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Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow, Dibrugarh: heritage hotel on a tea plantation

Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow © Craig FastFor the uninitiated, a ‘chang’ bungalow is raised on stilts, approximately the height of an elephant.

A colonial-era relic, chang bungalows are on stilts for two reasons: to escape the proliferation of man-eating beasts (‘sporting’ pursuits soon solved that problem) and so the British gentleman in India could mount his elephant with ease.

Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow, in Dibrugarh, India’s biggest tea exporting town and about as far east in India as you can go before you hit Burma/Myanmar, perches about 4 four metres above the ground (a staircase has been installed so there’s no longer any need to call upon the services of an elephant). The view from the veranda looks across some of Assam’s unique tea plantations - Assamese tea plantations have the distinction of being the only plantations in the world with trees growing amidst the tea bushes, to provide essential shade as well as being rather easy on the eye. During one of the frequent (but short) power cuts, you can watch fireflies flit through the hedge at the edge of the garden.

Bedroom in Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow © Craig FastThe generously proportioned bedrooms are air conditioned with big beds, dressing room and a modern bathroom. The shared area boasts comfortable sofas around a fireplace, dining area and TV room. There is polished wood flooring throughout. It’s all very comfortable and oddly familiar – that’ll be the British influence, I suppose.

The British influence doesn’t end with the décor. The service is very attentive: towels and bed sheets are changed daily (which smacks of the obsessive in my opinion) and meals are served with cute attention to details – I stayed for seven nights and the napkin was folded differently each night! The food is good, and dished up in copious amounts. I highly recommend trying the Assamese food, although the chef will cook anything you request from Indian and Chinese to Western. Staff have an uncanny knack of knowing what you want before you do.

Staying on a tea plantation has its perks – free Assamese tea is one of them! One of the delights of Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow is bed tea, a polite wake-up call with a pot of tea and plate of biscuits. A tour of Mancotta Tea Estate, home of Chowkidinghee’s sister bungalow Mancotta Chang Bungalow, is another. Mancotta also hosts regular Bihu folk dances – an exuberantly rhythmic dance that is best viewed among the fireflies in Mancotta Chang Bungalow’s beautiful grounds, whilst snacking on battered tea leaves.

Thanks to Indus Tours and Purvi Discoveries for providing our accommodation in Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow, Assam.


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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010