Patna (population: approx 1.6 million) is 1½ hour flight from Delhi, towards the northeast, the capital of Bihar state, one of the oldest cities in India, dating back to the 6th century BC. Patna is in the North Eastern part of India and borders Nepal. Patna is on the south bank of the Ganges River, a lifeline of water making this a very fertile area. Unfortunately also an area that needs to cope with flooding during the monsoon season (June – September). We crossed the river by using the Mahatma Gandhi Bridge en route to the village of Muzaffarpur, and were amazed to see that the bridge measured more than 5km’s.
We used Go Air for the flight from Delhi to Patna (INR 5 083) and were very impressed with the brand new aircraft and the good service on board. Note that there are a number of cheap domestic airlines in India with regular and convenient daily flight schedules all over India. They include Jet, Jet Lite, IndiGo, Kingfisher & SpiceJet.
We stayed at the Maurya Patna Hotel, opposite the Gandhi Maidan (park). Although this hotel is definitely not on a 5* standard, we did enjoy our stay, the food was good and I managed to enjoy a guided tour of the kitchen, learning quite a few things about Indian cooking. This hotel has extensive conference & function facilities.
Some interesting experiences and thoughts on Patna include:
- The Gandhi Maidan is a park in the city center, generally used for locals playing cricket and just spending time outdoors, also includes the Gandhi Memorial
- It is interesting to note that Mahatma Gandhi spent 119 days of his life in Patna, numerous visits spending between 1-4 days at a time. The Gandhi Museum sheds more light on his time spent in this area
- Bihar state is the first centre for Buddhism in North India
- Whilst in Patna it is recommended to visit the Golghar, a huge grain storage house dating back to 1786. One can climb the 143 steps to the top and enjoy a great view of Patna and the Ganges
- The Patna Museum and Khuda Bhaksh Oriental Library, although run-down is also worth a visit
- We enjoyed a very tasty dinner at Elevens on Frazer Road, where most of the better local restaurants are situated. This restaurant is owned by the well known Indian cricketer & captain, Kapil Dev. The food was great, very reasonably priced and service good. For five guests a main meal including drinks (soft drinks and beer) totaled around IND 3 000. The meal included roti, fish tikka, nargisi kofta (lamb),murg noorani korma (chicken), dhal and steamed rice and although we tried we could not finish all.
In Patna we, once again, experienced road travel in India. We traveled to Muzaffarpur approximately 120km’s from Patna It took us 5 hours (12-17:00) due to traffic and single lane roads with road works currently underway with lots of trucks involved with the construction of the new road and building of bridges. Luckily we returned in the evening and it only took us 3 hours (19-22:00) on our return journey.
The reason why we did this road journey was to visit a plant of Husk Power Systems. “They are world leaders in decentralized generation and distribution of electric power. Husk Power Systems lighted the first village from its first 100% biomass based power plant that uses discarded rice husks to generate electricity in August 2007 and today it has installed 60 mini-power plants that power 25,000 households in more than 250 villages and hamlets and impact lives of approximately 150,000 people in rural India. For more information on ‘Electrifying Rural India’ visit www.huskpowersystems.com
Patna is not a tourist centre, only at most a stopping point for travelers en route to Buddhist sites. During my 6 days in Patna I did not encounter any non Indian / Asian women. The area has also had numerous problems with safety and tourists are advised to be careful and to check the status of the area before traveling.