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Old 1st February 2020, 02:13   #1
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Default Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

Prologue

A stroke of serendipity finds myself and my wife basking in the orchids of Takdah orchid center. Takdah - for those who did not come across this place before - is a quaint hamlet located close to Darjeeling at an altitude of 5600 ft. From here you can go to Tinchuley, Lamahatta and other tourist places - but the difference is, unlike others, Takdah is still unspoiled by the hustle and bustles of tourism.

Background

I need to go to Siliguri on 24th Feb (Friday) all on a sudden. Then realised this is preceded by holiday on 23rd and followed by a weekend. That’s too tempting for a road trip with my 2018 Ford Ecosport. Myself and my wife were excited at the prospect of a road trip. 22nd night we finally decided to go to Takdah. It was late as we frantically made calls and booked one double bed suite room in British Colonial Bungalow(a.k.a Sambhala Heritage bungalow) in Takdah (www.takdahhotels.com) . Further, we booked Royal Sarovor Portico in Siliguri for night stay. It was already 9 PM by the time we finalised the plan. My Ford Ecosport had just been serviced - so no need to worry on that front. Also, I made a full tank returning from office. Just did all the standard checks like engine oil, tyre pressure etc and made sure following things are there in the car - spare fuse, tyre inflator, puncture repairing kit, multi-tool, jumper cable. And we are all set.

The route

Now its time to decide on the route. Certainly I am not going to take NH34. Checked out various posts in team-bhp and decided to taken on route Kolkata-Nibedita Setu- NH2 (NH19) - Burdwan - SH7 - Morgram - NH34 (NH12) - Botolbari - Dhantola - NH31 (NH27) - Siliguri

Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport-screenshot-20200129-10.49.04-pm.jpg
Route shown in G-maps

It was showing about 596 km and 15hrs 15 mins driving time. However, in order to take Botolbari road we must start early as we need to cross Botolbari-Dhantola before sundown due to security concerns ( as told by many and also evident from some BHPian post). Otherwise we have to take on notorious Dalkhola traffic. Given we are not going to start before 5 am it’s very likely we will be behind long queues of truck and in all probability may miss Botolbari route.

The trip starts - Day 1

In-spite our best efforts we started with our Ford Ecosport at about 5:15 AM and reached Nibedita setu by 6:10 am. Soon we find ourselves caught behind long queues of truck after crossing Nibedita Setu.
  1. Reached Dankuni toll plaza at about 06:40.
  2. Reached CCD at 07:30 and took toilet break and breakfast.
  3. Reached Palsit at 8:25 AM.
Generally Palsit is 2 hours from my home. By the time we reach Palsit, we were already an hour late which we need to make up later.

Twists, turns and detours - Day 1
After crossing Palsit toll plaza we took right turn from Burdwan , went through the city and head on to SH7 through flyover. We were supposed to take Notunhat Lochondas setu over Ajay river which connects Burdwan to Birbhum . But we were stopped at Narja crossing by police barricades. We were told that the road is closed due to repair work. So we turned right and took a detour via Katwa road ( supported by G-maps and local people). Our plan was to take the next left turn and rejoin SH7. So we did - took a left to SH 14 and then joined SH7 near Muratipur. From Muratipur we took right and continued on SH7 towards Notunhat Lochondas Setu. Little did we know that a surprise is awaiting us.

On the way as I got down to buy some snacks, I have been told by the shopkeeper that Notunhat Setu is under repair and closed for traffic and that we need to take a detour. He was also surprised why we were not told by the cops at Muratipur. Though he sounded very convincing , we continued towards the bridge with a hope if at least LMVs are allowed. But alas!!! On reaching the approach road towards bridge, we were told that the bridge has developed some structural fault and that it will be closed for days if not weeks.

We have no other option but to take another detour. We turned right to Katwa-Notunhat road and went through Bhalyagram, Buichi etc. This is a nice narrow road with paddy fields on either side. Time to time came across settlements along the road where it gets a bit congested. It was a overcast sky with mild sun and a lovely breeze . We lowered the windows and enjoyed the ride without being too much bothered about the delays as G-maps frantically tried to take us back to Notunhat Setu. Soon we merged on to Katwa road (SH14) .

Without paying attention to G-maps, we asked locals and found out the route to Morgram. We proceeded on SH14 and then took a sharp left turn to SH6 (Katwa-Ketugram road) at Sipahi Dighi crossing (do not need to go to Katwa all the way). Subsequently crossed Ajay river via Chorki bridge and Fulbagan . On crossing river you will find a manual toll booth . Eventually the road connects to SH7 at Futishanko . We took a right turn and proceeded towards Morgram-Panagarh highway.
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SH7 after Futishanko

The Usual suspect - Flat tyre - Day1

We drove by SH7, merged on to NH14 (Morgram-Panagarh highway), took right and proceeded towards NH 12 (NH34). This part of NH14 is full of deep craters which needs to be manoeuvred continuously and carefully. But it just doesn’t seem to be our day as more surprises were awaiting us.

Just about 100-200 m before we merge to NH12, my Ecosport had a flat tyre (at about 12:50 pm). We took turn on NH 12 , parked the car and then changed tyre. Till this point the actual route taken from Kolkata is https://goo.gl/maps/6AyQVBrhHZbLLPZ48 where as route we were supposed to take should Notunhat Setu be open is https://goo.gl/maps/2GiHUEDKq7GdB9rF9 . Lost an hour or more for this detour.
After changing tyre we proceeded towards BPCL petrol pump in Morgram where we topped up fuel, used toilets, had some food in the dhaba and also repaired punctured tyre. This petrol pump has clean loos. We left BPCL Morgram at about 2:15 PM. By this time we have abandoned the idea of going through Botolbari route as it will be dark and prepared ourselves to embrace infamous Dalkhola traffic.

Lunch at last - Day 1

At about 3:00 PM reached Chandermore toll plaza 200 km from Morgram BPCL after crossing Farakka feeder canal.
At 3:45 PM we crossed Frakka barrage and reached 18th mile toll plaza. As usual got traffic jam at Kaliachawk which continued till we entered Maldah bypass. Maldah bypass is a lovely road to drive on.
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Farakka Barrage

Reached Golden Park hotel in Maldah after crossing Maldah bypass at about 4:40 pm. This is a nice hotel with clean restrooms and a good restaurant . We had late but sumptuous chinese lunch and started at 5:40 PM towards Raiganj .
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Hotel Golden Park at Maldah

Mother of all traffic jam - Day 1

From here except some diversions road is really good and you can press the pedal full throttle. Got some usual congestion in Raigunj. Soon after crossing Raigunj, queues of truck started appearing . As we approach Dalkhola its only long queues of trucks which can be seen miles after miles . I carried on my 'tiki-taka' (passing in spanish football) maneuvers, often getting down the right and left road flanks, letting incoming trucks cross and then again re-joining the queue well ahead. Its quite usual in Indian roads and to me it almost begets a feeling of playing a video game. However my wife insisted me to be cautious. This continued till we reach the under construction Dalkhola bypass. Took a right through the bypass. After sometime, you will find a steep make-shift under-prepared semi-ramp going down from left . Come down from bypass using that ramp and then go straight in the direction of bypass not taking first left. Take the second left and you land up straight at Dalkhola rail gate. Took right and somehow managed to squeeze in between 2 trucks. In 5-10 minutes the rail gate opened and we are on the way.

Full throttle - Day 1
Reached Purnea crossing at about 9:15 PM and took a right turn to Purnea road towards Kishanganj . There were bad patches in between especially in Kishanganj. After crossing Kishanganj roads are good and soon we crossed over to Bengal again. Thought about stopping at Islampur to have some snacks - but seeing we are getting late we carried on till Siliguri. This stretch of the road I pressed full throttle and eventually reached Royal Sarovor Portico hotel at about 11:15 PM . Here is the actual route taken from Kolkata to Siliguri ( look at the Dalkhola bypass) https://goo.gl/maps/GWWEjZe4mNGzzNQT9 . On reaching hotel, ate non-veg thaali in dinner and resigned for the day.

Route to Takdah - Day 2

After having breakfast and completing my work it’s time to go to Takdah. We spoke to Mr Tamang of British colonial bungalow ( aka Sambhala heritage bungalow)and informed that we will have late lunch . He also told us not to follow GPS but take left turn upwards from 27th mile just after Rambi bazar. Indeed GPS was showing all the way through Teesta bazar, Kalimpong, Lamahatta . Route showing in GPS : https://goo.gl/maps/bPUR1YDWeVXxfkDq8 ( do not take this as this is a much longer route) . Actual route we have take from Siliguri till 27th mile is https://goo.gl/maps/bEabLBnX8eefLtQT8 . From 27th mile we took following route https://goo.gl/maps/DC7aMGo3QPwefR8J8 . Somehow G-maps did not connect NH10 with the road uphill from 27 mile.

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At Siliguri



Route to 27 mile - Day 2

We started at about 12:45 pm. I always loved this drive through Sevok road . No exception this time as well . Traffic was light and we were enjoying every bit of it. Topped up fuel from Indian oil petrol pump near Sevok rail gate. It has toilets. You can also take fuel from another Indian oil pump on the way to Rambi . Crossed kali temple, coronation bridge, Kalijhora . Got some traffic in few places as road work was going on. I think because we started late we did not find huge traffic. Soon after crossing Rambi bazar you will see a crossing where many people are selling oranges and a road sharply rises on left side . You can see a milestone showing Takdah club at a distance of 15.69 km . Not sure why .69 is written. We took left turn and started driving uphill.
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Sevok Road


Scenic drive to Takdah - Day 2

It was a wonderful scenic uphill drive to Takdah. It has forest trails , tea garden, lovely views . I wish everyday I could drive on such picturesque road. This is exactly why we live to drive. You will come across some forks but remember always to go uphill - do not take any downhill road from fork. In case you are confused do not hesitate to ask local people- they are very cordial and helpful. Eventually after 15 km you will reach a place where 3 roads meet near Takdah club . We came by the road from 27th mile . Another road on left goes up towards Lamahatta, Kalimpong and road on right goes to Tinchuley . If you take right from the junction you will reach Takdah orchid center. We planned to visit orchid center next day as it was already late.

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En-route Takdah from 27 miles


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Near Takdah


From this junction one narrow patchy road climbs towards Sambhala heritage bungalow (do not take Lamahatta road or Tinchuley road by mistake). Last turn on this road, which takes you right in front of Sambhara is a bit tricky. Do take a very wide turn and be gentle and slow - you should be fine. On reaching the bungalow we were greeted by ever smiling Mr Tamang and soon we checked in to our rooms and had a sumptuous open air lunch in the garden .

Takdah village – Day 2

Our accommodation is of typical colonial time bungalows with wooden ceilings and fireplace in both living and bedroom. In the afternoon we walked around the village. A little way up from our bungalow, there is a Buddhist institute called Shri Diwakar Vihara and a school (Green Shield academy) . If you go further up there is forest trail. We went down to the 3-road junction near Takdah club and walked up to the Orchid Centre. The Orchid centre is open from 10 AM to 3-00 PM. It was almost 5 PM now and dusk was beginning to settle. So we decided to view the orchids next morning. Instead we walked through the canopy of forest towards Tinchuley till there is light and then returned to our Bungalow. Coming back to the bungalow, we enjoyed a nice cup of Darjeeling tea in the garden. We met another couple coming from Tinchuley who came to Takdah. The night was chilly. After dinner, we lighted up the fireplace in our room. There is option to have barbeque as well. You can get a heater too in the room, but a fireplace seemed to be the right thing in a colonial bungalow.

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Sambhala Heritage Bungalow with our Ecosport peeping from left


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Us and Ecosport


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Dining area


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Inside our bungalow


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Near the school


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Near Takdah main crossing where roads from Lamahatta, Tinchuley and 27 miles meet

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Scenic walk through forest trails on both sides

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Takdah Club

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Entry for Takdah Orchid center

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View of Takdah Orchid center from outside

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Fireplace


Orchid Center– Day 3

The morning was beautiful. There is no view of Kanchenjunga from the place itself, but we didn’t go there to see it either. We had a spectacular view of Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling only a month back. As the sun’s rays fell on the bungalow and the dewdrops in the garden started to dry up, the temperature started to rise. We had our breakfast with aloo paratha and walked up to the Orchid Centre. It was a wonderful place, full of lovely flowers of unusual colours. It is a research centre for orchids where they conduct various experiments and create different hybrid varieties of orchids. You can spend hours after hours. After viewing the orchids, we back to the bungalow. It was time to start the return journey.

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Return journey begins – Day 3

We started from Takdah at 11 AM. The drive down the 27th Mile road was wonderful. After a while, we got stuck in a traffic jam which was caused by a few cars lined up in front of a house. It was a marriage party. At Rambi IOCL pump, we topped up the fuel tank which was almost full. It took 2 hours to reach Siliguri through picturesque Sevoke road. At Siliguri, we stopped at Vega Mall near Bhaktinagar checkpost, which is on Sevoke road. It was a convenient location for a quick stop for lunch. But when we started from the mall at 1-30 PM, we were confronted by a huge traffic jam near Darjeeling more. It’s a regular affair at that place – but its accentuated by the fact we have to reach Dhantola by 3:30-3:45 PM in order to cross Botolbari route by sundown. I feel its better to stop at City Center mall so that you can cross most of the traffic beforehand as it worsens throughout the day.
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Leaving Takdah


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Settlements on the way to Takdah from 27 mile

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Teesta from Sevok road

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Coronation Bridge


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Mahananda Sanctuary


Dhantola-Botolbari at last – Day 3

Delay means we are again approaching a borderline situation to avail Dhantola-Botolbari route. Plan was to cover 60km stretch of Dhantola-Botolbari route before 5:30 PM. We reached Dhantola turn at 3:45 PM . Please note if you come by G-maps, do not take the left turn to Dhantola-Botolbari road as shown in map as the road was broken and in poor condition. Instead proceed further on the service road for about 150-200 m and then take a left turn to meet Dhantola-Bottlebari road. We heard about security concerns on this route after sundown. Further, we have to be very cautious as this road is full of settlements and everywhere there are cattles, fowls running. Dhantola side of the route has good stretches. Between Dhantola and Rudel there are areas which are picturesque with greenery all around. The road is narrow in many places and you need to get down at road flanks many times to allow vehicular traffic from opposite side. Our Ecosport and a Pajero together was rushing to complete the stretch before sundown. We completed at about 5:30 PM (i.e. about 1:45 hrs). Please note there will be many stretches near junctions and markets where it will be very crowded and you will be forced to move at snail's pace. For cars with low ground clearance this distance might take more. And I do agree its better to avoid this route after sundown. Once we reach NH12 we carried on through Raiganj and arrived at Golden Park resort, Maldah at about 7:00 PM. We decided to stay that night in Maldah.

More experiment , more ‘adventure’ – Day 4

Next morning we started at about 8:15 AM and reached IOC pump at Morgram at 10 AM. Topped up gas, used toilets and moved on. Near crossing of Morgram-Panagarh highway, we thought about experimenting and not to follow the same route. So we decided to try dreadful NH12 (NH34). It was quite good till Baharampur. Crossing Baharampur was a nightmare with too much traffic. Soon after crossing Baharampur we find ourselves caught in long queues of truck. Before reaching Krishnagar we started more experimentation – we decided to crossover to NH2 side and exit through Memari or Burdwan. We took right on Katwa-Debogram road (SH14) following G-maps and soon realized we have to cross ferry with car at Matiari river jetty. Though we can see Tractor and small cars were being ferried over in a barge, I did not feel confident of putting my Ecosport there – my adventurous spirit kind of gives in. So we returned all the way back to NH12 – its about 18x2 = 36 km extra altogether. But I must tell that many parts of Katwa-Nabogram road was extremely scenic and a treat to drive on.

Final push to Kolkata – Day 4

On reaching NH12 (NH34), we took right and drove towards Krishnanagar. Before reaching Krishnanagar, we took lunch at Nipobithi resort which is about 18 km from junction of NH12 and Katwa-Debogram road. This place serves some really tasty 'thalis' (both veg and non-veg) in traditional bengali way using bronze utensils. Toilets were also clean. After lunch we started at 2:40 PM, reached Krishnanagar and then took Krishnanagar-Ranaghat bypass. This bypass is a nice road to drive on with trees on both sides - but has too many bumps . Fortunately we did not get held up at any rail gate. After the bypass, entire stretch of NH12 (NH34) till Barasat is quite bad and driving is no longer enjoyable. Still we continued on NH34 and managed to reach Barasat at about 6:00 PM.

Epilogue

I would suggest never attempt to take NH4 at least for time being - you won't enjoy driving there. Also you should leave at the most by 3:00 AM to make sure that you can take Botolbari route while going to Siliguri ( assuming there would not be any closed bridge).This trip had given us twists and turns, fun moments, agonising moments, surprises and above all some really scenic drives. In the end its always been fun to drive on Indian roads no matter how unpredictable it is, no matter how many surprises it has under her sleeves, no matter how much manoeuvring you need to do in the pursuit of beating long queues of trucks. Even a road from Kolkata to Siliguri has so many scenic sports on the way. And of course we will always cherish the scenic drive from Siliguri to Takdah forever - the high point of the trip .
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Old 1st February 2020, 04:27   #2
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Default re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

Nice travelogue Dipan Da and welcome to the forum. I did not know you had joined Team Bhp!
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Old 1st February 2020, 08:26   #3
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Default re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

We’ve all been reading travelogues on TBhp for so many years and the one thing common among all the ones out of Kolkata is that it takes like 15-16 hours just to get to Siliguri which is 550km away. Any and every travelogue says the same thing: bad roads, diversions, long queues of trucks, lots of stress and wasted time. This is particularly hard for me as a Delhi guy to fathom. We on a good day do twice that distance in so much time. It seems that all our dear Bengali friends have accepted this and have resigned to their fate, kind of like those who get to work in Mumbai on the Virar fast local. Why has this crucial route of West Bengal which connects the state capital to the strategically vulnerable chicken neck of Siliguri seen no upgrades? The overall state of highways has improved by leaps and bounds across the country over the past 15 years. This route seems stuck under the apathy of the center-state quagmire since forever.

My salute to you guys who make short headways to the hills for a night or two from Kolkata. I’d need a day off just to recuperate from the stress of getting home from my holiday if it was over such a route!!

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Old 1st February 2020, 15:06   #4
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Default re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shreyans_Jain View Post
We’ve all been reading travelogues on TBhp for so many years and the one thing common among all the ones out of Kolkata is that it takes like 15-16 hours just to get to Siliguri which is 550km away. Any and every travelogue says the same thing: bad roads, diversions, long queues of trucks, lots of stress and wasted time. This is particularly hard for me as a Delhi guy to fathom. We on a good day do twice that distance in so much time.
I have travelled over 30 times to Siliguri and except twice or thrice it has always taken me about 12 hours. We went to Darjeeling in 2019 November and it took us exactly 9.5 hours to reach Siliguri. I dont know about others, but I absolutely love that road and the challenge it poses. Here in UK and Europe, I am used to travelling 500 kilometers in less than 5 hours, but every time I go back on the Kolkata Siliguri route it gives me a different high. The only way to explain this phenomenon is to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Its the not the Destination, It's the journey.”

Last edited by BlackPearl : 1st February 2020 at 15:12.
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Old 1st February 2020, 17:13   #5
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Default re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

It depends on when you start, how many stops you take, how much is traffic, whether there are any detours etc. If one starts at night say about 8/9 pm and assuming no detours or long stops or any other incidents you can reach between 10-12 hours. We started at the busiest time, got heavier than usual traffic , a critical bridge closed , a punctured tyre - if these things happens then surely you can’t get it within 10-12 hrs . But again this is exception. No matter how much time it takes , it’s the journey that we enjoy.
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Old 3rd February 2020, 10:59   #6
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Default Re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

Nice travelogue. That's a good, informative write-up with nice pictures to complement it. This will help others travelling on the route plan their journeys.

The northern part of West Bengal along with Sikkim and the 7 Sisters are probably the most beautiful parts of country. I have always enjoyed travelling there, except of course, the bad roads and diversions. Otherwise, driving through the forests and tea plantations is a wonderful experience.

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Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
I have travelled over 30 times to Siliguri and except twice or thrice it has always taken me about 12 hours. We went to Darjeeling in 2019 November and it took us exactly 9.5 hours to reach Siliguri. I dont know about others, but I absolutely love that road and the challenge it poses. Here in UK and Europe, I am used to travelling 500 kilometers in less than 5 hours, but every time I go back on the Kolkata Siliguri route it gives me a different high. The only way to explain this phenomenon is to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Its the not the Destination, It's the journey.”
Agree with you on that. It's not not always about getting somewhere quickly. I've driven on this stretch quite a few times and it has never bored or frustrated me.

Last edited by Aditya : 3rd February 2020 at 11:04.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 15:58   #7
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Default Re: Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport

Extremely well written travellogue with excellent pictures.

Incidentally we stayed in the same "Sambhala Heritage Bungalow" in Takdah during our last holiday just after Durga Puja holidays in 2019. We travelled from Kolkata to Siliguri and from Siliguri to Gangtok via Rangpo, Rongli, Zuluk, Silk Route, Gnathang Valley, Old Baba Mandir, New Baba Mandir & Tsomogo Lake to
Gangtok. From Gangtok we went to Ravangla, Borong and then to Lamahatta,
Takdah, Tinchuley and finally back to Siliguri. However unfortunately never got down to penning the travellogue.

Very well maintained rooms, well behaved staff and good clean food. Enclosing one pic from this visit.
Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport-takdah_1_26092019.jpg
Kolkata to Takdah (via Siliguri) in a Ford EcoSport-takdah_2_26092019.jpg
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