India North East has a vast Tourism potential and this can be seen once you travel across the remote places of the region. One perfect example of this is the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp at Tipam near Dibrugarh, Assam. The state of Assam is the pride of the North East. A land of majestic landscapes and warm hearted people the beauty of this state can be quoted from the words of Swami Vivekananda “next only to Kashmir, Assam is the most beautiful place in India.”
It’s good to know that locals have realized the tourism potential of the state and are now initiating the up-liftment of Ecotourism sector in the state. The Tai-Phake community of Tipam Village without any form of help from the government has transformed the remote and jungle village into a spot of attraction for home and foreign tourists. The Tai Phake Tribal Community belong to the Tai-speaking tribal group living in Dibrugarh district and Tinsukia district of Assam, principally along the areas of Dihing river as well as adjacent parts of Lohit and Changlang districts in Arunachal Pradesh. The Tai Phake people were believed to have migrated from the Shan kingdom Mong Mao (Muang Mao), Myanmar in the 18th century and settled around the banks of River Dehing in the State of Assam.
Tipam, one of the seven Tai-Phake villages in Dibrugarh district situated Naharkatia has a large Buddha temple, Trekking, Fishing and River Boating facilities. Stay for tourists is arranged at the traditional Bamboo Cottages at the village which the villagers have constructed. There are provisions to accommodate a total of sixteen guests at the village. During their stay tourists are offered traditional cuisine that is served by the women folk of the village.
To reach the village you need to cross the dense forests of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. If you are lucky you can spot majestic Animal species on your way. At the Tai Phake Eco Camp modern amenities are hard to find which is covered up by the love of the village folks. It would be worth mentioning that without visiting the village it cannot be imagined what is being done by these poor and remote villagers for the upliftment of ecotourism in the state.
Jungleideas welcomes you to the North East India to witness the tradition and culture of the Tai Phake tribes of Assam at the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp, Naharkatia, the State of Assam, Incredible India.
The Buddhist Monastery near the Tai Phake Ecotourism camp at Naharkatia in Assam
Recommended Itinerary for your Visit to Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp:
We have planned this Itinerary to cover the customs, practices, traditions and life of four major indigenous tribes of Assam viz. the Rabhas, The Mishings, the Tai Phakes and the Singpho people at various locations of Assam at Chandubi, Majuli Island, Naharkatia and Margherita. Hence this Itinerary gets slightly elongated but we explore the various places of interest in Assam starting from the calm and pristine Chandubi Lake, the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga national Park, the World’s Largest River Island of Majuli, the land of the mighty Ahom Kings at Sivasagar, the Jeypore Rain forest neat Naharkatia that forms a part of the Amazon of the East – the pristine rainforest of the Dehing Patkai and the beautiful locations of Margherita and Digboi in Upper Assam to finally end our journey at the Mohanbari Airport at Dibrugarh. This Itinerary is as per our thoughts that you would love to visit Assam and enjoy the bounties of this blessed land but in the interest of time we can surely look forward to customize and shorten this Itinerary to suit your travel requirement. Please find the details Itinerary of your visit to the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp as mentioned below:
Day 1: Guwahati Airport – Chandubi
Arrive at the Lokpriya Gopinath Airport at Guwahati and on arrival you will be received by our representative offering you a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style. Board your Toyota Innova vehicles and we travel to the pristine Chandubi Lake and Reserve Forest area (located about an hour’s drive from the Guwahati airport). The drive is across the lush green paddy fields of Assam, the Beautiful tea gardens and also the tall tree canopies of the Chandubi Reserve Forest area. We arrive at the Chandubi Lake and here we board a country boat to travel to the Chandubi Jungle Camp by crossing the lake. The beautiful Chandubi Lake area is inhabited by the Rabha tribes of Assam who are known for their utmost hospitality and unique culinary skills. We take time to freshen up and in the late afternoon we visit the Chandubi Reserve Forest accompanied by a local guide. The Chandubi Reserve Forest is a virgin forest area and it is known to be home to various fauna and avifauna species of the likes of Tigers, Wild Elephants, Himalayan Bears, Slow Loris, Hoolock Gibbons, Assamese Macaques, Burmese Pythons, etc.
We come back to the Camp and enjoy our evening bird watching at the Chandubi Lake that becomes home to various migratory bird species during winters. In the evening we have a cultural dance performance by the local Rabha youths who are dressed in their traditional attires and perform an old folk dance in front of us followed by an ethnic cooking experience at the local kitchen and our ethnic Rabha dinner that will be an assortment of various local and organic produce.
Night Halt: Chandubi Jungle Camp at Chandubi
Meals Included: Dinner
Day 2: Chandubi – Kamakhya Temple – Kaziranga National Park
Early morning we spend time boating on the waters of the Chandubi Lake and spotting more bird species and after an early breakfast we head to Guwahati to visit the Holy Maa Kamakhya temple shrine. The drive to the Maa Kamakhya temple would take us about an hour and we cross the Chandubi Lake and board our vehicles to travel the Kamakhya temple. We reach the Kamakhya temple at around 9 AM and begin our Darshan to go inside the temple shrine. Dedicated to the Holy Goddess of Maa Kamakhya, the Kamakhya temple is the most revered temple shrine across North East India and one among the 51 Shakti Peethas in India. It is believed that Goddess Sati’s womb feel atop the Nilachal hills when Lord Shiva was carrying her mutilated body in his arms performing the Tandava and travelling across the Indian Subcontinent. This temple shrine is hence believed to be of the menstruating Goddess and every year in the month of Asad (June) it is believed that the Goddess menstruates and the waters of the river Brahmaputra flowing down the temple shrine turns red.
Kamakhya temple is known for its tantric practices that were prevalent here earlier and hence it holds a special place among the devotees here who believe their wished are granted true here. We are escorted by a temple priest (Panda who guides us across the temple shrine and helps us perform our Darshan at the Inner Sanctum of the Kamakhya temple. Post our Darshan we board our vehicles and travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park. We break for lunch at Nagaon at the Anuraag Dhaba and head further to Kaziranga National Park to arrive by afternoon and we visit the Kaziranga Orchid Park – the largest Orchid Park in India. The Kaziranga Orchid Park has on display various indigenous orchid species from Assam and North East India. We also witness the art form of the handicrafts and handlooms of Assam that are on display here as well. Bamboo is an integral part of the villages of Assam and it is used as a timber to build homes and fences. Bamboo is even used to light the fire in the kitchen to prepare food and the fresh bamboo shoot is even consumed as food and it is highly nutritious.
The artisans in the villages use bamboo to build various crafts like baskets, stools, fancy interiors, furniture and even fish traps and musical instruments. These artefacts of bamboo are on display at the handicrafts section of the Kaziranga Orchid Park and there are also traditional looms on which the women folks weave our exquisite handlooms. We wind our day by witnessing the folk dance performance of the Bihu dance and the bamboo dance here at the Kaziranga orchid Park and later head to our place of stay at Kaziranga.
Night Halt: Bonhabi Resort at Kaziranga National Park or Similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3: Kaziranga National Park – Majuli Island
Today is our day of safari in the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park. We will visit the Eastern range of the park at Agoratoli after breakfast and pack our luggage and board it in the vehicles and the jeeps will pick us up at the place of stay and we enjoy our jeep ride to the Agoratoli range. Our safari ride will take place for 2 hours and we will get the opportunity of spotting varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park of the likes of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, Asiatic Wild Elephants, Royal Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Hog Deer, Swamp Deer, Wild Boars, Leopard Cat, Fishing Cat, Golden Langur, Capped Langur, Hoolock Gibbons, etc. at the Eastern range of the park. After our jeep safari ride we will board our Innova vehicles and drive towards the Neemati Ghat near Jorhat to board our ferry to travel the Largest River Island in the World of Majuli and the hub of the Neo Vaishnavite cult of Assam. The ferry ride will take us about an hour and we disembark from our ferry and board our vehicles to travel to the main town area of Majuli and Garmur.
We have our lunch and check into our place of halt at Majuli. After taking rest for a while in the evening we will visit the Uttar Kamalabari Satra to witness the dance form of the Sattriya Nritya that is one among the 8 classical dance forms of India performed by the male monks of the Satra. These Satras of Majuli Island are Neo Vaishnavite Monasteries where young boys enter at an early age and spend their life dedicated in the service of God and they learn various art forms like this dance, weaving fans out of cane, boat making and various other crafts. Initiated and promoted by the Holy saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva these Satras are to be found across Assam but most prominently at Majuli and they promote the idea of ‘Eksarana’ that says that all human beings are equal irrespective of caste and religion. After witnessing this unique dance performance we return back to our place of stay.
Night Halt: Enchanting Majuli
Meals Included: Dinner
Day 4: Majuli Island
Today is our day of exploring the beautiful island of Majuli where we visit few more Satras and visit local Mishing villages to understand their way of life, culture, traditions, handlooms and also savour some ethnic Mishing wine and cuisine of Assam. We start our day after breakfast and begin our drive to the Sri Sri Auniati Satra in Majuli Island. Among one of the most prominent Satras of Majuli Island, the Sri Sri Auniati Satra was established in the 1600s and here we understand the basic architecture of the construction of these Satras where it is supposed to have a main prayer hall called as the Namghar at the centre, followed by the houses of the various monks called as the Hutis, the house of the Satradhikar and numerous ponds at the Satra premise. We visited the Namghar at the Auniati Satra and also visit the main prayer hall here as well. Later we continue on our visit to the museum at the premises of the Auniati Satra museum that has various relics present from the times of ancient Assam, the Neo Vaishnavite movement and the Ahom kingdom as well. After winding up our visit at the Auniati Satra we continue on our drive to the Sri Sri Samaguri Satra in Majuli Island that is renowned across the World for its art of traditional mask making with hands. These masks of the Samaguri Satra are made with a bamboo base, wrapped with cloth and later a coat of special mud mixed with cow dung and this is smeared across the surface of the mask and to complete a mask it is painted with organically obtained colours and this is what that gives the final face cuts to the masks face and most of these are the various mythological characters from the Hindu scriptures and these masks are used by artisans who wear them to enact plays called as Bhaonas that imparts the religious discourses of the holy saint reformer Srimanta Shankardeva in an art form.
We visit the display room at the Samaguri Satra and catch a glimpse of the various masks and how these are used in the play demonstrations. We end our first half of the day with a visit the Salmora village in Majuli and learn about the traditional and dying art of pottery making with bare hands. At the Salmora village we visit a local home and witness in front of our eyes how these villagers mix the soil (that is dug out deep from the banks of the Brahmaputra) with certain ingredients that bind the soil together and prepare this pottery art with their hands and let it out in the sun to dry. It is truly an interesting art to witness as these villagers do not make use of the pottery wheel to make these pots and the entire process is done with their hands to an exclusive finish as well. Post this we head back to the town area for an ethnic lunch and after some rest we visit the banks of the Luit River to catch a glimpse of the sunset. We will take this opportunity to visit a local Mishing village and Mishing home and savour some of the traditionally brewed rice beer and rice wine along with an organically cooked meat delight and later return to our place of stay for dinner.
Night Halt: Enchanting Majuli
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5: Majuli Island – Sivasagar – Naharkatia
Today we bid farewell to the beautiful island of Majuli and start on our drive to the Kamalabari Ghat to board our ferry to the Neemati Ghat in the morning. We cross the Brahmaputra to reach the other side at 9 AM and head on our drive to Sivasagar – the Land of the mighty Ahom Kings. At Sivasagar we witness the grandeur of the Ahom architecture of the Talatal Ghar, Rang Ghar and the Sivadoul temple. We start with the Talatal Ghar that is an ancient fort that had a secret tunnel of mazes that allowed the army to rush to the banks of the river in case there was an enemy invasion speaking highly of the architectural ideas of the Ahom masons during that time itself. The architecture comprises of bricks that were built to hold with a mortar of sand, sticky rice and duck eggs and the hold was so strong that the construction held together even during the major earthquake of 1950. We walk across the Talatal Ghar admiring the grand architecture and later we travel to the Rang Ghar – the House of Entertainment of the Ahom Kings and it was a Royal pavilion.
The Rang Ghar is where the royal family sat and across the huge grounds there used to be various sporting events organized like wrestling, bull fights and cock fights and the performance of the grand Bihu dance of that the royals organized and invited the subjects to witness as well. The grandeur of the construction of the Rang Ghar is that it is built with the same construction of the flat red bricks and the mortar of sand, rice and duck eggs and the top of the Rang Ghar is built in the shape of an inverted boat. This is believed to be the first amphitheatre construction of Asia and we admire the grandeur of the construction of the Rang Ghar and later head to the Sivadoul temple at Sivasagar.
A temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Shiva Doul has a construction very similar to the major temples of Assam that have the Ahom architecture and the top dome has a construction of pure gold. The Sivadoul temple is located by the banks of the Joysagar lake that is the largest man dug out lake in India. After this we have our lunch at Sivasagar and head on our drive to the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp at the Tipam village near Naharkatia in Upper Assam. The roads are not quite good but the drive in made much more comfortable with the Toyota Innova vehicles. We reach the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp by early afternoon and the beauty of the forest cover along our drive makes us enjoy our drive with the fresh air all around. We check into our rooms at the Tai Phake Ecotourism camp that is built with bamboo and wood resembling the traditional homes in Assam and we freshen up and go to visit the nearby Buddhist Monastery at the place. We come back and witness the culture and traditions of the Tai Phake people of Assam and understand their way of life including the weaving on their traditional looms. We enjoy an ethnic Tai Phake dinner in the evening and retire to our cottages.
Night Halt: Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6: Naharkatia – Digboi – Margherita
Today morning we explore the forest reserves of the Tipam village and also visit the nearby paddy fields and learn about the paddy growing process that is the final rice that forms a major part of the diet of the people of eastern India. After breakfast we process on our drive to the legendary oil town of Assam at Digboi – Home to Asia’s oldest refinery and the oldest operational oil well in the World. We reach Digboi by early afternoon and we head to visit the Digboi World War II Cemetery at Digboi. The Digboi War Cemetery was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Mission and it has 150 burials of the brave soldiers of the Allied Forces who laid down their lives during the Burma Campaign of World War II. A well-kept lawn houses these burials and each burial has a stone grave with a metal engraving on top highlighting the names and platoons of these soldiers. A holy cross at the centre assures God’s blessings to these brave departed souls and we take a walk across the cemetery to pay our respects.
Next up we head to the Centenary Oil Museum at Digboi that illustrates the rich history of the Indian Oil industry. At the premises of the Digboi Oil Museum there is the first oil well that was dug out and through this well crude oil still seeps out from the underground making it the oldest operational oil well in the World. We visit the display room at the oil museum and witness the history of the how the British discovered oil here in Assam and went ahead to setup Asia’s oldest oil refinery here. We wind up our visit at the oil museum at Digboi and have our lunch and drive towards the Coal Queen of Assam at Margherita. At Margherita we check into the Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita.
A beautifully built place in traditional architecture, the Singpho Eco Lodge is a way to experience the life of the Singpho tribes of Assam who inhabit a major region of Margherita in Assam in the Tinsukia district connecting up to the Changlang and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The architecture of the Singpho Eco Lodge is built with bamboo and wood and thatch roof. Singpho people of Assam are known to be the first brewers of tea of the World renowned Assam tea and they have a different blend of tea called as the Phalap that is known to have various medicinal properties including the prevention of diabetes and cancer as well. At the Singpho Eco lodge we will begin our journey with a cup of the Phalap tea of the Singpho people and understand the weaving process of the traditional Singpho handlooms of Assam.
We spend some time at the Singpho Eco Lodge and admire the construction of the beautiful place and later in the afternoon we visit the Ketetong village near the Singpho Eco Lodge that is said to be the place with the highest concentration of the various tribes of Assam. The Ketetong village has the settlement of various tribes like the Singphos, Tai Ahoms, Tai Khamtis, Sonowal Kacharis, Deoris, etc. Earlier this village was famous for the presence of the Hoolock Gibbon species that used to respond to the calls of the villagers and come to take their food of fruits when called out. A Gibbon named Kalia was also documented in this village that shared a special connect with one family here and it used to even help in taking out the lice from the grandmother’s head and mingle with the members of the family. We visit the Ketetong village to enjoy the delightful countryside of Assam and we also visit a nearby stream and witness the various cultivation that are carried out here by the local people. We wind up our day with a cup of Phalap and a traditional Singpho dinner at the Singpho Eco Lodge.
Night Halt: Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7: Margherita – Namdang – Ledo – Tipong – Margherita
Today we explore the beautiful and naturally gifted places around Margherita and the place that played a pivotal role during the Burma Campaign of World War II and led to the march of the victory of the Allied Forces over the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. We start the day with a visit at the nearby Buddhist Monastery near the Singpho Eco Lodge and spend our time at calm here. After breakfast we head out on our explorations of the place and we begin by visiting the Namdang Bibi Majhar near the Namdang Tea Estate near Margherita. The Namdang Tea Estate is on the roads to Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh and also the famed Namdang Colliery area where it is said that the first underground coal mines were started by the British under the erstwhile Makum Coalfields. We admire the beautiful tea gardens of Namdang that is believed to produce one of the finest quality teas in Assam. Later we go to the Namdang Bibi Majhar and seek our blessings here of Bibi Mariam and it is said that your wished are granted true here at the Namdang Bibi Majhar.
After this we travel to Ledo the visit he Mounglang Khamti Buddhist Monastery cum International Meditation Centre here. Renowned to be under the fame of the Buddhist monk his Holiness Bhante Baba, the Mounglang Khamti Buddhist Monastery is located in the Mounglang village and is a very revered shrine among the people of Upper Assam and they come here from far and near to seek the blessings of his holiness – Bhante Baba. Even though Bhante Baba passes away to the heavenly abode in 2019 his legacy is carried on by the other monks and they provide a powerful stone that is to be adorned on your ring finger engraved in gold and it is believed that it protects a person from any accident or mishappenings. We continue to visit the historic Ledo airstrip that played a pivotal role in the landing of the war planes of the Allied forces during the World War II.
After Ledo we visit Lekhapani and here our journey begins on the Historic Stilwell Road that was built in 1942 by the soldiers of the American Army and locals under the able guidance of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell. The construction of the Stilwell road was completed in record time and was carried out under the harshest and toughest terrain and climatic conditions. The road stretched from Ledo in India to Kunming in China crossing the famed Pangsau Pass (Hell’s Pass) and the Lake of No Return in Myanmar. A tribute to these brave lives who built the Stilwell Road is present at the Lekhapani Cantonment and we cross this to reach Tipong Colliery area. The underground coal mines of Tipong are now not operational by the Steam Locomotives of DAVID and 796 are still operational and DAVID is the oldest operational Steam Locomotive in the World.
Built in 1851, DAVID still powers on with a huge amount of coal and it bustles across the narrow gauge track of the rail heading from the Tipong Challet to the mines of Tipong. Though prior permission is required to see this Steam locomotive in operation it can be viewed at the Workshop at the Tipong area. We also visit the mouth opening of the underground coalmines of Tipong and understand the coal excavation process here. With this we wind up our visit at Tipong and head back to the Margherita area where we have lunch at the Singpho Villa Dhaba and later visit India’s only Coal Museum at Margherita.
The Coal Museum at Margherita illustrates an in-depth process of coal mining operation in the underground and opencast coal mining adopted at Makum Coalfields. Nicely built models of both the opencast and underground coal mines are found here and visitors get a true feel of how one feels in an underground coal mine. In addition there are three more Steam Locomotives of John, Shelly and Hassang present here along with various old machinery from the times of the British Raj all brought in from various parts of Europe and built in the 1800s and are still operational are put on display here. There is a big display room as well and here you can find a tribute to Dr. John Barry White who was a pioneer in establishing the Assam Medical College at Dibrugarh and establishing India’s first X-Ray Unit here and he was also the pioneer in the discovery of the coal mines and the AR&T Companies operations here. The detailed plan of the Stillwell road and old pictures of Vinegar Joe Stilwell in field during its construction is also present here. A collection of stamps from various countries and Bomb Shells used in World War II are also to be seen on display at the Coal Museum at Margherita. After our visit here we travel back to the Singpho Eco Lodge to end our day.
Night Halt: Singpho Eco Lodge at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8: Margherita – Dibrugarh Airport
After an early breakfast we head to the Mohanbari Airport at Dibrugarh. We drop you at the Dibrugarh Airport ending your tour of the Tai Phake Ecotourism Camp and also the various other tribes of Assam. Bid Adieu!
Night Halt: NA
Meals Included: Breakfast