Dorje-ling, the queen of the hills: A leisure trip with my family

#1 Apr 13th, 2018, 16:40
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  • aneek is offline
#1
What type of a trip you would plan if you know you are going to leave your hometown soon and get settled in another city leaving your wife, one year old daughter and parents?

What about a trip without mobile calls, without my DSLR, no disturbance from office and colleagues? - Where should we go? Along with this question, the answer also came to me instantly. My all time favorite hill station "Darjeeling".

The same day when I had the thought, I also charted a plan at my office desk (why should I work? I was in notice period). After some modifications the itinerary looked like below:
  1. Day 1 (28/02/2018 - Wednesday): Late night train from Sealdah to NJP (Padatik Express).
  2. Day 2 (01/03/2018 - Thursday): Reach NJP, book a cab and reach Darjeeling as soon as possible. Hotel booking was done on Mount Himalayan Resort. I had plenty of rewards points in MMT. So I utilized those.
  3. Day 3 (02/03/2018 - Friday): Darjeeling Zoo and local sightseeing. Visit a tea estate.
  4. Day 4 (03/03/2018 - Saturday): Ghoom monastery, and a nearby tourist spot like Lamahatta.
  5. Day 5 (04/03/2018 - Sunday): Catch early morning toy train to NJP, drop at either Sukhna or Siliguri and catch an auto to NJP (In the plain lands the toy train takes too much time). Board Padatik express to Sealdah.
  6. Day 6 (05/03/2018 - Monday): Sealdah to home and end of trip.

There were few issues that I had to think through:
  1. In March, the weather in Darjeeling is quite cold. How to protect a one and half year old baby? - Solution is proper insulation. I searched online and saw the technique is quite same as us adults do while trekking. Layered clothing seems to be the way of dealing with the cold and the warmth. Thanks "Decathlon", you saved me.
  2. Food and water consumption of a baby - Solution was to get some "Milton Thermosteel" tiffin boxes and flasks. We'd carry at least 2 flasks one with full hot water and another with normal temperature water while travelling via train. We also planned to carry maggi and moderate amount of puffed rice with us. At least we could request some hotels to make simple maggi (without the taste maker) for the baby. Although the tiffin boxes should keep some solid food warm for some time.
  3. Dehydration - Solution was to carry ORS and probiotics (consultation with doctor is mandatory.) We only carried ORS.
  4. High Altitude Sickness - Solution carry Coca (again consult with the doctor), this one we missed to carry. And this caused us to panic quite a few times.
  5. Leave in notice period - Not allowed. So solution would be to talk through your manager and blackmail him emotionally.

Once everything was chalked out, we waited for the day and then it was 28th February 11:15 PM when the train started it's journey towards NJP.

More to come..

FYI: About the title: So many threads with the name of Darjeeling. Let's remember the origin of the name here.

Regards,
Aneek
Darjeeling, Kuari Pass Winter trek, Tawang-Dirang-Bomdila


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
#2 Apr 17th, 2018, 17:12
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#2
Day 2

Upon reaching NJP I booked a Maruti Wagon R. Bought some mineral water bottles and started the journey. In the way, we'd stop at a location and take some food. Before entering the hills, we stopped at a road side hotel and had breakfast. Then we started the ascent.

First cause of panic was when we were on a decent height, my daughter showed some uneasiness. Every time the car turned while going up, she showed her discomforting face. Then she started crying and after some time she slept. This can be a cause of altitude sickness. But I was not sure.

However, when we reached Darjeeling around 1 PM or so, she had a good sleep by then and was all charged up.

Mount Himalayan Resort has very good feedback in tripadvisor. Which they do try to complement with their services, as I saw in my four day stay.

Upon reaching the resort we were welcomed with Darjeeling tea. Two wooden rooms were given to us in the 2nd floor (I guess) with moderate views. My daughter started playing and running in between our rooms. We thought, let her play and in the meantime we'd get fresh, have some lunch. Food is a bit pricey in the resort.

After lunch me and my wife made a complete list of eateries where we should visit. Then we went to the mall road. The road was foggy and romantic.

Day 3
The breakfast was complementary in the resort, my parents decided to stay and have that. So me and my wife went outside and walked towards Keventers. Bad luck, it was closed that day, probably due to Holi. Now, where to have a good breakfast? Yes, Sonam's Kitchen. I'd request people to try breakfast once there. Awesome!! We tried the breakfast platter with hash brown, pancake and coffee. Try it.

While returning towards the resort, we booked a cab driver (mistake, book from the association only) and asked him to take us to the Zoo and Happy valley tea estate. He quoted non-negotiable Rs. 1000/-. I could have bargained but my father had developed a back pain and I was not willing to take any chances.

Last night we went to Revolver restaurant to try some Naga food but that time they were closed. So we went again in the morning and found that they make food for infants. So we quickly ordered and returned to the resort.

Preparing a little girl is definitely a task. It took more than one hour to just make herself ready for the zoo and tea garden. The car was waiting outside of the resort (the resort is a bit uphill climb from the main road). We hopped in quickly (it was drizzling) and went to the tea garden. Tea garden and Zoo was nice experience. The packed rice and boiled vegetable served it's purpose for my daughter. She played in the Zoo area and was refusing to return.

In the evening, my mother, my wife and me went to Glenary's and had some pastries and cakes. By 8 PM, we had to go to Revolver restaurant to pickup our Naga Platter. My wife didn't liked that very much but to me the cuisine was awesome. I loved the pork and the bamboo shoot.

Next day, we have a trip to nearby places.
#3 Apr 17th, 2018, 20:58
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  • catwith9lives is offline
#3
Hey, thanks for the write-up.

How much did the cab charge you from NJP to Darjeeling? Does one get a better rate from the Siliguri station area?

What about the other way around? I know that you haven't written about your return journey, but I am assuming that you took the cab, this being a flying visit.
#4 Apr 18th, 2018, 13:28
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#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by catwith9lives View Post Hey, thanks for the write-up.

How much did the cab charge you from NJP to Darjeeling? Does one get a better rate from the Siliguri station area?

What about the other way around? I know that you haven't written about your return journey, but I am assuming that you took the cab, this being a flying visit.
Hi,
NJP to Darjeeling it took Rs. 2200/-. You'd get a good deal from Siliguri. But I could not go to Siliguri as my parents were not willing to. Last time I took shuttle from Siliguri it was Rs. 400 per seat.

While returning we booked the toy train. That was another experience. Will write about it soon.

Regards,
Aneek
#5 Apr 18th, 2018, 13:53
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  • nigelv is offline
#5
Thanks for the info you have given. Your article so far was very interesting and informative. Waiting for the rest.
I'm planning a trip to Darj with the same number of people n baby in the first week of October. Any advice?
#6 Apr 18th, 2018, 13:58
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#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by nigelv View Post Thanks for the info you have given. Your article so far was very interesting and informative. Waiting for the rest.
I'm planning a trip to Darj with the same number of people n baby in the first week of October. Any advice?
Hello,
Go ahead and enjoy the beauty. In October, the sky should be clear. But the temperature will be on the lower side. How old is your baby? Make sure you have a discussion with the child specialist about the meds and precautions. And don't take the toy train ride back to NJP or vice versa. Rather take the Joyride (ticket can be booked from Darjeeling rail station) which starts from Darjeeling to Ghoom and back.

Regards,
Aneek
#7 Apr 18th, 2018, 14:14
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#7
My kid will be 2 in October. Why do you advise not to take the toy train down to njp?
#8 Apr 18th, 2018, 14:17
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#8
Hi,
My kid will be 2 yrs in October. Anything we should be careful about? Was your kid affected by the altitude? Why do you advise not to take the toy train down to njp?
Regards,
Nigel
#9 Apr 18th, 2018, 15:13
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#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by nigelv View Post Hi,
My kid will be 2 yrs in October. Anything we should be careful about? Was your kid affected by the altitude? Why do you advise not to take the toy train down to njp?
Regards,
Nigel
Hi Nigel,

Yes, my daughter was affected by the altitude (I believe). The continuous ups and downs and the turns taken by the car made her sick. She didn't vomit though. But she cried a lot after sometime staying in the car. Later the doctor told me that could be due to the changing altitude. I wish I had coca with me that time. So consult with a child specialist.

About the toy train ride from Darjeeling to NJP: Logically it should take 8 hours. But, in our case (what I have learned in most of the cases) the train delays. Most of the time it takes more than 10 hours to reach NJP. This is the word of the station master in Darjeeling station.

In our case, after leaving Kurseong, got stuck. The reason was in the 1st coach, the break shaft had broken. They knew the 1st coach had some issues. But still they carried the journey with the faulty coach. They had one spare coach in the yard. We've seen that while waiting in the station in the morning. But later I came to know from the ticket checker of the train that it was kept for the foreigners' joyride train. So we started from Darjeeling by 9:30 AM and Reached Sukhna by 8:00 PM. From there we had to book an auto and reached NJP. When I am with my whole family, with a baby and old parents, I was not willing to take any risk and our return train was within 1 hour.

This is the reason not to take a full toy train ride. Instead take a joy ride.

Regards,
Aneek
#10 Apr 18th, 2018, 15:41
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#10
Day 4
Last night we thought that we'd get up early morning and go to Keventers for breakfast. But, we couldn't. So had to take the complementary breakfast served at the resort. Anyway, the driver called me and said, he won't be coming today but he will send one brother of his. We thought it was fine. The cost for today's trip was Rs.1500 and we bargained and changed it to Rs.1200.

By 10 AM the driver came and we started for Lamahatta. Mostly 1 hour drive from Darjeeling. While coming, my daughter again felt the effects of altitude. She again cried and slept.

Nice place. You can do a small trek in the Pine Forrest in Lamahatta. My daughter, wife and me did that small trek. My daughter enjoyed the most. We thought to go to a river bed some 10 KM away from Lamahatta. But the driver said it would cost us Rs.1000 more. So we thought to come back and visit Ghoom Monastery. We had lunch at a nearby homestay and started our way back to Ghoom. While coming back, my daughter got sick and she was feeling so bad, we had to return to the resort, dropping the other plans.

While paying the driver Rs.1200, he started a brawl. He was asking for 1500. Then he pushed my father when he was trying to convince him. That made me really angry. Eventually, all of my family member had to come to calm me. Surprisingly, no one from the resort security (who were just standing and watching) came to our help. The driver threatened me - "You are a family person, if I do anything to any of your family what will you do? You have to cross our stand to go to the mall, remember that". - In Hindi of course.

Humm, that is why I carry a Victorinox Hunter with me each time.

But why the local people haven't helped us? Is this one of the reason Darjeeling is loosing it's fame and name? - I leave it to you to decide.

Yes, that day I walked in front of their stand many times with my family, but nothing has happened.

After some time, my wife, mom and myself went to try some authentic Tibetan food in Kunga Restaurant. Ohh, the taste. I will remember my whole life.

Then went to Keventers to try some sausages. My wife liked it very much but I had better in UK. It was good definitely. Bought some cakes and other bakery items from Glenary's for the next day.

We had tried so many food, we skipped dinner. For my father and daughter, we packed dinner from Mahakal restaurant who serves only Bengali cuisines.

Next day, we have to catch the toy train to NJP. Big day ahead. But I had to pack all the bags. Old monk helped me to pack the bags.
#11 Apr 18th, 2018, 15:49
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  • nigelv is offline
#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by aneek View Post Hi Nigel,

Yes, my daughter was affected by the altitude (I believe). The continuous ups and downs and the turns taken by the car made her sick. She didn't vomit though. But she cried a lot after sometime staying in the car. Later the doctor told me that could be due to the changing altitude. I wish I had coca with me that time. So consult with a child specialist.

About the toy train ride from Darjeeling to NJP: Logically it should take 8 hours. But, in our case (what I have learned in most of the cases) the train delays. Most of the time it takes more than 10 hours to reach NJP. This is the word of the station master in Darjeeling station.

In our case, after leaving Kurseong, got stuck. The reason was in the 1st coach, the break shaft had broken. They knew the 1st coach had some issues. But still they carried the journey with the faulty coach. They had one spare coach in the yard. We've seen that while waiting in the station in the morning. But later I came to know from the ticket checker of the train that it was kept for the foreigners' joyride train. So we started from Darjeeling by 9:30 AM and Reached Sukhna by 8:00 PM. From there we had to book an auto and reached NJP. When I am with my whole family, with a baby and old parents, I was not willing to take any risk and our return train was within 1 hour.

This is the reason not to take a full toy train ride. Instead take a joy ride.

Regards,
Aneek
Thanks for the information and advice again. I think we'll stick to the short joy ride around Ghoom. I'll check with baby's doctor too.
#12 Apr 25th, 2018, 15:18
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#12
Day 5

It was a Sunday and we had to catch the morning toy train to NJP. The toy train was scheduled to depart Darjeeling station at 8:00 AM. We reached the station by 7:45 AM and waited for the train coaches to arrive. I was worried that will there be any toilet in the coaches? When the coaches arrived by 9:00 AM, I saw both the coaches have toilets. What a relief.

I asked the station master about the toilets before and as per her comments, and I quote: "The joyride (for Indians) doesn't have any toilets. There is a separate joyride for the foreigners which has a toilet. However, for the longer journey i.e, Darjeeling to NJP and vice.versa, at least one coach will have a toilet." - Yes, a bit of discrimination I sensed. I don't know how the decide which is for Indians and which is for foreigners. Maybe there is a separate booking after all. Not sure though!

However, One of the coach had some problem with the breaks. So they were working on it. By 9:30 or so, we boarded the train and there is no seating order. As long as you have a valid ticket, you can sit anywhere you want. The train started soon after, and I remembered my childhood memories. We had packed breakfast from the hotel. There were quite a few toddlers in our coach so my daughter started playing with them. She was fine with the gradual descent.

Everything was fine until Kurseong. The train left the Kurseong station and just after 2 KM, the first coach developed a problem again. And this time it was serious. The break of the coach was broken and it was not allowing the train coach to move ahead. The first coach mostly got derailed.

The train stood still for next 2 hours and then a technician and the Director of DHR arrived. In the mean time, people from first coach left the train and booked TATA Sumos from Kurseong. Sensing the opportunity, the Sumo owners charged hefty amounts and the passengers were bound to give them that. I was worried, I am also with my family and I don't want to get stuck here. My daughter seemed to be careless about the situation. She wanted to walk down a trekking trail, catch baby chickens etc.

It was like 2 PM and the train started again. By that time almost 60% of the train was empty. The first coach attached to the loco was full empty. The guard thought to release the coach in Tindharia station but they didn't. We reached Tindharia nearly 5 PM in the afternoon. Eventually, the train reached Sukna nearly 7:30 PM in the evening. Due to this, one group had to cancel their RedBus booking from Siliguri. Everyone was worried that whether we will be able to catch train in the due time. The train stopped at Sukna and the guard said it will take another two hours to reach NJP. THe reason is there is a foreigner booked train coming from Siliguri which will cross at Sukhna and that will take nearly one hour to reach Sukna for the crossover. Now, we had enough. We were among last three groups who stayed so late in the train and then I booked a big auto for Rs.400 so that we can reach NJP.

Eventually we reached NJP by 8:30 and within 15 minutes we saw our train coming at the platform. I quickly arranged some dinner for the night and boarded the train.

The next day we reached Sealdah!

The trip was a success but not swift enough. There were many scenarios where we had to think of a plan 'B' instead of following the happy path. Seeing the degradation of the Himalayan Railways, I would say, in future at least I will not opt for a longer ride. In order to get foreign currency, they are ignoring the all weather tourists, us the Indians.

The overall behavior of taxi drivers in Darjeeling is not up to the mark.

The food was great. I would love to visit Darjeeling again and would try those food.

I hope my daughter remembers something from this trip. Even she doesn't I have many pictures and videos of her enjoying the trip.

But the most important thing was, this has been a lesson to me and my wife on how to handle a little infant in the mountains. Next time we will be better prepared.

And to the community, thanks for reading my experience. Do share yours. Cheers!!
#13 Apr 25th, 2018, 18:30
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  • OldandRambling is offline
#13
Enjoyed reading your posts very much. It is a big help to fellow tourists when folk recommend a hotel or restaurant with honest information.
Most foreign tourists wish to be treated the same as locals, it is not our desire to make life difficult for those who live in a place.

Ed.
#14 Jun 11th, 2018, 21:06
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#14
Thanks for the lovely read and all the advice and info. Please send me your email address if you don't mind so that I can contact you for some more advice regarding my upcoming trip along with my 2 yr old
#15 Jun 12th, 2018, 15:15
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  • aneek is offline
#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by nigelv View Post Thanks for the lovely read and all the advice and info. Please send me your email address if you don't mind so that I can contact you for some more advice regarding my upcoming trip along with my 2 yr old
Hi,

Please check your inbox here. I sent you a PM.

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