Netaji’s B’Day being a regional holiday in West Bengal, we sensed a long approaching weekend. 23rd Jan being Thursday, we knew, if we take a leave on 24th, we can easily plan for a quick 2N/3D weekend gateway to our most cherished destination – North Bengal. I quickly approached Dilip Da about this plan of mine and he agreed! Without wasting a further moment, I booked round trip tickets to NJP via Darjeeling Mail. Unfortunately, as all these happened quite late by the end of November, we were in the long queue of Waiting List.
Now, it was time to choose some destination! I started browsing through the extensive wishlist of mine! However, as our wishlist keeps growing almost every day, it’s been quite hard to keep up with the same! After deliberately considering a few options, I fixed on Dawaipani and Bagora. I quickly enquired with few homestays and made our bookings. As we were on a tight budget (as always!), we planned to travel via Shared Cab. So we refrained from booking any private vehicle.
However, as the days were approaching by, the Waiting List queue didn’t make much progress as we anticipated in the first place. Noticing the same, we decided on a backup plan to travel by Bus, if by the time of Charting we don’t make into RAC. Luckily, a week before, the queue started progressing fast, and finally, we made into RAC.
Day 1 : NJP – Dawaipani :
We realized the old times had passed and we grew older than we thought of! Previously, travelling on RAC was fun, but this time it proved to be quite unpleasant. We were exhausted due to loss of sleep. Thus, Dilip Da suggested hiring a private vehicle instead! Accordingly, after bargaining with a few options, we fixed on a vehicle for Rs. 2200/-. If we’d have travelled by shared cab, it’d have costed us around Rs. 1500/- instead.
Most of us slept en-route throughout the journey, as all of us were really exhausted. In between, we stopped for a while for breakfast at Rohini.
Unfortunately, there are 3 villages by the name Dawaipani. The one we are talking about is mostly known as Dawaipani – Bhutia Busti. Another one is nearby Kalimpong. Keep in mind, if you ask someone en-route, they will mostly refer to the one nearby Kalimpong. Another one is nearby Lebong village. So we too got lost for a while and finally, with the help of Mr Sougata, we reached our homestay at around 1:00 PM. Although it generally takes 3 hours to reach Dawaipani from NJP, however, as we were misguided towards a different destination, it took us an hour more.
We actually had our booking with Rover’s Homestay recommended by a friend of mine who has stayed there earlier. However, unfortunately, at the last moment, due to some electrical wire burnouts, the homestay went completely off the grid. Mr Sougata called me up yesterday to inform the same. He further informed us that he tried to shift us to Mr Biren Rai’s homestay, however, as they were completely occupied for the day, he made our arrangements at Karuna Homestay instead.
Dawaipani – a tranquil Himalayan hamlet literally meaning “Medicated Water” is known for healing your physical and mental wounds. There’s no medicated water as such, however, the village has been named after a nearby river stream (“Khola” in local language) which is believed to quench the thirst of villagers when they went downhill to fetch food and to the forest for woods. The locals believe that the river stream can also heal your wounds. Although it sounds fictitious, however, who am I to judge?
Although, on a clear day, Dawaipani offers a spectacular view of the “Sleeping Buddha” Mt. Kanchenjungha and a clear view of Samdruptse Monastery (Namchi Chardham) and the “Queen of Hills” Darjeeling town. Generally, the weather is clear during this period, however, due to the prediction of rain, it was quite mystic. That moment, we knew the view of Kanchenjungha is way beyond expectation. And due to such weather and the town being situated at a hilltop, it has completely turned into a bitterly freezing destination (around 3 Deg C as we checked) due to the missing warmth of the sun. The chilly wind felt like piercing through the skin even after wearing layers of thermals and jackets.
Soon we were served lunch. Although dry chilly powder was over-used on all the dishes but it was delicious. After having a sumptuous lunch, we slept for a while. First of all, we were really tired due to loss of sleep from last night and secondly the cold was kind of unbearable. However, we woke up later at around 4 PM and went for a village walk. There’s pretty much nothing to do here in terms of touristy sightseeing. However, there are several trekking trails for different difficulty levels. If you are into bird photography or bird watching, Dawaipani can offer you an experience of a lot of Himalayan species. We were badly missing Avik since he’s into birding.
Later in the evening, we were served Tea and Pakodas. Rest of the evening was quite uneventful, as the temperature has fallen down to around 1 Deg. We had to rely on our poison to keep ourselves warm. We had already ordered some extra snacks to keep up with the same!
In between, the fog started clearing up and the queen became visible for a while. However, it didn’t last longer than a minute or two.
Later, we were served dinner at around 9 PM. The piping hot food felt heavenly at such sub-zero temperature. Although we were provided 2 double bedrooms but considering the chilled weather and we being the only guest in the homestay, we requested Karuna Didi that if we can stay together in the 4 bedded room which is empty anyway. She agreed! Generally, unlike other couples, we always like to stay together. Finally, we called off the day.
How To Reach :
As always, if you are looking for comfort, you can hire a private vehicle. We enquired with the homestays in advance and they quoted us Rs. 3000/- one way for pickup/drop to and from NJP. However, if you are up for a little hassle and have good bargaining skills, you can get one for Rs. 2200/- – Rs. 2500/- on spot at NJP depending on the season.
And, if you are on a budget like us, you can travel by shared vehicle. First, you need to travel up to Jorebunglow. You can take any Darjeeling bound shared vehicles from NJP (Costs Rs. 200/- per head) or from Siliguri (Costs Rs. 150/- per head). From Jorebunglow, you need to move to 6th Mile. However, there are not many options from Jorebunglow to 6th Mile. And from 6th Mile, you need to walk up to Dawaipani. So instead, what you can do is hire a private vehicle (homestays can arrange the pickup) from Jorebunglow to your homestay for Rs. 700/- for the entire vehicle.
As I stated earlier, keep in mind that you need to travel towards 6th Mile from Jorebunglow and about 1 KM before reaching the 6th Mile bazaar, you need to take the steep lane to your left upwards. Again, as a point of note, don’t travel up to 6th Mile Bazaar. Because if you ask someone at 6th Mile Bazaar, they will redirect you towards a different Dawaipani. Or to be on the safe side always mention Dawaipani Bhutia Busti instead of asking for Dawaipani.
Day 2 : Dawaipani – Bagora :
We woke up at around 5:30 AM in the morning to check on our luck. Unfortunately, it was still foggy and the glimpse of Kanchenjungha seemed to be a distant dream. So we went back to bed again and finally woke up at around 8 AM.
After getting freshen up, we went ahead around the village. We had already informed Karuna Didi for our breakfast at 9 AM. So we had enough time to walk around the village. Unfortunately, it started drizzling, thus we had to come back. Later, we were served breakfast. After having our breakfast we came back to our rooms and packed our belongings. Our driver – Arjun Daju, who’d drop us at Jorebunglow was already waiting for us.
Finally, we left for Jorebunglow after bidding Good-Bye to Karuna Didi by around 10 AM. On the way, we tried to negotiate with Arjun Daju if he’d drop us to Bagora for around Rs. 1500/-. He agreed!
Today morning, Mr Sougata called up and informed us that the electric wire has now been fixed. He further requested us to make a visit to his homestay before leaving. Thus before proceeding further, we requested Arjun Daju to drive us to Rover’s Homestay. We really loved the way it’s built and the view from there. It felt like a quaint cottage to relax.
For the next 2 days, we had plans to stay at Bagora. Bagora is a quaint village located at the highest altitude near the famous hill station – Kurseong. Bagora comes under Kurseong Subdivision. Being situated at the highest altitude, Bagora is used as an Airforce base. We had Bagora on our wishlist for a long time. So we clubbed it up with Dawaipani (as they are nearby each other) on this long weekend of ours!
The drive through the dense pine forest post Dilaram was amazing. The fog played a vital role to turn the route into a spooky one as we see in a lot of Hollywood titles! It took us around 2 hours to reach Bagora. Diki’s Homestay is the most popular and the only accommodation option at Bagora. However, one needs to climb steep uphill a bit to reach the homestay. Upon reaching Bagora, we called up Diki Ma’am and she sent a lady to help us with the luggage.
Upon reaching the homestay, Diki Ma’am welcomed us warmly and showed us two different rooms one on the 1st floor and another at the ground floor. We chose to stay on the ground floor as due to the weather, it’d have been freezing on the 1st floor! Soon, she served us tea. The warm cup of tea felt like medicine at that point.
As for outdoor activities, there are lots of options! Much more than that of Dawaipani.
- Go for a village walk and trail through the dense pine forest
- Hike up to the Airforce View Point for a mesmerizing view
- Go for a day trip to the Chimney Heritage Garden and Dowhill Deer Park, Forest Museum etc.
- Go for a day trip to Chatakpur
- Go for a day trip to Latpanchanar and Sittong Orange Garden
We had already been to Chatakpur and believe me it’s one of the best destinations I came across in North Bengal. You may check my Snowy Experience at Chatakpur. Dilip Da and Boudi had heard a lot from us about Chatakpur and they were very interested to explore the same. Suparna though suggested planning Chatakpur tomorrow, as the weather prediction was showing sunny weather for tomorrow. And the mesmerizing view of Sleeping Buddha is the main attraction of Chatakpur and thus it made no sense to visit Chatakpur now in this foggy weather.
Latpanchar being a famous birding destination makes more sense to bird photographers and bird watchers. We all have already been to Latpanchar and Sittong Orange garden previously. So we avoided that.
So today, we planned to visit Chimney after lunch. Diki Ma’am arranged a Maruti van for us. Maruti van is very dominant in this region due to the harsh road conditions. And it’s a boon for smaller groups, as otherwise, one would have to hire a Sumo / Bolero instead. In fact, the local villagers quite rely on Maruti van for their shopping needs from Dilaram / Kurseong / Darjeeling / Siliguri.
Generally, a visit to Chimney along with Dowhill Deer Park costs Rs. 800/-. However, as we weren’t much interested in such man-made destination – Dowhill Eco Park, we negotiated the rate to around Rs. 500/-. Soon, Diki Ma’am called us for lunch while we were roaming around the homestay exploring! The piping hot food served as an elixir for us! The food was heavenly and finger-licking.
Later after our lunch, we went ahead to Chimney. The drive to Chimney was just 10 mins. As informed by Diki Ma’am, one can also choose to walk up to Chimney which would hardly take around an hour to reach. Chimney is a sleepy Himalayan hamlet, which got its name from a 23 foot high 100 years old chimney that was probably built during World War I and used by British officers. Suraj Ji, our driver, informed us that, on a clear sunny day, from the Chimney viewpoint, you can easily see Sandakphu. Not only that, but the place also overlooks the two significant rivers of the region – Teesta and Mahananda. It is endowed with many viewpoints from where you can enjoy a spectacular view of Kanchenjunga peaks. Unfortunately, for us, the experience was not so pleasant due to the foggy weather.
After spending some time for a while we went ahead to the small eatery opposite the Chimney Heritage Garden for a cup of tea. Later, as the evening was approaching, we came back to our room. Diki Ma’am served us evening Tea and Snacks. Addition to that we had already ordered extra Chicken Pakodas as snacks for hitting the bottle!
Besides us, there was another couple staying at the homestay. So we clubbed together for some evening fun over boozing up Later, at around 9 PM we were served dinner and soon after having our dinner we called off the day.
How To Reach :
From NJP you can hire a private vehicle for Rs. 2000/- – Rs. 2200/-. If there’s some Bagora bound vehicle which went to NJP for dropping tourists, you can get a deal within Rs. 1800/- too! However, if you are on a budget you need to take Darjeeling bound shared cab from NJP / Siliguri and travel up to Dilaram after Kurseong. From Dilaram market, you can easily hire a Maruti van up to Bagora for Rs. 150/- – Rs. 200/-.
Day 3 : Bagora :
Boudi woke us all up at around 6 AM in the morning! Finally, after 2 days, the weather was clear and we got to experience the almighty sleeping buddha! Luckily. Every single time we had been to North Bengal, Kachenjungha never disappointed us till date. Even in the month of July, during monsoon, when there’s almost no chance, we had a glimpse of Kanchenjungha at Jhandi.
Today, we had plans to visit Chatakpur. Yesterday, when we called up Barsha Ji, she was so happy that we are proximate distance and invited us over lunch. Diki Ma’am already arranged a Maruti van for us at a nominal rate.
Later after having our breakfast we left for Chatakpur. The drive through the Senchal Forest was amazing. Last time when we went Chatakpur, we took the road through Jorebunglow – 3rd Mile. This time we were experiencing a different part of Senchal forest and this region is deeper than that of 3rd Mile. Also, the condition of the road is much worse in this part than that of 3rd Mile.
Sachin Ji, our driver, informed us that this route is not meant for small 4 seaters. Only Sumos and Boleros can ply on this route. However, Maruti van being one of the golden cars in its era can easily make it up!
After driving for around an hour, we came by a junction where there’s a small kiosk by the forest department. One is supposed to pay entry fees there in order to enter Senchal Forest. Sachin Ji informed us that the other road in this junction is the one coming from Sonada. I was quite amazed by this implementation of entry fees which was not the case when I visited a year ago. Upon enquiring with the forest officer, he informed us that this kiosk is there from 2009.
I realized if one enters Chatakpur through Sonada or Bagora, he/she would have to face the kiosk at the entry point. However, if one is coming via 6th Mile or 3rd Mile, there’s no such kiosk in that route and thus, one can easily evade the entry fees.
So we had to pay Rs. 100/- per head and Rs. 100/- for the vehicle in order to proceed further. The forest officer was very friendly and took the initiative to inform us about various wildlife that one can experience. The road further to this junction was much worse. So at various steep turns, we had to get down from the vehicle and walk up a little bit.
It took us around 2 hours to reach Chatakpur. Upon noticing us, Barsha Ji and Bikash Ji came forward and welcomed us warmly. We both were delighted to see each other after a long time. I was delighted when Barsha Ji showed us that he had framed clicks of Aryan (their son) from my previous visit at their homestay. Unfortunately, both Akriti and Aryan went to their maternal house. So we couldn’t meet them. We took our seats by the bench outside. Dilip Da and Boudi were hypnotized by the view. Although it was partially foggy but still Chatakpur didn’t fail to enthrall us again!
After chitchatting for a while with Barsha Ji and Bikash Ji, they served us lunch. As always, the food was homely and heavenly. I can vouch for that, it’s one of the best food we ever had in any homestay till date. We being Bengali, Bikash Ji took up the pain to get fish from Sonada. We were really overwhelmed by the hospitality.
Unfortunately, the fog started appearing in the middle of nowhere and soon within a few minutes it went completely foggy again. Later at around 2 PM, with a heavy heart and promising to come back again we left back to Bagora.
After reaching Bagora, we went by the Suraj Ji’s restaurant for a plate of momo and beer. Well, I generally never tends to miss momos in these kinds of quaint village or homestays where it’s generally the best you can get. Later we went ahead for the forest trail. Walking through the dense pine forest at such mystic foggy weather was really thrilling!
Later, as the evening was approaching by we came back to our homestay. Somehow we really felt very weak may be due to the freezing temperature, so we slept for a while. It was around 6:30 PM when we woke up. Diki Ma’am served us evening Tea and Snacks. She further informed us that the extra Chicken Pakodas will be served shortly. Same as like yesterday, we all gathered up in the kitchen for the booze! The rest of the evening was quite uneventful and not much fun as yesterday as the other couple couldn’t join us due to some health issues.
Later we were served dinner at around 9:30 PM, and soon we called off the day and went inside the blanket to save ourselves from the biting cold.
Day 4 : Bagora – NJP :
Today we had pretty much nothing to do. So we took our own sweet time to sleep through the day. Woke up at around 8 AM in the morning and after having our breakfast we went to the Airforce View Point. Civilians are allowed until this point before the Airforce base. The viewpoint offers a mesmerizing view of beautiful layers of green hills on a clear day.
After spending some time, we came back and packed our belongings. Later at around 1 PM, we were served lunch.
Initially, we planned to travel by shared vehicle from Kurseong. But today being 26th Jan, a holiday and Sunday together, most vehicles were out for picnics at Mirik and other picnic spots. So at the last moment, Suraj Ji came to rescue. He agreed to drop us to NJP for Rs. 1800/-. We had our reservation back to Kolkata on Darjeeling Mail. So finally after bidding good-bye, with a heavy heart, we left back to NJP at around 4 PM cherishing our memories forever. The route was mostly clear due to holiday and thus the drive to NJP took us around 2 hours.
Karuna Homestay: The property is really well maintained. The rooms and washrooms were clean and neatly maintained. They have 2 double bedded room with attached toilets and 2 four-bedded rooms without any attached toilet. I guess this is where they went wrong. As informed by Karuna Didi, she doesn’t rent the four bedded room separately for this reason. So only if there’s a large group she rents out the 4 bedded rooms along with the double-bedded room. Because if there’s a separate family staying at the four-bedded room, they have to go downstairs for accessing the washroom. She informs this clearly if someone wishes to take the four-bedded rooms separately.
The host Karuna Didi and her family is really down to earth, co-operating and welcoming. We were really overwhelmed when she even agreed to prepare us Tea after our dinner. The food is really tasty and finger-licking. Although they over-use a little bit of dry chilly powder, but that can be taken care of upon request. We really enjoyed our stay.
The homestay offers a great view of Mt. Kanchenjungha and the glittering view of Darjeeling town at night from the room itself, balcony and rooftop.
Diki’s Homestay: Diki’s Homestay is one and only accommodation option at Bagora. This is one of the cosiest homestays we have ever been. The host – Diki Ma’am is very helpful, co-operating and always smiling. The whole property, rooms and washrooms are really well maintained and clean. The washrooms are equipped with geysers to cope up with the chilled water. Upon request, they can also provide you room heater at extra cost to cope up with the cold. Diki Ma’am herself prepares the food and it’s one of the tastiest food we ever had. One can view the dense pine forest and Kanchenjungha on a clear day from the homestay itself.
Breakfast at Rohini: Rs. 700/-
NJP – Dawaipani Vehicle: Rs. 2200/-
Karuna Homestay, Dawaipani: Rs. 1200/- per head per day (fooding & lodging) x 4 (person) = 4,800/-
Extra Pakodas are charged at Rs. 200/-. The quantity provided was more than enough for 4 of us.
Dawaipani – Bagora Vehicle: Rs. 1500/-
Day Trip To Chimney – Vehicle: Rs. 500/-
Entry Fees at Chimney Heritage Garden: Rs. 10/- per head x 4 = Rs. 40/-
Day Trip To Chatakpur – Vehicle: Rs. 1800/-
Entry Fees at Senchal Forest: Rs. 100/- per head x 4 = Rs. 400/- + Rs. 100/- (for the vehicle) = Rs. 500/-
Momo at Bagora, Suraj Ji’s Restaurant: Rs. 60/- per plate.
Diki’s Homestay, Bagora: Rs. 1200/- per head per day (fooding & lodging) x 4 (person) x 2 (days) = Rs. 9600/-
Extra Chicken Pakodas are charged at Rs. 200/- per KG + Rs. 50/- as making charge. 1KG is fine enough for 6 persons.
Bagora – NJP Vehicle: Rs. 1800/-
NOTE: I have omitted costs of personal nature such as liquors that we bought from Kolkata and the dry foods, water, dinner etc. that we bought for the train journey, chocolates that we bought for Akriti and Aryan while going to Chatakpur.
NOTE: For liquor, buy it while you are coming from NJP / Siliguri. As in this region, there’s no proper liquor shop unless you go to Darjeeling. Liquors are available at roadside eateries though, however, the options are very limited and they charge around Rs. 200/- – Rs. 250/- extra on top of what you can get at Siliguri.
Rover’s Homestay, Dawaipani: +91-90071-38504
Karuna Homestay, Dawaipani: +91-81589-41049
Kartik Das, Driver (NJP – Dawaipani): +91-90027-07753. A very humorous and co-operating person so travel with. We hired from for our drop to Dawaipani from NJP on spot after bargaining for Rs. 2200/-. Drives white Wagon R with registration number WB 73E 0478.
Arjun Daju, Driver (Dawaipani Pickup / Drop): +91-99323-51049. He’s a very good, co-operating and jolly person. We hired him for our drop to Bagora from Dawaipani. He can pick up/drop you from NJP / Jorebunglow. To/From Jorebunglow, he charges Rs. 700/-. To/From NJP, he quoted Rs. 3000/-. Drives a brown Wagon R with registration number WB 16AN 7422.
Diki’s Homestay, Bagora: +91-81457-23177
Suraj Ji, Driver (Bagora): +91-81588-35007. He’s a very nice and jolly person to travel with. Diki Ma’am fixed him up for our day trip to Chimney for Rs. 500/-. 26th Jan being a holiday, he came to rescue at the last minute to drop us to NJP for Rs. 1800/-. Drives White Maruti Suzuki Omni with registration number WB7 4AV 8721. He also owns a family-run restaurant at Bagora where you can get delicious momo. He also sells liquor locally.
Sachin, Driver (Bagora): +91-81720-64378. Diki Ma’am fixed him up for our day trip to Chatakpur for Rs. 1800/-. A nice young chap. Very helpful and co-operating. Drives White Maruti Suzuki Omni with registration number WB7 4W 7766.