I hardly remember how I actually came to know about this place, Joypur Forest. May be from one of the weekend destinations Facebook groups or blogs or whatever. But that doesn’t matter much. Or does it? It was more than a month we have been to Meghalaya and Manipur and we couldn’t restrain ourselves from planning our next trip. Definitely after 2 weeks of long leave for Meghalaya and Manipur, I couldn’t reach out to my manager and ask for more leaves. Anyone would have frowned at such situation otherwise. So it had to be on a weekend or at max including a Friday or Monday.
We all were scanning through various destinations and came upon options like Parmadan (also known as Bibhutibhushan Wildlife Sanctuary or Bibhutibhushan Abhoyaronyo), Chandpur Beach etc. Right at that moment my wife suggested about Joypur Forest and it caught our attention immediately. With all the options we had back then, Joypur Forest seemed to be the perfect destination for our plan. A simple Google Search revealed about Banalata Resort, the one and only accommodation available at Joypur Forest. Though one may choose to stay at Bishnupur instead, which is a mere 30 minutes drive away from Banalata Resort or Joypur Forest, however we chose to stay out of the town for obvious reasons.
Without wasting much time, I called up on the contact details shared on their website and after few initial phase of discussion, we secured our booking with a small token amount towards the advance. Although due to festive season nearing by, the tariffs were a bit on the higher side and being a budget traveller myself, I hardly remember when was the last time I chose to stay at such expensive hotel.
Another hurdle that we had to cross is “Avik“!! Avik being an ardent forest lover, he couldn’t agree with the idea that we are planning for a “forest” that too without him. Well, it’s actually Avik who keeps us pushing for various National Parks / Wild Life Sanctuaries and rest of us together always push him for a Hilly destination instead. We had to make him understand that although the name implies Joypur Forest but it’s not that kind of a forest itself, it’s more of like Salboni instead. Finally he agreed, and gave us a go-ahead, with a condition that we all would be visiting Leh – Ladakh next year, once he returns from his onsite assignment.
As the days were nearing by, we were getting more and more anxious gradually. Finally the most awaited Friday arrived. As our train, Rupashi Bangla had it’s scheduled departure from Santragachi, Dilip Da wouldn’t have made it next morning from Barrackpore. Thus they chose to come by our place and spend the night. We made it a perfect Friday eve, with Biriyani and our poison 😛
Next morning we were up by 3 AM in the morning and quickly got ready. We didn’t had to face any issue for getting an Uber ride to Santragachi that too at a nominal price. Thanks to these app based cabs, for saving us through various hassles in our everyday life. In the meanwhile, Sudipta Da too with his family started moving towards Santragachi from his place at Behala. At that wee hours of morning, it didn’t took us even an hour to reach Santragachi as the route was free of any traffic. And thus, we reached much earlier than our anticipated time.
So we had to kill the time while chit-chatting among ourselves. Gradually daylight started streaming in through, and our train was announced. Within next few minutes, the train arrived on platform and we grabbed our seats accordingly. Finally at around 6:30 AM Rupashi Bangla started moving through the tracks of sweetest part of India blowing it’s whistle. Although instead of enjoying the beauty of Bengal, we mostly slept throughout the journey to gain our energies back, that we lost while waking up at 3AM in the morning!!
After the train reached Garbheta, I gave a call to Dhananjay Da, our driver, with whom we already fixed the pickup from Bishnupur, for his whereabouts and most importantly to inform him that our train is running around half an hour late from it’s scheduled arrival. However he informed us that he have already reached Bishnupur Station and waiting for us. Finally after reaching Bishnupur, we gave him a call and he directed us towards the parking. Finally after a brief introduction, we loaded our luggages and started towards our hotel, Banalata Resort.
It took us around 30 minutes to reach our Hotel. Dhananjay Da stopped the vehicle in front of Booking Office to collect our booking slip and checkin procedures. While on our way, we discussed our plan for these 2 days with Dhananjay Da. Although our plan was to visit Joypur Forest after lunch and then tomorrow after sightseeing around Bishnupur he’d drop us. Instead he suggested us to visit Gangani after lunch today and informed us that we can do Joypur Forest next morning and then after Sightseeing at Bishnupur he can easily drop us within the stipulated time without any issues.
I heard about Gangani first time from one of my known traveller friend of mine. However I had no idea Gangani would be so close and accessible from Joypur Forest. Thus we grabbed this opportunity to experience the Grand Canyon of Bengal. After done with the checkin procedures and collecting the booking slip, Dhananjay Da dropped us near our rooms. He asked us to be ready by 2:30 PM and left.
We instantly just loved the property at Banalata Resort. It’s a huge one, with spacious rooms, playground for kids, poultry, farms, pond etc. The best thing we loved about the resort was their prompt service, which even very high end hotels fails to manage. Here we noticed an unique thing. There’s an attendant for every 2 rooms. Once you checkin, he/she will give you his/her number and on any need of yours, you just need to call him/her. Although most of the time you’ll find him/her outside your room only. Ours was Champa Di. After a few discussion with her, we came to know that, there are around 350 employees working here and the total property is estimated to be around 40 acres.
We still had around 3 hours left, thus we decided to go for a walk and explore the property after having our breakfast. The youngest member of our group, Sudipta’s son Agniv, loved the place a lot, specially due to the huge playground he got in front of the rooms. The property clearly depicts the touch of rural bengal throughout it’s span. Another impressive thing is, all the food they serve is from their own farm and poultry. So one can rest be assured to have 100% organic food. We walked by the farm and experienced the green organic vegetables and then moved towards poultry to check out Emu, Turkey, Koyel, Hen etc.
There’s also a pond nearby, where one may choose to take a bath. We noticed few ducks were playing by.
While going through the checkin procedures we noticed a restaurant outside the hotel premises. Upon enquiring we came to know, it’s mostly for tourists having their meals en-route. For guests, they have a restaurant inside the premises, and also each rooms have a dining place in front of it. You may either choose to go to the restaurant or have it at your dining place. There’s no different service charge or anything extra for whatever you decide.
From an old friend of Dilip Da, we came to know that milk products are very tasty and must have here. Thus we chose to have Mishti Doi (fermented sweet yogurt) and believe me, we never had such quality and tasty yogurt in our life.
It was already around 1 PM by then. So we deiced to go back to our rooms and freshen up and have lunch before Dhananjay Da shows up. While our wives had occupied the bathroom we bought a Beer and enjoyed the chilled sip from the same. While discussing with Champa Di, we came to know that the resort have in-house bar and counter as well. One may choose to go to the bar and have it on per peg basis, same as like other bar’s or else you may go to the counter and buy it on M.R.P. instead and have it at your room / dining place. Believe me man, this was something very unexpected.
Finally after having our lunch, as we were just about to fell asleep, Dhananjay Da arrived. We quickly got ready and started moving towards Gangani. And as expected, we again slept throughout the route. This is what happens when you wake up a Bengali from his/her sweetest afternoon nap, for which Bengali’s are infamous worldwide 😛
It took us around 1 hour to reach Gangani. Gangani is also known as Grand Canyon of Bengal. The beauty of the place is beyond the words to describe. We soaked ourselves into the serenity of the place. Keeping up with the name, it started showing it’s true colours during the sunset and we just couldn’t restrain ourselves getting overwhelmed and falling in love with the place.
Precisely after the sun hit the horizon we started returning back. On our way back, Dhananjay Da asked us to be ready by 9:30 AM tomorrow. Finally after dropping us to our hotel, he left for the day.
Rest of the evening we mostly spent chit-chatting amongst ourselves over the drinks!
Contrary to the last day, we woke up a bit late at around 7:30 AM. Quickly after getting done with our morning chores and having breakfast, we went ahead to Booking Office for the checkout procedures. As we had various things planned for the day, we didn’t wanted to be late. But unfortunately it took them sometime to get the fooding bills ultimately making us late by an hour.
Finally we embarked on our journey to Joypur Forest. Dhananjay Da drove us through the forest towards the runway and explained that, the runway was built during World War II and lying unused since Britishers left the country. The forest looked lush green throughout. We then went ahead to a watch tower nearby, however one can’t expect anything to see from there.
As we were about to leave, Dhananjay Da asked us to wait for sometime, as we could see herds of Elephants in next few moments. He further explained, Govt. have 3 Elephants in here which is used to shoo away the herd of Elephant when they come to destroy the local villages. Although we noticed the villages to be properly fenced, however Dhananjay Da told us, Elephants are very clever in this matter. They carry trees with their trunk and use that to distrupt the eletrical connection and once it gets disconnected, they enters the villages and takes away all the crops.
As instructed by him, in next few minutes, the herds of Elephant arrived and level of our excitement knew no bounds noticing the same.
Later, we went ahead towards Bishnupur and explored the world famous terracota temples one after another.
Our return tickets were not yet confirmed. Although we discussed the same with Dhananjay Da accordingly and he assured us that there’s a 5:20 PM Arambagh – Howrah local that we can easily opt for in case our train, Rupashi Bangla is not confirmed. Infact he told us that after Bishnupur, he’d take us to Joyrambati – Kamarpukur which falls on the way to Arambagh and then drop us to the station. We being IT guys, definitely looked up various online portals but couldn’t find any mention of 5:20 PM local that he was talking about. Although he assured us several times that, this being his profession, he keeps dropping tourists and thus aware of the train timings. But we thought, the train he was talking about might have been there but might have been withdrawn now.
Finally we moved towards the Bishnupur Town and had our lunch there at a hotel pointed out by Dhananjay Da. By that time, the charting was done and luckily our train didn’t got confirmed. This was the first time, we were excited for not having our tickets confirmed. Well we really wanted to stay back at Banalata Resort for another night, however the exhorbitant tariff of theirs didn’t allowed us to evaluate that option at all.
However, after a breif discussion among ourselves, we couldn’t take the risk of moving towards Joyrambati – Kamarpukur based on the 5:20 PM Arambagh – Howrah Local he was talking about. Thus upon enquiring for other options, he suggested us Non Stop Bus from Arambagh instead, but informed us we might have difficulty getting the same due to today being Sunday. He asked us to check online at S.B.S.T.C. website, if any seat was available. We didn’t knew S.B.S.T.C. have their online booking portal as well!! Impressive!! We did find a 3:30 PM Non Stop Bus but as he already warned us, we couldn’t find any seat there. He assured us that, there’s another 4:30 PM Non Stop Bus which might not be showing up in the online portal, but it’s there. So we can either go to Bus Stand and opt for the same, and if it’s not available we can check other private and govt. buses from there but today being Sunday, frequency might be very less. And as a last option, he’d drop us to Arambagh Station, and we can take the 7:20 PM Train even if 5:20 PM train is not available.
Well main reason behind confusion was, if Dilip Da could reach early, he can directly move towards his home today, else again he’d have to spend the night at ours place and next morning he have to drop his wife to home before going to office which would definitely be a lot of hassle. Thus we decided to move towards Bus Stand, thinking we’d have 2 different fall back plans just in case. After reaching Bus Stand, we enquired and came to know that 4:30 PM Non Stop Bus is already full. A local there, claimed to be a regular passenger, came to rescue and informed us that today being Sunday, the frequency of other Govt. and Private Bus are very less and it’s not worth trying either of them. As most of them would already be full, as most office goers would be returning to Kolkata today only.
Suddenly we noticed the Train Time table near the booking counter, and hell!! 5:20 PM Arambag – Howah Local that Dhananjay Da was talking about from last day, was right there. We felt really sorry for not trusting him even when he have been so good to us and helped us a lot throughout these 2 days. As we had no other options left, we requested him to drop us at Arambagh Railway Station instead.
Finally after bidding him goodbye with a breif hug, we left.
Banalata Resort : We just loved the place. The place is huge covering around 40 acres of land and have inhouse playground which makes it perfect to travel with kids. The best thing we loved about the place is the touch of rural bengal and prompt service. Unlike many other 5* hotels, they have a room attendent assigned for every 2 rooms to maintain such prompt service. They have 1 restaurant outside the resort premises to cater the enroute tourists. However for guests staying at the resort have their choice to either take their meals at inhouse restaurant (inside the hotel premises) or at their private dining space in front of each rooms without any extra service charge or anything else. The resort also have it’s own bar and F.L. Shop itself. So either you can go to the bar and choose to have your drinks at per peg pricing like other bars or even opt to buy your bottle at M.R.P. and have it at your room or at your private dining space. The resort have their own farm land and poultry to serve the guest organic and fresh food. However, the taste of food however is not that good except the milk products like Misti Doi (Fermented Sweet Yogurt), Malai etc.
The rooms and washrooms and the whole property is very well maintained and super clean. The rooms are huge, based on the type of rooms you choose.
Dhananjay Da : +91-90511-22227. Dhananjay Da drives an white bolero with registration number WB 68P 1586. He’s a very good person and can quickly be friends with like-minded person. I definitely recommend hiring him around this circuit of Bishnupur & Bankura.
4 Bedded Mud House : 5000/- + 900/- GST = 5900/-
Premium Double Bed Room : 4000/- + 720 GST = 4720/-
Fooding Cost @ Banalata Resort : 3295/- (For all 6 pax + 1 child)
Train Ticket (Rupashi Bangla) : 630/- (For 6 pax + 1 child)
Return Train (Arambag – Howrah Local) : 125/- (25/- Per Head)
Ticket @ Bishnupur : 90/- (For all 6 pax for all temples)
Lunch @ Bishnupur (Hotel Monalisha) : 505/-
Vehicle : 5000/- (Pickup : 500/- + Gangani : 1500/- + Joypur Forest : 500/- + Bishnupur : 1000/- + Joyrambati + Kamarpukur + Drop To Arambag : 1500/-)
Whisky : 850/- (We took it from Kolkata)
Beer : 165/- (Budweiser Magnum – Bought it from counter @ Banalata Resort)
Royal Stag : 170/- (Bought it from counter @ Banalata Resort)
Vodka (60ml Peg) : 100/- (Bought it from bar @ Banalata Resort)
Misc. [Parking + Snacks (in Train) + Tips] = 565/-
Per Head Cost : 3940/- (Home to Home)