India is the land of diverse culture and rich heritage. It has Blue Mountains, green valleys, golden sand dunes, beautiful lakes and rivers. If you are a nature lover and searching a place of natural beauty, wildlife and peaceful environment you should definitely visit Darjeeling.
If you are planning a trip to Darjeeling you need to know few important things that are useful for your journey.
How to plan your trip
Getting there !
One has to get down at the Siliguri railway station or the New Jalpaiguri railway station if going by train.There are many ways to go to Darjeeling from these places like by hired vehicle or board The Himalayan Toy train which is an engineering marvel. It will make your journey of eighty three kilometer long stretch connecting Darjeeling to the railhead at Siliguri delightful and enjoyable experience.
Opt the toy train option if you have enough time as it takes seven to eight hours to go to Darjeeling from Siliguri railway station. There are no air transport facilities available so far. My trip was a three day trip so we hired a Toyota Innova for Rs 2800 and started our journey from New Jalpaiguri railway station , from here , Siliguri is a 25 minutes drive. Siliguri is a bit better in terms of connectivity and staying facilities as better accommodation is available here in affordable price so one can stay here while going up or coming down after the trip to Darjeeling.
Best time to go
Between September to April. After April rainy season gets started and that is a little troublesome for the visitors.
MY DAY 1
The journey to Darjeeling
I was very thrilled to visit Darjeeling again as I have fond memories of visiting this place long ago. Going down the memory lane I became emotional remembering those days when as a college student I visited this place. Things have changed and now I am going with my kids sharing all my knowledge about this place to them. Leaving behind tall trees and tea gardens on both sides of road my vehicle was approaching mountain and after finishing twists and turns of road we reached the desired place in about two and a half hour. Be sure you are not too full by your stomach as it gives little inconvenience especially to kids and women. One can feel giddiness and vomiting tendencies if eaten too much. I got an accommodation reserved for my family on line so the taxi driver dropped me right there.
There are many hotels in Darjeeling so according to your preferences you can book them .On line booking is the best hassle free way although on the spot booking can also be done. If you are going in peak season that means September to April it is better to book your hotel before reaching there, that saves your precious time. If you have not booked the accommodation your local guide or the taxi driver can help. I spent around 5000 per day to stay at my hotel. There are many hotels that offer you according to your pocket so choose wisely.
The hotel & sight seeing
For me my destination hotel Sonar Bangla was right in front of me and I terribly needed a cup of coffee to overcome my headache so banged into my hotel room and ordered coffee and snacks on hotel reception.The weather was really good. One can feel the positive vibes coming from this place, green surroundings, white clouds peeping through blue sky touching the mountain make this place heavenly beautiful. While talking to the room attendant of hotel I came to know that temperature of Darjeeling never remains more than 14 degree so people come from different parts of the world to get relief from scorching heat.
After talking rest for some time I along with family went down to discuss next days plan with our taxi driver who was our local guide too .we were told to be ready at 9 in the morning next day to see different sites popularly known as points of Darjeeling. The taxi was hired in Rs 2300 per day. Use your wit and negotiation skills that you left on your office desk before coming to vacation to fix a deal with the taxi driver that can help you pay less.
A walk to the mall road
It was late afternoon and we decided to use our time to see mall road which was at a stones throw from our hotel. After walking for 6 to 7 minutes we were there. You should have strong lungs to walk in Darjeeling as walking means climbing for people like me because you get to the desired place after walking roads that are actually inclined, no wonder this place produced famous mountaineers. Mall road is the only broad place I came across in Darjeeling. It was surrounded by tall trees. Benches were kept for visitors, tea stalls, and street foods like mouth watering chana choor, pop corn were tempting.
You can find famous coffee shop just in the right corner with beautiful view both from inside and out side. KFC was also there but one has to go little down to reach there. Just 5 minutes walk from Mall road. Mall road has a semicircular middle portion having semicircular stadium like structure with few rows of stairs for visitors to sit and get them clicked.The statue of the Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya can be seen right there.
Darjeeling has been a favorite shooting destination for Hollywood and Bollywood movies and you can read about them as many boards containing such written information’s are kept there for tourists. My guide said that famous bollywood villain Danny Dangogappa is an alumnus of st Joseph school of Darjeeling .movies like Yariyaan , MainHoon Na has been shot at St Joseph’s school here.Can we forget the old classic Aradhna in which toy train was being shot !
The Shopping Area
Walking on the mall road I came to Mahakaal market which was a market selling clothes mostly woolen, blankets, sweaters, socks, and many more. I bought few things for my family.Besides this market the Chowrasta Bazaar , Nehru Road ,Tibetan Refugee Center, Ladenla Road , Motor Stand , Supermarket , Hayden Hall and Hong Kong market are popular places of shopping.
Traditional Gorkha Outfits
At the mall came the most entertaining part of my visit. I got myself clicked in traditional gorkha costume which I hired at a cost of Rs 25 from a person who was also taking pictures of the tourists. If you are a gentleman get a kukri that is a small knife before getting yourself clicked. Try this and after few years you will remember your visit to Darjeeling in a different manner. It was dark and I was tired so went down to my hotel room and after taking dinner there it was time to say goodnight.
MY Day 2
Next day we were ready to see different points of Darjeeling so first of all we went to see Himalayan mountaineering Institute. It was a museum and zoo where different wild animals like Baer, panther, wild goat and birds were kept creating a natural habitat for them. Entrance ticket was Rs 10 each and there was a museum too where different things of mountaineering were kept.
Models were displayed to make people understand the mountaineering experience. Pictures of legends of this field from India and the world were displayed aesthetically. Picture of Tenzing Norgay and the crew that climbed Mount Everest was a crowd pulling thing in the museum. The museum was at an elevation so we were tire but the next place I visited was something that rejuvenated all of us. We went to a tea garden which was like a green carpet inclined at an angle from road side.
Bought Some Tea !
Many tea stalls were there selling hot tea of different types .I took a cup of tea and bought some dried tea leaves too from there before going inside the tea garden .Our guide suggested to buy dried tea leaves from reputed shop in order to get good quality tea leaves so I took small quantity from there. Tea plant is a small shrub having medium sized leaves. After getting plucked from here the tea leaves go to processing unit for further treatment. After going through different processes world famous Darjeeling tea comes out which is famous for its aroma.
Old monastery & Peace Pagoda
From there we went to old monastery where I found a big Lord Buddha statue kept in a well decorated hall. People were offering prayers I too joined them. Out side the monastery Buddhist monks were sitting and meditating. I saw few stalls selling feng shui articles and other things that bring peace and prosperity to our houses. They were not too costly and I bought few things for my house.
From Old monastery we came to Peace Pagoda or Japanese temple. The place was soaked in spirituality. While going inside up stairs I heard sound of beating drums and felt the fragrance of incense sticks. We were also allowed to beat drum in a special manner taught by the priest. It was a different experience while beating the drum one can feel the necessity of harmony in life. It was an overwhelming experience. It was evening and we wanted to go and take rest so that our third and concluding day’s experience can be good. Our guide and taxi driver dropped us to hotel.
MY Day 3
The Batasia Loop
Next morning I was waiting eagerly to see Batasia Loop and we left for that in our taxi. After 25 minutes drive from our hotel we were there.The place is very beautiful having a loop like view .In fact it is a kind of circular garden having trees, plants, flower and most importantly a small railway platform…a very small one. From here you can see toy train crossing with typical steam coming out from engine that is a part of history for all of us in this era of electric trains.
Shopping for Tea at Golden tips in Darjeeling
After spending some time at the Batasia Loop I decided to do some shopping so went to big-bazaar which is a famous market .I bought different types of dried tea leaves .I bought 1kg of tea in Rs 1000 and masala tea in RS 500 per kg .One can find varieties of tea so choose according to your pocket.
For buying tea I chose a well known shop golden tips. There are many shops having good quality tea so you should buy after visiting them. For street shopping just look at the street you are crossing. You can see famous Indian spices called garam masala being sold on streets at a reasonable price. For other things you can visit mahakal market and Hong Kong market. As I was told that we have to travel for some time to see Mirik I ended my shopping and started my journey to Mirik. It was also a beautiful place the beauty of lake there and adjoining places filled my heart with joy.
Bye Darjeeling !
My three days trip to Darjeeling came to an end and it was time to say good bye. I don’t know how these three days flew away as I was lost in the beauty of this place which was like a paradise on earth but I had to return to my world waiting eagerly for me. I am leaving behind a treasure created by god for mankind but it is a promise that I will come back again whenever I would require a breeze of fresh air to revitalize my self.