Romancing Darjeeling

#1 Nov 2nd, 2011, 15:05
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  • somak_sanyal is offline
#1
Darjeeling is the crown of West Bengal. In the past few years the area has been inaccessible to the tourist due to bandhs/strikes but in the recent years things have changed, there is peace in the valley, tourist are visiting the place once again and with people and Government extending helping hands to each other, we can expect a very good season in the coming years. We visited Darjeeling end October, 2011.

Getting to Darjeeling : The roads leading to Darjeeling from NJP is not good. From NJP it takes approx. 4 hrs to reach Darjeeling. From NJP to kurseong it takes 2-2.5 hrs, and the road condition is very bad, its really pathetic at some stage. But after Kurseong the road is good and it takes 1.5 hrs. Donít take small cars to Darjeeling , only big cars are preferable. We learnt that the roads will be repaired but I think it can take 6 more months to see good roads. There is a toy train link from NJP to Darjeeling but its not working now. But Toy train runs between Kurseong and Darjeeling station, it takes 3 hrs. The train has a diesel engine and runs very good with first class and second class compartments, the first class is really good with spacious seats and the second class is not that spacious. The train stops at 3 stations in between, they are Ghum, Sonada and Tung. Reservation is available for seats from irctc. It is advisable to book tickets well in advance as the train from Darjeeling to Kurseong usually starts packed.

Hotels in Darjeeling : There are many good hotels in Darjeeling, Its better if you stay near to the mall, as it is the main center of activity.

Sightseeing: Mall is place where people sit and relax under the sun, gets a good view of mountains on a clear day, enjoy horse ride, and take a walk. There are plenty of shops near the mall where you can do shopping, but bargaining is a must. There are two roads right beside the mall, where you can walk and enjoy the greenery and mountains around you. Darjeeling I believe is a very romantic place, you get to see lots of green around you, the trees and the mountains all will attract you, we have been to places like Sikkim, HP or Bhutan, but this one is bit different. You can take a cab for sightseeing which will cover Rock Garden, Zoo and Tea garden. Rock garden is a very fantastic place with garden with various nice flowers surrounding a natural waterfall. We have seen such gardens in Gangtok but that was artificial, this one is very unique. Always make sure to visit a Tea garden, you will love it. The beauty of a Tea garden over a mountain slope is breathtaking. Zoo is another place which you must visit. Take an early morning ride to Tiger Hill. The ride generally starts 4 AM in the morning and usually takes 45 min. to reach the area. From there you have to book tickets to enter the hill, after this there is a good 15 min uphill walk to reach the top of the hill from where you can see the sunrise. But donít worry the road is not that stiff and you can enjoy your walk. Just remember one thing there are various categories of tickets for Tiger Hill, staring from Rs. 10 to Rs. 40. There is observatory building in the tiger hill, Rs. 40 tickets will take you at the top floor[viewing could be difficult sometimes from here as there are sliding windows, I think rs. 20 Ė 30 is better] and Rs. 10 at the ground. In our case the sunrise was at 5.40 AM, Standing in the Tiger Hill you will see yourself above the cloud, with cloud cover just below you and horizon and Kanchenjunga mountain on top, just before the sunrise the Kanchenjunga Mountain and other peaks will appear orange and just after that the sun will rise from the horizon, Its beauty at its best. If you are lucky you can view the sunrise if there is no cloud cover. But Tiger Hill sunrise you will remember for lifetime. There is one more thing to do in Darjeeling that is the Joy Ride, the Joyride is the toy train that runs on the heritage coal engine and starts from Darjeeling thrice daily to cover Batasia Loop, Ghum and back to Darjeeling. The train stops for 20 min each at Batasia Loop and Ghum. The whole journey ends in 2 hrs. Joyride is a must, but book tickets in advance. Batasia loop is a loop in a train line with a beautiful garden, where as Ghum is the highest rail station in India.

Returning Back : The return can be done in two ways like we did, A train departs from Darjeeling at 9.15 AM to Kurseong, it reaches Kurseong at 1.15 PM, The journey was really very good, we didnít expected it, we thought sitting in the toy train for such long hours would be bit boring, but in the end we really enjoyed the whole journey as the scenic beauty was wonderful and the train was excellent. From Kuresong one can take a cab to NJP, it takes 1.5-2 hrs, the return journey is via Pankhabari and road is really good, you will travel through numerous tea gardens and it will be journey to remember, have your lunch at Kurseong as there are few good restaurant. Another way of returning NJP is by cab straight, the route will be again through Pankhabari and the time taken will be roughly 3 hrs.

Political Situation : This is very important, prior to your journey watch the local news to get the latest. But now it is really very peaceful and the people of Darjeeling are very peace loving and welcome tourist with a very open mind. Darjeeling is also known as Gorkhaland.
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#2 Nov 2nd, 2011, 15:44
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  • saugata41 is offline
#2
Your writeup and the snaps have really kindled a nostalgia in me. Now I have been reliving the moments when I was there long back (6.5 years ago last time).

Good one!

Regards
Saugata
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#3 Nov 2nd, 2011, 15:53
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  • ranaadhikary is offline
#3
Fantastic writeup...loved the entire blog with excellent photography
#4 Nov 11th, 2011, 15:26
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  • nanurai is offline
#4
Lovely photos Somak! Although I'm from Darjeeling, I've been in Kolkata for the last 5 years. I do go home twice a year but it's very hectic and I hardly get time to enjoy my stay. I don't even remember when was the last time I went to Tiger Hill
Thanks for this post!
#5 Nov 11th, 2011, 16:33
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  • Flash Gordon is offline
#5
the toy train looks amazing! someday will make that journey
For more of my travelogues off-the-beaten-trail check http://www.greatholidayideas.net/

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