BENGALURU : For a quick getaway, I planned a trip to Vishakapatnam. Being a Bengalurean, obviously I expected traffic for hours, but it was a pleasant surprise when I covered a ride of about 15 km from the airport to my hotel in less than 30 minutes.Vizag, the City of Destiny on the east coast, has several villages within close proximity that show pride in its art and culture. Many citizens work closely with artists to help promote and support traditional and dying arts.
I got an opportunity to interact with artists Santosh and Karthik at one of the experiences hosted by Andhra Art and Craft Hotels. Santosh demonstrated the aming of colourful pieces of Etikoppaka art. It has a 400-year-old history and is usually passed down the generations. These are wooden toys and art pieces made by shaping, gluing and colouring the items with the help of a motor. I tried my hands on it, but being an average art student since school, I did not get a proper finish to the fidget I made. The other prominent art of Andhra include Kalamkari, a leather puppetry Tholu Bommalata and brassworks that have been used in the interiors of the hotel rooms as well.
Though the coastal city is known for its beaches, swimming isn’t allowed as the tides could be unpredictable. When you are in Vizag, Kailasagiri is a must-visit. It is one of the prominent hill top parks which offers a panoramic sea view. As you drive along the Hill Top Road, you can see ‘Kailasagiri’ written on the hill, much like the Hollywood sign in LA.
If you are brave enough, you can choose to walk up the hill situated at an altitude of 360 ft or take a ropeway ride. The cost for the two-way ride for adults is `100. As you take a ride, the bustling metropolis of Visakhapatnam seems to be diminishing.
The hilltop has 40-ft beautiful statues of the Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. One can get a breathtaking view the entire city of Visakhapatnam from the top of the hill. A train ride with both AC and non-AC coaches is also available to go around the hill.
I chose a non-AC coach as I prefer fresh air. Each coach has around 20 seats and costs `80 (non-AC coach) and `110 (AC coach) for adults for the 20-minute ride through the greens and blues.
Developed over 380 acres, the premises is rich in biodiversity. As you walk by or ride the circular train, as it is called, you come across different colours - the green tropical trees, yellow dried leaves, brown hills and blue sky. No wonder it is called the Queen among tourist locations in the City of Destiny. The hilltop has many wonderful attractions like the Titanic viewpoint, floral clock, Shanku-Chakra Namas of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati, Gliding point and food courts. The floral clock is one of the biggest in India, with a diameter of 10 ft.
Opposite the Kailasagiri Hills is one of the oldest parks in the city called Tenneti Park. Situated beside the sea shore of Bay of Bengal, it is a good place for a peaceful stroll. The city also shows pride in being host to the first submarine museum in South Asia. It displays India’s fifth submarine, INS Kursura (S20) that took part in the Indo-Pak war in 1971.
After decommissioning, it took one-and-a-half years to tow the submarine to the RK Beach in Vishakapatnam. Seven retired naval personnel serve as guides and curators at the museum. The guides explain that the submarine was bought from Russia in 1969 and served in the Indian Navy for 31 years. It carried 22 torpedo bombs that could attack the enemy from both frontal and back sides of the submarine. The museum shows a sound room, operations room, captain’s cabin, dining hall and accommodation. The guide tells us that during emergencies, the dining hall was converted to an operation theatre. The film, The Ghazi Attack was shot in the museum.
As we take hairpin curves at the Dolphin’s Nose Hill located between Yarada and Gangavaram Port, the cab driver warns us not to take photographs of the beautiful roads and views as the area is maintained by the Navy. If a guard spots one clicking pictures, your phone might get confiscated. Probably because it is the Navy area, the roads are well-maintained, so much so that you wouldn’t mind taking a nap on it. The steel industry and naval dockyard look tiny from the hilltop. The lighthouse at the hilltop guided ships to Vishakhapatnam Port.For all art-and-craft needs, the Lepakshi Handicrafts Emporium is a one-stop destination.