The Covid-19 pandemic and the worldwide lockdown has left all travel lovers so dull and empty from within. At this point what everyone is craving for is to break free and set out on a trip…solo, group or family does not matter. What matters is to able to breathe the fresh air and dispel the gloom.
The to-do bucket list post-lockdown must be ready already even though International borders are still sealed. Even State borders are yet to open for travel purposes. In Assam too the scenario is same at the present. But once lockdown is lifted and life comes to normal, a vacation amidst the greenery of the tea gardens is what sounds like a perfect getaway.
Tea gardens in Upper Assam are idyllic for a rejuvenating getaway once the lockdown is lifted. Getting up to the lush green plantation all around you, sipping a cup of your favourite Assam tea brewed to your taste or even trekking along the nature trails around the estate would be so satisfying. This is a vacation that sounds so perfect at a crucial time like this when even getting out of your homes is a distant dream. You may even get to witness tea garden workers plucking fresh tea leaves along these trails.
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There’s a popular song by our very own music maestro late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika which vividly creates this picture in my mind every time I hear it.
Eti kunhi duti paat
Kune nu singile
O kune nu singileDr. Bhupen Hazarika
For daytime activities you can choose to visit a local ethnic village to experience their culinary flavours. For example, Margherita in Tinsukia district is home to the Singhpho ethnic tribe of Assam believed to be the first tea drinkers of Assam. They have a very rich and interesting history which dates back to 1823 when their chief Bessa Gam invited Major Bruce of the East India Company to taste a medicinal drink prepared from a wildly growing plant. This was how the British was introduced to tea and thereafter began the huge plantations of tea.
You can also take a dive into the flavourful cuisine of the Singhpho tribe which have influence of Thai, Chinese and Myanmarese cuisine also. There are a very few restaurants in Margherita which serves purely ethnic Singhpho food like Singhpho Villa and Singhpho Eco Lodge. Singhpho Eco Lodge located in Inthem village of Margherita can also accommodate guests and showcase the process of making their unique organic tea called Phalap.
Tea tourism is still a very new concept in Assam and there are only a handful of estates which offer you the best stay.
Jorhat in Upper Assam has some of the best Heritage Bungalows of the British legacy. The Burra Sahib’s Bungalow at the Kaziranga Golf resort is one such heritage bungalow and staying at this resort will give you the feel of the colonial era. The bungalow now serves as a clubhouse but there are cottages built in the colonial style for tourists. The golf course there is one of the finest in the country developed on a 150 acre site. Kaziranga National park is around 2 and half hours drive from the resort and one can easily access jungle safari to the park.
Camping can also be a good option keeping in view the standard norms that one has to follow like social distancing post lockdown. In fact adventurers who love to experience the thrill and raw pleasure might opt for camping. It’s also much cheaper provided you plan everything well ahead.
There are numerous eco lodges of all categories near Kaziranga National park to choose from. However, there are small tea estates which might not have lodging facilities but with a little contact you might be able to plan a stay there by carrying your own tents.
And what sounds like an icing on the cake is to take a tour of one such local tea factory and see how your favourite tea is processed. So while you are at it plan a tour of a local tea factory and access will be easy if you befriend the owner or manager of the estate. You can also carry home a few samples of your favourite Assam tea as souvenir.
Assam, at present, has about 830 large tea gardens with 529 tea factories and almost 66000 small tea growers producing around 1.5 million pounds of tea every year. Assam produces about 54% of India’s tea industry followed by Darjeeling and Kerala. Tea Tourism in Assam has a lot more potential if proper guidance and plans are adopted by the State Govt. The unemployment issues can be dealt with and rural economy can be boosted at the same time.
A few tea estate resorts providing quality accommodation are mentioned below:
- Kaziranga Golf Resort, Golaghat
- Thengal Manor Heritage Tea Bungalow, Jorhat
- The Wild Mahseer Heritage Bungalow, Tezpur
- The Wathai Heritage Tea Bungalow, Tinsukia
- Mancotta Chang Bungalow, Dibrugarh
- Singhpho Eco tourist Lodge, Margherita
- Chameli Memsaab Bungalow, Jorhat