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This travel blog has been created exclusively for Budget Travellers who prefer to travel with their family or friends and dislike going on Agent conducted Package Tours. This blog will only inform travellers about problems they may face in various places. There are hundreds of websites painting a rosy picture about places with beautiful photos but seldom anyone mentions the problems of a place which tourists need to know. – blogger S.Gupta , WhatsApp/Call : 9674290833

Dooars – Neora Jungle

Neora Jungle Camp, Dooars :

Location : Near border of Garumara Forest lying between  Neora river and Sursuti jungle, Neora is an elephant corridor. The camp like many other forest camps in Dooars,  is an initiative of West Bengal Forest Development Agency. Room booking is done online from WBFDA website or directly from Lataguri office. Food is available in package system only, Check In Lunch to Check out Breakfast, payment in cash. Food details should be mentioned in the website itself for tourist convenience. During peak season, too many jeeps are given permit for jungle safari , to the extent of 100 to 120 cars per day which leads to scaring wild animals to take shelter in much deeper parts of the forest. Result is almost zero sighting of bison, deers etc. All tourists want to see ferocious beasts like tigers and leopards or elephants but the logic is : if tiger or leopard is sighted in any part of forest, no tourist will be allowed in that part for safety reasons. That’s the safari truth, though a fear psychosis is developed by locals including hotel staff, guide, driver et all by putting quite a few restrictions on tourists about strolling or taking a walk as if the jungle is teeming with wild animals ! Neora jungle camp rooms must have heaters because December, January in core jungle area is unbearably cold, more so because all rooms have marble flooring. The entire camp is cordoned with electric fencing to keep off wild animals but threat of stray leopard remains. Each division’s ranger phone number is given in the website itself but rangers in general are not very informative. I will advice tourists to take mosquito net and hand sanitizers because forest area has many unexplained infections. 

*Finally, DO NOT TAKE SERVICE OF APP BASED  ‘ON TRAIN FOOD DELIVERY’  SERVICE “TRAVEL KHANA” because they give sub standard quality food, wrong food ( I ordered butter chicken, got chicken curry instead and an indigestion soon after I had it ! Same problem with my wife also.) Registered complain and shared my experience in Google Playstore Travel Khana app install page.

LUCKNOW

* No traffic order is visible.

* Entire traffic situation is chaotic.

* Markets are very crowded.

* Some Auto drivers and rickshaw drivers are dishonest when it comes to showing all points to tourists.

* If your arrival or departure route is via U.P , BIHAR, then reserve AC coach Train tickets, because in reserved 2nd class sleepers, unreserved passengers board and make your journey very inconvenient !

* Enquire before journey, if all tourist spots are open for visitors during your stay there. In Lucknow , some tourists spots may be closed due to  maintainance.

* Keep in mind Muslim calendar holidays and festivals. Roads may be diverted or closed during some days.

* There are some total Hindu areas in Lucknow where all restaurants serve only veg foods.

Some lady tourists may find some locals staring at them, as if they are seeing women for the first time. Take it in your stride.

* Famous Bhoolbhoolaia is to be seen in bare feets which can be difficult for some since floor is uneven and made of stone.

* If you want to try delicacies of Lucknow like Gilauti kabaabs, Biryani, Gulabi Reuri and Sandila Laddu then don’t depend on local guides or car driver to take you there. They may take you to substandard restaurants for a commission. Use Google Search and Navigation to go to famous restaurants selling these for ages. Gulabi Reuri and other sweetmeats you can buy at a reasonable price within 2 km radius of Charbagh Rail Station.


PELLING

Watch entire Pelling trip in YouTube , 4 minutes video, and plan beforehand, the spots you will add in your sightseeing list. To watch video, click Pelling – Total Trip

* From New Jalpaiguri or Silliguri , you have to take a car or bus ride. If you are a large group of 8 or 10 or more, then getting a car is not a problem, because Rs 4000 per trip can be conveniently divided per head. But if you are just two or three, better take Sikkim Nationalized Transport Bus service from Silliguri. Don’t fall into agent’s trap of package sightseeing offers at NJP or Silliguri. They include ride from NJP to PELLING at exceptionaly low price just to tempt you.     S.N.T BUS SERVICE FROM Silliguri chart is given below.



* If you have to go from NJP to Silliguri, take local autos , after leaving station area. Autos and rickshaws parked near rail station ask for exorbitant fares.

* SNT BUSES doesn’t give much halts during the 5 to 6 hours ride. So  have your lunch and freshen up at SNT Canteen and Toilet before boarding bus.

* There are no medicine shops in proper PELLING. Locals get o.t.c drugs from ration shop or go to Geyshing if they need medicine or doctor. Hence do carry your medicine box with you.

* Except S.B.I bank and single ATM point, no other banks or A.T.Ms are there in PELLING till date. S.b.I  ATM is not always very dependable.

* If you are a small family, of two or three, then for sightseeing, you may have to  book an entire car, instead of going On-Share rides. Small cars arranged for 8 to 9 hrs sightseeing arranged by hotel costs a minimum of Rs 3500. Monastery, Rimbi falls and River, Kanchenjunga falls, 2nd highest  bridge of Asia are usually included in the package.


* Tickets have to bought separately for visit to Khechiopari Lake, Highest bridge, Rimbi River and Kanchenjunga falls.

* Frequent power cuts are a common feature of PELLING.

* FROM PELLING TO GANGTOK OR SILLIGURI,  EITHER YOU BOOK AN ENTIRE CAR WHICH IS COSTLY OR YOU BOOK A SEAT IN SHARE CAR WHICH LEAVES AT 7 AM DAILY. IT IS JUST ONE CAR , SO BOOK IN ADVANCE. ON SHARE COST IS Rs 300 per head. Rs 50 extra per head if your hotel arranges the booking.


* Sikkim roads are terrible. So from PELLING to Gangtok, prepare yourself for a 5 hours bumpy, jerky, risky ride.

GANGTOK

* From New Jalpaiguri or Silliguri , you have to take a car or bus ride. If you are a large group of 8 or 10 or more, then getting a car is not a problem, because Rs 4000 per trip can be conveniently divided per head. But if you are just two or three, better take Sikkim Nationalized Transport Bus service from Silliguri. Don’t fall into agent’s trap of package sightseeing offers at NJP or Silliguri. They include ride from NJP to Gangtok at exceptionaly low price just to tempt you.


* If you have to go from NJP to Silliguri, take local autos , after leaving station area. Autos and rickshaws parked near rail station ask for exorbitant fares.

* SNT BUSES doesn’t give much halts during the 5 to 6 hours ride. So  have your lunch and freshen up at SNT Canteen and Toilet before boarding bus.

* You have to get off car ( not bus ) outside Gangtok city proper and take a local taxi to reach your respective hotels.

* In Gangtok, wherever you want to go, you have to take the only transport available, a non metered taxi. No rate charts are on display. You give what driver asks. But normally Sikkimese are honest people.

* In Gangtok food is expensive. Price is  more than even higher altitude places like Pelling, Gheshing, Jorthung.

* Most shops, restaurants etc down their shutters by 7.30 or 8 pm at night so if you have plans to eat out, rethink.

* From Gangtok, most tourists go for sightseeing, to Nathula Pass China border, Baba Mandir, Tsongmu or Chunge Lake. You have to get a military permit for going to these places for which you need to deposit two photos, Address & ID proof copies a day in advance with your car booking agent. Nathula Pass is CLOSED FOR TOURISTS ON MONDAYS AND TUESDAYS.


* Visit to Nathula Pass China border, Baba Mandir, Tsongmu or Chunge Lake are done in car, either booking the entire car or on share basis. If on share, your car booking agency gives you car number when receiving payment, on day of journey you need to take a taxi from hotel to car pick up point Deurali and from there begins your journey. Car will also drop you at the same place. Apart from Tata Sumo like big cars, taxis can also be booked at bit lesser amount but do enquire beforehand if small vehicles are being given clearance at that time of year.


* Chartered car will pick you up from your hotel and drop you at your hotel after sightseeing.

* Permit clearance usually costs around Rs 500.

* For shopping , visit M.G.Market. It remains closed on Saturdays. If you think M.G.Market is costly, move to the other end of the market till you find stairs going down on your rightside. Take the stairs to find another bustling market beneath. For local flavours, you can also visit Lallbazar Market.


* SMOKING, LITTERING, DEFECATING, SPITTING WHERE EVER ONE WISHES , IS BANNED IN GANGTOK.

* Make sure, your hotel provides geyser 24 hrs because some switch it off from outside after a stipulated period. In most hotels it is 2 to 3 hrs per day only.

Return from Gangtok to Silliguri can be done in chartered car or bus. SNT Bus service from Gangtok is regular and way cheaper than car. Just make sure to buy tickets as early as possible. Counter opens at 6am. SNT BUS SCHEDULE CHART FROM GANGTOK IS GIVEN BELOW :

Haridwar

* If you have a strong religious bend of mind, if you are a devotee then Dev bhoomi Haridwar is where you will be happy. If you are not, this place will seem boring.
* Temples are in abundance here. Visiting all is humanly impossible !
* Here even roadside eating joints prepare foods with pure ghee. Clarified butter is not always easy to digest.
* You can book seats in luxury bus for sight seeing from Haridwar to Rishikesh, Laxman Jhoola , Dehradun, Missouri, etc. Fare is quite cheap.
* Ram Jhoola, Laxman Jhoola are now concrete structures which has robbed them off the charm. Two wheelers ply on them, making it difficult to stand on the bridge and appreciate the scenery.
* There is no natural beauty left in Haridwar or journey from Haridwar to Rishikesh. Just hotels, temples, restaurants.
* Make sure you are visiting the place in winter, because summer is just unbearable.
* Har-ki-paudi ghat is not visually pleasing, but Ganga Aarti is. 
* Without inclination of hurting any religious sentiments or believer’s feelings, I will just add that as per media report,  it has been scientifically revealed : the holy water of Ganges flowing by Har Ki Paudi ghat contains various germs and Super Bug , so one should be cautious while taking a holy deep.
* Haridwar is a strictly vegetarian city. Rice served here is of very good quality.

* You should not wear dresses here that are revealing in nature, keeping in mind the conservative sentiment that prevails here. 

TAJPUR

* From Kolkata by train, you get off at Ramnagar. From their Tajpur is reached by Car. Make sure you call up your hotel and book a car. Otherwise all you have is local public transport not promising a very pleasant ride.
* There is an old forest through which you can walk straight ahead until you reach the sea beach. Make sure not to change directions or you may get lost in the forest. There are foxes in the forest and soft sand covered holes with water underneath.
* The entire area plan is quite simple. Four factors lie side by side. Hotels, road, forest, sea beach. 
* Cooking in hotel can be too spicy for your health. 
* The forest is a great spot for picnic but don’t be there after sunset.

PURI


* Present Puri proper is a box jam packed with shops, people, more shops and a sea beach.


* Strong lights of shops covering quite a large portion of beach area makes an awful lot of light pollution for you to appreciate the sea at night.

* The beach is dirty with waves bringing in at times, empty beer bottles, leftover food or chocolate wrappers etc.

* While sitting on beach, hawkers bother you every now and then with their wares.

* Camel riding, horse riding, shops on the beach have completely ruined the aesthetics of Puri beach.

* Food quality in Puri is poor. Rice is of cheap quality. In the many of most standard restaurants, there is an option called Fine Rice which costs more than normal rice. Well that Fine rice is also just passable. All snacks near beach area is over priced.

* Orissa / Odisha is not good for tourists, most being dishonest.

* The famous Jagannath Temple also has it’s own features which seemed unfair to commoners. Chart with rate for pujas are given, for Jagannath, Balaram and so on. You have to choose a package as per the chart. The minimum being 500 in the year 2009 ( if my memory serves me right ). For bhog you have to pay extra. Leather products are not allowed inside temple, so its better to carry things in fabric bags while visiting temple. And only HINDUS are allowed inside temple as per notification.