Accomodation review #2: Darjeeling plus first impressions

#1 Jul 20th, 2016, 18:49
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  • Peterjones is offline
#1
First thing I noticed is the less stressed half of the human race: Darjeeling women. Compared to Kolkatta I mean. They smile more, they dress with a slightly more body-conscious flair than in 'real' Bengal and they look slightly Mongloid, more like some Nepalis. They also take smaller sizes of clothing. Two Darjeeling women could fit in one punjabi pantsuit or four in a sari. So, I like the 'eye candy' better. Sometimes I think they look Thai or Taiwanese then I see their bigger hips. I chaulk this up to being sort of Chinese and eating carbohydrate-heavy Indian food. The few girls (not schoolgirls) I talked to already responded like normal women, not treating me like a potential rapist like in Calcutta. The men look to be of two general types: smaller, more wirey and a stockier more Korean body type.

Darjeeling appears to be a medical center for the area. I have never seen so many clinics,

Looks like it is easier to find pure veg restos here than Kolkata. Clearly a lot of Indian visitors come here. Good. But shops catering to tourists seem a bit la dee dah. I am a tourist too, I admit it. I spent 35 minutes tea tasting and bought 100 grams of certified organic white tea within my first hour in the town. INR1350 seemed high but I did ask a lot of technical questions and get six samples of black teas to drink my fill before I made my decision. Funny, some of their teas they buy at auction and it comes from Calcutta, not right around the corner.

Calcutta for all its headaches makes me feel I am in some surrealistic movie every day. It has history and intensity. But so far anyway, here I just feel like I am in a place nothing special and am keen to move on to Kalimpong and Gangtok which hopefully have more charm and less garbage in the water runoff channels here which are used as refuse pits. I'd say it's filthier here than Calcutta. And that is saying something.

Rounak Hotel pluses and minuses

Pro

Cheap, well cheap for Darjeeling. There are a dozen little hotels on this hilly road and all wouldn't budge from 1000 or was it 1200? Surprises me because this is low season, it's raining and I don't see many tourists. Maybe Darjeeling is like Guangzhou, where there is effectively a rule - hoteliers won't go below price X (I think it's called price-fixing, no?) This might be one of those destinations where hotels.com is cheaper than negotiating a walk-in. This is no Chiang Mai with a plethora of budget choices. Or I am simply in the wrong neighbourhood. I wanted to stay right on the main drag, near the great restaurant I found, but I couldn't find any accommodation in the heart of what I am going to call 'old downtown' During my evening exploration unencumbered by a suitcase perhaps I will find the Khao San road of Darjeeling. Or where itinerant shoe salesmen stay. My only absolute is no bedbugs.

The matter of accommodation is my only complaint about Indian travel - everything else is good value, and sometime, often in fact, cheap. But finding a clean and comfortable don't-break-the-budget place to go unconscious is my biggest challenge of being a tourist in India (I presume the same holds true for domestic tourists. I mean relative to Southeast Asia. I talked on the train with a banker and me told me that one reason Indian companies send their managers to Thailand is because Pattaya hotels are much more competitive than equivalent Indian ones. Haven'spent whole years of my life in Pattaya and a dozen trips to India, I believe him. Versus local wage and rupee FXS I think guesthouses are expensive. I welcome replies as to why you think this is so, and if you agree or not.

One friend thinks I am being an idiot comparing anywhere in India to the best everywhere else and selectively (e.g. public transportation is better in Singapore and nightlife is better in Thailand and shopping is better in China - because *everywhere* is worse than the planet's top in each category. I am like the guy who goes to Fiji and complains that the cheese is better in France.

Rounak had a room. Some of the other dumps were full. About a hird of the hotels right here are closed up (I presume until tourist season begins), another third are semi in business, and another third (mostly the better hotels, catering to the year-round domestic business travellers?) are open but out of my range. The manager claims this is an INR1200 room. Yeah, maybe list price which nobody but a greenhorn actually pays. Everybody gets a discount all the time. In other words pricing is bogus. 'The 20% discount for being a syphillitic left-handed dwarf - let me consult our chart... yes, we can honour that."

- Bed is king size
- two lights
- mirror suitable for reflecting on one's appearance before leaving room
- large bathroom. No bath of course, but you know what I mean
- Very strange, rush hour on this street seemed to suddenly dull at 4:35 pm
- Three power outlets
- steaming hot water, though I turned my heater off because it sounded like brain-frying radio tower and I didn't want to end up like David Caradine.
- garbage can is lined with plastic bag. A miracle
- Mandarin red and soft yellow colour scheme
- versatile toilet, squat or sit
- stool for bathing (too short)

Con

- Noisy traffic. Charming Darjeeling is not and I hear much of the din for 90 minutes or so in afternoon

- Cold & wet: This is a deal-breaker for me. I live in the tropics, and I looked forward to the fog and rain, but in moderate doses. Mother Monsoon is an extremist. Actually, I though I liked torrential downpours (none yet). But I forgot the practical matters of how long it takes to dry my hand laundry. And more importantly than that, my room towel is very damp. If this is like Sapa in Vietnam and Baguio in Philippines, after I use it, it'll take three days to dry. While fantasy is nice, it is a little diffiult to sit around a roasting fire when none of the cheap places have central heating, let alone crackling juniper and spruce in stone hearths.

I have never understood the lack of heating in cold places. I'll visit Kashmir and a mountain top in SW China and they are still dealng with winter as if the seasonal changes just appeared for the first time this year and they haven't gotten around to getting set up to deal with it. Must have something to do with money. Maybe fuel is expensive or regulations and insurance are problematic. If anyone knows of a good (or better a bad) Darjeeling hotel with a cast iron stove in even the lobby, I'll move here. Doeesn't have to be a resort. Granny's homestay where you can warm your feet and eat momos cooked on the same device would suit me fine.

- Ticking clock. I hate these.
- hard mattress. I had to add my synthetic comforter folded over to get a semblance of comfort. But there is a spare in the cupboard and all the other rooms the doors are unlocked, so if it becomes truly cold I can borrow a third.
- bumpy cheap slightly damp pillows (Sunflower's were perfect)
- the sewer smells up through the toilet like the hounds of hell
- tall glass missing from venntilation windows to hallway - a small child could pass through. But largely irrelevant as WC door bolts.

Neutral

- Water jug, stainless steel (empty) & two finger-printed glasses
- phone (not connected)
- side table (not clean enough looking that I want to use it)

Conclusion: Please tell me there is better value than this in Darjeeling

Oh, and I asked three local well-travelled educated mature Bengalis in Calcutta their opinion about whether I would need to bring more than my one thin long sleeve merino sweater, and they all poo-pooed my idea to bring warmer clothing.
'Oh, you're from a cold country, maybe a light jacket just at night.'

They were wrong.

I was foolish to ask them, who were extrmely unlikely to know that when I fly from KL to the Pacific N.W. (really Pac N.E, but never mind) in any season but summer I feel like I have entered Antarctica, because I am more aclimatized to the tropics.

I had to laugh at this presumption, as if I was born in the Aleution Islands and every winter I am a crab fisherman in the Atlantic. Vancouver is not Winnipeg, it has a mild cool rainy place much of the year and here in Darjeeling is sort of like spring or winter there. So far. So this works both ways. Indians, ask an expat Indian from your hometown his opinion of living in New Mexico or wherever. His or her perspective be especially useful

In the future I will consult people living in a similar climate zone to Vancouver (e.g. Seattle or Eugene) or fellow expats who live in tropical SE Asia. The air is cool and humid here. Think fog and rain, not wind.
Last edited by Peterjones; Jul 21st, 2016 at 11:07..
#2 Jul 21st, 2016, 11:16
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#2
Added on next day: Of the listed telephone numbers on my receipt (deposit required) the first one does not work and at the second one someone picked up then hung up. Just getting something done practical such as getting a second dry towel (mine is soaked ftom 11 hours ago very pleasant soaking my feet in a bucket of hot water) is problematic as it is raining, the house phone does not work, and it will require hiking down and then up again 45 steps just on the hope that maybe someone is at the front desk. Keep this in mind if you have a bad knee. The whole town is one big hill.

Simpler to 'steal' a towel from a neigbouring room? Hmm, can't do that. Since last night (when room doors were all opened) all are now locked. So, either as a security measure, or because late last night all the rooms filled up, I can't do the guerilla solution. What can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, the access to these rooms is not through the hotel lobby. So this means that for the guest who wants discretion (say bringing twins and barnyard animals to one's room) this can be done without management knowing about it. However, it also means a thief could enter the premises. I was provided no key so I believe eitger there is no property door or any exterior door does not lock.

Postscript: There is a sort of staff at a desk just ten steps below, but they weren't there last night twice. I got a so-called dry towel, which is an improvement. I pointed out that it is a moist as a baby's bottom.
'It's the weather.'

Now, there is no water coming out of any tap.
'Motor'

Lady attendant very uneasy coming to my room as I have a towel wrapped around my waist. Even the guy seems to be terrified. What's going on here? Other than my behaving as a petulant obscene middle aged westerner.

Rounak is not 'pucka'. What do I expect? This is what you get for 600 roops in Darjeeling. So, time to spend more or move on. Kathmandu is better value in off season though. Are Gangtok and small towns in Sikkim going to get better or worse than this? I do not mean cheaper I mean *value*. In my experience in Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Thailand but not Indonesia and Philippines), spending 30% more results in 150% better accomodation. Something like that.
#3 Jul 21st, 2016, 15:39
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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  • theyyamdancer is offline
#3
Gangtok is a totally different experience to Darjeeling.

Darjeeling suffers water shortages but you may find that hard to believe at present, wet as you are...

Sikkim is a rich state by comparison and hence Gorkhaland would wish to emulate it.
#4 Jul 21st, 2016, 18:24
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  • Golghar is offline
#4
Does your toilet have a chain-flush that sounds like the Niagara Falls when pulled?

I haven't been to Darjeeling since 1965. I see Keventer's and Glenary's still exist with their apostrophes.




Though Gangtok without the Chogyal and the Gyalmo wouldn't be half the fun.
#5 Jul 22nd, 2016, 11:08
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Golghar - to reply to your question...

No, it is quite silent. But it fills up slow so I had to refill by hand with handy bucket. I mjust say that the manager at the hotel is very nice. It's just the town I don't like. I got fed up after one night and took the soonest shared jeep to Kalimpong. Leaving for Gangtok now, as Kalimpong is just a bigger (but smaller) dump. Details about the journey (recommended) and Kalimpong town later. I may of course be disappointed. The way locals talk about the Gangtok it sounds like pristine Switzerland. It can't be *that* clean and orderly. I sure hope not, because the reason I stay out of Zurich is price.

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