India 2 – Darjeeling

Wow, wow, wow. What a place to go. Yes, it is the original tourist trap and for good reason. It was made well. And so welcome to Charlie’s official guide to Darjeeling town…

I arrived in Darjeeling after a day’s journey from Shillong. First a bus to Siliguri then a jeep for the four hour drive up to Darjeeling. On arriving in the town, I was not impressed. Dirty, chaotic and swimming in sewage there is no ceremony on entering Darjeeling. Bit I persevered. With a backpack filled with goodies and souvenirs, I trundled up the slippery concrete steps, my legs still aching from the trek in and around Nongriat Village. However, I came onto the main square of Darjeeling and I was suitably impressed. This looked more like a hill station of world fame.

I tried a couple of cheapie hotels, but they were full, it was peak season after all. Then I suddenly had a brainwave. This is Darjeeling, right? Sikkim was only a few kilometres away. I wander if there is a ‘view’ of this fabled land somewhere in the town, and a hotel nearby. So I hiked it, after a quick aloo chaat round the ridge of the town. Here I went past small Buddhist shrines carved into the mountain face. Darjeeling is located in between Nepal and Bhutan with Sikkim to the north and Tibet not too far away, the influence of the Himalayan cultures is strong on this town. You will probably find more authentic Tibetan culture here than in China, and certainly they are far nicer here than their compatriots to the north.

So onward I made my trek and suddenly I turned the ridge and saw a wonder to my eyes. Kangchenjunga – the third highest mountain in the world, located on the Indian/Nepal border stood proud in the near distance. The Himalaya, my first view of it since 2002 when I crossed the China/Pak border. Beautiful and breathtaking, there is a good reason why I love this part of the world. Acting as the buffer between the two most populated nations on Earth, there is an air of tranquility when you see the majesty of the Himalayan range. I found a hotel and could look out every morning at Kangchenjunga. But I wanted to do more than look. The land of the Himalaya was calling to me once again. Sikkim was in my sights…

General guide:

Darjeeling is a four hour jeep/bus ride or a (fun) seven hour train ride from Siliguri, the nearest town on the plains which is linked by train, road and air to the rest of India.

There are plenty of hotels to choose from but if you are really fussy then book in advance. The crowd seems to stick to the main area near the main square, but there are plenty of places to stay along the northern ridge of Darjeeling with (fantastic) views of Sikkim, instead of looking out onto the green tea estates that surround Darjeeling.

Food is readily available. If you want western sit down fare, you can find it here. The bazar in the lower part of Darjeeling is the place to pick up your fruit and veggies, fresh. At night however, it is the dirty, ‘lower’ part of town that is filled with hawkers trading their freshly made banquets onto a hungry populace. Avoid the advice in the guidebooks and head down to the more funky part of town for cheap and tasty bites.

Beware of the monkeys…

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1 Comment

Filed under asia, india, places, travel

One response to “India 2 – Darjeeling

  1. Pingback: Wishlist – The Ten Places I would most like to see in my lifetime | The Blog of El Director!

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