Exactly 100 years ago, Lt-Gov. of Bengal Andrew Frazer fell in love with a beach at one end of the Sunderbans. He was so drawn to that stretch of sand that he built a bungalow at Narayanitala, the nearest village.
The bungalow by the sea, surrounded by coconut groves, became a talking point among the Englishmen in Calcutta. Frazer, however, could not fulfil his dream of converting Narayanitala, later rechristened Frazerganj, into a health and beach resort.
The bungalow, too, was swallowed by the advancing waters. Today, apart from the name, nothing remains of Frazerganj's colonial past. However, don't be disheartened, for the beach is enchanting enough for a perfect weekend and more.
If you travel by road, crossing the Hatnia-Doania river will provide for some excitement. Four-wheelers are driven on to a ferry, which carries them to the other side.
Head for the beach right after checking into your hotel. A short walk along a muddy road, past spinning windmills, will take you there. Chances are, you will have the beach all to yourself.
Walk along the coast to the embankment, where you can sit for hours and watch the fishing boats battle the waves.
In the afternoon, take a cycle-van to Bakkhali. Located just 3 km away, this coastal town is more crowded and has several hotels. The beach, though, is just as beautiful. The sunset, especially, is spectacular.
Both beaches are free of hawkers and hence, remarkably clean.
Next morning, watch the sun rise behind the windmills before heading for the harbour. It is 2 km away, on the other side of Bakkhali. Sundari trees dot the creek, a hub of fishing activity. Benfish has an auction centre here.
Benfish's tourist centre Sagarkanya is nearby. Those with the stomach for adventure can take a boat ride to Jambudeep, an island inhabited by fishermen. If you visit during monsoon, be prepared to brave the choppy waters and wade through knee-deep mud.
During the day, you can visit the crocodile breeding centre at Bakkhali. It is home to six crocodiles and several deer. You are also likely to encounter stray groups of monkeys.
Follow the coastline to an abandoned buoy. It is difficult to believe that the gigantic structure once floated in the high seas and guided ships with its flickering lamp.
The narrow path that disappears into the casuarina forest bordering the beach leads to the temple of Banabibi, the local deity.
Walk back to Frazerganj along the beach, turned into a virtual red carpet by crabs. It takes around 45 minutes.
Don't forget to explore the village and its lush green paddy fields before heading for Bakkhali, and the bus ride home.
The WBSTC bus starts from Esplanade at 7 am. The bus returns from Bakkhali at 1 pm. The journey takes around 5 hours and the one-way fare is Rs 64
There are a few hotels, like Deepak, Portland and Sangam. If you stay near the harbour, Sagarkanya, run by Benfish, is a good bet. Bakkhali has more hotels than Frazerganj, including Bakkhali Tourist Lodge (run by WBTDC), Amarabati Hotel, Balaka Hotel and Hotel Babylon. Almost all the hotels have their own restaurant. The only mode of transport in Frazerganj is the cycle-van