. To get a better view I decided to lie down of the soft grass facing the open sky above. It was possibly my first such experience to lie down under the open sky and I found an immeasurable amount of joy doing so. The cool breeze was lulling me to sleep when my watch signalled me to move on to my next destination.
After lazing out some more time on the grass, I started for the Submarine Museum on an auto rickshaw. The tourist attractions in Vizag are mostly situated on the same straight road within a radius of few kilometres. The Submarine Museum, also known as the INS Kusura (S20) is originally a submarine placed on the shore near RK Beach. This Soviet Union made submarine was commissioned under Indian naval command from the year 1969.
INS Kusura during its time of service participated in the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and later it participated in various naval exercises with other nations. The submarine was decommissioned in the year 2001. After that, the submarine was kept on the RK beach and transformed into a museum for public access displaying the interior and the functioning of the Submarine. Every chamber has models portraying uniformed naval officers on duty. The museum timings are from 2 pm to 8.30 pm on all days (Monday closed) and additional morning hours of 10.30 am to 12.30 pm on Sunday.
Just opposite to the famous submarine museum lies the recent TU 142 Aircraft museum. The best part of Vizag apart from the natural beauty and the cleanliness is the closeness of places of attractions. Within the city limits, you find the majority of the attractions and it can be conveniently reached in auto rickshaws or Ola or Uber cabs, while some are so close that you just have to cross the road, as in this case we had to cross the road and we were in the aircraft museum.
The Soviet Union made aircraft that was was a part of the Indian Navy for 29 long years have been decommissioned and placed here converting it to a museum. The entrance of the museum showcases various equipment and parts of the aircraft with an automated audio guide. The exhibition hall leads to the aircraft where one can experience the feel of being inside a fighter plane. The museum was inaugurated in the year 2017.
This was a different experience altogether to personally enter a submarine and a fighter plane that was operational some time and I was even more in the awe of Vizag. The RK beach is the most popular place within the city limits and a large number of tourists are seen here. Even this crowd has no impact on the composure of the place. The well-maintained lawns and the sitting arrangements are the perfect spots to sit and watch the sea for a long time.
We watched the sunlight gradually dimming to make way to the solar-powered light posts lighting the surrounding. The evening is even more pleasant with the temperature coming down a few degrees. The cool atmosphere with the increased sound of the large waves crashing on the shore, the periodical flash of the Dolphin’s Nose lighthouse and the rustling sound of the leaves of the newly relocated coconut trees together makes RK beach a sought after destination in Vizag.
With our personal experience, we found Ola cab services highly commendable in Vizag and it again became our mode of transport back to our hotel. Although it was our stay for a few days, the serenity of the place made it our home. I keep repeating about the ups and downs, the twists and turns, all by the sea, was mesmerising. The nights too were equally beautiful, I would rather share my experience of my stay and the other places of Vizag in a separate post so as not to stretch this too long. Stay tuned to my blog for the second part of Vizag where I will cover the places which are outside the city limits.