This will most likely be the penultimate entry to my India travel blog. Our last stop in India was North Bengal (foot hills of the Himalayas). We left Kolkata on Dashami night (September 28) and reached New Jalpaiguri next day morning at 8 am.
New Jalpaiguri is the nearest train station from Darjeeling and we flew back to Kolkata (on the 2nd of Oct) from Bagdogra which is the nearest airport to Darjeeling. Darjeeling is the name of the district and the headquarters is also Darjeeling. Darjeeling, a British R&R at one time, is popularly known as the Queen of Hills. Those who have seen Darjeeling would agree that the title isn’t an exaggeration.
The journey from NJP station to Darjeeling is extremely scenic with hair-pin bends throughout the journey, but it can also be quite hectic as the roads get battered by heavy rain and landslides during the monsoon months. Ideal time to visit Darjeeling is October. Thus, we were there at a great time. We were given a luxurious Mahindra Scorpio, traveling by which has been on my agenda ever since that vehicle was rolled out in India.
We first went to Kalimpong (5300 ft). We were supposed to stay at the swanky Deolo Lodge for both days we were in Kalimpong, but it turned out that they arranged a different hotel for us for the first night – Hotel Garden Reach (not bad at all). That evening after lunch we went to see a Buddhist monastery in Kalimpong. The view from there was breathtaking and the attempt to capture those stunning views was futile I think. One has to be physically present at that place to feel the aesthetic peace and serenity.
One last thing that must be said… there was a Nepali festival going on at that time… which meant wonderfully dressed gorgeous Nepali women (they are Indians by the way) everywhere. Truly gorgeous!
We checked in at Deolo Lodge (near Dr. Graham Homes convent school). It was a lovely day with clear blue skies. The place is at the peak of a mountain and we could see Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain peak in the world) and Nathu La Pass (mountain pass that borders India and China) very clearly.
After checking in at Deolo we started on our two and half hour road trip to Darjeeling. It was probably the best part of my India trip. There were tea gardens throughout the journey, breathtaking views of the Himalayas, huge pine trees and monkeys.
Laxmi Fruits Processing – Lopchu Bazar, Darjeeling
If you are going to Darjeeling I strongly recommend that you stay in Kalimpong and not in Darjeeling city. The obvious reason being Darjeeling city is very crowded and all you will see there is traffic, tourist and shops. Another reason is that when you stay in Kalimpong, you will pass Laxmi Fruits Processing on route to Darjeeling. Try their passion fruit juice and buy their hot sauce and bamboo-shoot pickles. I am a huge fan of spicy food and I recommend “like-tongued” people to stop by this awesome store. They are extremely courteous and no they are not paying me commission 😉
We left Kalimpong for Rishyap (a scenic place near Lava) on this day. That morning my aunt, Coco and I woke up to see the sunrise. This was the first time I witnessed anything so early in the morning and what a glorious thing to watch.
Rishyap is one of the most romantic places in India, but the hotel in Rishyap (Sonar Bangla) was a disaster. It is one of the two decent hotels in the area and this one was EXTREMELY filthy, lacked resources like food and water. They can’t even provide fresh bed sheets and towels. Most of us had to go to bed hungry that night. It’s a disaster. I feel sorry for the poor staff who constantly face the wrath of the guests. I wish I could slap the owner of the hotel for abusing these poor men. If you ever visit India, please don’t stay in any of their hotels. The management if appalling and their hotels are filthy.
Rishyap as a place is wonderful, but they simply don’t have the infrastructure to handle tourists.
I do not recommend anybody to go to Rishyap. If they are this bad in the peak tourist season, wonder what they will become in off-season.
The part of my trip where I was in North Bengal was the best (except that one night at Hotel Sonar Bangla). I love mountains and would definitely go back next time I visit India.
I am so grateful to my dad’s friend, Mr. Surajit Das who arranged all these fabulous hotels for us. Without his help, this trip would not have been so awesome. And also Mr. Deepak Chhetri who accompanied us to Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Rishyap was a great friend and an expert driver. Gorkhas are a amicable bunch and it clearly reflects from the demeanor of Mr. Chhetri.
Few more pictures: