I came to know about Jhandi long ago from somewhere around the internet while browsing and immediately got glued to the serene beauty of mother nature. Jhandi is a small profound offbeat Himalayan hamlet, mostly known for its panoramic view of Mahananda River Valley and Mt. Kanchenjungha. Jhandi is a perfect destination if you are for a relaxing weekend and spend some quiet and peaceful time amongst the tranquil ambience. Jhandi being surrounded by dense Pine and Sal forest is famous amongst bird-watchers as well. The nearby hilltop – Jhandi Dara, is famous for its astounding dreamy scenery for Sunrise and Sunset, from where you can experience the phenomenal view of sunlight making its way over the mountains through the mist. Yes, Jhandi is a destination which is covered with mist almost throughout the year.
I always had this dream of making up to North Bengal during monsoons. Although, visiting these regions during monsoon is risky but it comes with its own benefits. During monsoon, these regions turn into lush green and you can experience the mystic ambience. Also, monsoon being offbeats season you can expect things to be cheapest during this period. However, it comes with risks like landslide and leeches.
There are not much accommodation options at Jhandi. Jhandi Eco Hut is the most well-known accommodation in this region. However, there are few other homestays and cottages. We went ahead with The Retreat considering our relationship with Sintu Da, with whom we have stayed at over destinations like Mousuni Island, GPlot etc. The Retreat is a beautifully decorated cottage by the cliff, surrounded by beautiful pine forest gave us a quaint feeling. The place was so calm and quiet that you can listen to your heartbeats besides the chirping of birds. The cottage in-houses two balconies where you can just simply grab a chair and relax, watch birds or experiencing the mist taking over among the tranquil mother nature. However, like all of his other properties, one needs to book this complete cottage and it’s not available on a per-room basis. So it’s a perfect option for families or large groups who are looking for isolation. The fooding and maintenance though, are provided by the staffs at Jhandi Eco Huts only.
Personally I felt, The Retreat to be way much better than Jhandi Eco Huts, because of the views and most importantly the isolation. In Jhandi Eco Huts, it’s like living within a society on the same premises. Cottages there, are kind of close to each other and also in some cases, the floors of cottages are shared amongst different groups of tourists. Whereas, at The Retreat, you are completely isolated from any kind of disturbance or uproars.
Although Sintu Da, can arrange pickup and drop along with sightseeings at a very nominal rate but considering our relationship with Babai Da, we went ahead with him. He’s more of like a family member to us now and with him by our side, we feel more confident and comfortable and of course a lot of flexibility too!
We chose the long weekend of 15th August to materialize this plan of ours. The necessary reservations were taken care of accordingly and now we were just waiting for the D Day to arrive.
15th Aug 2019 : Day 1 – NMZ – Jhandi :
We started our journey from Sealdah (SDAH) on Kanchankanya Express yesterday i.e. on 14th Aug. We had our reservations up to New Mal Jn (NMZ). Jhandi being nearer to New Mal Jn. (NMZ) it’s faster and cheaper to travel from New Mal Jn. (NMZ) instead of New Jalpaiguri (NJP). So we had both our up and down reservations on Kanchankanya Express accordingly.
As expected (as per my past experiences with Kanchankanya Express), our train was late by 2 hours. Actually Kanchankanya passes through a patch amongst Dooars through various tunnels and overbridges, where Railways only have a single track. And also, as this track passes through forests of Dooars, the train has to maintain a specific speed limit. Thus, mostly, after Siliguri Town, trains on this route tends to gets delayed. However, no matter the number of times I travel by this route, it’s always a thrilling experience for me!
Our partner of crime for the next 2 days, Babai Da, was already waiting for us by the time our train reached NMZ. After a brief hug and a quick smoke, we started proceeding towards our destination – Jhandi. We took the route via Gorubathan. This route from Gorubathan towards Lava is breathtaking. The first few kilometres we travelled through tea gardens with Chel river on our left and then we came across a small picturesque village which has the potential to become a tourist attraction. This seemed to be a well-known Picnic Spot mostly named as Gorubathan Picnic Spot, however, locals call it Chelkhola.
Today being 15th Aug, a national holiday, a lot of locals were out there by the river having a picnic. There’s a small food joint nearby. We ordered special independence day momo along with beer!
After spending some time by the river enjoying ourselves, we started towards our destination – Jhandi. From NMZ, Jhandi is around 2 – 2.5 hours of journey.
Finally, we reached Jhandi at around 3:00 PM. Mr Bikash Chhetri, the local caretaker of the beautiful cottage was waiting for us there. He welcomed us warmly and showed us the cottage. It’s beautiful, amazing and perfectly as we pictured it by speaking with Sintu Da. A beautifully decorated cottage by the cliff, surrounded by beautiful pine forest gave us a quaint feeling. The place was so calm and quiet that you can listen to your heartbeats besides the chirping of birds. The cottage comprised of a large Drawing-cum-Dining Hall, 3 Glass Bedrooms, 1 Kitchen and 2 Washrooms. The cottage in-houses two balconies where you can just simply grab a chair and relax, watch birds or experiencing the mist taking over among the tranquil mother nature.
Although, we were really hungry by the time we reached there. However, considering the rush of local tourists due to 15th Aug, Bikash Ji requested us to come over to Jhandi Eco Hut for our lunch. Jhandi Eco Hut was just an uphill walk of 5 mins or one can reach by vehicle too. Noticing the Jhandi Eco Huts, it felt like, we took the right decision of going with The Retreat as it’s more tranquil in nature. Although Jhandi Eco Hut is the most famous accommodation in Jhandi, however, The Retreat is more tranquil in nature and offered more privacy.
The fooding and maintenance though is done by the staffs (he appointed) of Jhandi Eco Hut only. The lunch there was a basic local meal comprising of Rice, Dal, Alu Bhaji, Seasonal Sajbi and Egg / Fish Curry. Well, you can either take the meal package which covers all your meals or can order it as per your wish on a-la-carte basis. We opted for the meal package. We had already informed Bikash Ji about our lunch while we were in train. The food was so finger-licking and delicious that we all literally ate more than we eat generally.
Later we came back to our cottage and went for a walk around the village. However, we had to come back quickly as it started raining like cats and dogs. So once we were back to the cottage, we grabbed a chair by the balcony. It felt so relaxing experiencing the mist taking over greens gradually. And add the chirping of various beautiful birds to that. It literally gave us an adrenaline rush.
Later in the evening, we were served Tea and Onion Pakodas. Along with that, we ordered some extra snacks for our poison! Although we asked for Barbeque, however, Bikash Ji informed us that it won’t be possible due to the rains. Yes, we knew, today being 15th Aug, liquor shops would be closed out there. So we requested Babai Da to pick up our liquors in advance and keep the same with him! Rest of the evening we enjoyed amongst ourselves!
Later at around 10 PM, Bikash Ji came up and served us dinner. We called off the day after having our dinner and spending some time by the balcony.
16th Aug 2019 : Day 2 – Sightseeing :
Our morning started with an unexpected glimpse of Kanchenjungha. Yes, during this period, when the monsoon is in its full swing, getting a glimpse of Kanchenjungha is really unexpected.
As we planned this trip to be a relaxing holiday, we kept it leisurely. Thus we went back to sleep again after the show was over because soon, the mist started taking over as the sun raised through the horizon.
Well, Jhandi being an offbeat destination, is a place where you’d come to relax and enjoy the mother nature. Maybe go for a walk around the village. However, if you are visiting this region for the first time, you can go for sightseeing around places Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap, Kolakham etc. which are nearby.
Although, I have already covered these places before during our Holiday at Lava – Loleygaon – Rishyap – Kolakham, so it was not much of an interest to me. However, my mom and dad being first-timers in this region I wanted to show them Lava and Loleygaon. Babai Da suggested to add Changey Falls and Rishyap too, however considering the condition of my mom, it didn’t make any sense to go to Changey Falls, as she anyway won’t be able to walk the way up from Changey Falls. And the serenity of Rishyap can only be felt if you are staying there. By doing it like touch-n-go it won’t be of any benefit. So we kept both of them off the plan and instead went ahead with only Lava and Loleygaon.
Later we woke up at around 10 AM and soon we were served Tea/Coffee and Breakfast. Finally, we started towards Lava at around 12 O Clock in the noon.
We informed Bikash Ji that we won’t be having lunch today as we are heading out for sightseeing. Throughout the route though, it was raining cats and dogs. Mani, as usual, stopped at every corner wherever she spotted unusual flowering plants for her garden!
It took us around 40 mins to reach Lava Monastery.
Later we started proceeding towards Loleygaon. However in between came up with a landslide. A part of the road got completely washed away and it was very risky to cross the patch through the remaining part as it was completely slippery due to the mud and rains. Thus, we decided to turn back towards Lava. Came up by the Lava market and halted there by a restaurant for lunch.
Later we drove back to our cottage by around 4:00 PM. It was raining like cats and dogs, thus we decided to grab a chair over the balcony and enjoy nature! Well, this is what we came for!
Rest of the evening was mostly uneventful. We were served Tea/Coffee along with Pakodas in the evening and same as yesterday we enjoyed amongst ourselves over our poison discussing various topics varying from drugs and various ways of intoxication along with travel, politics, science etc.!
Later we were served dinner at around 10 PM and shortly we called off the day after having our dinner.
16th Aug 2019 : Day 3 – Jhandi – NMZ :
Well, today, we pretty much had nothing! So we planned to oversleep through the day. But we woke up by around 6 AM again because of the call from my dad. It was Kanchenjungha again! Well, I felt very lucky to experience Kanchenjungha on both the days when it was completely unexpected. Although today, the view was not that good, however, we spotted one interesting thing. I was amazed to see that “Om” formed on top of Kanchenjunga!
Later we went back to our respective beds as the mist started taking over soon. Later, we woke up at around 10 AM and soon we were served breakfast. Bikash Ji knew that we’d be going back by Kanchankanya Express, so he asked us whether we’d be having lunch today, such that he can adjust the lunch (which we didn’t have yesterday) with today. However, Babai Da had already planned our lunch at his home. He invited us and planned this long back when he came to Kolkata 3-4 months ago because of some medical issues and stayed with us.
We informed Bikash Ji accordingly and informed him that we’d be checking out soon within an hour or so. Finally, at around 12 O Clock in the noon, after bidding him goodbye we started towards Babai Da’s place – Chalsa. I must say that we were welcomed very warmly. It felt just like home. After a sumptuous lunch, we took crashed there for a while.
Later at around 6 PM, he drove us to NMZ. After a brief hug and bidding goodbye, we went ahead and boarded the train. The return journey to Kolkata was mostly uneventful.
The Retreat, Jhandi : A beautifully decorated cottage by the cliff, surrounded by beautiful pine forest gave us a quaint feeling. The place was so calm and quiet that you can listen to your heartbeats besides the chirping of birds. The cottage comprised of a large Drawing-cum-Dining Hall, 3 Glass Bedrooms, 1 Kitchen and 2 Washrooms. The cottage in-houses two balconies where you can just simply grab a chair and relax, watch birds or experiencing the mist taking over among the tranquil mother nature. However, everything being in a single cottage, The Retreat is only suitable for a group or family, as they do not allow reservations for the rooms separately. So you have to reserve the whole property. Well, Sintu Da, follows this throughout all his other properties like in Mousuni Island, GPlot etc. He believes in exclusive access of the place so that you can enjoy among yourselves without worrying about any other nuisance.
Regarding the meals, you can either opt for daily meal package which covers Morning Tea/Coffee, Breakfast, Lunch (Egg/Fish), Evening Tea/Coffee & Snacks and Dinner (Chicken). It costs Rs. 450/- per head. Or else if you wish you can order on a-la-carte basis from the menu. The fooding is taken care of by Jhandi Eco Huts only, so the same menu as theirs.
The Retreat : Rs. 3500/- x 2 (Nights) = Rs. 7000/-
Fooding : You can either opt for daily meal package which covers Morning Tea/Coffee, Breakfast, Lunch (Egg/Fish), Evening Tea/Coffee & Snacks and Dinner (Chicken). It costs Rs. 450/- per head. Or else if you wish you can order on a-la-carte basis from the menu. We opted for the meal package.
Transport : Pickup / Drop is charged at Rs. 1800/- from New Mal Jn. or Rs. 2800/- from NJP. If you want to have a vehicle exclusively at your disposal, you can hire Babai Da. He’d charge Rs. 3200/- per day.
The Retreat, Sintu Da (Booking) : +91-98368-30342. EMail : firstname.lastname@example.org. Website : http://www.jhandi.com/
Bikash Chhetri (Local Caretaker) : +91-75859-85032. He’s the caretaker of The Retreat. A very nice, smiling and humble person to interact with.
Saroj Chhetri (Local Driver) : +91-83488-75867. He’s the brother of Bikash Ji and takes care of the pickup and drop.
Babai Da (Driver, Private Vehicle) : +91-89066-72949. Babai Da is a very jolly and humorous person to travel with. You can trust him blindly over anything. If you are planning to get an exclusive vehicle in Dooars and North Bengal region, you can get in touch with him.