Here we come Darjeeling!
I have a serious problem that I cannot sit in one place and do the routine all my life. Small trips to Mahableshwar and Matheran made me greedy to go explore more, but somewhere far. I have always fantasized about visiting Darjeeling since I started earning, but it only got postponed because it’s far away from Maharashtra and it requires some savings. But, to those who can dream, there is no such place as far. It was long research about how to reach there, what places are worth seeing etc. After one week of planning in November and the calculation of leave (in IT, getting leave is the biggest issue!). I decided to visit Darjeeling and Gangtok as both are nearby in February because it is off-season and it is snow and snow all around (I googled everything; after all ‘precaution is better than cure’). After lots of conference calls and chats between me and my group of 5 friends, we carefully did all the tickets for going and coming back and booked the room too. Three of my friends were going to Darjeeling from Bangalore and me and my friend had to do the longest journey. Yet we decided to enjoy the 36-hour journey of the train because I love trains! While on the train, you get to see so many cities, like, in this case, the train passed through small stations of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and then to the final destination. Also, you get to interact with people of different cultures.
Train Journey is Full of Surprises!
Our train was Kamakhya Express,7.00am from Mumbai. We preferred traveling in AC because it was a long journey. We sat inside and slept for some time and by the time we woke up, it was almost noon. Train services have considerably improved nowadays. There are several apps now that take online orders and deliver them to stations and the food is really tasty, especially in Jabalpur station. We made friends on the train, had a great conversation with the Metro workers who told us how things happen while constructing a tunnel and how risky it is to work inside the tunnel. And the 1st day of the train journey was well spent. It was wise of us to book one side lower seat because then you get to see all the views throughout your journey. Our second day started with mastt lemon tea and a dosa. We stood on the door and saw the beautiful Ganga river crossing by; it was an epic moment because I was seeing it for the first time in my life! This is the reason why I love going by train; it is full of surprises. The second day also passed and we reached New Jalpaiguri at 9.00pm. If you have a good company, then time does not fly, it runs!
After traveling continuously, we had no guts to go Darjeeling (4-hour journey from NJP) the same night. Hence, we had done the prior booking of the dormitory in the station itself. You have to enter your PNR no. and you will get the dorm in just Rs.400. We expected the dormitory to be small and not well maintained; but it turned out to be really cool, just like Government hostel. Just take a glimpse of how a dorm looked like!
After keeping our luggage in dorms and freshening up, we went outside the station to figure out where to get shared taxis for Darjeeling (Steam engine is the main attraction there, I agree, but it takes almost the whole day to reach Darjeeling and we had already taken the toy train ride in Matheran, hence we opted for shared taxi).
As soon as we stepped out of the station, we saw many auto and taxi drivers standing and shouting ‘Darjeeling Darjeeling’. We got one auto driver whom we asked the fare and he said that he could provide us the package for the whole tour to Darjeeling Gangtok. We had not taken any package before starting our journey as they charge very high nor we had any plans to take any, there. But, just for knowledge, we went with this driver to a travel agency (you will see many agencies right in front of the station). The travel agent then showed us the full map of tourist places and asked about the places we wanted to visit. I had already researched the famous places there so I told him the same.
After all the calculations, Mr. Agent gave us a budget of Rs.15,000 which included drop to Darjeeling, Darjeeling to Gangtok, Gangtok to Lachung, one day stay in Lachung including breakfast, lunch, dinner, back to Gangtok, stay in Gangtok and then back to NJP Station. It also included all the passes that are required while passing through the military area. The deal was good but we did not have that much budget. We both came out, talked about this deal, went inside and requested him to reduce the amount. After convincing him, he gave us the final budget of 11000/-. We agreed to it, took all the details from him, paid an advance of 3000/- and left.
Ye Haseen Waadia!
The next day, we were excited to reach Darjeeling. We went to the agency again to check our taxi details. Ten people sit in one taxi; so we had to wait until that taxi got full. I was hungry but the driver said that we would stop in a hotel and so we waited for 20 minutes, otherwise our seat would have gone! Finally, he started but I can’t travel with an empty stomach. He stopped in a small hotel but as soon as we got out of the taxi, we felt cold! Hell yeah, Darjeeling was near and the views were so awesome there! We had momos and a tea, I kept some chocolates as I wasn’t feeling well and then the journey continued.
It was around 12 noon when we reached Darjeeling but it was so damn cold out there that we had to purchase the topa to cover our ears! It had just snowed there a few days ago and it was the foggy day. I was deeply overwhelmed by the weather, the colorful houses over the hills! I walked till Merry Resort(which was outside the city and was damn cold) just silently looking here and there, holding my breath, trying to digest the beauty. The moment you enter Darjeeling, you will see a completely different culture and I was loving it! I entered my room and I thought I was dreaming. The video above shows it all! All my tiredness vanished within the blink of an eye and so after freshening up, we went out. Luckily, a small bus gave us a ride to the city in Rs.10.
It's Fog All Around!
For nonveg lovers (like me), there is a famous restaurant called Kunga restaurant. Thanks to the restaurant, it was very warm inside and nice. Even the drinking water was served hot there because normal water is like, ice! We reserved our first day to relax and explore the city only. After the delicious lunch, we started our journey to explore the local market.
It was so foggy and cold that we were not able to see people in front of us. Imagine, if a person, from a hot city like Nagpur, gets to see this, then it would be like “itni khushi, itni khushi mujhe aaj tak nahi hui!” We went to Kali Maa temple where there were many bells ringing just like it used to happen in Bollywood movies! Our group had decided a meeting point as they had gone for local sightseeing, so we all met there, purchased mufflers and gloves and had a lot of fun. We were damn tired by evening, so we came back to our hotel and the evening was even chillier. We had to ask for the heater so as to keep our room warm (for which we paid extra amount)! But it was a memorable day indeed.
The next day I woke up to see a beautiful view from my window. I thanked God for letting me fulfill my dream. We had booked a homestay for the second day, as it was my wish to see a homestay. Our group had already gone for local sightseeing and they told us that there is nothing special to see, hence we both chose to skip local sightseeing and only visit the Japanese Pagoda temple. The hotel owner was sweet enough to let us know the shortcut to the temple which was climbing up the rocks, catching the road, and then again climbing up (yeah that was pretty adventurous). So we checked out from the room, but kept our luggage at the counter and started for the temple. I wonder how people live in the hilly areas as it is so difficult to do up and down frequently. On our way, we met a lady who guided us to the temple and she said that she goes to the office by this route daily and I and my friend were watching each other’s face in surprise. Japanese temple is nice to sit and relax peacefully for some time and adore the beauty of the hill station, click nice photos.
Change in the Plan
We came back, took our luggage and went to search for Teesta homestay. It was a pretty big home and the caretaker aunt showed us the room and they were so lovely! Let me take you to a room tour…
P.S : We booked this room through AIrbnb.
The next day we had a long and hectic journey. It was planned to leave for Gangtok by 6.00 am and from there, we would straightaway go to Lachung. But Mr. Agent (from NJP) told us that the driver was not ready to come in the morning to drop us till Gangtok and he didn’t answer the call for a long time after that. We were scared as we thought we were fooled. As a backup, we found a small booth near the bus stand and asked him the fare till Gangtok. He was ready to pick up from our homestay at 6.00 am and his price was also low. Finally, when Mr.Agent called back, we asked him to reduce the amount of our package because we were going to Gangtok on our own; he agreed. We were a bit relaxed by now and headed towards homestay to take some rest.
This way I bid goodbye to Darjeeling, but the story has not ended here; it’s just begun! The rest of my journey is explained here Beautiful snow in Lachung.
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