Tinchuley – A mystic himalayan hamlet covered with clouds is a quite & quaint destination in North Bengal, which all traveller’s thrive to be. Tinchuley is an example of a perfect destination for people who are looking for a short gateaway to some quite and relaxing destination. We planned for Tinchuley earlier during last year, however due to sudden unrest, it went into vein. And thus we had to shift our plans to destinations like Jhargram, Bankiput, Garpanchkot, Joypur Forest, Mousuni Island etc. instead. Well the positive side was, this unrest made us think out of the box and let us experience some of the beautiful places along South Bengal, which otherwise we’d have never looked at.
Soon we realized, it’s been a long time since then we had been to our favourite destination – North Bengal. With the long weekend nearing by due to Gandhi Jayanti, it seemed to be the perfect moment to embark on a journey to our ever loving destination – North Bengal, again. As we were scanning through places, Avik suggested to resume the same with Tinchuley, which we weren’t able to experience last time. Well unfortunately, last time when we planned for Tinchuley, it was a complete offbeat destination, unknown to mainstream tourists. However the scenario has changed since then. Thinchuley is no more a offbeat destination and instead experiences a lot of footfall nowadays. However considering it to be the last phase of monsoon and Puja Holidays nearing by, we kept our hopes higher on the positive side.
Gurung Guest House and Abiraj Homestay are two well known and most preferred homestays (turned Guest House though) at Tinchuley. We chose Gurung Guest House after a round of discussion and a look through the reviews. Our beloved friend, philosopher and mis-guide Dipankar Da helped us out through the booking. We decided to keep this as a relaxing holiday, to
relax within the lap of mother nature, rather than cluttering in multiple destinations instead. Thus we refrained from hiring any private vehicle, as (1) there’s no need of it, we can hire it on the go and most importantly (2) it’d have been out of our budget.
With everything in place, we were just waiting for the D Day to arrive. Well, it’s been a long time since we all have been together. Mostly I couldn’t made out time due to various other activities I’m involved with!! So our stories of Ladakh was long pending, since Dilip Da couldn’t made it there.
Day 0 : 28th Sep 2018 : SDAH – NJP :
Finally the D Day arrived, for which we all waited for a long time!! We gathered together at Sealdah Railway Station to catch Padatik Express. The night was mostly uneventful expect that we gossiped for sometime and pulled down the respective berths.
Day 1 : 29th Sep 2018 : NJP – Tinchuley :
Our train was late by half-an-hour and reached NJP at around 9:45 AM. Gurung Ji had already arranged our pickup for a nominal price. Our driver, Mr. Sajal Rai was already waiting for us there since last 1 hour. Finally after a smoke and getting few snacks for en-route, we embarked on our journey to Tinchuley.
Boudi – Dilip Da’s wife belongs from Siliguri. It’s like every other month we pass by her home, but she doesn’t gets a chance to see her family. Thus, this time, she came off a week in advance and we decided to pick her up en-route. We informed Sajal Ji accordingly and asked him to stop by an ATM followed by a liquor shop!! Although we asked him to stop in between for breakfast too, however somehow he missed that out. However as we approached the roads post Salugara, Sevoke, Coronation Bridge, we got really excited to be back again to our beloved destination.
Finally we got to eat something at Lohapul at around 12:45 by which it was lunch time. I made a quick call to Gurung Ji to check out if we’d be getting our lunch there, so that we can have something accordingly. Now that we were all set, Dilip Da’s mood turned off breifly, as due to some unknown reasons, all the liquor shops that Sajal Ji drove us to were
closed. Sajal Ji had to took (or should I say forced to took) a de-tour for the same. Finally at one village, we got our posion. Although we thought of having some beer en-route, however we could only find Hit which we were not much keen of.
As we started proceeding uphills, the temperature started changing gradually. Shortly we reached Tokling Orange Garden and took a breif halt. A person came up and we had to got our tickets. He then walked us throughout the garden. Although I’m least informed about the floras, however rest of them enjoyed a lot.
In the meantime, Gurung Ji had called up Sajal Ji several times enquiring about us and what’s making us so late. Thus we decided to proceed without further delay. The drive through foggy Bara Mangwa and Chota Mangwa was something to cherish for.
Soon we reached our shelter for next 2 nights – Gurung Guest House, Tinchuley at around 3:30 PM. We were really excited to be at such a mystic foggy town. A lady came ahead and welcomed us and informed us that they were waiting for us from a long time, specially because of our lunch. Two chaps, who seemed to be from the same family came up and helped us with our
luggage and showed our rooms. The property, rooms and washrooms were extremely clean and well maintained, I must say. We were excited to spot a Balcony, which overlooked the mystic hamlet, seemed perfect for over evening get-togethers.
Without wasting much time, we proceeded towards the restaurant as it’s been long past generic lunch time. We were glad to notice the heritage copper plated utensils (Kashar Thala Basun). Copper plated utensils are an heritage to all Bengali Household. However with mordenization and considering the laborious maintainence, it has now turned into heritage.
We were served, Rice, Dal, Alu Bhaji, Sabji, Salad, Fried Fish and Chutney. Well, I lack words to justify such an stumptous lunch. The center of attraction was fresh fried fish. We wondered from where they get such fresh fishes at such an altitute. The lady informed us that they have their own pond nearby where they carries out pisiculture. Even I being a fish-avoider, I almost had one and a half peice of the same. Well what we loved most, is unlike at any other place, they serve you 2 peices of the same!! The lunch made ourselves so happy, actually the fish though. You know, Bengali’s and Fish goes hand in hand!!
Later, we decided to go for a walk, along the village. The lady though asked us to refrain from going by the forest as spotting cheetah is something very common here. Instead she suggested us to pay a visit to a monastery nearby, which is on the other side of the road. It was pre-evening by then, and prayers had already started. I personally love to experience the same. We walked through the mystic foggy town of Tinchuley and reached the monastery shortly.
Noticing us, the monks signalled us to come inside and have a seat. We sat there for sometime. I asked them whether I can click pictures lifting my camera and he nodded. Finally after spending sometime, I came outside. Sushmita was still waiting by the doors. Suddenly as she stepped downstairs I noticed her tumbling down the stairs. I ran off quickly and called others. Finally we rushed off to the hotel instead.
Later in the evening, we thought of taking a stroll around the side of the forest. However as we proceeded towards the turn, a street dog who was accompanying us, started growling looking at distant. We took that as a signal and returned back instead. Sometimes we feel like hero, however while at foreign land, it’s always better to abide by the locals.
Later in the evening, we gathered together to enjoy amongst ourselves. We had also ordered barbeque chicken ro relish our taste-buds. However in the end, it turned out to be the worst decission. As the dish that were served definitely couldn’t be termed as Barbeque Chicken. Considering our experience at Lunch, we thought of going ahead with it, but it seems that they are only good with mainstream dishes. Rest of the evening, we spent chit-chatting amongst ourselves.
Later at around 9:00 PM we were called off for Dinner. It was Rice / Roti, Dal, Sabji, Salad, Chicken and Chutney. Well this time the food was not as good as per our expectation. It was mostly because of the oily food. We gradually realized, that the curry they prepares is only by the oil and no use of water. Well, I can’t make a generic comment here as everyone’s food preference is different, however this food is definitely not meant for our delicate stomach. During lunch, the case was same with Sabji, however the finger licking, heavenly, fried fish made us ignore the same.
Finally we returned back to our rooms and went ahead for a walk-cum-smoke outside. Again, the street dogs accompanied us. After spending sometime we returned back to our rooms. Later Dilip Da and Boudi were really tired and they choosed to hit the bed whereas we thought of playing cards instead. Suparna being new, we took this chance to make her learn the game and within no time she really started enjoying the same. Finally at around 2:00 AM we thought of calling off the day and hit the bed.
Day 2 : 30th Sep 2018 : Tinchuley Sightseeing :
We took our own sweet time to get out of the blanket. Although bed tea were served by around 7:00 AM or so, however we woke up around 8:30 AM and quickly got ready. Later we proceeded for having our breakfast. It was kind-of Butter Nun and Sabji along with Boiled Egg.
Last night we already had a discussion with Gurung Ji and booked a vehicle for sightseeing around Tinchuley. Although Tinchuley is a quaint village and there’s no sightseeing as such, however one can choose to visit the nearby points like Tea Gardens, a Hanging Bridge etc. and destinations like Takdah and Lamahatta. You can either go for a half day or a full day tour. The half day tour doesn’t includes day trip to Lamahatta.
During the early morning you can choose to walk to a point named Gumpha Dara from where you can experience Kanchenjungha on a clear day. However considering the weather to be cloudy we refrained from doing that. However our vehicle would anyway have to pass through Gumpha Dara while going to Lamahatta.
Finally we started by around 10:15 AM. Our first point was an Orchid Garden, however today being Sunday it was closed.
So without wasting much time, we proceeded towards Runglee Tea Garden. Where we took our own sweet time to explore through the same and clicked some pictures.
We being much not used to with having butter and such heavy breakfast, had developed some kind of indigestion. Although for Dilip Da it turned out to be a bit serious, as for him any Milk Products are strictly prohibited considering his health condition.
Later we proceeded towards a Hanging Bridge. One needs to walk down a steep path to reach the Bridge.
Finally we made our way back to hotel for Lunch through the meadows of Teesta Valley Tea Garden. In between we took a halt at Teesta Bazaar for buying some lemons. Considering the Dal and Fried Fish, we couldn’t control ourselves to add the touch of lemons to spice up things!!
The lunch was same as yesterday’s one. Well, in homestays it’s always the same meals everyday with different Sabji’s. Post lunch, we took rest for sometime, before starting for our day trip to Lamahatta. Before proceeding, the lady suggested us to have momo’s there as it’s something really famous at Lamahatta.
We were really excited to pass through the forest which we were asked to stay away from walking during the evenings. On day time though there’s no such issues as locals pass through that often. As we proceeded, we noticed a dense pine forest where even sunrays struggled to reach. Driving past few turns, we noticed, Abiraj Homestay, which is another famous homestay in this region. We just loved it’s location. But considering their reviews, we choosed to booked Gurung’s instead. Although with the outlook of the same, we can guarantee we didn’t took wrong decission. We thought, the location could be the plus point, however if service and foods are not upto the mark, we’d have to suffer anyway. As I haven’t experienced their service personally, I can’t comment on the facts though.
The route past the forest was something to cherish for. We were really excited to be driving through green meadows on the either sides, distant hill views and a foggy weather. A flavour which we missed for a long time.
Finally we came upon a smooth highway, which lead us to Lamahatta. The first word that came to our mind was “A Man Made Destination“. Yes, without dis-respecting anyone, and being as humble as possible, I can’t say anything more than that. It lacked any natural touch, and was a complete man made destination. One might wonder what about the beautiful pine trees? Yes they are beautiful, but because of the huge man made park, it didn’t looked natural. Instead we’d always go for the Pine Forest which we had been through, to reach Lamahatta from Tinchuley anyday over this.
One needs to buy tickets to enter the park, ofcourse due to the maintainence of the same. We wondered around the park for a bit and walked uphil to the forest. However we couldn’t cope up of being there for long. Instead we decided to go back to the Pine Forest we were referring to. We named it “Cheetah Forest“!! Out of fun, we called out each other and started saying, “Guys, don’t waste time here. Let’s go to Cheetah Forest, it’s more beautiful and we’d enjoy there“. Well, (un)fortunately it turned out to be some unknown destination and everyone around the park started wondering what we guys were reffering to. Few groups rushed to their drivers and started asking where’s this Cheetah Forest we were referring too. Few mainstream tourists even wondered, why it was not included in their package!! Well most of them seemed to have come for a day trip from Darjeeling. Well you should have seen their faces and of the driver’s as well, scratching their head wondering about “Cheetah Forest“!!
Finally after having some coffee and momo, which was nothing close to like the lady at Gurung’s mentioned, we left back towards “Cheetah Forest“!! In between we stopped for a while at Gumpha Dara. However due to cloudy weather, nothing was visible. So after chit-chatting for a while, we left.
Finally after reaching our hotel, today again, we thought of paying a visit to the Monastery, however it started drizzling a bit heavily. So we chose to freshen up and gather around the Balcony instead. Soon we were served Tea. I ordered a Beer and asked him to serve the Chicken Pakodas once it’s ready. Well today we refrained from ordering that Barbeque Chicken again, ultimately wasting our money. Unfortunately the Chicken Pakodas were too not upto the mark. We thought it’d atleast justify the taste considering a plate costing Rs. 200/- with 12 pcs. in it. Well I’d say, they suck at snacks. Yes not only snacks, I feel whole fooding affair needs to be improved. Although we don’t have much complains about the meals, except that oily thing. However still it needs to be improved. I have been to a lot of offbeat destinations around India and I have that caliber in me to survive on any kind of food, but atleast you need to be value for money when you are charging high. Else charge lower and serve the same which you are doing, and no one would complain I believe.
Anyway, finally after enjoying our evening, we were called up for Dinner. It was same as usual. Finally we returned back to our room and gathered together for a chit-chat. Later while Dilip Da and Boudi dozed off, we 4 played cards for a while and called off the day.
Day 3 : 1st Oct 2018 : Tinchuley – NJP :
Last night, we already had a discussion with Gurung Ji, that if we can stay till lunch, as our train was at 8:00 PM and considering that we don’t have any further plans for go anywhere. We’d definitely pay up for the extra lunch though. He agreed. Today we woke up at around 8:30 AM. Although we decided to go for a walk last night, however considering the weather, we still kept ourselves under the blanket.
Later we woke up and and got freshen up quickly. Soon we were called for breakfast. Today it was Puri Sabji and much better than that Butter Nun yesterday. After having our breakfast, we went ahead to stroll around the streets way towards the forest. It seemed dreamy and cinematic due to the foggy weather. We walked down the stairs and came across a point which lead us to a school nearby.
Dilip Da and Boudi joined us too after some time, as they went ahead to the Monastery to take the blessing from the head monk. Later they went ahead uphill towards the Pine Forest, however the route being strenous, Me and Suparna refrained from the same and decided to walk towards Abiraj Homestay instead. Later after spending some time, we came back to our hotel. Once we reached the hotel, a guy came up and asked me that he has guests waiting and if he can shift Dilip Da’s room. I tried reaching them out, however this place doesn’t have strong connectivity for Airtel and Vodafone. Thus, I asked Suparna to supervise the same and told him that there’s no need to move to new room for such a short time and that he can shift them to our room instead.
Later I went ahead to get freshen up and when I came out I heard Boudi shouting. Gradually I got the story. The issue was they had nothing packed and things were lying around throughout the room. Definitely because they didn’t informed us that they would need the room last night or even today morning. This, made boudi very angry that Suparna had to collect out the things and shift them to our room.
Later around 1:00 PM, we went ahead for Lunch. Considering the mishap, they lady and other family members tried to make up a lot. It was prominent by their behaviour. Well I must say, I don’t know the name of this guy, however this guy posses a lot of negetive attitute towards the guests which we didn’t like from the very first day. The rest of the family members were smiling and co-operative, which is something we expect from homestays. We go to homestays because we want to share their lives, get to know their way of life, their culture and all. Service or quality of service is never a precedence at homestays. However the attitude of that guy can never be justified specially at hospitality business, be it a homestay or a guest house or even a hotel. Homestays are always unprofessional, and that’s why it’s an homestay. And frankly speaking that’s what we love. We don’t want to be in a polish environment facing thousands of fake-smiling persons.
The lady told us stories about their family and the relations. She also won some awards related to homestays. We also came to know that Gurung’s got awards of being First Homestay in India from Tourism Ministry. However she informed that now it has turned into a guest house instead but they tries to carry the same vibe. Anyway, after having our lunch and bidding good-bye to the lady, who have been a lot of help from Day 1, for her warm behaviour we left towards our rooms.
We went ahead to Gurung Ji’s office for paying up all the dues. His behaviour from Day 1 was something to praise for. We really loved being with Gurung Ji, the Lady (who’s Gurung Ji’s Aunt) and few other family members except that guy. Gurung Ji informed that our vehicle for drop was already waiting for us by then.
We quickly packed up all our belongings and got ready and embarked ourselves into the vehicle. The driver – Raja was very kind and friendly, and we got befriended within no time. The joruney to NJP was mostly uneventful except that Dilip Da’s health condition didn’t seemed to be improving much, and we had to take him to Rambhi BPHC (Bureau of Primary Health Care) on our way to NJP. Rambhi too seemed like a quaint village by the banks of Teesta. While others went ahead with Dilip Da, me and Avik took a shelter at a nearby Tea Joint. We were feeling very hungry by then. Upon asking what’s available, they informed that, there’s nothing left except Maggie and Tea. So we chose to survive over the same. Soon the remaining joined us. Dilip Da called up Raja Ji too.
Due to the traffic near Salugara, which ate up most of our time, we were being tensed. Unfortunately this is the everyday scenario if you are commuting along this route. Finally we made it to NJP at around 7:20 PM. We payed Raja Ji the discussed amount and left after bidding him goodbye for all the help. We became really close even with such short acquaintance.
Finally we packed up our dinner from a stall nearby and boarded our train. The return journey was mostly uneventful!!
Tip : Well next day i.e. on 2nd Oct 2018, instead of scheduled arrival at 06:00 AM we arrived Sealdah at around 10:30 AM or so, as Darjeeling Mail is undergoing some change in it’s route for which they keep testing the new route out of the blue. When we woke up we were surprised to find we were on different route than as usual. Then later a lot of frequent commuters confirmed the same.
Gurung Guest House : The property, rooms and washrooms were really clean and well maintained. The behaviour of the family is very homely and courteous – except one guy we came across. And because of this guy we had mixed experience. However the Lady (who happen’s to be Gurung’s Aunt), Mr. Gurung himself and other family members is very co-operating, helpfull and always smiling. Regarding the meals, I’d again say it was a mixed experience. We loved the fried fish and the quality of food served. However all the curries were made of up of only oil without any use of water, which is kind of an issue for us who are not used to the same. The meal plan costs Rs. 650/- per person per day and comes with Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Morning and Evening Tea & Biscuits.
Gurung’s are one of the well known family and homestay in this region and according to the reviews it seemed to be one of the best. Although we didn’t stayed at Abiraj (another popular homestay in this region) and thus I won’t be able to compare the same. However we really enjoyed our stay at Gurung’s. We chose to hire vehicles from Gurung Ji only as and when needed and I’d say the charge is quite economical and justifiable. The behaviour and friendliness of the driver’s who are from nearby villages, are something to really praise for.
Gurung Guest House : 1 x 4 Bedded Room + 1 x Double Bed Room for 2 nights @ Rs. 8168/-
Tokling Orange Garden Entry Fee : Rs. 30/- per head
Vehicle for Pickup from NJP : Rs. 2800/-
Vehicle for Sightseeing (Full Day) : Rs. 2200/-
Lamahatta Park Entry Fee : Rs. 10/- per head
Vehicle for Drop to NJP : Rs. 2800/-
Fooding @ Gurung’s Guest House : Rs. 11,110/- (Rs. 650/- per day per person + Rs. 225/- per person for Extra Lunch + 2 plate Fried Chicken @ Rs. 200/- per plate + Barbeque @ Rs. 700/- KG)
NOTE : I have ommitted costs of personal nature such as liquor, snacks (that we kept munching on en-route) etc. for your easy calculation.
Gurung Guest House, Tinchuley : +91-99330-36336 / +91-96099-46368 / +91-97333-26309 / +91-94345-14614 / Gurung Guest House – Tinchuley
Abiraj Homestay, Tinchuley : +91-97493-70965 / +91-96355-62957
Sajal Rai (Driver – Pickup) : +91-70765-14848. Very nice, co-operating and friendly person. One whom you can rely on. He drives a White Xylo with registration number WB 76A 1991.
Basant (Driver – Sightseeing) : +91-97331-21855. A very friendly and co-operating person. Goes extra mile if you can really get along. He drives a white Sumo Gold with registration number WB 76A 2235.
Raja (Driver – Drop) : +91-97331-28226. Always smiling and a friendly person. Very helpful. He drives a white Xylo with regisration number WB 76A 4743.
Dipankar Da (North East Travels) : +91-89722-47306 / +91-94745-94446 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we could have booked directly with Gurung’s, but considering our close relationship, we choose to rely on him to take care of our bookings. A very reliable and trustworthy person. Being an avid traveller, have immense knowledge about the region and guides accordingly.