Darjeeling or Assam?

Old Jan 20th, 2010, 02:09 PM
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Darjeeling or Assam?

I am still researching ideas for our November trip. These two places are on my list. Either journey would involve flying to Kolkata staying perhaps at the Oberoi Grand www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_kolkata/index.asp and spending a few days there.

If we opted for Darjeeling, we'd take the toy train www.indiarailtours.com/darjeeling-toy-train.html from Silguri and stay at the Elgin www.elginhotels.com/theelgin.html (or the Windamere www.windamerehotel.com/ ) in Darjeeling.

If we opt for Assam, I'd want some time visiting Kaziranga Park and would like to stay at Diphlu River Lodge www.diphluriverlodge.com , and some time at Thengal Manor near Jorhat http://www.sawdays.co.uk/search/disp...BookID=ind1529

Thoughts? Recommendations?

I know dogster has some experience here and am hoping he's around to give his opinion.
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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Oops - I forgot to give the other option for our stay in Kolkata (if we can't get a good price on the Oberoi) www.theparkhotels.com/park/calcutta/hotels/
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 02:29 PM
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Wow - Kathie going to India. Not doing the traditional Rajasthan tour first? - or perhaps a visit to Varanasi and Sarnath for big dose of Hindu/Buddhist culture? Instead, just diving into Kolkata and environs? Of course, I'll look forward to hearing all about it, no matter where you guys go - all I know is that our upcoming 2nd trip to India probably won't be our last.
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 03:22 PM
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LOL, Craig, I know we "should " go to Rajasthan first. I thought about Varanasi as well, and the easy flight from Bangkok makes it attractive. But Assam has long looked fascinating to me, then I stated considering Darjeeling, so I wanted to explore these options first. Logistically, they are a bit complicated so we'll see if we can make them work out.

I know there will be other India trips.
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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Yup, I've been around up there. Consider this:

www.assambengalnavigation.com/sche.htm

You'll be missing something special if you don't go down the Brahmaputra.

Thengal Manor is amazing. Food was good. It wasn't fully staffed when I was there but I think I can say that it will be an eccentric [good] experience.

Your only chance of seeing anything at Kaziranga is if you stay at the wildly overpriced Diphlu. Like all animal stuff, you gotta put in the hours. Indian park 'tho, Kathie, with all the attendant regulations. It ain't Africa.

Check on dates of Bihu festivals around this time. Coincide.

It's late, I'll give you more later. Did you consider Darjeeling AND sikkim?
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 04:27 PM
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Cool, Kathie! I haven't been to Assam, but enjoyed Darjeeling, the train and the Windamere - see wilhelmswords.com/asia2001/index.html - Into India and Steaming to Darjeeling
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 04:51 PM
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Thursdays, thanks fro your report! It's very helpful.

Dogster, I've thought about the cruise. I might be interested in a 4 night cruise and 3 nights at the lodge combo, but not a longer cruise this time. Of course, it's too early to see what they have in November. It's interesting that you consider the lodge "wildly overpriced" as it's about US$220 per person per night and the cruise is US$350 per person per night. I know that sometimes the cruise has 50% off or 25% off specials.

I know it's not Africa, but I'm not sure what you mean by "all the attendant regulations."

Yup, Sikkim is on my radar as well, so I'd be interested in your comments about that.
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 09:35 PM
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I have not been to Assam but have been to Darjeeling, and actually I would opt for Assam. You can probably include Darjeeling on another trip as just a few day add-on, but I think Assam is sort of a trip on its own and you need to dedicate time to it

But they are of course very different. Darjeeling is just a bit twee, perfectly fine and the toy train is fun, but I don’t think it would match what you would see in Assam. I think you may have to look harder for village life. Assam is also less developed for the tourist, which you might enjoy. Darjeeling has a lot of tourists, including honeymooners in November as it is cool season. And you may or may not see the Himalaya. If that is important to you, you might consider Ladakh instead.

Kolkata is very interesting, esp in terms of the arts on offer (theatre and literature esp). I have not seen the Park there, but know them generally in other places (esp New Delhi) and it might be a good choice if you can’t get or don’t want the Oberoi. Not as luxurious, but much more funky. Good bar area, and usually good food.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 06:47 AM
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Cicerone, thanks so much for your comments. Your thoughts about Darjeeling vs. Assam are just what I was thinking and why Assam is higher on my list. I'm not going primarily to see the Himalayas (though it's always nice to see the mountains) as I've had some excellent views of the Himalayas in my travels.

Do you have thoughts about Sikkim? I was looking last night at whether I could combine Sikkim and Assam, but I'm not sure it's practical, as I like to linger in places. I hadn't thought about Ladakah for this trip... I think that would be a different trip.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 07:32 AM
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Is Ladakh practical in November? I thought it was a summer destination - or is that only if you go overland?
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 07:57 AM
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How long are you traveling for Kathie?

Check this recent post on Sikkim:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...m#last-comment

Cicerone's comments are, as always, very interesting, but as she hasn't been to Assam or the Park in Kolkata, a little in the abstract this time. I'm sure she can give you good advice on Sikkim.

I've stayed at the Park in Kolkata. Overpriced, good location, gerrroovy [if you're an upwardly mobile Indian with a mobile phone] and LOUD. Boom boom, thump thump. Disco.

Kathie, just go to the Oberoi. You should be able to get good rates in November. It's perfect for you. Kolkata is my very favorite city in India. You should be able to get the Oberoi for 6,500 - 9,000 rupees closer to the time - their rates go up and down hourly.

Which is a great deal less than Diphlu.

Closer to the time I'll give you guide tips. Here's a start:
www.calcuttawalks.com

As for 'all the attendant regulations' in Kaziranga, check out my comments, and the esteemed J.P. Singh in this post:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...nch-tadoba.cfm

[It's long - scroll down till you get to Dogster, then read J.P's follow up comments.]

My experiences in Kaziranga were woeful to the extreme. Awful. They know you're not gonna see anthing, you know you're not gonna see anything - nobody but you cares.

Of course, if you go, you'll doubtless see 300 tigers just to prove me wrong - provided they cross the only road you're permitted on. But I'm jaded; 67 game drives in Africa has spoilt me. All I'm saying is check and double check, don't believe the P.R. and try find some info from somebody who has stayed at Diphlu [run by AssamBengal BTW] - I only visited for lunch. A new post on Kaz might bring out J.P. who is way more experienced than Dog.

And, don't take the elephant ride. Look carefully at the photos. See how you'll be sitting? An hour of that and you'll be ready for childbirth.

Sikkim and Darjeeling go together. You can fly daily from Bagdogra to Guwahati, thence to Jorhat or Dibrugargh. Assambengal will get you from Jorhat. No matter what they say in their brochure, that's where they start.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 09:14 AM
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Thanks, Dogster, I'd read the Sikkim thread but went back and re-read it. I'm aware there is a nice little loop one can take that includes Darjeeling and Sikkim, but as I mentioned to Cicerone, I'd prefer Assam to Darjeeling. I spent a bit of time last night trying to se if I could devise a route including Assam and Sikkim with enought time in each, but am guessing it really isn't possible. Also, it looks to me like it would be cold in Sikkim in November, so I should save it for another trip at a different time of the year. We'll have probably two weeks on the ground in India.

I also read your comments and JPS's on parks in India. Let me say that I wouldn't go there expecting to see tigers. First of all, I think it's an unrealsitic expectation. I'd be quite content to go and experience the wildness of the park, seeing little bits of wildlife, birds, etc, and just revel in being there. Remember, I spent time in the Danum Valley in Borneo - loved being in the rainforest - we saw orangutans and I'm glad we did but we would have had a great time even if we hadn't.

Now I would be disillusioned if the park had elephant shows (as per the worst of the tourist attractions in Northern Thailand). I have ridden elephants before and while it isn't the most comfortable of rides, I could do it for an hour and still be able to walk again (eventually - lol).

You had lunch at Diphlu - any comments? I know it's run by Assam-Bengal which I think is a good thing... Any comments on my idea of a 4 night cruise plus 3 nights at Diphlu or do you think that Diplu is just madness.

I am amazed at your comment that would should be able to get the Oberoi for 6500-9000 rupees in November. As you know, the lowest price room is listed on their website as well over 20,000. I know I'd prefer to Oberoi to the Park, but I'm not willing to spend nearly $500 a night at the Oberoi. BTW, do you book directly with the Oberoi?

As all of you can see, I'm still very much in the exploration stage here. I welcome information, comments, opinions...
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 10:21 AM
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Two weeks - yup, it's an either/or situation. You COULD do both but you'd be on the move - however, AssamBengal does make it way easier to see a lot without the shlep. BTW, the boat is a lot cozier inside than it looks. It depends on their schedule, of course. Cabins 10 and 11 on Sukapha have side and back windows - and a double bed - dunno about the other one. Check and book those.

The most interesting part of the boat trip is Dibrugargh to Kaziranga, by far.

But I was in Assam during Bihu in March which added a zillion percent to the experience. Visually, the landscape is surreal and still. It's sailing thru a white desert. Maybe not what you're thinking of. I wrote about it way at the end of my first big India post.

'Imagine a piece of paper, turn it on its side. Draw a line across the page...' something like that.

Read that to check you're not expecting something that isn't there.

Nope - not elephant shows, just elephant rides 'to see game'. Fat chance. I don't want to turn you off Diphlu, but I wouldn't go. Again, it depends on your interests. Many people are content with a bird and a squirrel. However, as I said, I've been spoilt by Africa. What I saw of Kaz wasn't riveting as wilderness. Borneo it ain't. Remember, if you go - you won't be able to go anywhere unless you're on a game drive. You'll be sitting around Diphlu. That's it. So check the website and look at the pics.

But I'm a people guy. Best you get independent advice on that. Rooms are fine, food will be adequate - again depends on seasonality, numbers of punters etc.

Oberoi: I think you know my style well enough to know I certainly wouldn't have stayed at the Oberoi as much as I have at $500 a night! lol. Last time in Kolkata, October, the rates were too high so I stayed literally next door at the Peerless Inn. I booked that thru the net. Oberoi I always book direct and last minute - well, actually, as they know me all too well, I E them and beg for a rate. The trick is to keep looking at the site.

Certainly you should get it for less than $200. I've never paid more than 8,000 r... But maybe you don't want to travel as last-minute as I do these days. They have a great cancellation policy [24 hours before no probs] so you can always keep looking, book a room then cancel and rebook if/when the rates go down.

Either way, Kolkata is an easy option. No need to stress about that at the moment. You really do need to set aside three days, minimum. The glory of Kolkata is the streetlife. Oberoi or Peerless put you right in the middle of everything. You could spend three days just wandering the environs of the hotel, New Market and Park Street and not be bored for an instant. Prepare yourself, tho'.

But I have some seriously down-market options if you want.

But I don't think you've properly considered Sikkim. Really, Kathie - it's very wonderful. Big time Buddhism. Wonderful scenery. No colder than Assam, I suspect. People report c-c-c-cold on the Brahmaputra at that time of year. Check the temps. I reckon wherever you decide it'll be cold.

Also, remember this is your first trip to India. I understand you want to go in slow - Assam might just be a little too slow.

Remember also, that after Kaz you have to get to Guwahati to fly out. That's five hours [check this - I didn't drive it.]

There is a lot of tea growing in the Dibrugargh area - look up this:
http://assamteatourism.com/
which is Purvi Discovery. I used them. Very together. Mancotta Chang is good, too. I spent two nights there. 5,200 double

Or this:
http://www.oldassam.com/wildmahseer/...cing_with.html
http://www.oldassam.com/wildmahseer/default.html
Wild Mahseer looks very interesting. It was only new when I was there. Just checked: gawd, 20,000 a night. Nah. The others are way cheaper.

Look, here's some more info:
http://www.indiatravelite.com/northe...galowassam.htm

explore
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 12:13 PM
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Well, it has been hard to get firm temperature averages for Sikkim. As best I can tell, highs will be in the 60F range, lows in 10-20F range. In Jorhat and Gurwhati, highs will be upper 70s to low 80s, lows around 60. For me, that's a big difference. I consider those Assam temps to be near ideal.

I am (as you can imagine) very attracted to all the Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim.

Thanks for the additional links. I've found lots of interesting places to stay.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 12:39 PM
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Here's current info: right now it's 19F in Gangtok, it's 54F in Jorhat.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 12:55 PM
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lol. O.K. lol. I think your inner voice is telling you where to go.

So, let's talk about Majuli Island.

This'll start you off.
http://ezinearticles.com/?Majuli-Isl...dia&id=2335248

Search more if it hits your button.

'...The nearest airport to Majuli is in Jorhat, which is only 20 km away. Majuli is a place of historical significance. For the past 500 years, Majuli has been recognized as the cultural capital of Assam and also considered as the cradle of Assamese civilization. It is the centre of Assamese Vishnavite culture and is a repository of rich heritage. Majuli has over 22-24 Vaishnava monasteries or satras...'

It's very surreal, Kathy, verrry interesting - but, as a woman, you'll have to sit outside the 'temples' - which are little more than poles with a corrugated roof. There are basic places to stay, but AssamB goes there on a day trip as a taster.

Remember, Assam is very un-Indian. But actually, after your Burma trip, it's a perfect in-between. It's just next door.
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Old Jan 21st, 2010, 07:48 PM
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Coincidence - I've just been re-reading Michael Palin's "Himalaya" which includes a section on Assam. Also available online - start here: http://palinstravels.co.uk/book-3551
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Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:51 AM
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Thanks, Thursdays, I've bookmarked it on Amazon.

Assam is what is calling to me right now. So I am trying to put together some interesting options. Dogster, I had run across some info on Majuli Island and will now do some more reading. I'm going to contact assambengal about the possibility of a cruise/lodge package, but I guess I should nail down our dates first.
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 08:09 AM
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I'm still researching options for Assam. Now here's a question I don't normally ask, but given my Burma experience... do I need to work with a local travel agent to book this? I'll need some intra-India flights (I'm guessing I can do this on the web), accommodations, a couple of transfers (though they may be included in either accommodation or cruise options), a car and driver for a few days.
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 08:44 AM
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It ain't Burma Kathie. You can do it yourself. Flights, as per normal, totally easy, over the net - transfers: the hotel can do that or you can pre-arrange one easily - or pick one up on the spot. Dibrugargh, Jorhat or Guwahahati airports aren't the hell-hole of taxi drivers like the rest of India.

Hotels: easy as pie. Jorhat is tiny. I'd certainly pre-arrange there. Thengal will doubtless just get a local taxi - which is perfectly fine. Guwahati - no probs. Kaz to Guwahati or v.v. is where you'll need to pre-think.

Actually AssamB can do it all, seeing as you're likely doing a cruise/Kaz deal.

Purvi discovery can help you with cars. I think they're overpriced - but in my experience, very professional and dependable. But we're nickel and diming it here. Just resist their expensive guide. [Altho', for the first and only time in India, I had a very frank, highly intelligent female guide there that I think you'd rather enjoy. You don't need a guide really but you might enjoy her company if she's still around. As a matter of fact, the more I think of it, the better that option is, just to get a chance to chat to one of the few emancipated women in Assam. She was quite unique.]

Purvi are the main [and possibly only] game in town.

http://www.purviweb.com/aboutus.htm

I don't know of other options off-hand tho'.

You could try this:
http://www.hotfrog.in/Companies/CAR-RENTAL-ASSAM

BTW, did you check in AssamB's website and look at their November schedules? You don't have much of a choice there, you know.
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