I never knew The River Ganges is so wide and beautiful here till I visited this place which I had never heard of before. After my visit I quote: If you are looking for solitude this is the place for you. It is right on the banks of this river and hence the name: “Raichak on Ganges.” It houses 4 resorts, 5 restaurants, a spa and a huge activity zone, 6-7 swimming pools, all encapsulated in its 100 acre stretch. Built in Anglo-Indian style, the Ffort Holiday Klub is a Dutch fort converted into a five-star property. We went there in September 2012. A two-hour drive from Kolkata warned us of the bad traffic snarls. But once we entered the resort the ambience and the property ingredients of the entire complex felt serene and tranquil. It refreshed body, mind and soul. You need to just synchronize your pace with the flow of the Ganges which looks sublime in its moods of rain and sunshine.
And, now is the time to take you to our lovely holiday experience. The first shot from my camera was of the majestic uninhibited drive on a 1.5 km driveway with imposing tall trees on either side that led to The Suites. We are always in awe when we share our holiday experiences with friends. This couple wanted to have a feel of one such holiday with us, so this time we booked a holiday in the East. My husband and I arrived there a day before our check-in date. Next day the four of us set out to a 55 km journey from here. For the people living in Kolkata, it is a place where all the big conferences and fashion shows were held. They had heard about the place but they knew nothing beyond that, and hence they wondered how a week at one place would be like? Their trepidation was to the extent that they advised us if they did not like the place they would cut short their trip. (Wait, what they said in the end!) For a moment, their wavered thoughts clouded my mind though we were sure that a lovely holiday awaited us. With our car trunk full of bags we left around 2.30pm.
Day 1: A board with the resort’s name and an entry arrow to the resort brought the first glow on our faces. It was 4.45pm. I had the first welcome note when I heard a gurgling sound of running water just outside the corridor. What a therapeutic effect! As we entered apartment the furniture came alive and said a non-verbal hello. Soon we got settled and with our huge stock of ready-made snacks we all enjoyed a hot cup of coffee. The dinner at the restaurant was a huge satisfaction. The decor was warm and staff was friendly. After-mint was so tasty, that I had my palm full! It was a weekday so the guest number was thin.
Day 2: There was no hurry to leave the bed. However, you cannot sleep till late when you are in the East India. I woke up at 5.30am and headed for a walk. No sooner did I take a few steps away from my apartment, I heard the cooing of birds. I cooed in return. And, that was fun! It was a joyous sight to see the volume of the rejoinder rise with every successive mimic. I got myself familiar with surroundings. The resort is huge with lovely in-roads and greenery in plenty. We walked down a straight road and believe me the bungalows and apartments on either side were so inviting that I gave a hell of a time to my cervical spine turning left to right, and right to left. Wish I had a chameleon’s vision!
I cannot do without my laptop and internet connection. Even on a holiday I need it. Besides the daily picture upload, I do not allow my passion of journal writing part with me. Reliance mobile modem connectivity was not so efficient, so while in the apartment we just chatted, played cards and watched my friend paint. Post breakfast, we requested for a golf cart to take us around the vast spreading resort for it could not have been easy for our happy feet. The cart glided noiselessly through the property.
Nestled in the greenery and natural habitat, our first destination was Ganga Kutir. This resort left me in trance. The virgin natural beauty of the place just on the banks of the river, with dominating presence of mangrove vegetation. Armed myself with camera I got myself photographed sitting between its infinity pool and the river. I gazed at the river rolling by and silently murmured a nature poem. I also had fun watching two ducklings floating graciously on the pond. A cow shed was a rare treat for the urban eyes. I wanted to go close but the wet grass refused to take me there.
Ganga Sundarawasalais was another beauty packed pocket of cottages. An amazing assemblage of pool cottages where you just open your apartment door and take a plunge! Phew! Isn’t it worth being there? What an experience! O My! I just kept imagining a cool lap in that serene pool.
A yet another collection of theme based country homes in its premises were GangaAwas amidst green surroundings. Imagine a private pool with every apartment. Want to buy? You decide, while I count how many pools are there on the upper terrace. I counted three here and seven pools in the entire resort, all beautifully done. These upper terrace pools overlooked the Ganges and clearly defined the concept of infinity pools. All along the pools a vast area was laid out for dining. We stopped for lunch at one of its restaurants.
The beauty of this restaurant was such that you have to go there to believe me. Sitting in the restaurant I almost felt I was being part of The Ganges. There was a constant flow of slow-moving cargo ships and you have the waves joining in. Coupled with it were lush gardens and the happy smiles of the staff who served sumptuous food. It was ecstatic to find a blend of nature and artificial beauty. The chilled beer was another shot in the arm. The day rolled into a quiet evening. We rested for a while in our room, watched TV. The mock-tails and cocktails with sumptuous fish were like icing on the cake. I was as happy as a clam.
Day 3: The portable modem did not work well. So, they complied with my request and the service staff shifted us to another apartment. Since it was our second ‘home’ in the same resort there was a new vigor and cheerfulness. I organized my things. The 3rd day flew with wings. With playing cards and room service menu card by our side and chicken snacks to go over a glass of chilled beer, I felt like a ‘yummy mummy.’
Day 4: This place acts as a link between the metro city, Kolkata and Haldia which is a commercial town on the other side of the river. It is a major trade port for the metro intended mainly for bulk cargoes. The ferry point is 1.5 km from the resort. We took our car, parked it near the jetty point and got us into the launch. The resort’s Ferry boat was under maintenance so we took the one which was the life line of locals there. In 20 minutes with a breeze on our faces, we cruised at 30 mph and reached Haldia. We hired a cab for Rs. 1200/- that picked us from the jetty point, took us to 27 mph long drive up to the port and left us back in the evening at the same point. It was fun to witness the hide and seek of rain God. By the time we reached back we were dog tired and preferred skipping dinner and retired to a deep slumber.
Day 5: Even on the fifth day, there was still much left to explore. A collection of swimming pool area, the vast gym capsule, lounge area, and a fun zone coupled with the massive floor chess at the entrance was good fun. An orient restaurant on the pool side served sinful Chinese, and a souvenir shop with good visual merchandise had besides books, a rich assemblage of apparel, hand crafted curios, and wall paintings from Bengal and North East. Having played indoor games, we ended the day with another dinner. What one marvels in the beauty of this resort was its landscaped greenery against the backdrop of the river. Constructed on an old fort theme, it houses a well laid out museum. This entire structure has 130 year old narrow bricks which are typical of historic forts giving it the look of a beautiful 18th century fort. The spa bore a perfect image for my camera lens. Overhead bells at the gate and the wonder creation in a water bowl with floral motives bunched into an intricate pattern was something I admired. The creator definitely deserved an award for this. However, the services at the spa were a trifle pricey.
Day 6: We luxuriated for five days, it was the day devoted to the last-minute photo session around ‘The Suites.’ My camera was constantly in action since the scenic beauty was so vast that it wanted to click almost every ten steps of the area! I marveled the greenery of different foliage and stopped by to appreciate the various sculptures interspersed around the pocket gardens. This day we had also driven past Diamond Harbor. The Ganges is very wide here for the picnickers delight to watch river at its most serene with vastness. You could see as far as your eyes could go. However, the ice-cream on the road tasted like mud. As we drove further into interior villages, we saw a long stretch of ponds all along the two sides of narrow lanes which is a very familiar sight in suburbs. Greens seemed to have just bathed in the rain. We took glimpses of villagers getting ahead with their daily lives. While someone was weaving, another could be seen sifting wheat, and the third carrying a child on the waist. A four-wheeler was an alien to kids.
Day 7: It was time to say good-bye. We felt a sense of pleasant pain of parting with resort’s grandeur, the lush gardens and the charming hospitality. Even after a gap of four months these are still vivid in my mind. I stitched together my wonderful memories, and tried to paint the account on this canvas with a hope that just like our friends who await to holiday here with their American kids, you too would book a holiday here. And, if you still ask how I rated this resort, I would say you were joking.