BENGAL TOURISM

THE LARGEST HOSPITALITY CHAIN IN WEST BENGAL -- The lush landscapes and varied wildlife of Chalsa make it a favourite with nature lovers, says Deepesh Das --

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Come and discover a vacation paradise of incredible ,beautiful variety.

Come and experience Bengal hospitality,cuisine,culture,people and feel the comfort ------

TOURIST LOCATIONS AT A GLANCE ----

Sea Shore areas - Bakkhali / Digha / Diamond Harbour /Sajnekhali /

Hill Stations areas - Darjeeling / Kurseong / Kalimpong (hill top) / Kalimpong (Tashiding) / Kalimpong (Morgan House)/Mirik Lake / Teesta Praryatak /

Wildlife areas - Jaldapara / Gorumara / Latagiri /

Time sharing resorts - Bishnupur / Mainak / Rupnarayan / Shantiniketan /Tarakeshwar / Malbazar / Maithan / Raiganj /Rani Siromani Paryatak /

Other hotspots around Bengal -- Lava/Loleygaon/Rishyap,Fraserganj,Jhargram/Ajodhya hills/Sikkim/Bhutan

For more details,log on to www.westbengaltourism.gov.in

DOOARS

An immense world of natural delights -----

Imagine a stretch of forest dotted with tea gardens and Wildlife Sanctuaries teeming with the rare one-horned Rhino,Elephant,Great Indian Gaur and Exotic Birds.This is the Dooars Valley in North Bengal,gateway to Bhutan,Sikkim,Assam and the North-East.

Tourist Circuit ----

Siliguri - Jaldapara (Madarihat) -Chilapata - Siliguri

1 N,2D by Bus/Car

Siliguri Jaldapara (Hollong) -Chilapata -Siliguri

1 N,2D by Bus/Car

Siliguri -Gorumara - Tea Gardens -Siliguri

1 N,2D by Bus/Car

Siliguri -Kalimpong -Lava -Loleygaon -Siliguri

2 N,3D by Bus/Car

For more on details log on to www.westbengaltourism.gov.in

BIRD SANCTUARY at DUMURJALA LAKE  front

so amazing for watching the birds too close

 

                 HAVEN IN THE HILLS

How many of you can tell your English breakfast tea from a cup of Earl Grey or Caravan? But here I am on a hilly spot in the Dooars being regaled by stories about small panthers crouching amongst the tea bushes and pythons slithering through the wild undergrowth. And Im thinking that the tea Im drinking started its life in a tea bush not far from where Im sitting.

  The adventure begins from the moment you cross the Coronation Bridge over the burbling Teesta, flanked on both sides by steep cliffs with verdant cover. During the two-hour drive from Bagdogra to Dooars, hordes of peacocks, their brilliant plumage lit up in the dappled sunlight, scamper for cover as you zip through the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Or you can feast your eyes on the sweeping vistas below. Gently nestled on the slopes are quaint wooden houses propped up by poles with orchids hanging from the verandahs. During the monsoons the foliage turns a bright shade of emerald. Also punctuating the drive are makeshift shacks selling fresh corn, an annual crop in this region, to tourists who stop by for refreshments on their way to Kalimpong, Sikkim or Jalpaiguri.

 Im on my way to the Sinclairs Retreat Dooars. But there are heaps to see in different spots nearby. Once you reach Chalsa, for instance, a trip to the Gorumara National Park is an absolute must. The park is filled with trees like teak, simul, siris and sal you can frequently spot animals like the Gaur (Indian bison), the one-horned rhinoceros, elephant, leopard, deer, python and the Malayan giant squirrel. 

         Also declaring their presence in a cacophony of chirps and twitters are the Brahmany ducks, cormorants, darters, egrets and storks. And the intrepid tourist can spice up his trip to the wilderness by spending the night at the Gorumara Forest Rest-house or by going on an exciting wildlife trail. The word rest house is a misnomer though, since all youll be doing in Gorumara is hopping from one watchtower to another to get a closer view. The Jatraprasad Watch Tower, Chukchuki Tower and the Chandrachur Tower are vantage points overlooking the flood plains of the Murti and Jaldhaka rivers of north Bengal.

         Its time to leave the grasslands and climb to a higher altitude. Getting my trekking gear together, I hit the road to Samsing, located at a height of 600m in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. As you drive up the winding mountain tracks, soak in the breathtaking view of rolling orange orchards and cardamom plantations perched on the hill terraces. The most exciting part of the trip is the short trek to Mouchuki, which is the entry point to the Neora Valley National Park. Believe me, its not an uphill task (pun intended) for amateur trekkers to amble along the gentle slopes to Mouchuki and explore the local culture.

A trip to the Gorumara National Park is an absolute must. A wildlife lover’s delight, the park is home to a variety of animals from elephants to the one-horned rhino

But for those who would like to take it easy, Suntalekhola (Nepalese for beautiful stream) with its gurgling brook, moss green boulders and a fragile footbridge that shakes every time you step on it, is the place to be. Mountains on all sides surround it.

         By the time, I returned to my actual destination, the Sinclairs Retreat Dooars, I had a fair idea of the natural vegetation of the area. But the horticulturist at the retreat was still able to teach me a thing or two about growing exotic vegetables in a place like this. As you take a leisurely walk from your cottage to the dining room, youre greeted by the sight of vegetation that can range from medicinal shrubs and flavouring herbs to exotic vegetables and aromatic plants.

         The air of the dining hall is redolent with the fragrance of Malabar nut juice thats freshly brewed every morning for guests. This is hugely popular among foreign tourists because its said to be good for coughs and colds. And almost everything at the table from the red cabbage and cherry tomatoes to the broccoli and bell peppers of different hues is farm-fresh. Even spices like bay leaf are handpicked from the garden, cleaned and preserved without using chemical stabilizers.

         Were even growing stevia in our gardens, the leaves of which can be added to herbal tea as a replacement for chemical sugar supplements used by diabetic,” says Sanjay Jana, supervisor, plantation operation, Sinclairs Retreat. In fact, everything inside the retreat is unaffected and natural with minimal use of concrete. Says Navin Suchanti, Chairman, Sinclairs Hotels Ltd, The brief given to the landscape artist was to maintain the natural undulation of the hilltop on which the retreat is built”.

         Sinclairs also has a special Dooars in the Rain package on offer right now. This three-night, four-day deal will set you back by Rs.5485 per head.

  A well-appointed health club is one of the highlights of the retreat. So, if youve been working your fingers to the bone lately and long to let youre their down, pamper yourself with Shirodhara, the mud baths, aroma massages and Pranayam. Its a great way to revitalize and rejuvenate your senses. There are even several therapeutic options like colonic irrigation, spinal baths and hipbaths, which all follow the basic principles of naturopathy to treat lifestyle-related ailments.

         Refreshed and rejuvenated, you can answer the call of the wild by going white water rafting on the river Teesta. Flowing over jagged rocks and crags, the Teesta has several rapids of varying intensity and is the perfect setting for this extreme water sport. Labeled as Grade IV on the international scale, the rafting stretch on river Teesta is attracting tourists by the droves. There are various levels of the sport catering to the degree of proficiency of those taking part in it.

         There are plenty of other attractions that are just a stones throw from Chalsa. And I returned from the plains, taking back just the right blend of indulgence and adventure.

                              VALLEY OF FLOWERS

The drive from LACHUNG TO YUMTHANG IS A PLEASURE TRIP  anytime -----

                      A view of YUMTHANG VALLEY

The Yumthang valley in North Sikkim is known as the Valley of Flowers.

April is the best time to go to Yumthang.That's  when the flowers are in full bloom.Yumthang is about an hour's drive from Lachung.The road is beautifully lined with trees and shrubs of rhododendrons and other varities.

                Cars on the way to Valley from LACHUNG

The Yumthang Valley will just take breath away.It is surrounded by very high mountains,which remain snow-covered round the year.In winter,you will find snow in the valley too.Ahilly stream flows along the line where the slopes meet.

 

WEST BENGAL TOURISM

With the Himalayas in the North, the Bay of Bengal in the South, the forests and tea gardens in the Dooars, the largest mangrove estuaries of Sunderbans, the heritage richness of Malda, Gour, Murshidabad, the exquisite terracottahs of Bankura and Birbhum and the lively city of Kolkata where tradition meets modernity – West Bengal is a unique state in its topography and cultural tradition.

         West Bengal is one of the most tourism friendly states in the country and is widely known for its warmth & hospitality. It ranks 4th in terms of foreign tourists arrivals and 7th in terms of domestic tourists among the states.

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation presently is the proud owner of the largest hospitality chain of the state. The Corporation manages 24 Tourist Lodges in various destinations all over West Bengal with 545 rooms to cater to tourists of various tastes and budget. In the recent past, it has taken aggressive measures to renovate and provide 3 star facilities in important destinations. Tourist lodges at Shantiniketan, Bishnupur, Digha, Jaldapara and Darjeeling provide very modern comforts after the renovations. The Corporation also provides decent accommodation and catering facilities at Mal Bazaar, Jalpaiguri, Siliguri (Mainak Lodge), Kurseong, Kalimpong, Malda, Berhampur, Diamond Harbour, Malancha, Bakkali, Midnapore and Salt Lake (Kolkata).

 WBTDC organizes regular package tours to the Sunderbans by its luxury vessels M.V. Chitrarekha and M.V. Sarbajaya from October to May every year. Packages include pickup and drop at Kolkata Tourism Center, berthing in the boats, catering and touring facilities. For family and birthday parties, Corporation operates two vessels namely M.V. Sumangal and M.V. Madhukar (A.C) for chartering tours in and around Kolkata.

         Various long and short Package Tours are also organized to different destinations around the state. Special Package Tours are organized for Dooars, Darjeeling-Sikkim, Bhutan; to Shantiniketan during Basant-Utsav, Poush Mela, and Kenduli Baul Mela; to Bishnupur during Bishnupur Mela and Utsav, on regular schedules. A diverse array of programmes and tours are designed to suit all tourist types during the Sharadotsav every year.

         The Tourism Corporation manages around 12 package tours to different locations in and outside the state like Sikkim and Bhutan Tourists who are interested to avail of the corporation facilities can walk in to the Tourism center at 3/2 B.B.D. Bag (E), Kolkata-700001, Or call enquiry numbers 033-44012660, 44012661, 44012662, 44012665

         Corporation has recently launched a new website with a trendy and con-temporary look www.westbengaltourism.gov.in. Any person can now book the Tourist Lodges of WBTDC and also through Master/Visa Credit Cards and Visa Debit Cards or just browse the portal for information.

         To further increase the accessibility, Corporation now has several authorized Travel Agents in Kolkata, Siliguri and Jalpaiguri.

 

VIVADA WATERWAYS

Sunderbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. It is one of UNESCOS World Heritage Site. River Ganga, before entering the Bay of Bengal, flows, through Sunderbans, which consist of hundreds beautiful islands with rivers tributaries and creeks flowing in between. Sunderbans is also a habitat for the world famous Royal Bengal Tigers. With its varied Flora & Fauna, serenity and tranquility, Sunderbans is a must visit for any tourist who is a nature lover.

         Sunderbans is about 100 to 120 kms away from Kolkata by road or by river. So far there have hardly been any facility worth its name to travel to this place and to explore the waters and creeks as well as the islands and the variety of birds and beasts. But this lacuna is now taken care of by Vivada Cruises. They have started a fully Air Condition Luxury Cruiser Vessel with all modern day facilities with 32 double bedded rooms for overnight stay, to go to Sunderbans in a package Tour of 3 nights 4 days. This beautiful Cruiser Vessel with it exotic cuisine and splendid services have proudly showcased the leisurely journey for the high-end tourist. With on board and off-shore entertainment depicting the Cultural Heritage of Bengal, guided tours and walks in the island and interaction with the villagers of Sunderban as also enlightening lectures by experts in the field, Vivada makes it an unforgettable nature adventure.

 

PEACE OUT

Visits a Heritage Getaway set amidst the lush tea estates of Dooars --

Perched on a hill top overlooking miles of slopping valleys and tea gardens,Zurrantee,a heritage resort 80 km from Siliguri,is straight out of a fairytale.The resort,revamped from the estate director's bungalow,is ensconced in a tea estate in the Himalayan foothills,nestled between the rivers Murti and Neora.It's three hours from Bagdogra airport.

The result of a joint venture between Solutions Inc and Darjeeling Dooars Plantations (Tea) Limited,the bungalow was originally built in 1890 and was owned by the Duncan Tea Estate.DDPL acquired the property in 1977 and it functioned as the MD's residence thereafter.In its new avatar as a 'heritage getaway' ,it is only about a month old.Zurrantee is one of the few Dooars estates to have ventured into tea-tourism.

Zurrantee,with its bungalow that sits amidst a 700 acre expanse of tea gardens (including the factory and employee's quarters),is for the tourist who is looking to relax in a quiet place,away from the bustle.The idea is to de-stress and detach.Which is why it is a boon that mobile phones don't work well here.And none of the rooms -Rongdong,Diana,Lish and the master suite Moorti (all names of local rivers)-offer a television.

'Why would you come all the way to a tea estate to stay cooped up in your room?' asks Rahul Mukherjee os Solutions Inc.What you could do instead is wake up early and go for a walk to the estate's Sunrise Point,or just wander around the gardens and watch the tea picking in action.Or sit on the spacious porch that overlooks the valley and sip some robust tea grown on that very estate.Or take a 'Manager's Day Out',which involves a guided tour of the estate and factory followed by picnic lunch at Samsing/Suntaleykhola,which is short trek away.You can also get a taste of local culture-we caught a lovely performance by young girls dressed in traditional finery,who danced to a Nepali song that thanked god for nature's blessings.Or munch some savoury snacks while at the card table.

If the leisurely pace is too much for you,Gorumara National Park and Neora Valley Reserve Forest are also less than an hour's drive from the bungalow.

Slow doesn't mean predictable,though.Every meal you have during your stay at the resort will be from a cuisine different than your previous meal.Expect to be surprised by a Dal Makhni and curries for lunch and asparagus soup and steak for dinner.

Zurrantee is all about quirky old world charm-from its hardwood floors to the antique piano room.Quaintly enough,the antique piano in the room was later modelled into a writing desk and now fuction as a bar! It's these little touches that give Zurrantee its charm.Not for them are shiny,new books in the cupboard.The volumes that occupy the shelves are well-worn and much-thubbed classics,encyclopedias and best-sellers previously owned by the management.

Peace comes at a price though.A charge of Rs.5,500 per night covers a room for two,all meals and evening snacks.A package of Rs.9,999 will include the above,plus pick-up and drop from New Jalpaiguri/Bagdogra and a day of sight-seeing.For booking,shoot a mail to info@zurrantee.com or call 03561-282443

A gazebo that overlooks the valley at Zurrantee tea estate

a view of the rooms at the resort

a bridge at the tea garden giving you complete silence by the nature

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