Darjeeling (India)

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Darjeeling (India)

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Review of "Darjeeling (India)"

published 06/10/2004 | rishmitra
Member since : 14/09/2004
Reviews : 3
Members who trust : 60
About me :
Excellent
Pro Beauty of the Himalayas, Tea gardens, Trekking, Rafting, Physical and natural History
Cons Poor drainage. Unclean drinking water, so always drink bottled mineral water
exceptional

"Darjeeling: Queen of the Himalayan Region"

Mt. Kanchenjunga glowing during sunrise from Tiger Hill at 5 am.

Mt. Kanchenjunga glowing during sunrise from Tiger Hill at 5 am.

INTRODUCTION
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India being a country of severe summers, summer holidays had a huge importance while growing up. Hill stations and cold destinations used to be favourites holiday destinations during severe summers. While I was studying in a Boarding School, one of the most important topics of discussion used to be where our parents are going to take us for summer holidays. I remember, my parents used to take me to different parts of Himalayas every year, but my most favourite destination was Darjeeling, the land of tea plantations and fascinating views of Mt. Kanchenjunga (3rd highest peak in the world).

I visited Darjeeling 3 times as a growing boy, but I still cherish beautiful memories of this classic hill station sprawling with tea plantations, lovely cool weather and heart warming English colonial infrastructure.

LOCATION
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Darjeeling is situated on the north-east border of India in between states of West Bengal and Sikkim. The jurisdiction of the place belongs to West Bengal state government. It was very convenient for us to travel there as it is a short flight from Calcutta (Kolkata). The town is based on a ridge and is backed by mind blowing views of the Himalayas.

HISTORY
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Darjeeling was built by the British as a summer camp but soon expanded into a huge flourishing tea producer and its still produces one on the finest teas on the planet. If you haven’t tried it, you are missing out on some of the finest natural tastes. Darjeeling got the name from a famous Buddhist monastery called Dorje Ling.

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay who was a native of Darjeeling made this place more famous after being the first to put foot on Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary, though to this day it remains a controversy whose foot was the first to the summit. I personally think it does not matter as they both were great mountaineers.
Mark Twain had visited Darjeeling and quoted his impression as “the land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that away for the shows of the rest of the world combined.”

How to reach Darjeeling
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Air:
Darjeeling does not have an airport of its own because of its altitude of around 2500 metres above sea level, but the nearest airport is Bagdogra which is about 60 miles away. There are direct flight connections from both Delhi and Calcutta and there are several taxi and bus facilities to reach Darjeeling from the airport.

Train:
The nearest Railway station to Darjeeling is New Jalpaiguri which is roughly 50 miles away and trains come here from most of major metropolis of India. And again you get shared taxis, private taxis and buses to go to Darjeeling. Talking of railways, did you know that Railways is the world’s single largest employer? An interesting fact, thought I’d share.

Road:
Darjeeling is connected by hills to Siliguri the last city in the plains and Siliguri is well connected by road to rest of India. Infact, it is around 500 miles from Calcutta (Kolkata) so if you are visiting Calcutta, don’t give Darjeeling a miss because you’ll miss out on something which is considered by several poets Heaven on Earth. Just to mention, that Darjeeling is well connected when coming from Nepal as well, but I’m not sure of the details.

USEFUL FACTS
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Money: Currency used is Indian National Rupees (INR) equivalent to £1 = 80 INR, €1 = 56 INR and $1 = 45 INR. It is quite easy to exchange traveller cheques and cash only if US dollars. But I would suggest getting it done from the major cities you arrive from because it can be much more expensive in terms of commission if done for Darjeeling, because of fewer choices you are left with.

Travel Agencies: There are several travel agencies which can arrange personalised tours but don’t hesitate to bargain as prices vary a lot.

Visa: Europeans need Republic of India visa to leave and enter the region.

Health & Emergency: There are 2 to 3 hospitals in the region hopefully nobody should need it. But I suggest trying and avoiding government hospitals. Medical facilities are very cheap so it will not hurt anyone’s pocket. You might need malaria vaccination before entering the region.
Don't drink tap water in the region, only mineral water. Always ask for the bottle and open the seal yourself even in restaurants.

PLACES TO VISIT (Tourism)
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Darjeeling is filled with lovely artistic points and also interesting places for tourists of suiting everyone’s choices. Towering mountains and cascading rivers sets the perfect place for adventurous sports like rafting, mountaineering and trekking. Adventurous people from all over the world come here to fulfil their desires to their hearts content. In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to describe some beautiful places which I find most interesting and appealing and unforgettable.

Chowrastha (The Mall)

In Hindi, Chowrastha means the place where four roads meet together. The place is a massive plateau surrounded by shops, restaurants, tourist guides, studios offering pictures wearing local clothes. My sister and I use to go Horse riding in the mall. It was an amazing experience horse riding at backdrop of Himalayas. I have attached few pictures so do check them out.

Tiger Hill

If you want to see Mt. Kanchenjunga (3rd highest peak in the world) at it supreme glory, Tiger hill is the place to see it from. This place is situated roughly 6 miles north of Darjeeling and I must tell you that travelling every inch of those 6 miles are worth it. You do get a feeling of self-fulfilment once you see the sunrise from Tiger Hill and the golden reflection of Kanchenjunga is inexplicable beauty. The best time of the day to go there is between 4 am to 5 am in the morning. I know it’s painful, but it becomes insignificant after you see what you see. Just to satisfy your curiosity, if you are wondering what Kanchenjunga means; it means ‘thigh of God (Shiva)’.

Himalayan Zoological Park:

This Zoo boasts of being the only zoo in the world to breed Tibetan Wolf in Captivity. It also breeds rare animals like Siberian Tiger and Snow Leopard. This is a must visit place and lovely experience for children. I loved it as a kid.

Tea Gardens:

Tea is the Gold of Darjeeling, as it’s the main revenue generator in Darjeeling economy. Just to let you know tea making not what you make at home, but processing of it is a very complex procedure. You get to see it in Darjeeling were thousands of women workforce pluck tea lives for further drying. Supposedly its not a man’s job as you need softer and delicate hands to work on tea.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI):

The cremation point of Tenzing Norgay is here apart from the Everest Museum and training place for wannabe mountaineers. Very interesting place for educational purposes and for the knowledge seeker.

Toy Train:

It’s a fully operational railways has been declared as World Heritage Site. It’s a train service from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling through the hills. The coaches are very small like toys and are amazing for joy rides. Fantastic experience especially with friends and family.

Darjeeling Ropeway:

It’s a cable car which connects to a nearby village in the north. It’s an exciting ride but I found it a bit scary as a kid as it used shake and dangle too much. It gives beautiful views of the nearby hills and tea gardens.

Natural History Museum:

The Museum of Natural History has an amazing collection of fauna of the region. There are hundreds of rare specimens of rare animals kept in their true to life appearance and behaviour. The species which caught my attention most were the crocodiles.

Buddhist Monasteries:

It treasures several intact Buddhist Monasteries. The most beautiful is Bhutia Busty Gompa which has a lovely architecture and Mt. Kanchenjunga at the backdrop. It also treasures the original Tibetan Book of the Dead. There are several other Monasteries in the region worth a visit, but I’m unable to remember the names.

The list of attractions go on but I can’t accommodate them here and don’t seem to remember all of them as they have complicated Tibetan names.

Places to Stay in Darjeeling
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There are hundreds of places to stay in Darjeeling for all budgets ranging from a youth hostel to a 4star hotel.

Tensing Norgay youth hostel is a very popular one for Backpackers and students like me.
The place where I used to stay when accompanied by parents cannot be forgotten. It was called Mayfair Hill Resort with magnificent royal-like facilities. Loved it.
The hotels in the area range from £3 a night to £40 a night. So there is a huge range in between them and should not be difficult at all.

Bars & Restaurants
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Being a top tourist place, Darjeeling is flooded with Cafes in every corner. There are some expensive cliff hanging restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines but the reason for them being expensive is the views you get by sitting there.

Being a British region originally there has to be a pub. There are few of them, Joey’s Pub being most popular.

SHOPPING
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Darjeeling Tea is bought by literally every tourist in the region and they come in very interesting packaging for gift purposes.
Tibetan jewellery is an instant with women and I remember my mom would by them as gifts. Even Tibetan woven work is very famous in this region.

Language & Festivals
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Darjeeling has a much diversified population and people are innately fun loving and humorous. Hinduism, Buddhism and to some extent Christianity, remain the main religion and Nepali, Hindi, Bengali and English are the popular languages.

Due to cultural diversity of the place, Darjeeling has festivals of some sort during every month of the year. Imagine working in the Public Sector there, you’ll land up with more Bank Holidays than your annual leave.
The celebration of festivals with a feeling of love and harmony reveal the way of living of the people of Darjeeling. They show how people can support different beliefs and yet live as brothers of one combined family.

Best time to Visit
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Mid autumn (Sept – Oct) is the best time to visit Darjeeling if you want catch a glimpse of the real Himalayas. April – May is also a great time to visit. Rest of the year is very wet and cloudy and freezing during winters.

Costs
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The overall costs of the region are quite low with an average spending of £7 a day inclusive of everything.

To conclude it is a once in a lifetime place to go, if you are planning to travel to this region one should make a one month plan, because Himalayas are too vast and too beautiful to resist and go back to your normal life.
Hope you found this review useful and interesting. There are few pictures below.

Thank you,

Rish :)


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Comments on this review

  • Craigshadow12 published 24/07/2007
    An exceptional review! A very good read! You should write for a travel board :D
  • Sal4Mike published 01/08/2006
    An exceptional review and have rated it as such. I really enjoyed hearing about this beautiful country. tc x Sal x
  • ms19 published 29/05/2005
    Very good review-Ms19
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Product Information : Darjeeling (India)

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Listed on Ciao since: 20/02/2004