A big grin is apparent when you arrive at the Vizag airport. The mountains afar and gardens around give it a real picturesque feel. The grin however turns into grimace when local cab (taxi) and rickshaw (tuk-tuk) drivers recognise you as the ‘outsider’. Being an outsider in your own country is a strange feeling, but such is the nature of our motherland, you don’t always have to be from the North-East to be an outsider! Language and appearance are enough giveaways, and they ensure you don’t have to be robbed at gunpoint; unpleasantly as it may be, you are left with no choice.
The city is laid back but noisy and surprisingly spotless. Clean and pothole free tar roads, huge banners with Tollywood (south Indian) actors looming large and heavy lighting characterise the main roads. The narrow lanes too are surprisingly smooth and every home is charecterised by a hand drawn rangoli at its entrance . Our cab driver proclaimed, chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu gets all the credit for the surprisingly decent roads in the city. Well, regardless of whoever gets the credit, i sure wish Maharashtra and in turn Mumbai learns a few things from Andhra Pradesh.
The rickshaw drivers were wearing three different colours of clothes; either full black, full red or the normal khaki. Took me a while to understand those (black and red) were not really uniforms, but were based on the gods they worshiped. Another interesting facet of the city are the innumerable hospitals that it occupies. I later learnt that there is a well planned medical town built very close from the city, but Vizag itself boosts of incredibly high number of hospitals. The area where we stayed was dominated by the huge and beautiful structure of King George Hospital but sheer amount of smaller hospitals and pharmacies around the place astonished us. That wasn’t the only thing though. We were also surprised by some of the stalls specifically set up across public places to provide music, videos, apps and other mobile services. We have seen such services disappear from Mumbai a long time ago.
Vizag also has some unique gastronomy treats! Popular among them are the sweets Potrekelu, Kaja and Bobbatlu. Potrekelu is like rolled pan cakes of rice flour and sugar, which we didn’t particularly enjoy. However, Kaja made from wheat flour was delicious. Bobbatlu was very similar to a maharashtrian delicacy (Sanja Poli) and showcased the similarities in differences, a characteristic that epitomises India. As we walked in search of delicacies we noticed the use of ash-gourd (one of my favourite vegetable for its juice) on the doors of every store to keep away bad omen.
One begins to breathe freely and enjoy Vizag when they walk towards the beach. The view of the sea stands out from a distance as the narrow lanes roll down in curves towards the promenade. The sun shines through the reflection, and the sea grows on you even from a fair distance. My heart began to whistle at the sheer beauty of the sea and the sheer fun of this elevation. From the well spaced out promenade, i could see the buildings lining up like Marine Drive (Queen’s necklace), however the small stairs and curved lanes between the buildings made the view even cuter. We wondered if there was ever a time, when the beach was upto those steps near each building and if the road bordering the sea along with the promenade was built much later. Maybe someone from Vizag can confirm. The absolutely stunning beach is still a few steps down from the promenade, and makes you wonder how Vizag is so elevated from the sea level.
The beach was probably more clean due to the preparations from the Navy day, which was just two days prior to our visit. Unsurprisingly cricket seemed to be the most popular sport of the weekend, and the beach was decorated by silhouettes of cricket players thronging the beach early morning. My lens managed to catch a few glimpses of the truly whistle podu moments we had during our time at Vizag.
Write to me if you need any guidance on stay or places to visit, as well as your experience of this truly unique and beautiful city.