Want to visit Bhutan but find the compulsory paid quarantine too cumbersome? Try the Dooars instead, which has similar culture and cuisine, tour operators in north Bengal are saying.
Tour operators have started promoting tiny hamlets in the eastern Dooars close to the India-Bhutan border and are offering homestay accommodations to tourists who want to visit Bhutan but can’t owing to various entry regulations of the neighbouring country amid the pandemic.
“If one intends to visit Bhutan, one has to stay in paid quarantine for a fortnight and only then move around the country. That is why a considerable number of Indian tourists are feeling disinclined to visit Bhutan which otherwise is a favourite destination for Indians. In such a situation, we are offering them an alternative to stay at a location that is near the India-Bhutan border, and enjoy cuisine and culture similar to Bhutan,” said Raj Basu, convener Association for Conservation & Tourism (ACT).
He said that a number of villages, especially those in eastern parts of the Dooars in Alipurduar district that also has the Buxa hills, have emerged as new destinations for tourists who seek secluded spots to enjoy the idyllic landscape of the area flanked by Bhutan hills.
Among these include places like Daragaon, Buxaduar, Lalbanglow, Tanshigaon, Ochlum, Lepchakha, Khataline, Chunavati, Adma, Namna, Serubari, Fulbari and Panbari.
A historian in North Bengal University said that the Dooars earlier belonged to Bhutan and so the culture and cuisine of a number of tribes in these hamlets are similar to that of the Himalayan kingdom.
“The region was annexed to British India after the Sinchula Treaty of 1865. The main interest was the control on trade between the maritime and the mountain routes, where we had the 18 gateways or the Dooars. Over time, settling patterns have changed, but some people’s habits remain the same,” he said.
For example, if one treks to the Buxa hills, there are villages where the Dukpas reside. Their food, clothes and even houses are similar to the residents of Bhutan.
“They even celebrate the New Year according to Bhutan’s calendar. This festival is called Gyalpo Lhosar,” the academic said.
“Any tourist can easily reach this region in the Dooars where they can feel like they are staying at a hamlet in Bhutan,” he added.