Darjeeling – Tales from the Tea Aficionados’ Paradise

Darjeeling has always been my favourite holiday destination. Right from childhood I have been there quite a number of times. The picturesque hill station, for me, is a place that is full of nostalgia where I would love to go back again and again.

Last time when I had travelled there it was in the month of January. The temperature was hovering around 10 degrees at the day time, but the nights were freezing cold. As we landed at the Bagdogra airport, a car from the hotel came to pick us up. The journey from Bagdogra to Darjeeling takes approximately three hours, provided one doesn’t get caught in the traffic snarls. But we were lucky enough and the chauffeur drove us through the new highway. It was a wonderful experience to see the mountains and gorges passing by as we drove past them.

Scenic Drive

Breathtaking view of Eastern Himalayas

At around 12 O’clock we reached our hotel. It is situated in a busy area but when I went atop I could get a wonderful view of the mountain ranges. It was cold but as the rays of the sun touched my shoulders I felt so warm and happy. Darjeeling always brings a smile on my face and I knew this was just the beginning of yet another happy stay at this lovely hill station.
I scuttled down and went into my room to quickly unpack. After lunch, we went out to the mall. The mall was seemingly empty at that hour as most of the tourists were thronging at the nearby eateries. We sat and had a look around, the tall tress flanking the mall, the curio shops all lined up, the local women selling shawls and the haggling tourists; all gave a feel of a perfect winter holiday.


Darjeeling mall
As I sat on a bench sipping Darjeeling tea, a light wind touched my hair, I could see some monkeys dodging about and hiding behind the trees. One pony got a little cranky and bumped its rider off. The brave child did not get hurt but dusted herself off and rose to her feet again. All these activities kept me occupied for a long time.
Slowly the sun went down behind the mountains, all the birds returned to their nests, but we were still out there rambling along the mall. The night was chilly, the tourists came out donning their best woollens on. All the cafes and curio shops left their doors ajar in order to tempt the tourists. In one such shop I bought a pair of earrings made from Lapis lazuli; this particular gemstone is found only in Afghanistan and are widely sold in the curio shops. That night we had hot Tibetan momos and went off to sleep.

Curio shop

The next day I missed the sunrise as it was foggy in the morning but that did not dampen our spirits. A sumptuous English breakfast was waiting for us at the table. We tucked in quickly and went out again. This time I went to a place called ‘Lamahata’ by the locals. From this place one can get a splendid view of Mount Kanchenjunga. We climbed up a small hill through a sinuous path and swerved to reach the edge of the precipice in order to get a better view of the snow-capped ranges. It was a treat for the eyes; the Tibetan flags fluttering in the air and the mountain ranges standing tall behind them was absolutely a photographer’s dream.

Breakfast


Pine trees galore at Lamahata

Mount Kanchenjunga
After taking a lot of beautiful pictures we scrambled down from the hill. The car dropped us at the Takdah tea estate, it is one of the oldest tea gardens in Darjeeling. Its verdant surroundings coupled with the chirping of birds and the low-lying clouds passing by is a spectacle to watch. As I was famished after the steep climb we got into a tea boutique to have some snacks and sip hot Darjeeling tea. My personal favourite is the ‘Orange pekoe tea’ so I ordered the same.

Takdah tea gardens


At Takdah


Tete-a-tete over a cup of tea

Later on, in the day, we went for a joyride on the toy train. The experience was as good as ever with the train chugging along its rails, passing by the houses and trees; almost bumping into people on its way. That evening we again hanged around in the mall, went to a church to witness its old-world charm.

Joyride


St. Andrew’s Church

The next day we were supposed to check out in the morning. After yet another lip-smacking English breakfast, we went on to the airport. On our way we were taken to a famous tea estate popularly known as ‘Margaret’s Deck’. As my husband stood clicking pictures, I packed some delicious ‘green tea biscuits’ from their confectionary.

Margaret’s deck_Goodricke

Finally, it was time for us to reach the airport. We disembarked from the car but promised ourselves to return the following year. Thanking the driver we headed towards the airport. Although it was a short trip, nevertheless I had enjoyed every bit of it.

A view to cherish

10 Comments

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Ootty, Simla, Darjeeling – three places I’ve heard of since childhood. Other two I’ve managed to visit but Darjeeling always eluded me. Your beautiful post rekindled the desire to be there, the ‘original’ hill station. The Kanchenjunga picture stands out. You’ve a penchant for teasing readers with pictures of mouthwatering dishes, if I remember correctly :)
    Go places, girl!

    • travelkoyela says:

      Yes Patrick, you must visit Darjeeling soon.The best time to visit is from November to March or else you would miss the ranges as they get hidden behind the clouds . Thanks a ton for liking my story. The Kanchenjunga picture is my personal favourite too! :)

  • Col NN Bhatia (Retd) says:

    Koyela, I visited Darjeeling about half a century back as a young Army Captain then stationed along Binaguri tea gardens, on some official duty. We enjoyed train ride around Ghoom Railway Station about 6 kms from Darjeeling. While approaching Darjeeling along Hill Cart Road, one passes by the Ghoom Railway Station which probably is the highest point and there on wards the toy train descends towards Darjeeling. One of the greatest attractions in the Ghoom area is Tiger Hill which is famous for its spectacular sunrise view. on a clear morning. The view of Kanchan chunga was the most fascinating.We visited Kalimpong & I remember purchasing few woollens for my family and a golf cap for self.

    Your travelogue & photographs are excellent & the English breakfast & Momos very tempting. I do long to visit this beautiful hill station in the east. We are blessed with such breathtaking hill stations and other tourist spots all over in our country.

    I do hope you have read & enjoyed my latest travelogue ‘Our Six Days Southern Sojourn’ published recently in Ghumakkar.

    • travelkoyela says:

      Thanks for liking my story. Presently, Ghoom is the second highest railway station, the highest one being in China. I have also been to the Tiger Hill, some four years back, it is the highest point in Darjeeling.Witnessing the first rays of the morning sun from that point is a delight.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    A talk of Ghoom here is so apt.

    Never been there. There is now this new highway going from LKO-GKP to my home town DBG and then further towards Siliguri. I drove till DBG last month only, from Delhi. And those Siliguri signs were indeed tempting.

    On a different day and time, who knows, I get to go to all these places.

    Thank you Koyela for taking us around on this lovely ride. Momos and Kanchanjunga, awesome combination.

    • travelkoyela says:

      Thank you for liking my narrative, Nandan. Do drop in to Darjeeling on your next visit home. I am already missing the mountains. Christmas is one of the best times to visit. The succulent momos are absolutely a treat for the taste buds, do indulge in.

  • Vijay Bisnauthsing says:

    Thank you for your narrative and the photos attached. I copied same to my group and we have decided to include Darjeeling in our itinerary. We will visiting Varanasi then fly to Darjeeling for a 3 nights stay.
    We will a group, minimum of 10 and as you did not mention the hotel you stayed, can you suggest a good 3 stars around.
    We are all over 60 years and the oldest is 83, thus we do not hike or walk long distance. Can you suggest whether there vehicles which can take us to those lovely spots. Thanks
    p/s We are all from Mauritius

    • travelkoyela says:

      It is nice to know that you are travelling to Darjeeling.I stayed at the Sangrila Regency; it is among the best boutique hotels in Darjeeling.From the Bagdogra airport you can get a reserved taxi which would cost you around 5,000 (for an SUV).Have a great time!

  • Naveen Gupta says:

    Hello Koyela

    I was in Kolkata recently in December to meet my son who studies there in IIM Calcutta. We visited many places around the city but couldn’t plan for Darjeeling due to time constraints.

    After reading your detailed article, It seems we will have to plan for Darjeeling :)

    A very detailed and well written article and surely going to help the aspirants who are planning for Darjeeling.

    keep it up.

    • travelkoyela says:

      Thanks a lot for liking my article. Its good to know that you had been touring Kolkata but you should make it to Dajeeling the next time.

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