Darjeeling, my Himalayan abode!

[A tale of traveling in Darjeeling, a town of West Bengal, India for 2 nights by a group of five friends. Primary intention was to get drunk and make merry. But when in Darjeeling, expect to be enchanted.]

 

Romantic Bengali will remain punch drunk in love with Darjeeling forever and ever. My mother has spent many a moonlit night on the rooftop recalling the erstwhile “joint family” (a traditional clannish system of living with in-laws and children together) trip in a bus all the way from Bankura, southern part of Bengal to Darjeeling and the ordeals of waking up at 5 am to catch a glimpse of the famous Kanchenjunga from Tiger hill. She will fondly tell how how Baba lost his socks the night before causing an overall delay. How difficult it had been for her to make some hot milk for the me and the cousin sister! While I was growing up, the thought of “retreating to Himalaya” occurred to me many times. By Himalaya I always knew it will be somewhere in Darjeeling, hidden in the misty clouds. The ghost cabin stories in Shuktara, Anjan Dutt’s songs and classic movies only added more fuel to the zeal. Like the Mollah runs to the mosque, the Bengali in me decided backpacking “the land of the thunderbolt” with first salary credited to account!

What to expect?

  • Roads as steep as it may get with unforeseen congestion at the most surprising bent! Beware those who suffers from motion sickness!
  • A carpet weave of Tea garden. The tiny land produces the most flavorful of tea in this whole universe.
  • It houses the beautiful Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that continues running few of the steam locomotives till date. Excited, right?
  • Diverse culture of Nepali Hindus, Buddhist and other ethnic groups (Lepchas, Bhutias, Kiranti, Tibetans, Gurungs and Tamangs and many more)  amalgamate to form a largely harmonious co-existence.
  • Do look out for political stability before planning a trip. An ongoing agitation for a separate state often rocks the mountains and breaks out violence.

 

How to travel?

  • Bagdogra houses a quaint little airport (which also serves the best fish cutlet in the country in my opinion). Look no further if you get a good deal. We flew with Air India during July and paid only $40 for a return journey to Kolkata.
  • Do not hesitate to book the night train to New Jalpaiguri station. A overnight train with cheap ticket price is a good deal, followed by a short bus trip to the town.

 

When to travel?

All the year round. Be wary of monsoon (but we traveled when it rained incessantly) for movement may be a challenge. A landslide can bring life to a standstill here. During winter, it snows here. Summer in Darjeeling is when the whole of plain land west Bengal will come to their favourite vacation place with children and family.

Where to stay?

Worry not for Darjeeling has multiple options to put up from budget home stays to old palatial buildings from British colonial era. We decided to stay from the hustles of city and chose Darjeeling Khush-Alaya, a sterling property. I am very happy with the stay and no, it is nowhere near a sponsored post!

Khush alaya was near Ghoom station, a bit far from downtown Darjeeling, reason why we had to rent a car for local sightseeing. Nonetheless, I loved every bit of my stay, including nicely decked up rooms, the sprawling landscape, view of the town, breakfast platter, the smiling hostess. If only they would have added a bit more of meat to breakfast buffet. They served eggs and many other vegetarian delicacies(read Luchi, no doubt I am happy).

I know my friends who often hike up the mountain and choose home stays of lesser known localities, only to catch a clear glimpse of Kanchenjunga. Looking at their pictures, I must say that is no less than a rewarding experience either.

 

What to visit?

The Ghoom Station

Ghoom means sleep, literally. The station is situated on the highest altitude in India and dated back to 1890s! Old it is, indeed and stunningly melancholic. If you have not traveled from new Jalpaiguri station to Darjeeling by the Toy Train (a UNESCO World Heritage), board the locomotive from Ghoom, for the journey is smaller and takes you to Batasia loop right ahead.

Tiger Hill

Very near to the Ghoom station, early riders flock there to get a memorable view of Kanchanjengha (third highest summit of the world), even Sagarmata on one of the lucky days! FYI, Sagarmata is the local name of Mt. Everest, the great, grand and genial one. Did we have a chance? No, it rained all day and Ghoom remained an abode of cloud!

Darjeeling Mall

The Mall road is downtown Darjeeling. Walk here and explore local life. The smiling children on their way to school, the balloon seller, the lady with woollen sweater by the street, the Bihari construction worker by the closed momo shop, the show goes on!

Tea Gardens

How can you not visit and possibly pose and shop some tea leaves from the place that has shamed many other major tea producers of the world, even with multitudes of issues in production process? Once upon a time, a job at the tea garden had been much coveted in Bengali households, “Cha Baganer Manager”. Gone are those days but remains three leaves with a bud nipped at the Shivalik range with all her glory!

The Zoo and the Garden

The zoo here is the safe keeper of endangered Red Pandas of the region. I personally do not like the idea of keeping animals confined but a visit to Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo was pleasantly surprising. Lesser crowd and healthier animals! Visit rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park for a treat to eyes with floral landscapes, if left with more time.

 

We could do this much in a day’s time, amidst torrential rain. But Darjeeling has many other surprises tucked inside, may be at every bent of the mountain curves. Indulge in treks to nearby villages, Sutanekhola and many more wildlife sanctuaries, explore old monasteries, listen to Buddhist chants. Life is enthralling at this small hilly town. Head out to Kalimpong or Gangtok further, I hear they are even more beautiful. Meanwhile do not forget to treat yourself in Keventers with the breakfast platter with choicest of bacon fried and Glenary’s, the charm of old school British dining!

My gratitude to Shreya Goswami for letting me use her click, the panoramic shot used as the featured image. Get in tough with her at https://www.facebook.com/shreya.goswami.1982 for amazing photographs of Himalaya and Kolkata.

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Cheers to the trip!
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Glory of Glenaries, pork ribs!
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the Mushroom soup
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all thing old school
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the tea county
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Do visit this place for a sumptous dinner!
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friends never say goodbye
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the mist
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Old monk is our faourite run in the town!
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I grew up thinking he danced on the tunes in the hills of Darjeeling. ( not true, in Ooty he did so!)
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the haunted villas
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Ankana and me, making merry
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The leaves they eat here
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keep it warm and lit!
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Ghoom and the legacy of Toy train
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Whistles that sound like music
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3 idiots
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a cup of tea
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Me 🙂
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in a town like this!
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He laughs, we prosper
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an old monastery

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Dalai lama at a young age
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Rain beckons
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roads snaking up the Himalayas
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at the Rock Garden, with the missing girlfriend!
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looking back
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drops of dew and rain!
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Rock garden
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cascading
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Rhododendron and the valley
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Rhododendron, what glorious color

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I am happy!
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A tea garden
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days of yore
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Gubre poka, dung beetle
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beauty in the garden
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because, cinema!
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The red panda
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Such a cutie pie
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Royal beast of Bengal
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The hotel, a thing of beauty
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I am a fan of this sweet meat. It is shaped like a steak of fish with roe.
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in front of the villa
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whetting
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😀
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waiting for a bus!
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genial
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loved their mantra
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the Security
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hazy in rain
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Keventer’s, the iconic balcony
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Do not miss!!
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souveniers
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souveniers
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Ghoom manastery
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the descend!
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the group from left, Mrinava, Ankana, Dhriti, your’s truly, Sayantan
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The best beer I have ever tasted, Danny Denzongpa

 

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32 thoughts on “Darjeeling, my Himalayan abode!

  1. Everything was so apt, I still think there’s so much to be told about Darjeeling! All because of glorious 10 years of my stay there. Grew up in the hills with momos as my staple, thupka as lunch and titora as waiwaiii all time favourite snack!! The glenary’s was our favourite tea time place during the outings. A tight budget of 1400 and shopping and hopping around the hills!! See I can’t stop talking about it!! That’s what your blog has done to me !! Wallah 👏🏻👏🏻 would want to hear more from you and your trips. Great clicks!! Loved everything you wrote. This is good temptation to head off for all readers with backpack and head to the hills.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course you can go on chirping about Darjeeling. It is a thing of such beauty, demands much praise! I would love to invite you to blog most for me some day as a convent student of a hillstation! Cannot wait to hear more from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A very beautiful portrayal of the trip.. Loved the collection of pics u chose for it, as it must not have been easy considering u have to choose from a pool of thousands (only considering your camera).

    Only thing I can add as a suggestion looking back, is that 2 nights are never enough for Darjeeling..
    Atleast make it 4.. or maybe that might not feel enough too.. Feels like never coming back.

    Be aware that monsoons are not exactly the advised season to be in Darjeeling, so for those who loves more clouds and less crowd, that is the time.

    Also I think a due credit must go the locals , for being so simple,friendly and probably the best drivers I have seen..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!
      Yes 2 days was not enough for this somber town. Life is so easy and laid back in the lap of mountains. This week marks an year to the trip. About locals, they were undoubtedly the best part of the trip! I had to be careful about choosing the photos! Thanks to the group, we ended up with many clicks!

      Like

  3. My goodness you’ve painted quite the picture! I have yet to make my way to India, but when I do you can bet I’ll be referring back to this! Thanks for the wanderlust inspiration! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic portrayal of the entire journey!! Immensely enjoyed the article especially the beautiful clicks!! Makes me wonder’Why the hell have I not been to Darjeeling yet’

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved reading this! I’ve yet to visit Darjeeling, but you conjured up such scenes that I think it’s a must! Thank you, and your photos compliment it wonderfully!

    Like

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