A short vacation at the Queen of Hills – Darjeeling

We thought of taking a break from hectic professional life and a small escape from 37 Degree C temperature of Kolkata in April end. It was not a much planned trip this time as the leaves were granted at the last moment. I have visited almost all the nice places in North Bengal and this time thought of visiting Darjeeling – The Queen of Hills for the second time and first time with my wife.

Now, the toughest challenge was to get a train reservation from Kolkata to NJP. Thank god, we found a special train and managed to get a reservation.  Also, I booked the hotel in advance as I don’t take any risk of booking on arrival (which is actually adventurous and used to do before marriage).

So, all set to visit the Queen again, to feel the romantic weather, to see her beauty which attracts us again and again. It was 10 AM in the morning and we reached at NJP station. There were hundreds of cabs waiting at NJP station for almost all the tourist destinations nearby and we decided to take a shared cab to reach Darjeeling. It took 3 hrs to reach the destination through the scenic road. We took a short break on the way at Kurseong and the cab dropped us near ‘Chowk Bazaar’ at Darjeeling. Our hotel was near ‘Raj Bhavan’ and it took 5 minutes walk to reach the hotel. We were a bit tired after 15+ hrs journey all the way from Kolkata but we were mesmerized by the scenic view from our hotel room. It’s a dream come true to see the Kanchenjunga while lying on the bed or sitting on sofa with a cup of pure Darjeeling tea.

Darjeeling (10)View from hotel room

Before settling down at hotel, we went for a walk through the lovely roads of Darjeeling to explore its natural beauty. We roam around the Chowrasta Mall, had tea, took some snaps, had dinner and finally came to our hotel room.

Next day, wake up at early morning to see the sunrise from hotel, as this time we decided not to visit Tiger Hill because it is worth if the weather doesn’t betray with you and definitely I am not a lucky guy. We found that the view point for sunrise and Kanchenjunga was just nearby our hotel. People gathered at the view point waiting to see the glimpse of beauty of Kanchenjunga. Suddenly we saw the burning Kanchenjunga by the lights of sunrise. Ah! what a beautiful view. Every time I see this, it feels really nostalgic.

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Sunrise taken from view point

After taking each snap, we were hoping to have better view if we wait for some more time. Then we realized, we would never be satisfied with her beauty as we were finding excuse to keep watching her. We were hungry by then and in hurry to execute our plan for that day, we went back to hotel, took a bath in hot water and get ready for exploring few places.

We went out to the famous Glenary’s Bakery and Café for delicious breakfast with Darjeeling tea. They serve excellent food quality with number of varieties for breakfast and snacks. You can’t get away after having the aroma while walking through the Nehru Road.

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Darjeeling tea @Glenary’s

We walked down through the busy road to The Darjeeling station for the famous Joy Ride by toy train (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway). It took around 2 hrs to the complete journey. Though the trip fare seems a bit higher but you will find it worth after taking the ride. You can choose Diesel engine over Steam engine trains if you feel the cost is higher because it can save upto Rs. 500 for each. The train starts from Darjeeling station and goes to famous Ghum station via Batasia Loop, a war memorial and a very well maintained place with its scenic beauty and will come back to Darjeeling station again. The train stops for 10-15 mins at Batasia loop then reaches Ghum station.

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Batasia loop – The war Memorial

The Ghum station is country’s highest rail station at an altitude of 7,400ft and a heritage sight having Ghum Museum in its premises. You can see Baby Sivok, the oldest Toy Train Engine of DHR and other heritage things about DHR. We enjoyed every bit of this trip and never got bored of the ride. The scenic beauty at both sides of the track was mesmerizing. You will get tired of taking photographs, I bet.

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Toy train waiting @Batasia Loop during Joy Ride

As per schedule, we came back to Darjeeling station after almost 2 hrs tour. We were hungry as it was almost 2PM and without exploring any good option we entered into a Chinese restaurant nearby and quality of food was really good. Then started walking up to The Mall but suddenly saw the sky became dark and it was about to rain. Without hesitating, we entered into The Rink Mall to avoid walking on the rain in a cold afternoon. We roam around the mall which is having kids play areas, Big Bazar, coffee shops including CCD, Inox, and Banks etc. We knew that the rain will not last longer and gradually saw the sky became clear, the weather became a bit colder, and beauty queen became more romantic. Suddenly the visibility was so clear that we could see the nature far away from the road. Again we started walking towards Chowrasta and wanted do some shopping. Before that we saw tourists are dressing up like traditional Darjeeling’s women who pick tea leaf from tea garden and a local photographer taking photos and providing printed photo instantly. My wife wanted to try once.So we stopped there and photo was really beautiful. It was real fun. We walked into Golden Tips Tea shop at Chowrasta and took variety of famous Darjeeling tea for us and for family. Then started shopping randomly from winter garments, Antic things, Ornaments, and so on.

Afternoon rain transformed the weather into much colder and windy than usual days. We were not well equipped to beat the cold so decided to spend some time in the Mall and went back to our hotel room. Way back to hotel was a bit thrilling through the dark roads besides Raj Bhavan as we realized electric supply was off for some time due to some routine checkup. We ordered snacks and tea at room and asked them to prepare dinner as well. We were not at all tired but a bit sad realizing that we have just one more day to spend in this beautiful place. We ended the day with delicious Bengali dinner at hotel and we went to sleep not before finalizing the plan for the next day.

I suddenly wake up from deep sleep and saw it was 4:00 AM in the morning. I never wake up so early even my alarm clock used to wake up my entire family (expect me:-P) during my school days. Anyway, I knew it was not a call from outside but from inside my heart. It was photographer and  adventure lover inside heart who wake me up. Responding to the call, I took my jacket and went outside with my DSLR as companion . People were jogging, running, and doing yoga during that time. It was inspirational to see such a huge number of local residents and foreigners continuing their regular exercise to stay fit. I was not much interested to join with them though rather joined with the people who were eagerly waiting to see Kanchenjunga. Took plenty of photographs of sun and the hills till I lost hope of getting a better view.

Came back to hotel, had breakfast and tea, got ready and started for famous Zoo (Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park) and HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute). It was 15 mins walking distance down the hill from Raj Bhavan. We took more time to reach as we were enjoying the walk and taking photographs on the way.

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Random click – way to Zoo and HMI

We purchase tickets and entered into the Zoo. It was clean and well mentioned. There were sign board and route maps with clear directions of all the animal cages, food court, washrooms, and museums. We went into the direction of HMI. Both sides of the hill road were having animal cages on the way to HMI. When we reached HMI, saw the trainees from all over India and abroad were attending a class holding trekking instruments in their hands. We stopped there for 10-15 mins to see a bunch of young, enthusiastic and determined people taking oath to follow the impassable way shown by Tenzing Norgay.

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Trainees attending class @HMI

There are two interesting Museums inside HMI, one is The Everest/HMI Museum and another one is Bengal Natural History Museum. The first one will tell you the complete history of the great personalities from India and abroad who attempted on the great peak, the museum also exhibits the equipment used by them on their way to Mt. Everest. The later one is about the details of the seasonal birds come from other countries, the unique species of animals found in Himalaya. I find both the Museums very informative and interesting.

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Statue of Tenzing Norgay near HMI museum

We went to a nearest food stall after visiting the museums and had Chinese foods before exploring the other side of Zoo. Suddenly saw people gathered in front of a cage – a giant Black Bear was accepting foods from the visitors and posing for photographs. We roamed around and saw Tibetan Wolf, Snow Leopard, and Red Panda etc. and a variety of rare species of birds.

Though we were inspired and charged by the great personalities like Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary but found really difficult to climb through the uphill road to reach our hotel. After taking a short break at hotel, we started for the great Mahakal Temple. It is situated at the Mall area. We took the Mall road from right side of Chowrasta and found stairs uphill to the Observetory hill and Mahakal Temple. You might find a bit difficult to walk along the steep uphill road with Monkeys around. The main Mahakal temple is of Lord Shiva but you can also find other small temples of other goddess around. If you go around the temple, you can find concrete benches to sit and enjoy the great view of the entire range of peaks including lovely Kanchenjunga.

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Bells around Mahakal Temple

Here we were done with visiting the places we planned. It was a beautiful and memorable trip which we will cherish for years. Though there are lots of other places which we can visit within this duration but we usually prefer every trip to be planned as per our wish and it should be mandatory to cover all the places.

It was already evening. We sat on the stairs of mall and started recollecting the beautiful moments we spent in last few days. We were feeling very sad as we have to start next day morning for NJP station to catch afternoon train. We went to Glenary’s to have some snacks and took few for our family. Then we came back to the hotel room, started packing our luggage and had dinner a bit early.Next day morning, We checked out early and had breakfast at Keventers on the way to the taxi stand and the final journey started. Train was scheduled on time and we reached home safely. And the life started following logical template again…