Having travelled extensively as an environmentalist trying to understand better ways of managing the natural eco-system and its resources, Navraj believed co-habitation with the surroundings was the only way forward. He often chose to stay at minimalistic, off-beat locations to learn more about the environment, hoping that one day he could bring the knowledge and awareness of his research nearer home. With the idea of building their own ’knowledge-centre’, Navraj along with his family (Rajani, Youraj and Dipesh) set about formulating a plan to convert their ancestral farm in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and integrate the space as an eco-tourism model with a sustainable initiative.
What was once just 10 acres of terraced rice fields along with few indigenous vegetables growing about until the late 1990s, the land gradually started developing into a mixed farm of agroforestry. Moreover, with 10-15 years of additional concentrated work, the terrain began transforming into a well-groomed landscape surrounded by various species of timber, fruit and nut trees and more recently a robust range of organic garden produce. Over time various bamboo species could be found all over the area, prompting the owners to name it ‘ Baasbari’ or Land of Bamboos.
‘Baasbari’ was borne out of the need to highlight the importance of sustainable living and promote the use of local resources without destroying the environment; while supporting native culture. Much inspired by the minimalism of Japanese aesthetics in the form of their ‘ enso’ – a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a mind that is free to let the body create – Baasbari’s logo is symbolic of a simple & natural way of life. Coincidentally a bamboo when cut also resembles the ‘enso’.
Whatever route you choose, it makes for an interesting ride as you pass through the small sleepy towns and reach the lower valleys near Bijanbari where almost nothing ever prepares you for what unfolds ahead. Breathtaking views of natural forests, tea gardens, mountain streams and the deep valleys greet you here. Located right here in this rich natural setting, Baasbari Farms calls out to the world-weary wanderer with a promise to bring an ‘offline’ experience like never before. This is where you ‘disconnect to reconnect’ with the real Darjeeling countryside.
How to reach
Also a popular day-expedition from the hill-town of Darjeeling, it takes approximately 90 minutes as you drive down a scenic winding road via Ghoom. Alternatively, it takes slightly less time through the village towns of Tukvar, Jamunay and Pulbazar. The nearest train station is New Jalpaiguri and the airport is Bagdogra, both about 3 and a half hours away. The Farm arranges transportation to and from the airport, train-station or Darjeeling town for guests and visitors.
Primarily a knowledge centre and learning ground for local voluntary groups, school children, researchers and farmers to help them integrate sustainable development practices in their daily routines, the Farm is fast becoming a much-touted off-beat destination for just about anyone including the family ‘pet’. The farm seeks to promote tourism in these parts of the Himalayas in a minimally intrusive manner by offering a resort-style option for a weekend escapade or an anytime glamour-camping or ‘glamping’ option at its authentic best.
Whether a visitor or a resident guest at Baasbari Farms there is much to learn and experience through workshop activities and informative field trips around the area. For the local participants, these classroom session workshops focus on skill-development and capacity-building. Workshop themes range from sustainable-living to community-development and take care to demonstrate practical ways for waste management, organic farming, cultivation of natural plantations and indigenous species, and also functions as a bamboo research and training centre. Knowledge shared and discussed at these workshops is well reflected in the design element, careful planning and layout of Baasbari Farms itself. Sustainable structures built out of bamboo and local wood can be seen as practical solutions gathered from natural traditions passed down through generations.
Baasbari Farm offers options of 3 Double bedrooms in well-designed bamboo units overlooking the wide expanse of the hills and valleys.
The newly built bamboo unit opens into a large balcony for that genuine off-the-grid feel with a picture-perfect view in the front; an ideal space for a private meal or two. Apart from this, there are 2 Luxury Tents that are ideal ‘Glamping’ experience in the middle of a forest. The farm also offers individual tents with sleeping bags and air mattresses for the adventure enthusiasts. The Farms looks forward to 3 more Bamboo units which are slated to come up very soon.
Guests at Baasbari Farms can get access to the entire farm and kitchen should they wish to cook their own meals. However, ‘food’ is one of the key attractions of this Farm and homely Nepalese meals that are organically grown and freshly prepared is served. Seasonal organic produce from the farm itself supplies the Kitchen at Baasbari to dish out local Nepali dishes, ethnic salads and smoothies with various natural blends and authentic spices. Food is lovingly plated on local ‘banana leaves’ and served in the traditional brass tableware. Local farm eggs and chicken comprise of their non-vegetarian items apart from the wide range of fresh & organic vegetarian fare that they offer. Try the local ‘gundruk’ – a lentil soup made with fermented greens that make for a hot and refreshing treat in the chilly mountains.
While the meals constitute of simple Nepali dishes prepared by the family themselves, they also hope to add a whole range of ’Newari’ dishes in the near future to give a taste of their rich family culture and tradition along with a variety of their own bakery products including natural whole wheat bread.
Booking for Baasbari Farm
You can head on to your next mountain adventure into these parts of the eastern Himalayas and book yourself for a Baasbari experience through any of the following portals.
Official website BaasbariFarms
Booking.Com: Booking.com Baasbari
Trip Advisor: Tripadvisor Baasbari
Trivago: Trivago Baasbari
Agoda: Agoda Baasbari
100 miles; 100 miles Baasbari
Michelin: Michelin Baasbari
Baasbari Farms have hosted many happy travelling families and their heartfelt feedback can be found in the official website Baasbari Farm and their Instagram handle Instagram Baasbari Farms or their Facebook page Facebook Baasbari Farms.
Overall, Navraj says that they have had an overwhelming response from every guest who has visited them till date. ‘Most of them ‘come in as guests and leave as family, attached to our staff, landscape and culture’.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned to Sketchywanderer for more vignettes of lesser-known places and spaces. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this blog.