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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.