My happiness knew no bounds when I set out to explore my homeland Assam. The last frontier of the country, which was left unconquered by the Mughal emperors, Assam upholds the pride of being called a land of splendid secrets. The gateway to the alluring and unexploited north-eastern part of India, Assam is a treasure trove of glorious history, unparalleled scenic surroundings, indigenous ethnic groups and a bundle of fascinating tales from the past. Unlike any other destination, traveling through this verdant land, sprawling paddy rice fields framed by the vaguely visible hills, the forested lands, and manicured tea estates make me ecstatic in my own land.
The earthy smell of the wet land brings me the most cherished memories of my childhood. The region has a spellbinding beauty and is visually entrancing. As I start my journey, I will take you on a ride, which will introduce you to Assam beyond the Kaziranga and Brahmaputra River.
The destination is not just another town in Assam, rather it is one of the most prominent places that connect Majuli from the mainland. About 112 km away from the Kaziranga National Park, I was traveling to Jorhat to spend a couple of days at the most impressive heritage property called Kaziranga Golf Resort.
Located amidst the lush, sprawling tea estates, Kaziranga Golf Resort is one of the finest heritage properties in Assam. Coming from the affluent and aristocratic family of the Khongiya Barooah of Upper Assam, the legendary tea planter Late Rai Bahadur Siva Prasad Barooah, probably the richest man during the British era in Assam, from whom even the British tea companies used to take the loan when in need, had the vision of putting Assam in the map of tea tourism at that time. Following the ambitious vision, his son, the Late Hemendra Prasad Barooah, the tea baron, contributed remarkably in fulfilling his father’s dream.
The result is not just a luxurious heritage property in the tea estates, rather he had taken it to the next level by introducing the 18-hole world standard Golf Course as well. This is the only tea estate based commercial course in the world. Not just that, it is only the 3rd Indian course undergoing GEO (Scottish certification).
The First Look
After almost four hours drive from my hometown, I finally reached Kaziranga Golf Resort. While negotiating my way amidst the carpeted tea gardens, the fiery setting sun rays filtering through the branches of the trees just painted a picture perfect moment for me.
Far away from the uniform life, it transported me back to those early years. The time moves slowly here. The unhurried pace of life just overwhelmed me. The moment I stepped out of the car, the joy of being in a pristine place became vibrant on my face. I got a warm welcome and was soon escorted towards my cottage. The old bungalow, known as “Burra Sahib’s Bungalow” won my heart.
The old style architectures, encircled by the well-spread tea gardens and the golf course; I had never seen such a colonial property in this gorgeous location. I was enthralled to see the unending stretch of greens beyond my horizon. I never knew that I would find a piece of land like this in my land.
The Kaziranga Golf Resort is conceived as the premium heritage resort. It has 8 Cottages with a total of 16 superior Cottage Rooms, built with the British colonial exterior and verandas , facing the tea gardens and golf courses. Waking up to the sound of birds chirping and the passing train early in the morning was blissful.
Sitting on the balcony with my morning tea, overlooking the rising sun with an unhindered view of the golf course and shimmering leaves of the tea gardens was one of those rare scenes that I will cherish forever.
I completely soaked into the scenery. After spending a considerable amount of time strolling around, this breathtaking setting, I decided to have my breakfast on the lawn.
Soon after, I decided to take a tour of the property. I started with the “Burra Sahib’s Bungalow”, which is 125 years old heritage bungalow, used as a Visiting Agent’s bungalow by George Williamson during the colonial days. Later the property was renovated keeping the original style and the old world charm to get transformed into a Club House.
It has one heritage suit, designed with vintage furniture and colonial decor. Today it houses the office of the resort, along with the spa, swimming pool, library, pool table, various indoor games, fine dining restaurant and sports bar. You would be surprised to find Decathlon store at the property as well.
What all I did there
As time was passing by, the sun was rising high up in the sky. I decided to head back to my cottage post lunch to take some rest before I set out to explore life in tea gardens. Walking along with the tea bushes, in the tiny alleys inside the gardens and drawing an idea of the lifestyle of the tea workers was on my agenda.
Tea Estate Trail
A leisurely walk in the uneven paths amidst the tea gardens is the perfect excuse to peep into the lifestyle of the tea workers in a most delightful way. To catch the sweet rhythm of their life, it was the best time to meet some of them who were returning home after a day-long work in the tea plantation.
As I was driving through the Sangsua Tea Estate, I stopped suddenly seeing a group of women coming with their baskets hung, walking towards the collection center . Every evening, just before sunset, they visit the center to give the tea leaves which go to the factory the very next day.
While the women work in the tea plantations, the male members of the family work either in the tea factory or as a supervisor in the tea estates and even some opt to work outside the garden as well. The tea pickers have been doing this job for generations. Some of them are also the sole bread earners of their family. They have a very strong community and believe in unity.
While I tried to capture some of them into my lens, I got the strangest looks from them. The giggling sound of a few made me smile back at them. Seeing them from close proximity, I realized that life is not easy for them, but we need to learn as to how one should embrace life with a smile. As the sun left its last rays, I decided to head back to the resort with a bag full of mixed emotions.
Golf Course Tour
More than anything else, I was looking forward to having a tour of the golf course, set up in the unique location, amidst the tea plantation. Spread across the 150-acre land, this 18 Hole Championship Golf Course is one of the unique courses in the world.
While taking a tour in the rolling land of tea plantation in a golf cart, I was amazed to see the golf course in a natural setting surrounded by the tea bushes. The course is complimented by the two-sided driving range and can accommodate 72 golfers at a time.
While touring the course, I got to know that they organize Golf tournaments here annually and it also has a golf Academy. Apparently, this golf course is one of the most popular among golfers, not only in Assam but in other parts of India as well.
The exceptional terrain and pristine setup make it one of the most desired and well-visited golf courses in India. Not just that, Kaziranga Golf Resort is the only tea resort having a golf course in the entire north-east. Well, I could not stay away from trying my hand at golf there.
This is undoubtedly one of the top colonial sports that the British left behind in Assam.
Tea Factory Visit
Being a native of Assam, I can always relate to the tea environment. Throughout my growing up years, I have visited a lot of tea estates but never cared to enter the factory to see the actual process of tea making. Holidaying at Kaziranga Golf Resort gave me the perfect opportunity to take a factory tour and see what goes into making the world famous Assam Tea. Upon reaching there, I was welcomed by the manager of the Gatoonga Tea Estate. Soon I was taken to the factory where the fragrance of the tea leaves dominated my senses. I was exposed to the tea making process for the first time. I was overwhelmed to see the long process that goes through various stages. From collecting tea leaves, withering, CTC (Crush, Tear and Curl) processing, fermenting, drying, sorting & grading to final packing, everything happens in the factory under expert supervision in each department.
They produce a variety of quality tea based on many parameters. After the factory visit, I also attended Tea Testing session where I learned how just by taking a sip you can get to know the quality of the tea. It was an enriching experience.
While the British realized the true potential of tea plantation in the red soil of Assam more than 150 years back, Assam is opening up to the concept of tea tourism slowly. Blending the concept of tea and tourism, Assam is not just inviting travelers to have a rejuvenating experience in the lush green tea gardens, but providing a luxurious stay in the old charming British bungalows to give you a feel of the bygone era. The tourists not only enjoy their stay at these properties but also get a perfect opportunity to see a peaceful life in this part of the world.
Providing world-class facilities, tea tourism also introduces the visitors to live a slice of colonial lifestyle amidst the tranquil tea gardens. There are some of the prominent Heritage Tea Bungalows in Assam and among them, Kaziranga Golf Resort, Banyan Grove, and Thengal Manor, run by Heritage NorthEast, are contributing remarkably toward promoting Tea Tourism in Assam.
In spite of a slow-moving life , one gets the much required serenity in this part of the country. When the harmony creates rhythm in the most compellingly eye arresting place like Assam, life seems to be smiling at you . I find the joy of telling the world that I belong to this land.
I was invited by Heritage North East on a press Trip.
For More Information, Kindly visit http://www.heritagetourismindia.com/
Jorhat is the second largest town of Assam and is home to many historical and religious sites. Located in Upper Assam, Jorhat is easily accessible through Flights, Buses, and Trains.
Air: The best way to reach Jorhat is by taking a flight to Guwahati and then take deluxe buses or hired taxi from Guwahati to Jorhat. Almost all the major domestic airlines have direct flights to Guwahati. Though Jorhat has its own airport named Rowraih Airport. There are a selected airlines that have flights to Jorhat.
Road : There are several deluxe or semi deluxe buses from Guwahati , run regularly to Jorhat. The distance between Jorhat and Guwahati is around 312 km. It takes more than five hours to reach Jorhat by road.
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