The Stilwell Road aka the Ledo Road was built during World War II by an army of 15,000 American soldiers and 35,000 locals under the expert supervision of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell.
The road stretches from Ledo in Assam across 1079 miles to Kunming in China. The construction of this mammoth project was estimated to be around USD 150 million and the road was used by the Western Allies to supply to the Chinese when the Japanese Army had cut the Burma road. By occupying Burma, the Japanese had not only gained access to the vast resources of teak and rubber, but they had closed the Burma Road, 700 miles of dirt highway that represented China’s last overland link with the outside world. The reopening of an overland route to China would be the major American goal, indeed obsession, in the theater throughout the campaign especially after the defeat at Pearl Harbor that enabled the Imperial Japanese Army to extend their empire from Wake Island in the Pacific to Malaya and Singapore in South East Asia.
Here, the Allies would face one of the most inhospitable areas for military operations in the world. For the Americans, the theater not only covered a vast area, but it was also the end of a 12,000 mile supply line. The areas where the Allies would campaign was characterized by extremely rugged terrain with few roads and other communications, conditions which would favor the defense and reduce the Allies’ advantage in numbers. Northern and central Burma, where they would conduct the bulk of their operations, had steep, densely wooded mountain ranges cut by streams. The Allies would need to scale precipitous ranges along the border to reach one of Burma’s three great river valleys – the Chidwin, the Irrawaddy, or the Salween – in order to move south into the heart of Burma. They could also expect their advance to be slowed by monsoon, near-constant rains which would last for two to three months, anytime after April. Leeches, flies, ticks, and other insects, along with diseases as malaria, dysentery, and typhus, added to the soldier’s miseries. Keeping in mind all these the Americans resolved to go ahead with the task of constructing this mammoth project and the construction started in December 1942 across the dense terrain of the Patkai range through the Pangsau Pass aka “the Hell Pass (for the difficulty of the terrain)” into Shingbwiyang in Burma. The terrain was outrageous as it rose high upto 4,500 feet (1400m) along with steep gradients, hairpin curves and drops upto 200 feet (60 m).
Although the British Engineers had initially surveyed the route for a road (first 80 miles) the credit of building the Stilwell Road (Ledo Road) goes to General Stilwell which was under the American NAC operation. This road was to complement the airlift operations to China over the Eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains aka “the Hump”. American Engineers in late 1942 began to construct a road meant to restore China’s land communication with the outside world. It was the Americans, more than any of the other Allies, who wanted to open the road to China, and they pushed the enterprise the hardest. Taking over the project from the British in October 1942, they began construction from Ledo in December with the goal of arriving at the Burmese city of Shingbwiyang, 103 miles from Ledo by June, 1943.
General Stilwell and his army of men completed the stretch of 1079 miles (1736 km) within 2 years under the most treacherous conditions and this is what makes this road “an Epitome of an American Engineering Marvel”. And this was done more than 70 years ago ago when the world didn’t have the expertise of today’s technology.
Although, there was a flip side to this feat as more than 1100 American soldiers and many more locals had to lose their lives in the construction of the Western Allies march to crush the Japanese.
Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to relive the memories of the Second World War at the Stilwell Road – Ledo (India) to Kunming (China) – the Epitome of an American Engineering Marvel, the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Incredible India!
Recommended Itinerary for your visit to Stilwell Road ~
Day 1: Dibrugarh Airport – Margherita
Day 2: Margherita – Digboi – Inthong – Ketetong – Margherita
Day 3: Margherita – Stilwell Road – Jagun – Jairampur – Pangsau Pass – Myanmar – Lake of No Return – Margherita
Day 4: Margherita – Sivasagar – Kaziranga National Park
Day 5: Kaziranga National Park
Day 6: Kaziranga National Park – Guwahati
Day 7: Kamakhya temple – Assam State Museum – Guwahati Airport
Detailed Itinerary for your visit to Stilwell Road:
Day 1: Dibrugarh Airport – Margherita
Arrive at the Mohanbari airport at Dibrugarh and upon arrival you will be welcomed by our representative offering you a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style and from the airport we will drive to Tinsukia town at first taking a short break for coffee at the Kundan Dhaba at Chabua. Later we drive to the Hijuguri area at Tinsukia where we will make a stop at the Railway Heritage Park and Museum here that is a museum that depicts the artefacts from the times of the Dibru Sadiya railway. Known to be once among the oldest rail heads across India, the Dibru Sadiya railway was built to easily transport the minerals, crude oil and tea from areas in Upper Assam like Ledo, Margherita and Digboi to the port at Dibrugarh. The Brahmaputra River near Dibrugarh offered a great channel and waterway for ships to ply on these waters and the rail head transported these materials to the port. The Dibru Sadiya railway was at first established between Dibrugarh and Ledo and later it was extended to Lekhapani and this place became Indian railway’s final frontier of the east. This Dibru Sadiya Railway played a major role during World War II and helped in the movement of troops and war materials from the Ledo airstrip and Dibrugarh airport to Lekhapani.
Lekhapani was the place was from the historic Stilwell road started and a visit to this museum will allow us to witness the various steam engines, locomotives and passenger vehicles that these locomotives pulled during the British Era and also the World War II – Burma Campaign. We explore this museum and there are various old steam locomotives that were one of the best innovations of the industrial revolution that helped in transportation of people and good over long distances from one place to another. These steam engines and locomotives paved way for the diesel locomotives and the much cleaner electric locomotives of the India railway and the present hyper loop in the bullet rains and the cross country trains as well. A functional toy train is also present at this museum as well and visitors who come with their family in the evenings take the opportunity to sit on this toy train and take a ride across the Railway Heritage Park and museum. We will finish our exploration and board our vehicles again to continue on our drive to Margherita crossing Makum and Digboi. These places in Upper Assam developed once the British discovered the tea gardens and the varied reserves of crude oil and coal along with the timber for plywood and the best tea gardens of Assam are now located across these areas of Upper Assam.
When you travel across these places you will still get a feel of the colonial era charm that is present and are to be seen in the big British style Bungalows across the tea gardens, the finest golf courses and the heritage clubs of Digboi, Margherita and Ledo. We will soon arrive at Margherita and we will proceed to check into our place of stay at the Hotel Royal Treat. The area of Margherita is famous for the presence of coal, tea gardens, numerous indigenous tribes of Assam, India’s only coal museum, the remains of the 20th General Hospital of the American Army and the forests of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary that is called as the ‘Amazon of the East’ and it is a long stretch of rain forest stretching across the various districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Margherita also acts as your layover stop to travel across to the Pangsau Pass in Arunachal Pradesh and further to Myanmar along the Stilwell Road and every month on the 10th, 20th and 30th, Indian Nationals are allowed to travel from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh (with a valid ILP) and from here you can travel to the Pangsau Pass to reach the International Border of India and Myanmar and later cross it to reach Myanmar at the Pangsaung Market and view point and sight the historic Lake of No Return.
The Burma Campaign of World War II was fought in these parts and the soldiers of the Allied Forces had to come down to Margherita and Ledo as the Japanese forces had cut off the supply route to China from this part of India and so they had to search for an alternate route to build a road to restore supply routes to China and originally the British army had come to survey the route and start on the work to build the Ledo Road but they couldn’t work it out. Finally the American Army had to step in and under the supervision of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell they started the mammoth task of restoring the supply route and began work on the Stilwell Road aka Ledo Road from Ledo (India) to Kunming (China) via Pangsau Pass and Myanmar. An army of locals were hired to work on this job and everyone worked across some of the most treacherous and harsh climatic conditions to build the Stilwell Road and the job was completed in a year and the supply route was restored. But everything was not a success story in the construction of the Stilwell Road as many soldiers and locals had to put down their lives while working on building this road and they were put to rest at the various war cemeteries.
We will explore all of this in the next few days to come and be a part of the glorious past and we relive the grandeur of the British Raj at Digboi and Margherita and we will also take the opportunity to explore the life and culture of the indigenous people of Assam during this tour when we visit the Inthong and Ketetong villages and we will catch a details glimpse of the life of the Singpho people of Assam and we also taste their food when we visit the local restaurants that serve some of the very tasty and nutritional boiled and roasted meat recipes as well. We will take time to spend at leisure at the Hotel Royal Treat and the place is located near Baragolai area and it offers the perfect backdrop of the Dehing Patkai mountain range. We will not step out of the hotel today and we will have dinner at our place itself because by the time we reach it will be evening and in the winter season, the sun sets very early in these places and it gets pitch dark by around 5 PM. We will be visiting Digboi tomorrow to explore the history of the oil industry in India at the Digboi Oil Museum, Digboi Oil Refinery and the Digboi World War II Cemetery.
Night Halt: Hotel Royal Treat at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 2: Margherita – Digboi – Inthong – Margherita
Today we will start our day after breakfast and we proceed on our drive to Digboi from Margherita. The drive is along a very beautiful road that is covered by the lush green tea gardens of Assam that we will find at Powai and it continues up to Digboi from Margherita. It will take us around 30 minutes to reach Digboi town and at first we will travel to visit the Digboi World War II Cemetery. The place is located on the outskirts of Digboi town and we will cross the IOCL township at Digboi and the place is a remembrance of the glorious past of the place where you can see that Digboi is a very well planned town and all around you will see the heritage British Bungalows that now serve as residences of the officials of IOCL who oversee the operation of the Digboi Oil Refinery. The Digboi Oil Refinery (Oldest refinery in Asia) will be visible to us along our drive and it is located in the heart of Digboi town and we cross the Digboi Oil Refinery to head to the Digboi War Cemetery. Located amidst a very picturesque location surrounded by the tall forest reserves, the Digboi World War II cemetery was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves mission.
The place has burials of over 150 soldiers of the Allied forces who laid down their lives during the Burma Campaign of World War II especially during the construction of the Stilwell Road. The soldiers of the Allied Forces who undertook the mammoth task of the construction of the Stilwell Road had to face some of the very tough weather and terrain conditions because the entire area is surrounded by the dense tropical forests of North East India and navigating through these dense jungles required a lot of courage and faith in oneself. A saga of grit and determination of not to lose out to the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army, the Allied Forces marched ahead and built the Stilwell Road in a record time of a year thereby restoring the connectivity from Ledo (India) to Kunming (China) via Myanmar. But a lot of men had to lay down their lives during the construction of the Stilwell Road and they were at first brought to the 20th General Hospital at Margherita that was administered by the American Army and the doctors and nurses here tried their best to save the lives of the injured soldiers. The ones who did not make it out alive were laid to rest across the various war cemeteries including the Digboi War Cemetery. The Digboi War Cemetery houses burials from nearby cemeteries at Panitola, Dinjan and even Jorhat and it went on to house over 150 burials.
We will explore the Digboi World War II cemetery where a centre cross overlooks the burials at this cemetery and each of these burials are well aligned and beautiful flowers bloom across each burials thereby paying tribute to these martyred soldiers who gave up their lives so that we could have a better tomorrow. The burials are on a well-kept lawn and a caretaker attends to the lawn and it is a very glorious way to paying tribute to these brave men., We pay our homage and respects at the Digboi War Cemetery and later we will drive to Digboi oil town where we will break at a restaurant for tea and alter we explore the Digboi oil town and continue to visit the Digboi Centenary Oil Museum. This museum depicts and illustrates the history of the oil industry in India as Digboi was the place crude oil was first discovered in India and the British went on to establish the first oil refinery of Asia here at Digboi. We will be welcomed at a War Raid Shelter from 1942 and this is the entrance of the Digboi Oil Museum. A huge signage depicts the various milestones of the Digboi oil story and we go in to explore the Digboi Oil Museum that was built to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Digboi Oil refinery.
Once you enter the Digboi Oil Museum you will sight the various vintage machinery that were used in the extraction of crude oil from deep underground and these machinery were made around 150 years back when there was no modern technology available. When you see these machinery and see the ones used for same operations today, you will be surprised how compact these machines have become and also more powerful than these bulkier ones. But then again this technology was developed 200 years back and it served the purpose for the time. There is a vintage British style petrol bunk and a model of the British ‘Saheb’ and ‘Memsaheb’ put across a Ford Prefect car that illustrates the glorious past of the colonial era across this region of Upper Assam. We walk further and we will find the Discovery Oil well no. 1 and this was the first Commercial Oil Well that was dug in India and it was decommissioned after many years and you will witness this glorious part of history here at Digboi Oil Museum. This oil well still sees crude oil seep out of the underground and it is often called as the oldest operational oil well in the World.
There are certain vintage vehicles kept on display alongside this place and later we will go to visit the inner display section that illustrates the glorious 100 years of the Indian Oil Industry and a nice model is built of the Digboi oil refinery as well so that visitors could understand the process of oil refining and distillation. We will explore the place for a while and later we will head out of the Digboi Oil Museum and we travel back to Margherita. At Margherita we will visit the Singpho Eco Lodge that is a beautiful eco-tourism destination across this area and the place is a perfect way to experience the life of the Singpho people of Assam. The Singpho Eco Lodge is located at the Inthong Village and the place illustrates the unique Singpho way of living and the place is built on an elevated platform that is raised by wood and the entire structure of the lodge is built with bamboo and a thatch roof. The place offers 8 rooms for the comfortable stay of guests and here you an experience the real taste of the Singpho cuisine of Assam. We will also get to interact with the Singpho people and learn about their way of living and how they weave their traditional attires all with hands on the traditional looms and the same are put up for display and sale and in case you are interested you can make a purchase of these traditional handlooms of the Singpho people of Assam.
The place is surrounded by the lush green tea gardens of Assam and once fact is that the Singpho people of Assam were the first to brew tea and it was from them that the British learnt about the art of tea brewing and they established the tea industry in Assam that is renowned across the World. The Singpho way of tea brewing is called as the ‘Phalap’ and this is a very unique way of brewing tea where the tea leaves are first plucked and it is allowed to dry in the sun after cleaning in water. Later these are be stuffed into bamboo tubes and put over wood fire for roasting and kept to be stored for a few days. Later the bamboo is sliced open and you get a cylindrical tea cake and chunks of it are cut to prepare the tea by boiling it and no sugar is added and instead a piece of jaggery is provided with it. This is one of the most natural forms of tea and it is known to be a wonder medicine that keeps a person fit and away from the modern day ailments like diabetes, eye problems, heart problems and even suppresses the cancer causing cells as well and the people of this community have never faces any of these ailments due to consumption of the Phalap and food that is cooked with all fresh and natural ingredients.
We will take our seats for lunch here at the Singpho Eco Lodge and we will be served some of the very traditional dishes and these are cooked over wood fire that imparts a unique taste to the meal as well. After our lunch is done we head out to explore some the nearby places and get to interact with more indigenous tribes of Assam. Later we will bid farewell to the Singpho Eco Lodge and head to the Coal Museum at Margherita to explore the place and end our day of exploration. The Coal Museum at Margherita is India’s only Coal Museum and it was built to highlight and showcase the dying practices of coal mining in the underground and opencast coal mines of the erstwhile Makum coalfields. The Makum coalfields were some of the oldest underground coal mines in India and it was setup by the AR&T Company where they had come to establish the tea gardens and tea factories around Margherita and they accidently discovered coal in this area. Today the underground coal mines have been abandoned and only certain open cast coal mining operations remain here. At the entrance of the coal museum we will find some very old steam locomotives of the likes of John, Shelly and Hassang and these were earlier used in operation to drive the coal tubs from the mine openings to the dumping grounds.
A very old brick works was present at Ledo during the times of the British under the AR&T company and this was called as the Ledo Brick works and the Shelly steam locomotive was used to ferry the mud required to build the bricks. These steam locomotives are all still in running condition and since they consume a lot of coal they have now been abandoned and simply put up on display for admirers of the glorious era of the colonial past and as a reminded of the Industrial revolution. Past these steam locomotives there are various old machinery that are over 1500 years old and all brought in from England during the setup of the Makum coalfields like haulages, transformers, vintage motor cars, etc. What attracts visitors to the coal museum is the demo underground mine where one gets a real feel of how it feels to live a life going deep under the ground each day to excavate coal from the depths of the earth and send it out to be used to power the various industries. Today however, the underground coal mines of Makum coalfields are longer operational and only you can view this underground mine at this coal museum.
Next up we visit the large display hall at the coal museum that shows the various facets of the construction of the Stilwell Road, the naming of this place as Margherita, a huge collection of stamps from across the World, remains of the Burma Campaign of World War II like mortar shells, underground mining equipment’s, etc. It is indeed a true sense of pride to be part witnessing the ancient facets of India’s power sources at Digboi and Margherita. After exploring the coal museum we will travel to the Polo field area near Margherita where we will go to visit the remains of the 20th General Hospital. As mentioned earlier, the American Army who had come to build the Stilwell Road along with the Allied Forces were in the middle of a war and for that the army had to build a hospital to cater to the needs of the wounded soldiers and so they built a hospital with the available resources and they even built the traditional bamboo and thatch style houses that is to be found in these local areas of Upper Assam in addition to the big tents and concrete structures. To treat the wounded soldiers the army had to call in the best doctors and nurses all the way from USA and they finally arrived to treat the wounded and this hospital was named as the 20th General Hospital at Margherita and this went on to be one of the ‘A’ grade hospitals of the American Army.
But once the war was over, the hospital was decommissioned and the troops left back to their country along with the doctors and nurses and gradually the place started to fall into ruins and today only a few structures of this Grade ‘A’ hospital of the American Army stand at the place and we will visit the place just to live the moments of history here. With this we wind up our day of exploration and we head back to our hotel. We will savour our dinner at the hotel itself and prepare ourselves for an early morning tomorrow to visit the historic Stilwell Road and continue on our drive to Pangsau Pass and further to Myanmar.
Night Halt: Hotel Royal Treat at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3: Margherita – Lekhapani- Stilwell Road – Pangsau Pass – Myanmar
Today is our day of exploring the border of India and Myanmar at the Pangsau Pass and we will travel to Myanmar crossing the International Border at Arunachal Pradesh. (This will need to happen on the 10th, 20th or 30th of the month and also we will need to check the formalities of border crossing on the day of our visit because at certain times the border is sealed without prior notice and the Indian Army might not allow us to travel to the other side of the border based on their orders). We will start early from Margherita and we will have our breakfast at Jagun and from here we drive to Nampong crossing Jairampur where our ILP will be validated at the border check post. We will continue on our drive and soon ewe reach Jairampur World War II cemetery (the only war cemetery in India that has burials of the Chinese soldiers) and we will explore the place on our return journey. We cross an Army cantonment and finally reach the office of the SDO at Nampong and we pay our fees here and continue to drive to Pangsau Pass. The Pangsau Pass is the border of India and Myanmar and this pass was named as the “Hell’s Pass” due to the treacherous condition around the pass and many soldiers and locals lost their lives while working on the construction of the Stilwell Road. We started on our journey along the Stilwell Road at Lekhapani and this is our drive along the Stilwell Road and we continue on to Myanmar at the Pangsau market. We will be welcomed by the army of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar who will allow us to cross the border with strict instructions to return back before 4 PM and we will not take so long. Our main interest will be to explore the Pansaung market and to sight the historic Lake of No Return and all along the journey of the Stilwell Road. The Pansaung market is a vibrant local market that allows traders from both the countries engage in mutual trade and this is a way to promote the business relation among both these countries and also to showcase the tourism potential of the region.
The market is a traditional one with vendors from across the two countries comes to setup their stalls and carry out their trade. Interesting to observe are the shops that sell liquor and snacks and these shops open early in the morning and visitors can get the opportunity to try the Myanmar brand beer with various servings of fish and pork meat. We will explore the market area and we will go to the view-point are once to sight the historic Lake of No Return. This Lake of No Return has many legends associated with the place and the Allied troops referred to this lake as the Bermuda Triangle of the East as many of the aircrafts crash landed on this lake when the aircrafts were flying over it and suddenly it lost control while flying over the Lake of No Return. Also numerous reports of the troops and locals who were working on the construction of the Stilwell Road got lost never to be seen again once they had ventured anywhere near the Lake. One legend also states that this lake even made a huge contingent of the Japanese forces disappear when they tried crossing this lake to attack the troops who were working on the construction of the Stilwell Road thereby allowing the project to complete at a record time of one year.
Though no one can state whether these facts are true or not, but it can be said that this lake is truly mysterious and no one among the local people dares to venture near this lake and hence all you see around the place is lush greenery. We admire this place and by around 10 AM we return back to Indian Territory from Myanmar and we start on our drive back from the Pangsau Pass to travel to Nampong and further to Jairampur. At Jairampur we will take a short break at the Jairampur World War II cemetery and we go to explore the place. This Jairampur World War II cemetery cum Botanical Garden is the only war cemetery in India that has burials of the Chinese Soldiers and the graves here are much bigger compared to the Digboi War Cemetery. This place is also a botanical garden and therefore there are numerous plants and orchids species to be found growing in the wild as well. The place however needs a lot of restoration and the local authorities are working to make this cemetery an attractive destination for tourists. We walk across the Jairampur World War II cemetery and we pay respects to these soldiers and alter we continue on our drive back to Assam after crossing the border of Arunachal Pradesh.
Next up we drive to Tipong Colliery area to witness the oldest operational Steam Locomotive in the World – DAVID. Tipong Colliery has few of the very old underground coal mines that were in operation and have been abandoned only recently. This coal mines developed a unique way of excavating coal and this technique was named as the Tipong method of coal mining and the place even saw Russian mining engineers come to the place to assist the local engineers to develop this coal mining method. We will reach Tipong area and after our entry formalities we go to visit the Tipong Colliery and it is one of the very scenic drives you will get to witness with the Tipong River meandering across the place. The drive through has a rail track as well and the steam locomotives we saw at the coal museum of the likes of John and Hassang used to run on these tracks pulling the coal tubs filled with coal and cringing them to an off-loading site at the Tipong Chalet area. We will soon reach Tipong and we go to explore the beautiful forest reserves and we head to the loco shed where the DAVID Steam locomotive is put on display. DAVID is not put to run every day as it burns a lot of coal and it is only to be seen chugging across the rail tracks when various dignitaries and VIPs come to Tipong.
Built in 1851 by W G Bagnall of England, DAVID is one example of the sturdy British construction and it speaks for itself because even after 170 years of its built, the locomotive still is in running condition with minor repairs and has the capacity to pull tons of coal as well. We visit the underground mine mouths and we get a feel of a real coal mine and how the workers used to go deep under the earth’s surface to excavate coal with dynamites and use shovels to load the coal onto the coal tubs that would later be transported to various industries around the place and also to brick kilns as far as Punjab because this coal at the Tipong mines were of grade ‘A’ that produced very less smoke and has better burning potential that the coal to be found anywhere else in India. With this we wind up our visit at Tipong Colliery and we head to the guest house at Tipong and we will have our lunch and later we bid farewell to the Tipong guest house to travel to the Lalpahar Sumi Naga village that is home to the Sumi Naga people of Nagaland who since many years have now lived at Tipong in Assam. The Naga people were earlier warriors who lived in clans and they practiced head hunting as well and the Sumi Nagas were considered to be the most ferocious am0ong all the head hunting tribes of Nagaland.
The Sumi Nagas mostly inhabit the Zunheboto district in the Indian State of Nagaland but a fair population also live at the Lalpahar village in Tipong. They are mostly Baptist Christians and they embraced Christianity after the coming of missionaries to India but they have preserved their ancient culture, traditions and heritage and we will go to witness how these Sumi Naga people live in their traditional how these Sumi Naga people live in their traditional homes and their way of living, weaving of traditional Naga looms, their eating habits and practices, etc. We will savour an ethnic lunch at a small restaurant at the Sumi Naga village of Lalpahar in Tipong and after exploring their village we will head on our drive back to Margherita via Ledo. At Ledo, we will make a stop at the Mounglang Khamti Buddhist Monastery of the renowned Bhante Baba’s fame who is a revered figure in this area and he is known to provide his followers with a certain stone that when adorned on the right hand ring finger in gold, can protect the person from any accident or mishappenings. This is also an International Meditation Centre and people from various parts of the country and Asia come here to spend their time in meditation as well.
We will explore this beautiful Monastery and this area is inhabited by the Tai Khamti people of Assam who too were originally from Myanmar and they belong to the Tai group of Assam that comprise of the Tai Ahoms, Tai Phakes, Tai Khamyangs and Tai Khamtis and while only the Tai Ahoms are Hindus that other groups practice Buddhist as their faith. We will next head to the historic Ledo Airstrip that had proved to play a major role in the victory of the Allied Forces over the Japanese troops during the Burma Campaign of World War II. This airstrip was where the aircrafts of the Allied Forces landed carrying soldiers and supply to construct the Stilwell Road and this helped in quick movement of the troops and supplies and this was the reason the Stilwell Road could be completed in record time. Today this place has been well preserved and has become an important tourist destination for people from across the areas. With this we will wind up our visit for the day and we head back to the hotel for night halt.
Night Halt: Hotel Royal Treat at Margherita
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4: Margherita – Kaziranga National Park
We understand that on your visit to Assam it is considered that your tour is not over until you visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park famed for its successful conservation story of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros whose numbers had reduced to only a handful and today Kaziranga National Park boasts of the highest population of this animal species (around 2500) out of the 3500 surviving in the World. So we will plan our visit to Kaziranga National Park today as the drive from Margherita to Kaziranga National Park will take us around 8 hours so we will try to leave as early after breakfast and we start at around 8 AM on our drive to Kaziranga National Park. We wil cross the town of Digboi and Tinsukia to reach Dibrugarh that is called as the Tea capital and across the drive all you see are the lush tea gardens of Assam and the various Tea Estates and the heritage Tea Garden Bungalows. We will also cross the forest reserves of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary near Digboi that is referred to as the ‘Amazon of the East’ and it is a very pristine rainforest that spreads across several districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and is a rich biodiversity habitat. We soon reach Dibrugarh and we cross Dibrugarh to drive towards Sivasagar – the land of the mighty Ahom Kings of Assam.
We will make a stop at Sivasagar to have our lunch and explore the various historic Ahom monuments, temples and forts. The Ahom Kingdom is the longest unbroken ruling dynasties of India that ruled the region of Assam for 600 years, Founded by Swargadeo Sukapha who had migrated from the Shan Kingdom, the Ahoms were known to be ferocious and intelligent fighters who did not allow the Mughals to conquer Assam and put it on their map. The Ahom General Lachit Borphukan was known to be a very brave fighter and his bravery is so cherished that the best cadet of the NDA (National Defence Academy) in Pune is honoured with the Lachit Borphukan medal of honour. We will first have our lunch at an ethnic Tai Ahom restaurant at Sivasagar and we will explore the monuments of the Ahom Kingdom later.
The Ahom Kings were patrons of architecture and they had built several monuments, forts and temples across Assam. The Ahoms were earlier known to practice Buddhism as their faith but once they learnt about the Maa Kamakhya temple located in Guwahati (earlier Pragjyotishpura) and the cult of Shakti and Tantra associated with this temple shrine, they decided to convert to Hinduism and they became devout followers of Lord Shiva and Goddess Kamakhya. The Holy Kamakhya temple located atop the Nilachal hills in Guwahati was destroyed by a Muslim invader and it was the Ahom Kings who restored the present day structure of the Kamakhya temple in the Ahom architecture style. At first we will go to explore the Siva Doul temple at Sivasagar that is a very revered temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and the temple dome on top is made up of pure gold.
We explore the Sivadoul temple at Sivasagar and later we go to visit the Rang Ghar monument at Sivasagar. This monument is often referred to as the “Coliseum of the East” because this was a Royal Playground and also the first amphitheatre to be established in Asia. The name ‘Rang Ghar’ implies “the House of Entertainment” and this was here the royals gathered along with their subjects to watch various traditional sports like wrestling, bull fights, cock fights, etc. The architecture of the Rang Ghar enthrals any visitor to this place as this has a bright orange colour to it and this is due to the natural colour of the bricks that was used in its construction. The Ahoms were the first to introduce the concept of bricks to build the various palaces, fort and temple shrines across Assam because earlier it was the stone construction that was used and it proved to be difficult to transport these stone blocks across various locations and hence they came up with the unique idea of using mud to create flat bricks that could be easily transported and also provide the adequate strength to the buildings. The bricks were bound by a unique mortar that was made by mixing duck eggs, a sticky rice variety and lime and this served to be one of the strongest bonds that held the structure of the monuments of the Ahom kingdom and these building survived two major earthquakes of Assam with minimal damage.
We will explore the beautiful construction of the Rang Ghar and get our opportunity to explore the “Coliseum of the East”. Next up we head to visit the Talatal Ghar at Sivasagar before we continue on our drive to Kaziranga National Park. The Talatal Ghar was a historic fort of the Ahom Kingdom and the soldiers of the Ahom army were based out of the Talatal Ghar. This was a three storied structure on top with numerous underground tunnels that were in the shape and structure of a maze was built to confuse the enemy in case of an attack. This maze provided the soldiers of the Ahom army a quick opportunity to get out of either of the two tunnel exits – one of the Kareng Ghar (the Royal palace to protect the Royal Family) and the other at the Banks of the Dikhow River (this would give the soldiers a chance to regroup and plan their counter attack while the enemy tried to make their way of the Talatal Ghar underground maze). This was one of the very interesting constructions o the Ahom dynasty and today however these underground mazes have been sealed due to reports of people getting lost inside this maze. We will explore the beautiful area of the Talatal Ghar and admire the grand construction and alter we begin on our drive to Kaziranga National Park from Sivasagar.
We will be welcomed by the tea gardens of Assam again and we go on our drive towards Jorhat from Sivasagar and we cross one very interesting bridge called as the Namdang Bridge that was again a construction from the times of the Ahom Kingdom and this bridge was carved out of a single rock and though it was made during the times of the Ahoms but even today the bridge holds its strength and handles traffic of the National Highway 37 passing over it with heavy trucks and busses plying over it. We admire the Namdang Stone Bridge and continue on our drive towards Jorhat and we will cross Jorhat to drive towards Dergaon, Numaligarh and we finally approach Bokakhat town and this is the start of Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Assam and it spreads across several districts of Assam at Golaghat, Nagaon, Biswanath, Karbi Anglong and Sonitpur and it covers a huge fragmented area with the National Highway 37 cutting across the area of the National Park. Kaziranga National Park is famed for being home to the highest population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and also it a Tiger Reserve having the highest population density of the Royal Bengal Tigers in a protected area in the World in the wild. Kaziranga National Park also has the highest population of the Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Hog Deers and it is also home to India’s only Ape species – the Hoolock Gibbons.
Kaziranga National Park is a very nice birding area and is identified as an Important Bird Area with around 495 species of birds both resident and migratory being recorded here. We will cross Bokakhat to drive towards the central area of Kaziranga National Park at Kohora. Kaziranga National Park is divided across 6 safari zones at Central (Kohora), Western (Bagori), Eastern (Agoratoli), Burapahar, Panbari and Panpur ranges and almost all these safari ranges allow jeep safari rides to be conducted across the range and the elephant rides are mostly conducted in the Central and Western ranges and so these two ranges are very popular among the tourists who come to visit Kaziranga National Park and also most of the hotels and resorts are located across this area and so the tourists find it convenient to stay around these two places and enjoy their safari experience and later travel to their onward destination. We will also stay at the Kohora area of Kaziranga National Park and a today by the time we arrive at Kaziranga National Park it will be early evening and also we will be tired after a long drive and hence we will not plan any activity and simple check into our place of stay at a resort at Kaziranga National Park.
Night Halt: Bon Habi Resort at Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5: Kaziranga National Park Safari
Today is our jungle safari day at Kaziranga National Park and we will go for two jeep safari rides today at the Eastern range of Kaziranga National Park and the Central range of Kaziranga National Park as well in the afternoon. The Bagori range we will cover tomorrow when we go for our elephant safari ride tomorrow morning at the early morning slot before we head on our drive to Guwahati. We will complete our morning jeep safari at the Agoratoli range to be followed by lunch and the afternoon jeep safari at the Kohora range at the Kohora range and we will end our day by a visit at the Kaziranga Orchid Park – the largest Orchid Park in India. We have our early breakfast at the Bonhabi resort and we start on our jeep ride to be Agoratoli range at around 7 AM been it take around 45 minutes to reach the forest entrance gate and then we go for once 2 hour long jeep safari ride to cover the forest reserves of the Eastern range of Kaziranga National Park. This is a less frequented range when compared to the Central and Western range and so the fauna and avifauna life to be spotted here is more drives because due to less vehicular movement across the places so the bird especially find it more comfortable to fly around this range of Kaziranga National Park.
The drive from our place of stay to the Agoratoli range takes us along the beautiful countryside of Assam and we will spot the beautiful paddy fields of Assam along with the way rice is harvested and the organic vegetable gardens around the traditional homes of the local people of Kaziranga National Park. We will soon approach the Agoratoli forest range office and we will complete our formalities into the park and our jeep safari ride begins inside the forest interiors of the Eastern range of Kaziranga National Park. The place is famous for sighting of the Royal Bengal Tigers in the wild and in case we are lucky we might get the rare opportunity to sight the Royal Bengal Tigers of Kaziranga National Park on our jeep safari ride. We are sure to be welcomed on our jeep ride by the Great Indian Hornbills of Kaziranga when we are about to start the jeep ride because these birds are often sighted here and we will continue on our ride to sight the pride of Assam – the One Horned Rhinoceros of Kaziranga. We will sight the Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes, Wild elephants, Hog Deers, Capped Langurs, Assamese macaques, Swamp Deers and the various bird species of Kaziranga National Park. One bird that is a very grand spectacle to see is the Black Necked Stork that migrates to the park every winters and the beautiful hue of this bird is sure to bedazzle any spectator.
We continue on our jeep ride and we will sight more animals and birds and we will finally reach the banks of the Diphlu River where we get down to get an aerial view of the park and we will soon come out of the forest range of the Eastern range of Kaziranga National Park to head back to our resort at Kohora. The jeep driver will drop us here and come back again to pick us up for the afternoon round of safari. We will take time to freshen up and have our early lunch and at around 1 PM we will go again on our jeep ride at the Central range of Kaziranga National Park. The central range of Kaziranga National Park is by far the most popular safari zone at Kaziranga National Park and both foreign nationals and Indian nationals frequent this range of the park to sight the flora, fauna and avifauna species. At the central range of Kaziranga National Park, Elephant Safari rides are conducted for foreign nationals and jeep safari rides are conducted for both Indian and Foreign Nationals.
The central range has some of the best hotels and resorts of Kaziranga National Park around the place of the likes of the Borgos Resort, Diphlu River Lodge, IORA – the Retreat, Mandu – the Escape, Infinity Resorts and all of the above are 3 Star and above category places for your stay here at Kaziranga National Park and in case you are interested to enjoy your stay at Kaziranga National Park in a lap of luxury then you can tell us and we will make your stay arrangements at either of the above luxurious hotels and resorts of Kaziranga National Park. We will head on our jeep ride and visiting the Central range if like you are visiting some foreign country because you see visitors from various nationalities come here to enjoy their safari experience here at Kaziranga National Park and to sight eh varied fauna and avifauna species and especially the pride of Assam – the Indian one Horned Rhinoceros. The Central range of Kaziranga National Park is a good opportunity to sight the rhinos, wild elephants, hog deers and the Asiatic wild water buffaloes of Kaziranga National Park. You can also get to spot the Indian Monitor Lizard species along with the Assam Roofed Topped turtles and the Hoolock Gibbons of Kaziranga National Park here as well.
The jeep safari ride at the Kohora range is a shorter one and it lasts for around an hour and half and we will take the opportunity to ride on the open jeep to sight the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park at the central range of the park. After our jeep safari ride is over we will get back to the safari entrance and the jeep will drop us at the Kaziranga Orchid Park. The Kaziranga Orchid Park is located at the Kohora area of Kaziranga National Park and it is the largest orchid park in India and bamboo garden and the place not only houses a greenhouse that displays the variety of orchid species from across Assam and North East India but this place also displays the entire culture and traditions of Assam in the form of handicrafts, handlooms, rice varieties, folk dance performances, traditional medicine and tea, etc. The restaurant at the Kaziranga Orchid Park is a traditional restaurant and it is known to serve the best Assamese thali with around 50 offerings to its customers. We will enter the Kaziranga Orchid Park after purchasing our tickets and we head to visit the greenhouse at the place. North East India is home to vast floral wealth and this is evident from the vast forest cover and unadulterated landscapes that are a part of the region and this has given rise to rich biodiversity and the place is known to be home to around 1200 orchid species out of the total 1800 species to be found across the country.
The aim of the Kaziranga Orchid Park is to preserve and showcase these orchid species to the various visitors to Kaziranga National Park and this place has achieved a lot of success and today it draws around 90% of the visitors who come to visit Kaziranga National Park to the Kaziranga Orchid Park thus providing employment to many local youth around the place. We will walk into the orchid park and we will be welcomed by a local guide who will take us on a short tour across the greenhouse of the Kaziranga Orchid Park and explain to us about the various orchid species around the place and we learn a lot about the biodiversity of the region. Next up we will visit the display area of the indigenous handicrafts and handlooms of Assam. North East India is home to around 200 indigenous tribes and sub tribes and Assam also has numerous tribal people who have inhabited the place since time immemorial. These indigenous people of Assam have preserved their ancient art and culture and the handlooms and handicraft weaving practices since long back and even today the people in the villages and smaller towns practice the art of bamboo handicraft and weaving of the traditional handlooms.
The silk handlooms of Assam are renowned across the World of the likes of Muga, Eri and Paat and these silks of Assam are renowned across the World and it involves a lot of handwork to weave the silk threads into a Mekhela Chador that makes these silk products somewhat expensive than the machine woven cotton fabrics. We will get to witness these bamboo handicrafts and the weaving of the handloom on the traditional loom by the local women in this section of the Kaziranga Orchid Park. Bamboo is a very versatile grass and it is used as an alternate to timber in the villages of Assam and the Mishing people of Assam are especially adept in weaving of the bamboo to create some very exquisite bamboo handicrafts like furniture’s, stools, musical instruments, trays, interiors decors, fishing traps, etc. and in the villages of Assam, bamboo is used to build houses, build fences around land and even build bridges that are strong to handle the passing of motorbikes over them. Bamboo is a very versatile grass and belonging to the grass family it grows back quickly thus restoring a balance of nature and can be used as a perfect alternate to timber. The local women could be seen sitting across the traditional looms and they weave out exquisite handlooms that are put up on display and also available for purchase at the souvenir section of the Kaziranga Orchid Park.
There is another display room adjacent to the place that displays pictures of the various historical temples, monuments and forts across North East India. We will explore the display gallery and proceed further to visit the orchid photo gallery that displays the various orchid species of North East India in the form of HD pictures as not all the orchid varieties are to be found in the greenhouse and so we get to see the orchid varieties on this display room. Next up we explore the rice museum at the Kaziranga Orchid Park and this place displays the various rice variants that are grown across Assam. The Eastern part of the country favours a diet that includes rice as the main component of the meal and therefore different varieties of rice crops are grown across Assam and other eastern states. Assam is known to be growing certain rice varieties that are not grown anywhere in the World of the likes of the Bora Saul and the Kumal Saul (a rice variant that doesn’t need any cooking and can be consumed after soaking in water for a while) and most of these rice varieties are on display at the rice museum at the Kaziranga Orchid Park. Following this we will visit the other parts of the park and we have a cup of black tea to refresh ourselves and later we go to take our seats to witness the traditional dance performances of Assam.
The various artists, who are basically young boys and girls from the area around Kaziranga National Park, take their place on the stage to enact out the traditional folk dances of Assam like the Bihu dance, bamboo dance and the traditional dance of the tea garden people of Assam called as the Jhumur dance. The Bihu dance of Assam is renowned across the World mostly for its vibrant costumes and with the girls adorning the glorious Muga silk Mekhela Chadors and the traditional Assamese jewellery and the boys wearing traditional Dhoti and Muga jackets. The beat of the music to the dance is created by traditional musical instruments like the Dhul, the Pepa (made with the horn of the Asiatic water buffalo), Gogona, etc. The dance is characterized by vibrant and brisk movements of the hands and body and while the girls generally perform the dance, the boys sing and play the musical instruments. We will get the opportunity to witness this Bihu dance in front of our eyes and this will be followed by the bamboo folk dance that is another very interesting dance to witness. This dance form is also practices by the Kuki people who inhabit Mizoram and some parts of Nagaland as well and in Assam it is performed by the Mishing tribes of Assam.
In this dance form, the boys hold the two ends of the bamboo sticks and they create a mesh like structure and then they keep changing the mesh structure by altering the bamboo sticks and the girls jump in and out of this bamboo mesh in a rhythmic movement thus resembling the dance steps. We admire these dance forms of Assam at the stage area of the Kaziranga Orchid Park and later we will return back to our resort after an eventful day of wildlife safari at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park and we will be left with our elephant safari experience at the Western rang e of the Park tomorrow morning before we embark on our drive to Guwahati. We will return back to our resort and we will have our dinner at the place itself and later we retire to our rooms as we will have an early day tomorrow as the elephant safari ride inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park are conducted in the early morning slots and the first slot starts at 5 AM in the morning and we will take the second slot at 6.30 AM.
Night Halt: Bonhabi Resort at Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6: Kaziranga National Park – Guwahati
Today we will get up early to prepare for our elephant safari ride into the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park at the Western range of Kaziranga National Park. We will freshen up and load our luggage into our vehicles because after our elephant safari ride at the Western range is over we will continue on our drive to Guwahati after having our breakfast at Jakhlabandha. We will have some nice tea and snacks and we will check out of our place of stay at the Kohora area of Kaziranga National Park and continue on our drive to Guwahati. The Bagori safari range is around 20 minutes’ drive from the central range of Kaziranga National Park and at the Bagori range we will see the various taxis and busses that bring in the tourists who come to enjoy their elephant safari ride here and the place is generally bustling early in the morning with activities. We will be handed our passes for the elephant safari ride and the forest guards take us to the elephant ride point where we will be assigned our slots to board the elephant backs and go for our safari rides inside the forest reserves of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park. The elephant safari ride is a unique experience to witness here at Kaziranga National Park because you get an aerial view of the forest reserves of Kaziranga from the Elephant back and this ride takes you across the swamp area of the park so that you can get to sight the One Horned Rhinoceros of Kaziranga National Park from up close.
The elephants are well trained and well looked after by the mahouts and the forest authorities including the animal doctors of Kaziranga National Park and so even though many people believe that this is a cruel practice of conducting safaris inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park but in fact this is a source of revenue for these domesticated elephants who have since long been employed by the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park and they have been institutionalized to conduct these safari rides with the stopping of the rides their mahouts will be left jobless with no means of feeding the elephants and these animals cant fend for themselves when they are left out in the wild. And with only two safari rides being conducted in a day, there is not too much pressure on these animals as well and you will get to experience this on the elephant back ride when you see the animal happily oblige to his mahout and the mahout offers it treats during the time of the safari ride. We will spot many wild animal species on our elephant safari ride and in about an hours’ time we will be brought back to the entrance of the Bagori safari range and we will finally bid farewell to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park and begin on our drive towards Guwahati and we will cross the Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park to reach Jakhlabandha.
We will stop for breakfast at a restaurant here and after breakfast we will start on our drive to Guwahati. We will cross Koliabor, Amoni, Nagaon and we reach Raha. At Raha we stop to try the fresh tender coconuts that are available for purchase at the road side stalls and these stalls bring in some of the very fresh tender coconut water that is harvested from the local trees that grow across the area. Raha is also known to be the home of the bamboo and cane artisans of Assam and these stalls here sell the exquisite handmade bamboo crafts that are put up on display here. The artisans prepare various miniature models of these crafts as well and visitors often but these crafts to carry as souvenirs of their visit to Assam and in case you are interested you can make a purchase of these crafts and carry it back home as well. Next up we will drive towards Guwahati and we reach Jagiroad to further travel towards Sonapur where we will break for lunch at one of the restaurants here. Sonapur is a favourite weekend hangout place for the people of Guwahati and therefore this place has numerous luxury resorts and restaurants and the locals come and fill this place on Saturdays and Sundays and we will find us a nice restaurant to have our lunch.
We will savour a nice ethnic Assamese cuisine lunch and continue on our drive towards Jorabat and we finally arrive at Guwahati city by early afternoon. We will go to check into our hotel at the Beltola area in Guwahati and after freshening up we will go to explore two very important temple shrines of Guwahati city at the Basistha temple and the Balaji temple. The Basistha temple was built by an Ahom King and this is a holy temple shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and this place was earlier and ashram of the holy sage Basistha and this temple is very sacred because this place is a confluence of three rivers that merge here and flow out as the river Bharalu that passes across Guwahati city and finally merges with the Brahmaputra river. The temple construction follows a unique Ahom temple architecture and we will explore this unique architecture of the Basistha temple at Guwahati and next we go to visit the Balaji temple that is another very important temple shrine in Guwahati and it is an extension of the Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh that was built here to promote peace and harmony across the North East region of India.
The temple is built entirely with white marble and in the evening when the lights come out, the place looks absolutely breathtaking. People come here to spend time with their family and also to seek Darshan of the temple shrine. After exploring the place we will go back to the hotel and we will explore the traditional market here and call it a day.
Night Halt: Hotel Tokyo Towers at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7: Kamakhya temple – Assam State Museum – Guwahati Airport
Today in the morning after our early breakfast we will go to explore the holy temple shrine of Goddess Kamakhya at that is located atop the Nilachal Hills in Guwahati. The Kamakhya temple is one among the 51 Shakti Peethas in India and it is the holiest temple shrine across North East India. Every day thousands of devotees come to seek blessings of Goddess Kamakhya at the temple and it is said that Goddess Sati’s womb fell atop the Nilachal Hills when Lord Shia was carrying her mutilated body and travelling across the World performing the Tandava. The temple is a celebration of the spirit of motherhood and the ability of a woman to give birth to a child and this temple shrine is associated with the cult of Shakti and Tantra and the Kamakhya temple shrine was renowned as a centre of black magic and the black magic sorcerers revered Goddess Kamakhya.
We will head to the temple complex to seek our Darshan of Goddess Kamakhya and we will be guided by a temple priest who will take us to the inner sanctum where we will seek our blessings of Goddess Kamakhya. There is no idol of Goddess Kamakhya and instead there is a stone in the shape of a Yoni and an underground stream that feeds that stone continuously with water and your Darshan at the Kamakhya temple is complete once you take this holy water and sprinkle it on your head. After our Darshan is over we will head out of the Kamakhya temple to visit the Assam State Museum that is located at the Ambari area in Guwahati and that is a very detailed museum about the life and culture of the indigenous people of Assam and also various ancient sculptures and relics from the times of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Ahom Kingdom and the World War II are to be seen on display here as well. We explore the Assam State Museum to be followed by a visit at the various emporiums of silk and handicrafts to purchase our souvenirs of our visit to Assam and finally we will have our lunch and we will head on our drive to the LGBI airport at Guwahati. We will drop you at the airport for your flight to your onward destination. Tour Ends! Bid Adieu!
Night Halt: NA
Meals Included: Breakfast