Frankly, I was getting mind-$#%^ed here in my city. It was long back that I took a proper vacation- a vacation that would’ve given me relief from my daily hustle and bustle and those endless phone-calls and mails. So, this time, when I started searching for my perfect summer hide-out, I came across this FB page called The Nomadic Weekends. These guys, seemingly, found out new places , rather new unexplored places and got into some kind of marketing agreement with them and were showcasing them. And Bungkulung and Rohtak were their suggestion in North Bengal. Now, one thing led to another, and one fine morning, I found myself boarding the Indigo flight to Bagdogra with my family of my 7 year old monkey prince, 2 elder women (mother and mother-in-law) and my wife helping me managing them.
The first place that we were supposed to go was Bungkulung. A Bolero was waiting for us at the airport (it charged us 2200/- for the drop) and was sent by the homestay owner. It was supposed to be a village homestay somewhere near Mirik (well, 17 km from mirik to be exact). The road was excellent till halfway and the second half (the hilly stretch) was killer (an offroading experience). But, once we reached the spot after a 2.5 hours drive from Bagdogra airport, we were speechless for a few minutes. Imagine, in a sloppy, quaint village, you pick up few trees and pluck in some beautiful cottages. That’s this place for us.
For those with a slightly adventurous streak of mind, this place is just THE perfect place for having a romantic gate-away with your girlfriend or your extra-marital-affair-partner. Trust me, nobody will disturb you here, except for the friendly in-house dog (loved biscuits and hates chicken, strangely) and the person, daju, occasionally taking orders and serving the food (hot, freshly prepared home food). They charge here on an AP basis (room plus all meals) and our rate was 1600/- per head per day. And for the single occupancy for my mom (she still romances my dad in heaven at night) it was slightly higher.
The very next day, I committed a grave mistake. I booked a car for a day-trip to Mirik Lake. Now, this place is a standard to-go places for darjeeling tourists and once we reached there (after the 1.5 hours murderous road-drive and spending 1200/-), all we could find was a dirty lake with lots of people and basically a nuisance. My suggestion would be to take a few good books, carry your lover and enjoy the solitude rather than unnecessary travel.
Our next stop was not in West Bengal, but in Sikkim and this dog came with us till the car to bid us goodbye to his friend, my son. The car was ready and we headed off to Sikkim. There is this big town in Sikkim called Jorethang and our place Rohtak was just 6 kms from it. It was a 4.5 hours drive and don;t even ask about the off-roading experience. With two elderly ladies, it was bloody hell. And, once we reached, my heart skipped a bit- partially due to fear and rest due on excitement. The resort was situated at a riverbank and the only way it’s connected to the main land is with a iron-hanging bridge. The resort people came to take the luggage and frankly, we bothered least about it, but carrying my mother to the other side, was the biggest challenge. Now, Oindrila, my wife lives with her and while adjusting, came to know her, probably even better than me. And, strangely my mother, in these type of situations, trusted her more than she trusted me. So, it was Oindrila helping my mother and me helping hers. There are 5 cottages (double bedded each and priced at 1250/- per head per day inclusive of all meals).
This place was magical. All we could hear was the rangit river singing her sweet nothings to us and we actually spent our days at those hanging snacks places in front of our cottages. We could access airtel 3g and my mom was happy with her daily soap operas in the Hotstar app and wasting my battery. Now, it was the first time, I was staying in a homestay with a perfectly maintained swimming pool. Yes, and me and my son were ecstatic. And, what better way it was than to dive in and enjoy the whisper of trees around ? Here, the cook was a fantastic one and knew his job. Upon request, we got pork curry (for 2 days) and the traditional sikkimese thali with the freshly caught chepa fish from the river. It was heaven. During the afternoon, the staff again took us for a walk along the river bank (not that I liked to walk and was missing my afternoon siesta) but the small 10 minutes walk was worth.
On the third day, we went for a trip of nearby Samdruptse stupa, Sikkim. More than the historical importance, the prime attraction for my son (and myself) was the ropeway there which went around for a 10 minutes ride (300/- each) and was worth every rupee. The stupa offered rooms for the devotees and even a free wi-fi zone. I was impressed. The second stop of the day was at Temi tea garden. It was the only proper operating tea garden in Sikkim. The government-run tea shop there, was as usual boring and rubbish- while the tea-seller didi was more talkative there. The trip was worth for a day-trip. The car charged us 1500/-
On the fourth day, after thanking the staff (who provided us with one of the best hospitality I’ve personally experienced ever), we set off again to enter West Bengal- this time it was for Sillery gaon. It was again a 4 hours drive. This place is a relatively new entrant but has become extremely popular in just a few years. The place offers a 270-degree view of the Himalaya range from almost anywhere within the village and on a non-cloudy day, it was something to cherish lifelong. After Kalimpong and just before entering Pedong, there was this sharp (a-blink-and-you-miss-turn) turn, one of the worst motorable roads started and the last 4.5 Km drive took around 1 hour. But once we reached the Renu Tamang homestay, it was a relief. It was like staying with a family at their place. Till now, wherever we’ve stayed in Bungkulung and Rohtak, they were impeccably maintained bungalows/ cottages- but this was an actual home.
We took 2 cottages (and one of the best in the whole vicinity) but the room was inside the house and it was a different homely experience. There was this 2.5-year-old kid, who immediately recognized my son as this dada (brother) and kept continuously asking “dada kothai (where is dada) and dada khelbi chol (brother, let’s go to play)” for the next 3 days and welcomed him with all his toys and cars. Meenu didi (the elder daughter-in-law) became like the elder sister to Oindrila and kept on discussing the daily chores, while me and my mother (both being loners), enjoyed the view and quietness.
And, the second day morning was something else. Sillery gaon had taken its cover off and the range was visible. With the morning sun, it was spectacular. Though I couldn’t do justice with my small camera, still, it’ll remain with me for a long long time.
We went on a small trek on the second day, to Ramitey view point and for a jungle trek, it was worth.
But all being said and done, there are few problems with this place. The hot water was given in buckets and charged separately and there was no TV (my mom was so unhappy for this). For these issues, some new homestays have come up with better infrastructure but what I felt was, the homely feeling was lost there.
however, it was our last day and we came down to Siliguri (a 4 hours drive and costing 3200/-) and was put up in probably the first proper hotel in the entire tour (Hotel Tourist Inn, opposite Westside). Good rooms, proper infrastructure and with the TV channels, my mother couldn’t conceal her happiness. The lunch was done in the famed Kalpataru hotel there (one of the prime bengali pice hotels), but the experience there needs another write-up.
While coming back, we found the famed canteen in Bagdogra airport has shifted its place and is running under a new management- but the food is still good (again needs another write-up). The trip was getting over and my son’s expression was like “Is it really over ?” So was mine….. is it over ?
So, this is my first post on travel, please point out the points for improvements, Thanks in advance.
Comments and critics welcome.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org