Colonial Bungalows in Tea Estates
An Architectural Rarity & A Proud Legacy
The best stories of bygone eras, of an ancient time predating the present by centuries, are those which through the space of their narrative transform the reader to that backdrop itself. When one can almost visualise to be in the footsteps of the protagonist in a story that culminates in the past, perhaps in the erstwhile colonial times or even earlier when dynasties ruled, is when the story has been really successful in engaging its audience. After the reader completes the book or even while they are in the middle of it, they are mentally transported to a contemporary setting, almost living the dream, trying to touch and feel the props in their figments of imagination. Similarly, the best vacations are those that possess the inherent quality of transforming your surroundings even in memories. For those of you who are still enchanted by Wordsworth & Robert Browning, whose fantasies are made up of Victorian aesthetics, and who dream of solitary evenings spent in colonial mansions gaping out of the awnings into the misty sky, sipping on a royal cup of tea, the opportunity to spend a vacation in a British constructed pre independence residential manor should not be missed at any cost.
An architectural wonder, and almost more than a century old, these colonial mansions are built over a sprawling area, and stand tall and apart with aristocratic air of dignity and a pride of detailed sophistication. Perched picturesquely on a hill top overlooking abundant stretches of alpine pastures, giving way to lush green meadows ahead, and flanked by the towering Kanchenjunga mountains, the panoramic view is endlessly changing and extremely captivating. On closer inspection in the shining warmth of the gleaming sun overhead, the alpine pastures surrounding the British bungalow are revealed to be neatly trimmed sprouts of tea shrubs that are dotted across the entire stretch of the gentle slopes. A brilliant Gothic bungalow witness to the changing times over a century or more, situated conveniently in the working premises of an operational tea plantation with a British legacy, is a treat for the senses and an opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity to wake up to snow clad peaks in a moderately cool climate away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and whilst enjoying a freshly brewed cup of tea, is quite difficult to allow pass by without giving in to temptation.
Interesting Read: Paradise of West Bengal – Dooars
An Old World Charm Hidden Within
Subsequent to wishful thinking and pondering upon the fascinating option of transforming the surrounding scenery to the serenity of a fabled bungalow in a tea estate hidden within the mountains and forests enveloping it on either side, the next obstacle we arrive at is identifying and choosing a location which is privy to such a secluded natural spectacle. Tea bungalows are a part of the erstwhile heritage plantation bungalows, some of them predating centuries. Constructed originally for British Tea Estate managers during the colonial times, the tea bungalows provide the visitors with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to relive the essence and lifestyles of the original planters who lived there more than 100 years ago. Some of best naturally restored British heritage bungalows on tea estates are in the Dooars area as well as some in Sikkim in India. While some of them have been renovated after being undertaken to be run as exclusive hospitality franchises in the form of luxury hotels, there are a few that are still managed by the plantation staff and proudly retain the heritage and legacy of its original British owners.
The century old bungalows in these tea plantations still retain the traditional local wood-works in its doors, windows, staircases, awnings and arches. A huge fruit orchard in its backyard and a sprawling lawn in the front overlooking the Mt. Kanchenjunga, these heritage bungalows are quite different in structure and appearance from the colonial British bungalows spread across the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. Most of these heritage bungalows which haven’t been converted to hotels and tourist guest houses still exhibit the untampered old stately colonial beauty. Most of them still have the traditional kitchen with a functional mud oven where food is cooked on wooden burners. Some of these century-old heritage house, unable to cope up with the maintenance and restoration due to lack of resources have recently sold ownership to luxury hospitality groups who have spruced up the structure and renovated the interiors with amenities like western bathrooms with hot water geysers, televisions and electricity. Most of remaining plantations owned bungalows are finding it difficult to cope with the struggles of traditional methods, and hence urban conveniences are fast replacing traditional methods and the old world charm giving way to modern technology. The regular kitchen instead of the earthen oven and being separate from the main building with a quaint chimney and a fireplace is being discarded for a convenient in-house kitchen with modern appliances and LPG instead of firewood or charcoal. Some opt to keep the traditional kitchen dormant while themselves opting for modern appliances cooking gas, in the rare instance guests insist on traditionally cooked food. All food ingredients starting from vegetables to spices and herbs are locally sourced from the kitchen garden and guests can enjoy plucking their own vegetables from the garden and eat a healthy wholesome organic home-cooked and fresh meal. While the kitchen is no stranger to cooking delicious traditional Indian cuisine, it is advisable to try some local delicacies as well while the occasion beckons.
Interesting Read: Tea Tourism in Dooars
Creating Memorable Experiences For a Lifetime
A vacation spent in a truly rustic vintage colonial bungalow, waking up to a beautiful warm morning sunrise glistening on the window pane, while a morning bid excitedly chirps in the air, is sure to make timeless memories to be treasured for years to come.
Perched at such a high altitudes overlooking unending stretches of alpine pastures and fruit orchards, the breathtaking view from every point of the bungalow appears extremely stunning and surreal , from the green canopy of the tea plantations to the chirping of birds and the cascading waterfalls, it takes the visitors closer to self-discovery in the heart of nature. Unlike any other luxury hotel but an unforgettable experience, a stay in the heritage British tea plantation bungalows should not be compromised for anything else in the world.