Experience Village Life in India

Want to really see India then try getting away from it all and staying with Indians in their own homes. That’s right, be a house guest in an Indian village. There are a few companies that can arrange this but I like the one offered by Gurudongma Tours, called Awake and Shine. It is a project run by retired General Jimmy Singh which offers tourists the opportunity to help Indian villages supplement their income, and contribute to improving conditions and education in the villages. 20% of the profits go to the Awake and Shine projects. How ever long your Indian holiday is, I don’t think there is any need to stay more than about 3 days, although they recommend staying at least a week. Try the village of Samthar. At an altitude of 1400 meters, in the green mid-range of the Himalayas, lies the village of Samthar spread over 12 km, it has a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and on the edge of the terraced farmlands, the hill-side plunges down towards the Samthar River. The guests are housed in one of two homesteads which have been upgraded to make it more comfortable for foreigners, there is running water and electricity, but in some places a bath consists of a bucket of water brought up from the river. However nothing beats the hospitality, and home-made food and everything is clean and hygienic. The people are a of mixed ethnic groups – Nepali and Lepcha. You will have the opportunity to help with the village chores, ploughing collecting fire wood, herding cows. You and your host can pick the daily activities that you do, including visiting other villagers, of various religions, seeing them working at their crafts and even have a go at harvesting rice.

Samthar village,
North east corner of India,
Between Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.
To get there:
There are flights from Calcutta and New Delhi. From New Delhi, Jet Airways Indian Airlines and Kingfisher Air fly to Bagdogra Airport, the nearest airport to the village, for about $200. The airport is about four or five hours in a taxi from Kalimpong, the nearest town to Samthar. Or you can take a train to Nee Jalpaiguri, and from there a taxi. Some tours offer the car transfer and others offer a stay over in Kalimpong before moving on to the village the next day. It is ideal for a couple, a group and even for families with children.
When to go:
Available all year round, but recommended Feb-May, and Sept-Dec.
Suggested time of stay 10 days, but minimum 3 days.
Shop around on the net, each site gives different snippets of info and slightly different prices.
Remember extra charges for every little extra. Example: price for couple in double occupancy, $65 per room per night which includes donation to Awake and shine.
Learning basket weaving $5
Extracting mustard oil $5
Care of cattle, milking, herding $5
So you see the cost can build up, that is why I suggested a shorter stay. Go for shorter but stuff as many activities into your day.
Web Sites:
Homestay Holiday
Inside Tours

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One Response to Experience Village Life in India

  1. Martin March 20, 2009 at 11:28 am #

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