Travel and Dream goes side by side, hand in hand. No matter it's a daydream or a dream that slips under your closed eyes. When it comes to travel, we all want to embark on a dreamy tour, a dreamy journey. So let's dream once more. Let's dream you are sleeping in a wooden hut in an unknown, sleepy mountain village. The sun just yawned beyond the horizon and smeared your sleeping face with its orange tint. You wake up to the gushing sound of mountain river, rumbling passionately in your backyard. The entire place is enveloped with pin drop silence. This soul calming silence is occasionally interrupted with tweeting birds in distant and buzzing insects in the nearby bushes. The cackling hens and squawking ducks are trying to announce the break of the dawn in a shy, soft manner. Then you stand with morning tea in your little wooden balcony that overlooks an infinite green stretch of tea garden. The fragrance from hanging flower vase beautifully blends with the smoke coming out of hot tea. You get saturated with a magical muse, wondering, what good deeds you have accumulated that you find yourself in such a pure, untouched dimension. You connect all the missing dots with endless love and blessing that Universe showers upon you.
In my recent Dooars trip, while chasing this beautiful dream, I was fascinated to explore the unexplored, see the unseen and give my deepest attention to the unnoticed corners of Himalaya.
So I deliberately skipped all mainstream touristy destinations in Dooars and researched out a short list of serene mountain villages, that are mostly hidden in the lap of virgin Himalayan foothill.
How to reach Dooars:
By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport. From Bagdogra you can rent a four wheeler to explore this lush green paradise.
By Train: Book a ticket upto New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) and you can avail public bus service or your personal vehicle for your journey ahead. Renting a private vehicle is definitely a much better option as remote villages are not well connected by public transport system.
As an alternate, if you don't want to stay overnight in each village, you can select a centre location (like Siliguri or preferably Malbazar) for staying over and can cover the villages as day sightseeing. This way you can also cut down your overall trip cost. But I would suggest, try to spend a couple of nights at least in one village if not more. Only then you can fully experience the essence of local, unperturbed mountain life.
Mark your Calendar: I strolled around those villages, hiked the mountains, meditated on river bank, walked through the silent woods and spend a lovely time with the locals. At the end, I drew a firm conclusion- 'Dooars looks most beautiful in monsoon'. The mountains flaunt their greenest avatar. Mountain rivers work through their course unapologetically. Mountain flowers decorate every nook and corner with vibrant colours. However, climate in Dooars remains pleasant round the year. Avoid peak summer and winter season as you can feel uncomfortable with steeply rising and falling mercury level.
The Pocket: I covered this trip in absolutely backpacker style. The places I have listed below have decent home-stays, Government tourist lodges and guest houses. The average boarding and lodging charge lies in the range of INR 1000-1500 per night with three times meals a day.
My first destination was Malbazar, a beautiful subdivisional township in New Jalpaiguri state. I have few sorted out reasons why I chose Malbazar (and not Siliguri) as my first destination in Dooars. Firstly, this township is surrounded by some of the most stunning tea estates in North Bengal that Indian tourists are unaware of. Secondly, the distance between the villages that I decided to visit are within 50 Kilometres from Malbazar. Thirdly, Malbazar is well connected with Kolkata by one of the most scenic train routes, I have ever seen. I boarded Kanchankanya Express from Sealdah Junction in evening and reached Malbazar around 9.30 in morning.
Malbazar has proudly claimed its rank in the map of travel destinations of North Bengal for this grandly architected temple, devoted to Lord Hanuman. This artistically constructed temple was founded by the local Marwari community, living in Malbazar. I heard that the inauguration ceremony of this temple was conducted in a royal way with showering flowers from a helicopter. Devotees come to offer worship and prayer from 8 am to 1pm in first phase and then 4pm to 8 pm in second phase. Though I found the temple complex is bit small, the main hall of the temple is huge and can accommodate more than 200 devotees at a time.
After taking blessing from Lord Hanuman I started my trip of Dooars. My first target was to spot some serene tea estates of North Bengal. Surprisingly, I came to know that most of the tea gardens around Malbazar is beyond the tourist's radar and so protected from commercialisation and annoying crowd and they happily took it as a boon. The locals recommended me to visit Soongachi Tea estate and Chalsa tea estate. The best way to explore the surrounding of Malbazar is hiring a local Tuk-Tuk.
My first destination was Soongachi Tea garden. The Tuk-tuk ran though the silent tea estates on both side of the roads. The endless green velvety terrain was spread miles across miles like a carpet. We passed by small unknown villages of tea estate workers. Few of them were heading towards their garden for necessary agricultural practices. Small kids already started their day in school. A local girly gang of four girls was joyfully strolling around the tea gardens and humming a Nepali song.
The morning was little cloudy and the sun was peekabooing through grey masses of clouds. But around 11'o clock the sun took up its job in full phase and did shine the brightest against the backdrop of blue sky. I arrived at Chalsa Tea garden by then and witnessed the most magical shade of green in my life. The little raindrops was shining like diamond bead on tea leaves. The golden sunshine streaking across the clear sky passionately kissed the emerald green shade of tea shrubs. The entire place turned like a virgin green fairy, studded with diamonds, smeared with gold.