The tourism ministry of government of India has woken up to the tremendous potential of the lush green of Assam's tea estates to host tourists.
Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said there would be a renewed thrust to sell the 'unexplored paradise of enchanting north-east India' by the ministry with focus on high-end tea tourism, adventure sport, wildlife, ethnic mosaic.
Following her two-day visit to the north-east where she met tourism ministers of eight northeastern states as well as other important stake holders, including hoteliers, Ms Soni, announced on Tuesday the ministry had assessed the British era bungalows strewn across the tea estates of Assam
In fact, an undercurrent of change in the tourism sector in Assam may revolutionise the scenario for the entire region soon. The credit goes to initiatives by a handful of private entrepreneurs.
The concept of promoting holidays in a few of the tea plantation bungalows is gaining ground.
These bungalows already attract considerable number of tourists. Assam's tea plantation bungalows have added a new dimension to the region's tourism value, which revolves around wildlife, especially the one-horned Asiatic rhino that might be sighted at the Kaziranga National Park on the banks of Brahmaputra River, Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, a dash of Shillong in Meghalaya, enigmatic monasteries of snow-capped Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh as well as a cruise along the Brahmaputra.
A few upgraded and decked up tea bungalows and family heritage property are already hosting tourists with penchant for green, healthy and decent holidays in the lap of nature.
For instance, there are The Thengal Manor, the Wild Masheer Lodge, Mancotta Chang and Basbari Lodge, to name a few.
The 72-year-old, majestic Thengal Manor, the ancestral property of tea planters from Khangiya Barooah clan in Assam, is one of the best option on offer. It is an imposing and tastefully furnished mansion comprising spacious bedrooms with carpeted floors surrounded by verandahs facing flower bedecked sprawling gardens.
Located in an Assamese village Jalukonibari, about 30-minutes drive from the heart of Jorhat town in Upper Assam, Thengal Manor is everything that a comfortable sojourn in the lap of nature stands for. It has a few plush well-furnished suites bearing the royal touch of British era. By staying here, one can relive the lifestyle that the aristocratic Assamese tea planters had.
Wild Masheer Lodge is located at Adabari Tea estate near Tezpur at a distance of about 250 km from Guwahati. The estate, set up in 1900, houses a manager's bungalow once owned by the British Assam Tea Company. Till 1962, the manager operated from this single-storied teak house.
Subsequently, the office was shifted and the sprawling bungalow left unoccupied. The estate's present owner, McLeod Russel, in a venture with River Journeys & Bungalows of India Private Ltd, promoted the old place to and revamped it into an enchanting destination. The property, done up in exquisite style, is rechristened as Wild Masheer. The British Assam Heritage Bungalow in Wild Masheer can accommodate 24 tourists at a time.
The Bansbari Lodge is located at the entrance of the picturesque Manas National Park at the foothills of the Bhutan Himalayas. Proximity to wildlife, a tiger project, tea gardens, Manas river flowing down the hills of Bhutan impart magnificence to this place. It is rated as one of the top five best forest lodges of the country.
The Mancotta 'Chang' in Upper Assam's tea belt in Dibrugarh is another jewel in the emerging heritage plantation tourism in the state. The elevated bungalow is over 150 years old. It belongs to the Jalans, one of the pioneer tea planters' families of Assam. The family has converted two of their executives' bungalows into guesthouses for select tourists.
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