A quaint tea village tucked away in the Eastern Himalayan foothills, Tabakoshi is a sleepy hamlet on the banks of the Rangbhang river. It is just 5.5km from the more popular and busy Mirik, but might as well be a world away. The little-known destination in North Bengal is hemmed in by sprawling tea gardens with the river threading its way through the village.
Tabakoshi gets its name from two Nepali words, tamba meaning copper and koshi meaning river. The Rangbhang lives up to the moniker and looks like a translucent sheet of copper meandering through the valley, which has woods of pine, birch and fir. Spread through the valley are a few orange orchards that are laden with fruit in the winter months.
Winter is the best time to see the orange orchards of the regionSugato Mukherjee
Tabakoshi is part of the famed Gopaldhara tea estate and most villagers work in the tea plantations that envelope the settlement. In the family-run tearooms overlooking the gurgling river, you can enjoy a cup of Darjeeling tea for just Rs 10. The lesson on how to brew the perfect cuppa, imparted with a smile, is free.
The best way to explore Tabakoshi is by wandering along the hilly tracks that disappear into deep recesses of nature, with only birdsong and mountain winds for company. Walking through the village with its humble homes that seem to cascade down the hillside, and greeting members of the community happily ensconced in their daily chores, gives a glimpse into the simple life of the hillfolk.
The Rangbhang river meanders through TabakoshiSugato Mukherjee
At Mirik, a half-day trip from Tabakoshi, you can go for a boat ride on the scenic Sumendu lake and visit the Bokar monastery. The monastery is an impressive red-and-gold and affords a beautiful view of Mirik town against the backdrop of Sumendu lake.
On the way back, a detour to the Tingling viewpoint offers a breathtaking view. Almost like a rippling river of green, tea bushes blanket spread out before your eyes. Women working at the plantation, sporting headscarves or broad-brimmed hats, roam the hillside plucking the needed two leaves and a bud and tossing them into the wicker baskets on their backs.
The more adventurous sojourners can go on a small hike from Tabakoshi upstream along the river through woody trails that take you to Achalal Busti. The Rangbhang is said to have originated from here. Some of the homestays at Tabakoshi arrange an overnight camping experience on the riverbank along with the trek.
Tabakoshi’s homestays are perfect for relaxed getawaysSugato Mukherjee
Staying at the cosy homestays in Tabakoshi, with their home-cooked meals and warm hospitality, is a delightful experience.
If you are looking for a relaxed getaway, you can spend languid days in a Tabakoshi homestay. Cocooned on a chair on the porch-like area of your homestay, you can read a book soaking in the view and winter sunshine. There will always be numerous cups of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea or even a bamboo tumbler of homebrewed tongba, the region’s famous fermented millet beverage.
Travellers can get some fantastic views of Mt Kangchenjunga on the way to TabakoshiSugato Mukherjee
- How to Reach: Tabakoshi is approximately a two-hour scenic drive from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Station (64 km) or Bagdogra (52 km). Private taxis from NJP and Bagdogra and shared jeeps from NJP ply until Mirk, 5.5km away. Local transport is available from Mirik to Tabakoshi.
- Where to Stay: Staying in one of the homestays in Tabakoshi is not only a great travel experience, but also encourages local business and sustainable tourism. Tea Village Homestay and Sunakhari Homestay are two delightful options.
Sugato Mukherjee is a Kolkata-based photographer and writer whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Al Jazeera and Nat Geo Traveller, among other places. He is the author of a coffee-table book on Ladakh and a book on the sulphur miners of East Java.