Monday, August 18, 2014

Why Go to Crowded Hills? Hit to Offbeat Heavenly Mountain Hamlets

Gielle Bhanjyang Bazaar, Takdah Block
Gielle Bhanjyang Bazaar, Takdah Block 
Fed up with visiting tourist congested hill towns like Shimla, Darjeeling and Musoorie? Dreaming to find the lovely mountains and views of snow peaks, the tea gardens, blooming orchids, the walking trails through the coniferous forests on mountain slopes? Then this mountain village near Darjeeling can be a perfect answer.
Let me tell you, this is a treasure secret not many know and when I visited I was totally rejuvenated and free from stress, depression and anger… an unavoidable gift for living an urban and chaotic life.
Not many know about this small hamlet a treasure secret, because it is not on an India tourist map

Tadah


Takdah is located at an altitude of about 4000 ft and close to Darjeeling (some 28kms away), yet far enough to be isolated, quiet and serene.
Takdah - Tea Garden View


The original name was pronounced as 'Tukdah', which is a Lepcha (Tribe) word meaning mist or fog. And the name is aptly given as the place often remains covered with fog. So what can you expect? Misty meandering roads, the chirping of the birds, nature trails passing through dense forests, sound and sight of fountain streams coming down the slope of mountains every few yards you walk - this is what Takdah is.

Takdah started as a military cantonment during the British colonial days in the early 1900s. During those days, many senior British officers frequently visited this place.
A typical Heritage British Bunglw in Takdah
A Typical Heritage British Bunglw in Takdah
 And therefore many bungalows and houses came up here for their accommodations. Those houses were built in traditional British architecture with slanted roofs.

Attractions & Activities in & around Takdah 


Surprisingly, there are several great places of interests and sightseeing attractions here within short distances. There are nice soft trekking routes as well. Here are the main attractions: 
Tea estates near Takdah
Tea estates near Takdah


  1. Some of the finest tea gardens of Darjeeling district are located in Takdah. You can walk down or take a local taxi tour to some of them and enjoy the tea gardens on rolling hills. The main tea estates in Takdah are Rungli Rungliot, Gielle, Namring, Jinglam, Poomong, and Teesta Valley estate. You can also visit the estate, factories and watch the tea processing (in winters the factories usually remain closed).  
  2. Visit the lovely orange orchards located in Bara and Chota Mangwa (both about 12kms from Takdah). The small factories here produce fresh orange juice and you can buy a few bottles of them. Tastes delicious and absolutely fresh.  
  3. Visit Tinchuley, another lovely hamlet about 3kms away from Takdah and famous for its lovely views of Himalayan range including the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga and spectacular sunrise views.  
  4. Lamahatta Village with its magnificent gardens and views of Kanchenjunga is about 12kms from Takdah. (Get details of the Lamahatta village trip in the next post)  
  5. Another nearby place is Mongpu where you can visit the orchid nurseries, the famous museum of Rabindranath Tagore, and see the vast Cinchona plantations.  You can take a vehicle and make a trip covering the above places in a day or over two days (in case you want to spend more time in each place).  
  6. A great place to visit by car is Triveni - the confluence of rivers Teesta & Rangeet.  
  7. Visit the Durpin Viewpoint, located about 10kms from Takdah. You can get a spectacular view of Teesta river meandering through the mountain landscapes. You can also get a lovely view of Kanchenjunga from here.  
  8. Peshoke Tea Garden Viewpoint is about 14kms away and offers a wonderful view of the tea gardens on hill slopes.  
  9. Takdah itself has a great Orchid Center where you can see unusual and colorful Himalayan Orchids being cultivated and grown. This is a very popular site for tourists.  
  10. There is a monastery next to the caves of Mata Durga. It's known as Dechhen Pema Tshoiling Monastery. Lama Karma Gyaltchen was in charge and the head monk of the monastery until 2007.  
  11. You can take a nature walk through pine and cedar forests, or through villages. The thickly wooded coniferous forests here are maintained by the Forest Department. You can take a shorter trek path through the forest up to Lamahatta, enjoy the views of Kanchenjunga and return via Tinchuley. The entire trek takes about 4-5 hours.  


How to reach Takdah 


Takdah is about 60kms from New Jalpaiguri (the nearest rail head) as well as Bagdogra (the nearest airport). It takes about 2.5-3 hours to reach Takdah by car from NJP or Bagdogra. Siliguri, the nearest town is about 52kms from Takdah, Darjeeling about 28kms away (about 1.5 hours by car) and Kalimpong about 40kms (2 hours).
You can get reserved taxis from NJP, Bagdogra, Siliguri and Darjeeling. There are also shared taxis/Jeeps available from Darjeeling and Siliguri (Sevoke Road, behind Vishal Cinema Hall or from Ranjit Garage behind 9/10 Hotel Sevoke). You can get private and shared taxi fares from Darjeeling here.

Best time to visit Takdah 


October to March is the best time to visit Takdah and the nearby areas. This is the time the sky remains clear and you can enjoy the chill of the winter.

Where to stay in Takdah 


Takdah is a developing tourist place and there aren't many hotels here. But luckily there is a great option. After all Takdah's history is firmly connected with the British colonial days and there can't be a better option than staying in a heritage.

Sanaa Heritage Guest House, Takdah 
Entrance of Saina Heritage Guest House
Entrance of Saina Heritage Guest House

Lawn-Saina Heritage Guest House
Lawn-Saina Heritage Guest House
Lawn-Saina Heritage Guest House
Lawn-Saina Heritage Guest House


Owned and run by the Moktan family. This used to be a bungalow of British officers and built in the year 1907. It has been nicely restored by the Moktan family. Rooms have been refurbished with standard yet modern amenities. This is a nice budget lodge.


Contact information for Inquiry & Booking 
Ms. Sujala Moktan
Saino-The Heritage Guest House,
Takdah Cantt., P.O.Takdah, District-Darjeeling, West Bengal, Pin-734203
Email: sainoheritage@gmail.com
Mobile no:- +91-94344 62806/ 94749 63183
Based on source
Note: Journey continues.............
photo of Kiran Travelfury
Travelfury
C12, New Natraj, Pestom Sagar, Road #6, Chembur
Mumbai , Maharastra , 400089 India
919920991661
Travel, India Travel, Ace guide to India, Travel consultant

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Seek Hidden Mystic Hamlets By Indian Hill Railways

Indian Hill Railways
Nilgiri Indian Hill Railways
It seldom happens with a seasoned tourist traveling by train abandoning his well planned destination and getting down enroute at some remote hidden station. Well, it happened with me. Perhaps, May be because perhaps rather than a tourist, I am more of an explorer, wanderer or a freak.
These three bizarre incidents happening with me, surprisingly had a similar pattern.  Firstly, all these unexplainable incidents took place while traveling on the Indian Hill Railway. Secondly, in all cases my destinations were scenic hill stations-Darjeeling in North East, Shimla in Himachal Pradesh and Udagamandalam (Ooty) in South India.
The puffing hill railway steam engine stopped at some lesser known station that lie enroute. I looked through the window, then deciding to have a better look, went to the exit and scanned the scene. It was surrounded by meadows, mist and hills. These hamlets were hidden under the forest covers with the backdrop of hills.
And then it happened. I picked up my backpack and got down as if some mysterious force has pulled me down from the train. I sat on a bench on the platform and drifted into some dream I do not know for how long.
Finally woke up, walked to the station master's cabin and inquired.
I found everything you can dream of in these three exotic hill villages-a place to stay, beautiful weather, serene treks, evergreen forests, hills, mountain peaks and valleys, musical streams....away from the rush of crowded hill stations.

This is how I fell in love with nature

BAROG

Barog Railway Station
Barog Railway Station
As the Himalayan Queen trundles down cooing through the 96 km Kalka-Shimla track negotiating 102 tunnels, it stopped at the quaint station stuck in time, and I could sense something mysterious around the station surroundings as if the place has deeply buried secrets. Later, I experienced it.

The Grave of Barog

Mysterious Closed Entrance of Grave of Barog
Mysterious Closed Entrance of Grave 
The Grave of Barog Tunnel
The Grave of Barog Tunnel


It was a memorable trek of 3 kilometers to the mysterious tunnel.
I was mesmerized-The natural beauty of the place, the darkness of the tunnel, the nearby beautiful garden, and the history behind it
The Grave of Barog is the burial place of the person, after whom the town is named. Col. Barog was the British engineer who was assigned with the task of constructing a tunnel in the town. To hasten the construction, Col. Barog had ordered the digging of the tunnel from the two opposite ends of a mountain. Due to a mistake in his calculations, the tunnels did not meet, and he was fined for this blunder. Barog could not bear the embarrassment and later committed suicide. He was reportedly buried near the tunnel. But now, nobody seems to know where the grave is. But Barog's unfinished tunnel is still there, used as a water reservoir. If the plan had been successful, the tunnel would have been the longest in the world.

The Other Off Beat Spots in Barog


Choor Chandni Peak 
Choor Chandni Peak
Choor Chandni Peak

It's one of the unique attractions of Barog. The highest peak is located at a height of 3,650 m above the sea level.

Where to Stay


I stayed at the specially designed Shivalik Cottage at Barog Station. It is a cottage housed in a colonial building offering panoramic view of Pine forests of Barog.
For booking,contact: Station Superintendent Barog Railway Station on telephone number 01792-238814 (before 3 PM)

Other Accommodation in Barog


The town provides excellent accommodation in Barog as there are a number of hotels and resorts which are integrated with high-class features and services. Some of these hotels include Pinewood, Hotel, Barog, Pine Drive Resort, Korinns Hotel and many others are offering budget-friendly accommodation service to its guest. Here travelers can choose the best hotel as per their own need and demand.

Train

Kalka Shimla NG Express
Train No: 52453 Daily
Deep: 6:00 AM; ARR Barog: 8:07 AM

SUKNA

Sukna Railway Station
Sukna Railway Station
A beautiful place with tall evergreen forests crisscrossed by numerous rivers and streams, Sukna is yet untouched by man. Its a charming locale situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Darjeeling District, West Bengal. It is located around 18 km from Siliguri, along the toy train route from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. Sukna is the third station on the route and it is from here that the real ascent of the hills begins.
Sukna, nestled amid serene forests and unspoilt nature, is a hidden exotic spot in the district.

Interesting Places  


  • Boating facilities are available at Umrao Singh Boat Club.
  • Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary

Sukna is the gateway to the sanctuary, only 13 km from Siliguri and 28 km from Bagdogra airport.
Its a beautiful sanctuary with an awesome forest and is located on the foothills of the Himalayas and in between the beautiful Teesta and the Mahananda rivers in West Bengal.
A drive or trek through the forest roads opens up places of magnificent beauty and gives a glimpse of excellent natural and man made forests. The watchers built beside Gulma River and at Laltong are some ideal places to observe the grazing animals specially elephant, gaur and deer.
  • If you are an Eco tourist, check out the Nature Interpretation Centre at Sukna.
  • Gulmarg Tea Estate
Besides the Sanctuary you can find out a natural green carpet on the earth, Gulmarg Tea Estate.

Where to Stay


At the Sukna forest bungalow after pre-booking or at any hotel in Siliguri. There are also many hotels and guesthouses located along the Siliguri-Sukna highway.  


How to Reach


Bagdogra (Bagdogra Airport) serves Sukna. Siliguri Junction Railway Station offers connections to New Delhi and Kolkata.

Train

New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling
Train No: 1D 52541 Daily
Deep: 9:00 AM; Arr at Sukna: 10:05 AM
http://www.indyatour.com/india/west_bengal/wb_mahananda_wildlife_sanctuary.php

KETTI

Ketti Railway Station
Ketti Railway Station

Ketti is a small village in the Nilgiri Mountains in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Situated at a height of 7,000 feet. It is only 7 kilometers from the famous hill station Ooty
Even before the sun has risen, the village wakes up. Cowbells resonate musically across the valley while smoke spirals skywards from the tiled houses below. A walk around the village can be an invigorating, winding up above stately buildings such as the Sunny Bank within the boundary of Ooty town. When night falls, one will delight in the unbelievable clusters of stars that seem just an arm's length away.
One can find some taking a pony ride, the road sides dotted with people selling honey, amazing views on either side of the road - tea gardens, eucalyptus trees, pine trees, colorful houses and quaint churches... Incredible!

Ketti Valley 
Ketti Valley
Ketti Valley

The second largest valley in the world! The words cannot explain the “Awesome View” of the valley

Train

56136/Mettupalayam-Ooty MG Passenger
Dep: 07:10 AM; Arr Ketti: 11:19 AM
Take a taxi/ bus/train from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam station to catch the train

Where to Stay 


There are many deluxe and semi deluxe residential options available in and around Ketti like Lovedale and Ootacamund.

Train Arriving at Ketti Railway Station 

photo of Kiran Travelfury
Travelfury
C12, New Natraj, Pestom Sagar, Road #6, Chembur
Mumbai , Maharastra , 400089 India
919920991661
Travel, India Travel, Ace guide to India, Travel consultant

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Haven't You Gone Yet to Kerala Treetops in Monsoon?

Exotic Treetop in Kerala Monsoon
Exotic Treetop in Kerala Monsoon
It's a pity if you have not! Surely, you are depriving yourself of the rapturous pleasure of staying in the world's most exotic treetops mystified by bewitching monsoon rains!

Thousands plan to enjoy Kerala during winter or  summer holidays to see beautiful beaches, backwater cruises and houseboat stay, hill stations and national parks. But sadly, encounter crowds and crowds everywhere. Sometimes the very reason you wanted to get away from...
Added to this is a "tourist season" anguish of paying exorbitant prices for your holidays!

So,  we had a beautiful dream and imagined fulfilling it. My friend Tommy Singh was excited when I told him my dream and readily agreed to join me. I met him standing outside 2nd AC compartment of Trivandrum Rajdhani Train (No 12432)  at a small station Panvel 30 kilometers from Mumbai. Tommy had boarded the train from Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi.

We were thrilled anticipating a most picturesque train journey by Konkan railways during monsoon and then spending our stay clutching to mother earth in a rain forest, climbing to our treetop abode, looking through bamboo framed window at the passing dark clouds, the whistling winds and pounding Kerala rains
Wow!

Enjoying Monsoon in Wayanad


An idyllic destination for the vacationing and business traveler, Wayanad is a quaint hill District in north western Kerala, in a region of immense beauty and a dazzling variety of wildlife and fauna. The majestic landscape is strewn with lofty ridges, dense tropical forests, spectacular waterfalls and gurgling mountain streams. Wayanad is a place which is lashed by rains and blasted by winds. It experiences two monsoons – from June to September and October to November. Monsoon is a new concept that is, in our opinion,  the apt destination for those who seek such a thrill and ecstasy. Lakkidi and other areas of Wayanad experience one of the highest rainfalls in India. You can see the rains lashing over the rocks, the thick greenery of the plantations and you can enjoy the cool wind that accompanies each rain.

After great research, we decided to experience three exotic monsoon jungle treetops in an incredible setting in Wayanad district. The first one to visit was a rustic, remote, hidden in nature's lap and economical (around Rs. 2500) with mystic treetops.

Wynberg Resort


Way to Wynberg Resort
Way to Wynberg Resort
One of the treetops in Wynberg Resort
One of the treetops in Wynberg Resort
From the Kozhikode rail station headed on SH 29 named as Nedumbala-Meppadi road and then turned left on the Vayavetta road in Thrikkaipatta part. From there we phoned up the resort who guided us. A distance of about 90 kilometers took us about 2 hours. Though a bit difficult to locate, my goodness, what a beautiful and adventurous  journey  it was!
We were drenched in rain and nature!

We stayed for 3 days in the resorts and the experience was splendid!
The tree top room was too good with a nice valley view and it had all the modern amenities like fridge, TV, coffee maker... Food was the typical Kerala cuisine and tasty. We discussed and left our plan to Mr.Vanchy, the man behind the show and he planned the entire itinerary for us to see, arrangement of private guides and the must see places around. The resort was amazingly amidst the coffee plantations, over viewing the hill opposite surrounded by greenery all around. Excellent location and complete.  Of course, there were Eco cottages as well.

The days were cool and nights cooler inside. It was our secret, a home away from home and a school away from school. Where we read our book and where Tommy, my friend turned into a painter.  In the evening, we would ask for "Charayam" a country alcoholic drink and enjoy it with spicy raw banana chips

  • During our stay we visited:
  1. Edakkal Caves 
  2. Mudumalai national park
  3. Bandipur National Park
  4. Chembra Peak 
  5. Lakkidi View Point  
  6. Soochippara Falls (Sentinel Rock Waterfall)

Wynberg Resort
Kuzhivayal Estate, Thrikkaipatta Wayanad- 673121,
Kerala, India.
Tel. +91-4936- 320630, Mob - 91- 9744541203 / 9526612111/09562256023
E-mail: info@wynberg.in
http://www.wynberg.in/index.htm

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary


Treetop at Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
Treetop at Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
Well, on the 4th day, it was a time to leave for our next destination, another secluded treetop surrounded by thick jungle on the bank of a lake in the lesser known wildlife sanctuary of Parambikulam located in the Chittoor Taluk of Palakkad district.

It was a more than 6 hours journey by car and let me tell you, it was most fascinating! Neither we felt the distance of 286 km nor time. It was a drive through  Kozhikode and then Palakkad, finally reaching at the sanctuary.

We had booked our treetop through forest department through a friend of mine Jacob in Palakkad.

The sight was amazing! After trekking in the sanctuary on the day one, we discovered that with its panoramic landscape, meandering streams, extensive water spread of  the reservoir (where we had our treetop),  cascading waterfalls, rolling hills and valleys and wealth of biodiversity, it was one of the most captivating places in Kerala, I had ever seen!

By the evening we returned to our "Erumadams"(as treetops houses are called in these parts)
The dinner served, on a special request, was awesome! Kanji (rice gruel), some forest grown delicious vegetable curry, Chammanthi made out of chillies, tamarind, shallots and coconut.
In the night, I looked through wooden windows at the calm waters of Thoonakkadavu Reservoir. The clouds had cleared. The bamboo forests were lining its creek and a fading in the darkness the teak wood plantation was mesmerizing!

Next day, a safari was arranged in the sanctuary in awesome Tropical Ever Green Forest. We were fortunate to see elephants,  Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Barking deer, Common Langur, Nilgiri Langur and a Malabar giant squirrel. The forest guide took us to, apart from Parambikulam, the sanctuary's two other man-made reservoirs namely, Thunakadavu and Peruvarippallam.  Finally the guide took us to some special attractions like “Kannimara”, the ever-youthful teak tree, one of the oldest and largest trees in the world (about 360 years old.) and Thuvaiar waterfall- a river cascading and emptying into the reservoir.

On the third day, we left back to our world, leaving God's own rain heaven-Kerala in the monsoon!

To Book treetop at  Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary


The Wild Life Warden,
Parambikulam Wildlife Division
Anappad, Via Pollachi, Palakkad
Phone: 04253 277233 Mobile:9447979102
E-mail: ww-parambikulam@forest.kerala.gov.in
For more Details
www.parambikulam.org
http://forest.kerala.gov.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87&Itemid=108

Vythiri Resort


Vythiri Treetop, Wayanad
Vythiri Treetop, Wayanad
View from balcony-Vythiri Treetop, Wayanad
View from balcony-Vythiri Treetop, Wayanad

Recommended

If you can spend money, around Rs. 10,000 for 2 then one of the best tree top place in the world, especially in monsoon is Vythiri Resort. It's a life time experience. For a honeymoon or to enjoy combative love games during monsoon or with family to have great fun, there is no other place than Vythiri Resort in Wayanad District. It has five tree houses, including one with child friendly facilities. Built at the height of 60 feet off the ground, gives breathtaking views of the forest around.
Just awesome!
http://www.vythiriresort.com/
photo of Kiran Travelfury
Travelfury
C12, New Natraj, Pestom Sagar, Road #6, Chembur
Mumbai , Maharastra , 400089 India
919920991661
Travel, India Travel, Ace guide to India, Travel consultant

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