Friday, February 8, 2008
After Gangtok, our next destination was Darjeeling in West Bengal. We started driving around noon and it took 6 hours to reach another beautiful city on the hills. The hilly terrain up to the city was, needless to say, another enthralling drive among ridges and woods drenched in the monsoon rains. It was almost a roller coaster ride with lot of hair pin bends and steep curves on the way. The chill increased with the elevation and our frequent stops to enjoy special Darjeeling tea in local tea stalls on the way made it a perfect rainy day.
Darjeeling lies in the Shivalik Hills (the lower Himalayan range). This hill station boasts of its expansive tea gardens and one of the best and uninterrupted views of Kanchenjunga - world's third highest peak. It also occupies a distinct place in Indian history.
We reached our hotel by late evening and had some difficulty in finding the hotel which was a little distant from the town. Our booking was in the Sterling Resort but due to some event going on there we were shifted to Gymkhana Resort. I would not say it is an amazing place to stay in but a decent one. After the long drive we needed a good night's sleep to gear up for the next day sight seeing.
We awoke to the sight of silvery clouds of mist shimmering on the tall pine trees lining the narrow road adjacent to our ground floor room. One cannot rise to a more beautiful morning.
Our sight seeing started with a walk towards the famous Mall Road where on the way we stopped at Chowrasta (a place where four roads meet). This is the intersection point of Nehru Road and Mall Road and is an ideal location for enjoying an uninterrupted view of the snow capped peaks of Kanchenjunga. There are benches laid down where one can sit for a romantic chit chat watching the crowd of tourists and also get pictures clicked. There are many Hindu and Buddhist temples near the Chowrasta.
We hop stopped at the following places on our sight seeing tour:
Tenzing and Gombu Rock: Named after rock climbers Tenzing Sherpa and Nawang Gombu, this is a masterpiece of nature's oddity for the rock climbers. This is where Tenzing Sherpa climbed the Tenzing rock in the presence of Late Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. You could try rock climbing on this.
Lover's Road: This road is somewhat hidden from the view of most tourists but we were lucky enough to have a driver cum travel guide who knew the nooks of the city. This is one of the most beautiful roads of Darjeeling especially meant for lovers. Lovers can enjoy the seclusion of the place here and catch a splendid view of the valley beneath. It is worth a visit for lovers as well as nature lovers.
Happy Valley Tea garden: About 1 km from the town, the tea garden is vastly spread out and offers tourist a chance to experience the manufacturing process of Darjeeling tea which is world famous.
Rock Garden: Situated about 10 kms from the town this is a picnic ground, a rocky garden with an abundance of trees, shrubs and fountains. It starts at the ground level and then slopes down to multiple levels in a circular fashion with flower gardens and benches at different levels. One can spend an entire day here with family and friends and enjoy the proximity with nature. It is so nicely built that it is a marvel of present day architecture.There are also several tea shops to enjoy tea and snacks. At the very depth of the garden towards the last edge, there is a small temple of Lord Shiva in front of a beautiful natural waterfall. In order to reach it you nearly have to walk through the entire park. But it is worth the effort.
Ganga Maya Park: Ganga Maya park situated 2 kilometers away from rock garden further down the road has a small lake at its helm, with boating facilities where one can enjoy the serene cool atmosphere of the place.
One of the main attractions in Darjeeling is the sunrise view on Tiger Hill. It is famous for one of the best views of the world's third highest peak. It is ideal to visit early morning around 3 a.m. That was way too early for us, also we would not have been able to catch a glimpse of sun rays kissing the peaks because of the cloudy weather, so we did not make an attempt.
There are several other places of interest in Darjeeling like Lloyd's Botanical Garden, Zoological park, Batasia loop, Darjeeling-Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway, Natural History Museum, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, but due to lack of time we missed visiting all these attractions.
While coming back to the hotel at the end of the day we enjoyed shopping at the Mall Road that had some cool winter stuff and relaxed in the happening yet cool ambience of a nice restaurant where we also enjoyed a live band performance.
Early next morning we headed towards Kalimpong, another hill station in West Bengal. Will get back with the details in my next post.
Check out the official website for complete information on Darjeeling tourism: