After few tiring and hectic weeks at work, we were looking for a quick gateway just to relax in the lap of mother nature. The idea was to do nothing and just relax that also within a shoe string budget requiring no more than a weekend, as we all had to join office on Monday. Being a hill station admirer, I’m mostly unaware about quick gateways in South Bengal. Sushmita though, came up with few ideas including Salboni Retreat at Jhargram. As usual, I took up the charge to scan through the details and fix on one of them. Salboni along with other destinations suggested by her, surely got the ice running through my veins. It took us no time to fix on Salboni, as 1N/2D wouldn’t have done justification to the other destinations she suggested.
I called up Mr. Bhaskar Dasgupta, but a lady picked up the call and upon enquiring, I came to know that, he’s no more amongst us and passed away around 2 months ago. And now, she manages everything solely, with some of her old & reliable staffs who have now became a part of her family. She clearly informed us that, as she’s the sole person looking after everything, a visit to Salboni Retreat can only be possible, when she’ll be there. Generally on every month, she stays there for 2 weeks and remaining 2 weeks at Kolkata. So tourists now need to match the dates as of hers to visit there.
Luckily, our planned dates matched with hers and thus she asked me to pay a visit to her home, at Traingular Park, opposite to Gupta Brothers. She mentioned it clearly, that booking can only be done by personally paying a visit to her home. Her father had actually bought this place from British around 70 years ago and after being married off, she being the sole daughter, she and her husband used to look after the property. It’s actually their “Bagan Bari” (Farm House), where they used to visit atleast once in a year with whole family. At around 1994, she and her husband came up with this idea of constructing few new buildings there for tourism as they thought, nature lovers would definitely admire the place. Thus, they do not provide booking to anyone without personally meeting them and judging their credibility.
I being from South Kolkata, it was not an issue at all for me. So on a fine morning, while on my way to office, I went to her place. I must say, it was one of the oldest buildings of South Kolkata at very posh locality the middle of Gariahat and Rashbihari Avenue. She welcomed me and asked few things about our group, like who all are visiting and all. She informed me that, as I said, we are couples, she’s fine now, otherwise she might have called up everyone, if I mentioned, we are a male group instead. She further informed me, her husband being an ardent nature lover, always maintained the decorum of the place without disrupting the nature over there. Even being opening up the property for tourism, it was never a business or source of earning money for them, and thus they never provided the booking to someone who could have disrupt the ecotourism.
I must say, I’m not sure how this so called interview would feel to other tourists who went there to book, but for me, it took me no time to impress her. The traveller in me did managed to impress her to score a booking successfully with a mere advance of my choice. She advised us to go by Ispat Express which leaves from Howrah at 6:55 AM which would reach there by 9:10 AM. And this being the best way to reach there, most of her tourists avails this train only and thus the whole meal plan is arranged accordingly. She informed us that, it’d take us around 20 – 30 minutes drive from Jhargram Railway Station to the property, Salboni Retreat, and after reaching there, we’ll be served breakfast. But as our mode of journey was still not final, I requested her to accommodate the breakfast to next day, so that we can leave after having breakfast next day. And on the first day, we’ll have our breakfast on our way. She firmly accepted that.
We initially thought of taking a local train to Jhargram, but after her advice, we gave a it a thought that, Ispat Express would really be the best way to reach there, as at that wee hours in the morning, it’d really be a cumbersome task to catch a local and manage a seat. We fired up IRCTC and luckily we found availability of seat on Ispat Express on our planned date and thus we took no time to score a reservation. We felt relieved, of having a comfortable journey.
Day 1 :
Gradually the day arrived, and we all were excited!! The journey by Ispat Express was mostly uneventful expect that most of us slept through it, due to starting our day at around 4 o’ clock in the morning. The train was mostly on time and we reached Jhargram Railway Station at around 9:10 AM. As advised my Mrs. Dasgupta, we could have taken the Toto to Salboni Retreat, which is available outside the station but being confused of taking a risk on a remote village, we asked her to arrange a car instead. She helped us with the booking and shared the name and number of the driver. After coming out from the station, I called up Mr. Pankaj and found that he’s already waiting there for us. We requested him to wait for 15 minutes, so that we can have our breakfast.
We found that, there were lots of Totos outside the station. We realised that it was not a wise decision to spend triple the amount on booking a private vehicle. Upon enquiring with the locals, we came to know that though the general fare would be Rs. 60/- – Rs. 70/- for the entire Toto to drop us at Salboni Retreat, but we being tourist might have to shell out Rs. 100/-. Which seemed nominal to us, as the car would cost us Rs. 300/-. Though this is nominal fare for car, but I don’t see a point here on spending triple amount unless one is looking for luxury!!
After having our breakfast, we started for Salboni Retreat. Friday being hectic, we couldn’t buy our drinks in advance, so we requested Mr. Pankaj to help us getting the drinks on our way. Unfortunately the first shop we encountered was closed and as we moved on towards the next shop, we found the same to be closed too!! Locals around there informed us that, the shops would open at around 10:30 AM and a quick gaze at our clock told us that we’d still have to wait for another 30 minutes. Luckily Mr. Pankaj happily agreed without any objection. We found Mr. Pankaj to be very friendly and co-operating and quickly after chatting for few minutes, he became Pankaj Da to us!! In Bengali culture, known or unknown, irrespective of your age, it’s always comes to “Da” for men.
Finally the shopkeeper arrived out of nowhere being a “Debdoot” (avatar of the almighty God) to us and finally we were on track again. Specially Dilip Da, regained his charm of joy!! Upon reaching there, Pankaj Da dropped us near “Durgabari“, where we were allotted 3 rooms on ground floor. Upon noticing us, a staff came forward and showed us the rooms and asked us to get fresh and informed that, he’d come up with Tea for all of us.
The entire area is covered with Sal forest with dried leafs scattered around which played a key role in forming the natural beauty. The property is around 40 bighas and have 4 houses. “Durgabari” is the one which is generally allotted to the tourists along with another. The first floor of “Durgabari” is always recommended, but getting that would depend on how early you book!! It have around 8 roooms, 4 on ground floor while 4 on first floor. Another building nearby is also newly built for restaurant to take care of the gastronomical delights of tourists, by Mrs. Dasgupta on her own. The main building being the oldest, which they bought from the Britishers, is not available for tourists due to the attachment and memories of theirs.
Each and every room is constructed such a way that the size and facilities of each room is same. So practically no one would miss up anything!! Soon our tea arrived, and the ladies in our group rushed to the swing nearby!! Avik went ahead for some photography whereas I went ahead towards the restaurant to catch up with Mrs. Dasgupta. Upon noticing me, she welcomed us and asked us about our whereabouts. She introduced me with her daughter, Nayan Di, who was also there with her elder daughter. We went ahead for a walk together through the Sal forest while she shared various stories and memories regarding this property. We planned to catchup in the afternoon to go for a walk to the nearby canal and Krishi Garden.
Rest of the time we spend chit chatting amongst ourselves and later at around 2:00 PM we were called up for the Lunch. I won’t lie, but the expectation that was built up after reading various blogs about Salboni Retreat and the taste of food served, were not met. Though there was nothing wrong with the quality, but the taste was bit dull. There were another 2 groups of oldies there with us. They caught up with us after lunch, and after chit chatting for a few moment, we thought of taking a walk through the Sal forest. It was indeed an exceptional experience specially the sound while walking through the dried up Sal leafs.
As Nayan Di, got engaged into something else, we thought of going to the canal and Krishi Garden on our own. The walk through the backyard of the property was thrilling as we hardly could spot a single person on our way. The way was pretty straightforward as described by Nayan Di. Finally as we reached nearby the canal, which seemed to be the single source of water in this Salboni, we spotted one small shop there. Taking his guidance, we started for Krishi Garden. On the way we spotted various Mango Gardens, where the trees were beautifully placed and designed in row by row.
Krishi Garden at first, didn’t seemed much attractive, but then as we went ahead, we spotted the real beauty, and key aspect of the garden i.e. the varieties of Roses. Some were quite uncommon and exceptionally beautiful. After some time, we spotted one of the oldies group there, who were staying with us at Salboni Retreat. After spending around an hour over there, we started heading back.
After reaching back to our rooms, we felt really asleep and hit the bed!! Around the evening we were woke up by a staff who bought us Tea and snacks. The snacks were exceptionally finger licking, as they served Chicken Nuggets which was really unexpected at such remote destination. We called up Mrs. Dasgupta and requested if some more of it can be sent, she acknowledged the same 🙂 Rest of the evening we spent chitchatting amongst ourselves while enjoying our drinks.
Later around we were called for Dinner at around 9 PM. Surprisingly, the dinner was sumptuous and much better than lunch. Later we went ahead for a night walk within the Sal forest to get a wild feeling before hitting the bed.
Day 2 :
We were woken up by the staff knocking for Bed Tea. Though people generally go there to relax and do nothing amidst Sal forest, but there are few sightseeings within and nearby Jhargram. Thus as advised by Mrs. Dasgupta, we already had fixed a small sightseeing tour with Pankaj Da, comprising of, Kanak Durga Mandir, “Bhesojo Udyan” (Ayurvedic Garden), Deer Park, Jhargram Rajbari etc. But unfortunately, Sushmita was affected with food poisoning mostly due to the water. Actually she can’t survive without bottled water, but unfortunately last day, we forgot to get that for her. Even though we always carry our first aid box while travelling, carrying few common medicines prescribed by physician, but that didn’t helped her recover.
We were called up for breakfast, and were served Luchi Sabji which was sumptuous too!! Sushmita obviously had to give it a miss due to her health condition being detoriating. Mrs. Dasgupta suggested us to take her to Jhargram hospital, as getting a doctor here is next to impossible, and they are not qualified as well. We followed her advise, and asked Pankaj Da to take her to hospital first. We had our return journey planned by Ispat Express after the sightseeing, but due to her condition, Mrs. Dasgupta offered us to stay there, while others may go to the sightseeing or stay after coming back from the hospital. I must say it was so nice of her.
After being taken to the hospital, we were firstly amazed by the development that govt. has done in these remote regions. We never expected a multi speciality hospital with caring staffs, nurses and doctors at such location. It was nowhere behind facilities of Kolkata, and in some cases we found the facilities and cleanliness same as that of private hospitals in Kolkata. Even though doctors suggested to admit her, but she didn’t agree. Thus they pushed her some injections and released after some time.
We lost quite a moment there, which we never regret off, but Sushmita was feeling bad due to the same. With the remaining time in hand, Pankaj Da helped us cover Deer Park, which is also a Zoo. But with limited time in hand, we rushed through it, and missed the Deers, but spotted various other animals, snakes, birds and most importantly Peacocks.
Next we went towards Kanak Durga Mandir, but unfortunately it was closed.
Later, we asked Pankaj Da, to take us to some restaurant nearby, so that we all can have lunch together before bidding him goodbye. Later Mrs. Dasgupta and his daughter Nayan Di called us up to check about Sushmita’s health condition. We informed them what happened in the hospital and they were happy that she’s fine now. They wished us good luck for our journey and asked us to keep in touch. Nayan Di informed that, she’s also returning with her daughter on same train and thus we might meet at station.
After having our lunch together, Pankaj Da dropped us at the Jhargram Railway Station, bidding us goodbye, ending the journey. I must admit, Pankaj Da is a very good person by heart, and we developed a strong relation and bond between us with so small time frame. The way he helped us today, I doubt someone else would have done that.
The return journey too was mostly uneventful, expect that Ispat Express was late by 1.5 hours. But suddenly out of nowhere, black storm clouds rolled inexorably down the Railway Station and it started raining heavily like cats and dogs. But the station was well equipped with shades which saved us. But what we most enjoyed was hailstorm which was something we were experiencing after a long time. Nowadays it’s not common to experience a hailstorm.
- Salboni Retreat amidst Sal Forest is a perfect & enchanting destination for relaxing, maintained by Mrs. Dasgupta.
- There’s nothing to do at Salboni instead of enjoying the nature and relaxing, spending time under the trees enjoying the cold breeze, but still if you want to do so called sightseeing, you can walk up a bit to the nearby Krishi Garden and book a car for nearby sightseeing spots like Bhesojo Udyan, Kanak Durga Mandir, Deer Park, Jhargram Rajbari, Hatipota etc.
- Even though Mrs. Dasgupta doesn’t take any commission or have any involvement in booking car, but she can help with you with some contacts of drivers with whom you have to fix the rate on your own. This is valid for pickup and drop to Jhargram Railway Station too if you want to avail.
- Even though, we opted for Pickup from Jhargram Railway Station, but we found that there were lots of Totos around, which would cost 1/3rd of the price of pickup service.
- Booking can only be done by personally paying a visit to her home, and by no other means. So if you are planning to visit there, be prepared to go to her home at Traingular Park for booking.
- This is not a business and way of income for her, thus she interrogates the tourists thoroughly before agreeing with the booking. This to maintain the decorum of the place. For a nature lover this is not an issue at all.
- After her husband passed away, she manages everything solely, thus, a visit to this place is only possible when she’s there. Generally she spends 2 weeks there at every month and remaining at Kolkata. So your dates must match with hers, thus please plan accordingly and in advance.
- And please by any means do not disrupt the nature and ecotourism at this place.
- I wish, network connectivity would have been an issue here, but that’s not the case. One can get 3G/4G too!! But thank god, as it helped us reserving our return tickets on Tatkal.
Well, I must admit that, I never thought I’d make a trip remote village in South Bengal. I being mostly mountain lover, always look for trips in North Bengal or North East. Salboni Retreat is a perfect place if you are looking for relaxing for a day or two within the nature. The rooms and washrooms are extremely clean and well maintained, so is the property itself. One can spend the entire day sitting under a tree enjoying the cold breeze or having a swing reading novels or doing nothing.
Salboni Retreat, Mrs. Dasgupta : +91-93310-41352, +91-94328-63167
Mr. Pankaj (Driver) : +91-90023-01752. He’s very friendly & helpful in critical situations. He drives a white bolero with registration number WB 34A 7989.
Ispat Express : Rs. 570/- + Rs. 630/- (Tatkal), Both on Chair Car.
Salboni Retreat, Mrs. Dasgupta : Rs. 1200/- per person per day including fooding (Bed Tea, Breakfast with Tea / Coffee, Lunch, Evening Snacks with Tea & Dinner) and lodging.
Jhargram Railway Station – Salboni Retreat : Rs. 300/- by Cab (Bolero)
Zoo cum Deer Park : Rs. 15/- per head Entry Fee. Rs. 5/- per still camera & Rs. 20/- for parking.
Kanak Durga Mandir: Rs. 50/- Parking Fee.
Sightseeing along with Drop To Jhargram Railway Station : 1200/- by Cab (Bolero). We payed Pankaj Da Rs. 300/- extra on our own i.e. Rs. 1500/- in total, as he ran through few KM’s for taking us to the Hospital back and forth.
Note : I have omitted personal expenses like Drinks and snacks on train for easy calculation.