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.
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.
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.
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)