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Tea Tourism making Headway in Assam

Heritage Bunglow

17th September, 2006

Realising the tremendous tourism potential that tea gardens in Assam have, many tea companies are now converting their age-old tea heritage bungalows into tourist bungalows TRAVTALK. takes a look into this new genre of tourism.

Nature-loving tourists interested in the history of colonial India would relish their stay at the tea gardens in Assam, which offer the charms of the British legacy. H P Barooah, a former chairman of the Indian Tea Association, was the pioneer in tea tourism in Assam. His tourism venture 'Heritage North East' promotes two burra bungalows at Gatoonga and Sangsua Tea Estates near Jorhat in Upper Assam. Heritage North East mostly targets Europeans, especially those who have old links with Assam, people whose parents or grandparents worked in the tea plantations in the 19th century. Recently, Welcome-Heritage tied up with these two properties.

Manoj Jalan, owner of Purvi Discovery calls its tea tours 'tracking down virgin tea'. Dibrugarh-based Jalan transformed his family tea estates into tourist resorts way back in 2001. They provide tourists two of its well-appointed mid- 19th century Chang Bungalows constructed on stilts, just 20 minutes away from Dibrugarh Airport. Tourists can experience the luxurious heritage of the Raj hospitality that the British manager and his wife enjoyed.

Ranjit Barthakur's 'River Journeys & Bungalows of India Private Limited' has tied up with McLeod Russel to convert it into a heritage property. This property has been renamed as 'Wild Mahseer- A British Assam Heritage Property'. "What we have started is creating tourist visitations for appreciation of nature.

The purpose of the whole exercise is to provide a lifestyle product in the midst of nature," echoed Barthakur. Currently, accommodation for 24 people has been created at four individual bungalows. Barthakur's ambitions include creating 1,000 heritage rooms in Assam and the region in the next 10 years. River Journeys & Bungalows is negotiating with other tea companies including Goodricke and Tata Tea and properties have been identified in several tea-growing areas of Assam and North Bengal.

A sprawling tea heritage property has come up on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra at Balipara, 20 minutes drive from Tezpur Airport. Tea giant McLeod Russel of the B M Khaitan Group has developed this project at the Adabari Tea Estate in the Balipara division of Assam. This property is a historic one characterised by its Victorian architecture and has spacious rooms across four individual bungalows. The accommodation is located on 22 acres of tropical land surrounded by tea gardens. The tea estate was established by the British Assam Tea Company way back in 1875 and the bungalows would have been constructed around the same time.

Yet another tea giant and the oldest tea company, Assam Company, is on its way to utilising its Chang bungalows at Greenwood, Salonah and Maijan tea gardens for this purpose. These gardens are strategically located near river Brahmaputra to allow visitors the luxuries of angling, river rafting and boat cruises. According to Abhay Choudhary, CFO of the Assam Company, the project will be launched before this winter.

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