Doars- In the Nature’s Abode (Part 2)

Contd from Part 1-

Day 3- Elephant Safari at Hollong and Phuentsholing

Stop 1 – Elephant Safari at Hollong

We have booked Elephant Safari months in advance from the official website. We arrived at Hollong in early morning for Elephant Safari. There were a group of 5 Elephants and one young elephant in the Hollong. The 5 elephants daily takes people on ride in 3 slots of 1 hour each in the morning. The child elephant accompanies the mother elephant as she will not go unless her child accompanies her. In each Elephant, 4 people rides in a cart attached to Elephant’s back along with a Mahawat (Mahout).

We rode in the back of Priyadarshini (my Elephant’s name). She took us through the jungle, the experience was exhilarating . On the way, a rhino was sitting on the river. One elephant tried to scare the rhino away. Then, we came near the Hollong river. I noticed my Mahout had two sticks on his hand to control the Elephant- one made of wood and one made of iron. I casually asked him that does he use the iron one often. He became embarrassed and instantly put the iron rod in his back pocket.

The journey was smooth. Riding in the Elephant’s back, I imagined what must be the life of the people in the ancient and medieval times, when Maharajas and Armies used to ride on Elephant’s back during the war.

The group of 5 Safari Elephants along with a child Elephant
Elephant trying to scare the Rhino away

Stop 2- Phuentsholing in Bhutan

We arrived in Jaigaon. On the way, we entered a restaurant, which was offering Chhaang, a millet based beverage. Then, we entered the checkpost to Phuentsholing and successfully entered the Bhutan (One thing to note is that if you are an Indian, don’t forget to carry your voter id card or else passport, which is required at the checkpost).

First, we went to the Kharbandi Monastery. The view from there was surreal. We spent some time there and then went to explore the local market. We arrived at the local grocery and vegetable market. The items sold there were quite different from what we see in India. I purchased an incense stick and a chilli flake powder from the shop.Then we went to explore the local gift shop. I purchased few memorablia for myself and my family. On the way, we ate the famous Ema Datshi of Bhutan.

One peculiar thing I noticed in Bhutan is how they manage their traffic in the roads. I didn’t noticed a single traffic lights on the streets, because there was no need of one. The drivers followed the traffic rules, did not overtake and did not unnecessarily honked at others. If a passerby puts a foot in the zebra crossing, the drivers stop their cars to let the passerby cross the road. Passerby also don’t do jaywalking and the traffic moves smoothly. Other countries have a lot to learn from the Bhutan model of traffic management.

Chhaang, a millet beverage
Ema Datshi, the famous Bhutanese Dish
Kharbandi Monastery view point
Local Market in Bhutan

Day 3- Chilapata forest and Coonchbehar

Stop 1- Chilapata Forest

We arrived at Chilapata forest in the morning and went for jeep safari. The Chilapata is a dense forest as opposed to the Hollong, which is more of a grassland. We could spot few elephants and a rhino there. On the way, we saw a hornbill flying by. The guide informed us that it is a male hornbill provisioning food for his chicks and his lover. Though we could not see many animals, I remembered the words of my previous guide- “although our eyes could not see many animals, but there were many eyes who saw us”.

Stop 2- Cooch behar

We arrived at Cooch behar, our final stop. There was a stark difference in the climate of the Chilapata and the Cooch behar. We were sweating in the urban heat of the Cooch behar with all the traffic congestions. We arrived at the Cooch behar Rajbari. It is a beautiful palace with a huge history associated with it. We explored all the galleries and artifacts on exhibition.

Cooch behar Rajbari

Then we went to the nearby Madan Mohan Temple and Sagardighi lake. Finally, it was the time to bid goodbye to the beautiful North Bengal and the Doars. Our journey was very memorable and we made many friends along the way.

P.S. Special thanks to our Driver Suraj, who was more like our guide and a friend during the entire trip. (I am sharing his contact details in the comments below)


Doars- In the Nature’s Abode (Part 1)

Doars, which means ‘doors’ in many Indian Languages, is named so because it is the region which acts like ‘door’ to the hills of the Bhutan. There are 18 passages or gateways between the hills in Bhutan and the plains in India. This region is divided by the Sankosh River into the Eastern and the Western Dooars. The Western Dooars is known as the Bengal Dooars and the Eastern Dooars as the Assam Dooars.

I made the plan to visit Western Doars with a friend months in advance. We booked hotel and elephant safari from the official site of West bengal Government a few months before our plan to visit Doars.

Day 1- Safari in Jaldapara National Park

We arrived in our hotel at around 2’O Clock in the noon. We got ready and immediately jumped to the restaurant to eat lunch. Our Jeep Safari was booked for 4’O Clock. We immediately went to the counter to enquire about it. They said that if we shuttle with another 4 people, our cost can be lowered. But after much waiting, we found a couple who were also going for the Jeep Safari. We shuttled with them.

The capacity of the Jeep was to ride 6 people in the back and 2 in the front- a Guide and a driver. We were 4 people in the back instead of 6. The ride went smoothly. At the start, we could only spot many peacocks roaming around here and there. But as we went along, we spotted Elephant, One Horned Rhinos, Bisons and Deers. Our Guide told us that the evening Safari at Jaldapara is considered to be the best, as it is time when we can spot maximum animals.

One-Horned Rhino

During our ride, we made the plan for next day also. The couple riding with us also joined in our plan. They were a generation older than us in numbers, but a generation younger than us in spirits. We didn’t knew at that time, that this Safari ride is also giving us lifelong friends to count on.

Me with my travel buddies

Our final stop in the Jeep Safari was a tribal dance program organised by Boro Community. They performed a total of 5 dance performances. After watching their dance, the Jeep dropped us into our hotel.

Day 2 – Buxa Tiger Reserve and Jayanti

Stop 1- Rajabhatkhawa Butterfly Conservatory

We didn’t expected this site to be so good when we went there. Bhuvan and Prakash, the caretaker of the facility told us how they help in breeding the butterflies. They collected the caterpillars from the leaves and then bred it artificially by providing it with leaves and nourishment needed for its proper growth. When the butterfly is ready to take off, they release it in their butterfly garden. This way, they help increase the population of the dwindling butterflies.

Its not an earring, its a caterpillar!!
Butterfly ready to take off
Bhuvan and Prakash

Stop 2- Buxa Museum

Photography inside the museum was prohibited, so I could not snap any photos. Inside the museum, there were carcasses of many animals, there were skin of many big cats and also horns of many antelopes. We spent few time there and then went towards our next destination.

Stop 3 – Trekking at Buxa Fort and Lepcha

We took a guide with us for trekking in the hills. We reached near Buxa Fort within half an hour. Our guide told us that we were one of the fastest group to reach in this spot within such a short time. Then we continued to trek till Lepcha view point. There we found a Buddhist temple, were people were giving many offerings like Cake, Chips packet, Cadburies etc to their deity. There were many different kinds of flowers at the top. We stopped by a local food shop and ordered some food and Rice Beer, also known as Hariya in local language. The Hariya gave us strength to continue our journey further. During the return journey to the Buxa Fort, we found many children playing football and joined them. Atlast, we reached the Zero point.

Enjoying Hariya with our guide Sahadeep

Stop 4 – Snake-riding in the Jayanti River

We hired a jeep for snake riding in the Jayanti River. The Jeep took us through the river and towards the Bhutan hills. It was an unforgettable Offroading experience. We crossed the river and went towards the hills. There we found a cave temple and a falls. We spent some leisure time at the river’s shore. Then we finally went towards our return journey to the hotel.

Jayanti River

During our return journey, we found a group of Elephants waiting to cross the roads. We waited there for nearly half an hour, but the speeding cars, bikes and trucks refused to stop. Ultimately, we bid adieu to the elephants and went our way, hoping that they can soon cross the roads.

One quote for our new friends Aditi ji and Kunal ji-

“मैं अकेला ही चला था जानिब-ए-मंज़िल मगर
लोग साथ आते गए और कारवाँ बनता गया”
-मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी

“I started alone towards the destination, but people kept joining me on the way, and it became a caravan.”

-Majrooh Sultanpuri

To be Continued…

Exploring Varanasi – the Spiritual capital of India

The holy city of Varanasi or Banaras, the spiritual capital of India, where you will find history and culture in every nook and corner of the city, got its name from the two tributaries of Ganga, Varuna in the north and Assi in the south. If you want to experience India in its raw form, then this is the must visit place. I went there with 2 of my friends during Holi festivities and I am sharing my experiences here.

Day 1

Stop 1- Dina Chat at Godowlia

We arrived in Varanasi at noon. We checked in our hotel, located near Harishchandra Ghat and got ready. We were hungry and we heard that Godowlia is famous for street foods in Varanasi, so we headed there.

We arrived at Dina chaat. It is famous for its varieties of chaat in Varanasi. We took many types of chaat, although my favourite was Golgappa Chaat.

Stop 2- Ganga Arti at Dasaswamedha Ghat

We returned to our hotel and its was already evening. So, we went to Harishchandra Ghat. We had missed the famous Shamshan ki Holi in Harishchandra Ghat as it happened a day earlier. We wanted to experience the famous Ganga Arti in Dasaswamedha Ghat. We negotiated with the boat supplier and managed to book a small hand operated boat for Rs 1500. We sailed through many ghats of Varanasi, from Assi Ghat to Manikarnika Ghat and finally arrived at Dasaswamedha Ghat for the Ganga Arti. It was a seen to behold, thousands of devotees offering prayer to the holy river, the experience is beyond to be described in words.

Ganga Arti at Dasaswamedha Ghat

The boat dropped us to the Harishchandra Ghat. We started exploring the streets of Varanasi. We ate the famous Banarasi Paan. But we couldn’t find the famous sweet Malaiyo yet.

Khaike Pan Banaras waala!!

Day 2

Stop 1- Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered to be among the oldest and one of the holiest temples, dedicated to Lord Shiva. We took a Sugam Darshan Ticket from the website, to avoid queues at Kashi Vishwanath Temple. We offered our prayers and then went to the nearby Sankatmochan temple and Durga Mandir. We managed to eat Malaiyo near Kashi Viswanath Temple.


Stop 2- Attending friend’s marriage at Rae Bareli

We reached at noon in Varanasi Junction Railway station to catch our train to Rae Bareli. But guess what, the train was actually departing from Banaras Railway station (so confusing, right?). It was our first time missing a train. But things not always goes as per plan, do they? So we boarded another train, which was departing in the evening. We attended our friend’s wedding and returned to Varanasi in the morning. I managed to catch some sleep in the train.

Day 3

Stop 1- Digambar Jain Parsvanath’s Birth Place

My friends were not able to sleep in the train. So I went to explore solo Parsvanath’s birth place. I went inside the temple and offered my prayer. Then I explored the nearby museum and found many antiques and sculptures from Ancient India.

Parsvanath, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara’s Birthplace

Stop 2- Sarnath

Sarnath is the place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment to his first four disciples.
We took a cab to travel to Sarnath, which is at a distance of roughly 12 km from our hotel. We explored the Dhamek Stupa, nearby Buddhist temples, Chinese temple etc. Then we went to the Sarnath Museum, where many antiques, incuding the famous Lion Capital, the National emblem of India and Ashok chakra is located.

Sarnath is the place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment

Stop 3- Strolling through the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) Campus

I went alone to the campus as my friends had to go somewhere else. BHU campus is very vast, its so vast that even autorickshaws and other vehicles ply inside it. I just casually strolled through the campus and observed many different types of department and buildings there. Then I went to the Madhuban Park inside BHU campus. There many students were playing Holi. I interacted with a college student. Then I went towards New Kashi Vishwanath Temple ( aka Birla Temple) located inside BHU campus. The temple is very grand and big. Then I went to the Central Library located nearby the temple. There were many books inside the library, I managed to scroll through two books- one on mythologies of the world and other on the famous speeches in History.

Then I went to ghats and did a solo walk. There are around 84 Ghats in Varanasi. I casually strolled from one Ghats to the other and finally reached Assi Ghat. There I took a Kulhad tea and then returned to my hotel.

Day 4 – Kabir Chaura Math

Amid the crowd and the hustle and bustle of Varanasi, this is the place which will give you peace and tranquility. Here, you will find many “Kabir Das ke Dohe” in the carvings on the wall. There are many sculptures inside the premises. I stayed there for an hour. The Saints even offered me Prasad. I purchased a book on Kabir ji’s life.

Chalti Chaki dekhi ke diya kabira roye
Mati Kahe Kumhar se tu kya ronde moye
Me with Swami Haricharan ji

Now was the time to bid goodbye to this holy city. It was a great and memorable journey. I experienced India’s culture in its purest form in Varanasi.