Jun 7, 2012

Hill Station- Darjeeling

At 9:00AM I got into a shared taxi at Siliguri railway station. My destination was Darjeeling, West Bengal -The Honermooner's Paradise. I was in anticipation of many things. Green everywhere, mountains with cloud hats, tea gardens carpeting the rolling hills, waterfalls as embelishments, blue sky, cool breeze, hot green tea with a hint of lemon etc ... ah! I have read too many books! Mountains hiding behind the mist, grey sky, invisible valleys, relentless rain, worn out road ... was the reality during my visit in late October. We were driving on an uneven road with lots of water streaming down. Best part was ... I was enjoying it!

It reminded me of the trips I went with my Father in Mysore, BR Hills, Kyatarayanagudi, Nagarahole, Karapur and similar. I used be excited and looked forward to some unexpected adventure. Most of the times our vehicle got stuck in the slush with wild elephants grazing nearby. In Darjeeling, only difference was the absence of a feeling ... feeling of fear mixed with excitement! There were no elephants if at all the vehicle ditched us in Darjeeling rain!

I had never traveled in a TATA Sumo with 10 passengers excluding the driver. All of them strangers. Some were going for work, some were like me, some were locals ... but we all were there ... (forced to) sticking to each other. We had a stop for tea. The cardamom tea was real yum! But they served tea in a shot glass :) Then the journey continued. Later the road was much better and rain subdued.The taxi dropped me at the taxi stand from where I wandered to look for a hotel to stay. I went all the way up and then down to look for a budget hotel. Later settled for a non-budget place in the middle of the town paying Rs.1000 per night.

After freshening up I started to venture out ... booked a shared cab for Tiger Hill sunrise. Next orning I went running to the taxi stand from the hotel at 4:00AM to reach the summit of Tiger Hill to witness the sunrise over Magnificent Mt K. It was indeed stunning! What was more surprising was the crowd ... ocean of people and the cabs parked along the road for KMs ... People were shouting and laughing, smoking and shivering, just to watch golden Mt. K at sunrise.

After the breakfast I went to get a ticket for the Toy train. Didn't get one so took a picture.
Later visited Ava Art Gallery. Very impressive embroidery pictures. Amazing art! Well, then visited few monasteries. One of the important is Ghoom. Lovely place. Met a little-boy-monk who was very cute, articulate and helpful.
The Darjeeling Rock Gardens ... a garden around a natural waterfalls. Not very well maintained but still very beautiful and a serene place. I first thought of hiking down. But, then decided not to after going 4KM. The gardens are 10KM from the city and the road is very steep down the hill with lots of bends all the way. Hired a taxi for Rs. 600 to Rock Garden and Ghoom Monastery. I was glad I did that. It would have been a very very tough hike up otherwise, but very much doable! If you want to try take atleat 3 liters of water. Way down, the driver stopped at good view points and tea gardens.
The waterfalls is very impressive and the flower garden in steps up the stream, the terraced picnic areas attract the tourists. There is a cave shrine where one can see huge snakes, well they are not real :)
Next day I went walking up to see the Japanese peace pagoda. Beautiful structure measuring 28.5m in height and the diameter of 23m, in the midst of green was built under the guidance of a Japanese Buddhist monk. The stupa has stone images narrating stories and also the Buddha images ... infant, meditating, teaching and reclining. Very peaceful place.
Then ... shopping! Darjeeling is a nice place to shop and also window-shop! Then I reached the Chowrasta area. Some program was in progress. I sat on a bench and started watching people around. I saw everybody taking pictures of their loved ones in this pose or that pose, with this statue or that tree, with the new hat they bought etc. People were excited! A Mom wanted a picture with the horse! She stood beside one with her 5 yr old son. Dad took the picture, at that moment son looked away! Oh! Okay one more pic ... with a warning to the son not to look away. Well, this time Mom closed her eyes! Ohho! Okay one more ... guys please pose for picture properly ...

Much of the times in Darjeeling I was disappointed for not able to get good pictures. Be it the sporadic rain or the lousy grey sky, pictures looked dull. When I watched people crazily taking pictures a thought passed my mind ... Do we travel to gather photographs? Or Do we photograph to gather memories? I was thinking as I watched people. I thought of the recent trend ... people take pictures to post in their blogs or people share their experience by posting a picture on their blogs or Facebook :)


  1. Were you all alone on your trip? I like this - a solo female traveler's journey. Darjeeling is a nice place. Despite all commercialization somehow people have retained their simplicity to a great extent. If you do not feel otherwise, may I know what do you do?

    I am a business journalist - turned - entrepreneur. I have started an eco-resort in Odisha and also started tour operation business with special focus on Darjeeling, Sikkim, North East, Bhutan, Nepal and Rajasthan and Goa. I would love to take inputs from a passionate traveler like you.


  2. can you suggest hill station for holidays?


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