The first thing that surprises most guests arriving in Takdah is that the buildings, even the homestays (which may or may not have a name), are identified by their numbers. “That is part of the history of Takdah,” said Norbu G Lama, entrepreneur, teacher and founder of Takdah Heritage Society. For example, his homestay is known as Takdah Heritage Bungalow Number 12.
Nestling in a corner of the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal, Takdah is surrounded by verdant hills and rolling tea gardens. But what makes Takdah even more interesting is its legacy of heritage bungalows, a rare destination where nearly all of them are over 100 years old.
“Takdah cantonment was founded by the British around 1911. It was they who introduced the number system to identify the buildings. After the British left and the cantonment was shut, the buildings passed through several hands before being bought by local people. But the numbering system stuck,” said Lama.
Some of the old bungalows have been redeveloped into government offices and public spaces (such as schools monasteries and churches) while others are now residential homes set in the middle of flower-decked lawns. Meanwhile, as the concept of eco-tourism and homestays began to take a foothold in the mountains, a group of home owners decided to open a part of their heritage houses to guests. While maintaining the period architecture, the homestays have been refurbished with modern amenities.
With hardly any de rigueur tourist attraction, Takdah is also blissfully devoid of crowds. But if you love nature or enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, nature photography, and bird watching, then Takdah is full of opportunities. Although not quite its old glorious self, Takdah also has an orchid growing centre.
Uncrowded, bracing climate with fresh mountain air, organic food, and plenty of opportunities to exercise outdoors, Takdah can be an ideal getaway in these distressing times, if you are looking for a destination that would help the mind and body ease out of the pandemic fears. With Vitamin C being looked upon as a key source of immunity development, did you know Takdah is also famous for its orange orchards?
According to Lama, with the internet connection improving, visitors can also continue working remotely from here. Homeowners in Takdah are, therefore, contemplating offering wellness packages with long-stay options.
Information: Darjeeling is around 25km from Takdah and an hour’s drive away. From the nearest airport Bagdogra or the transport hub of Siliguri, it is around 80km by road with a journey time of three hours. Advance booking of accommodation is recommended. The place can be visited round the year but avoid the monsoon. Winters can be very cold. Try to include a Thursday in your itinerary if you want to visit the local weekly market.
Note: The opening of all tourist destinations is subject to state government and local administration’s pandemic containment rules. So always check before planning your trip.