For someone who has grown up in Calcutta, Darjeeling is probably the first destination that comes to mind when you say – weekend getaway. I was hence privy to such plans which resulted in two family trips to this beautiful hill-station. However, having no recollection of those days, I agreed almost instantly when the idea of a stop at Darjeeling on our way to Bhutan was thought up. Especially, at this time of the year because it’s wet and cold- the way I like it.
We reached Bagdogra in the afternoon and it took us the entire evening to reach Darjeeling, given the unprecedented traffic. The best part about the long journey was however the pit-stop at Margaret’s Deck. This rather ornate restaurant is every tea lover’s dream come true. With breathtaking views and signature dishes from their bakery, this is a must visit when in Kurseong.
We reached quite late and were put up at a home-stay for the night. Thanks to the kind owners, they kept dinner ready for us as we had informed them in advance. It was by far one of the best home cooked meals I had in my life! Tired with the long journey, we almost immediately went to bed after dinner.
Next morning we started rather early as we had only a day in hand to explore Darjeeling. We decided to start with breakfast at Keventer’s, Nehru Road – a restaurant more than 100 years old. Our overall experience was average in terms of the food and beverage but one cant really judge a restaurant based on one visit (so says my friend, Pratheek who is a food and travel blogger). I am hence giving this place the benefit of the doubt that they were just having a bad day. Needless to say, good company makes you tend to forget about the minor complaints that you would have about a certain place.
Our first tourist stop was at Peace Pagoda, the famous Buddhist Temple in Darjeeling. Built under the guidance of a Buddhist Monk from Japan in 1992, it houses the four avatars of Buddha including Maitreya Buddha, more commonly known as the Future Buddha. While I stood there gazing at one of the avatars of Lord Buddha, I found memories from my previous trip with my parents come back to me. It is at this moment that I realized how conditioned the human brain is and how it can pick up memories from your past and re-activate them. I’d say that I got a bit of an enlightenment at this peaceful abode.
Next, we headed to the most famed and frequented Toy Train Site of Darjeeling in Batasia Loop. Established in 1881, this is a UNESCO World Heritage area. These steam engine trains give you the feeling of being in a time capsule coupled with the beautiful landscape; which was all very well maintained. We didn’t take a train ride as one has to buy a ticket in advance but did manage to experience a ‘Meri Sapnon Ki Rani’ moment as a train passed by us, while we were exploring the city.
For those of you who like to travel in the right spirit, you have to try out the traditional dress for men and women in Darjeeling. There is a store on the highest point where you can rent these for only 50 bucks each. I would say, make some memories with beautiful photos in this colourful attire from the region.
Next we went to Dunggon Samten Choling Bhuddhist Monastery which as per me you could easily give a miss and instead explore The Mall. We had anyway kept the entire second half free to do so and it was totally worth it. We stopped by to glance around at Glenary’s Bakery, the offerings at this place literally had us eating through our eyes – the ambience was also magic.
Glenary’s is not only a bakery, it is also a lounge by the night and has a full scale bar one level down. We promised to come by the bar at night and proceeded to check out The Mall. The early evening was well spent strutting the streets of Darjeeling. We walked through the mall, (stopping by for some shopping here and there) all the way till Tiger Hill View Point which was quite a beautiful sight.
Having the explorer bug in you always helps. If not for the insane amount of walking we did , we wouldn’t have spotted this quaint tea lounge which is a part of Hermitager Resort – a very beautiful hotel, which I must admit was quite a discovery. The weather was the perfect excuse for us to have some hot tea and we obliged.
We headed back to Glenary’s Bar which was quite special as my father suggested. What better than chilling at a place where your father had chilled with his friends years back! For being such an ancient place, this place was lit – good food, lovely ambience and a live rock band.
We headed back to the hotel, another long yet beautiful walk – and quickly got to bed having to leave at 3am for Phuentsholing (Bhutan) to kick start the next leg of the journey. One thing to keep in mind when in Darjeeling is that places shut down soon so reserve all your tourist-ing for the day and the chilling for the night. Homestays also have a deadline for getting back, so that also needs to be kept in mind if you are staying in one.
Of all the good places in West Bengal that one could visit, Darjeeling is definitely one of them – accessible, cheap and incredibly beautiful. Queen of the Hills – as it is rightfully called.
I hope this travel diary gives you a good peek into what the experience in Darjeeling was like. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, happy to receive questions and feedback. 🙂