After an one hour tuk tuk ride (which I don’t recommend), followed by a 14 hour overnight train journey (which I didn’t sleep on due to cockroaches on my bed) and a three hour drive up a mountain range in a crowded jeep – we finally made it to Darjeeling. It was worth every minute of the uncomfortable journey.
We instantly relaxed as soon as we jumped off the jeep into the cool air, checked into our heritage hotel and had a wander around the clean streets of The Mall. As it was Sunday many of the stores and cafes in the town were closed which meant we didn’t feel too guilty about relaxing in our hotel and not doing anything touristy. The next day we realised we had been in Darjeeling a nearly 24 hours and still hadn’t tasted a cup of the famous tea from that region. We quickly righted this wrong and set about a ‘tea crawl’ through our new favourite place. It was raining and cloudy which made for a perfect backdrop to sit and sip tea.
We started at Glenary’s, a casual bakery with wide bay windows so we could sit and watch the clouds roll over while we sipped black tea and devoured their yummy pastries. Our next stop was Goodricks which is a specialist tea parlour (of which there are many in Darjeeling) where we tasted white tea. We had had a bit too much at by this stage so we wandered the shops and sat on Observatory Hill watching people go by. We decided to save the best until last and visited The Windemere for a traditional high tea. The hotel was very English colonial which made a very cosy setting as we feasted on fresh scones and cheese and pickle sandwiches. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon, that was until I got sick. Not sure what got me but it meant the rest of the night we were out of action.
The next day was even cloudier then the day before, so much so we could barely see in front of us as we walked. It was so cool to think we were so high we were in the clouds but it was also kind of creepy like something out of a horror movie. We branched out from tea and shopping and took a walk around Observatory Hill before climbing up to the top. It wasn’t a very big climb at all, but when you got up there it was like a whole new place of its own. The hill is home to many different temples and shrines that welcome both Buddism and Hindu religions. The whole place was covered in prayer flags which combined with the colorful temples made for a bright scene. The temples, like so many in India, was accompanied by a host of monkeys. It still fun watching them play amongst the buildings and swinging on the flags. It wasn’t so fun when four monkeys bared their teeth at James when he got a little too close for a photo. We took that as our cue to leave and wandered down the slope while checking out the scenery.
It is famous for its scenery as it is one of the places that you can see Mt Everest on a clear day. There are even trips to nearby Tiger Hill that you can watch the sunrise over Everest and three of the other biggest mountains in the world. We got up at 3am in an attempt to go and view the most recommended thing to do in Darjeeling. However as we walked outside to torrential rain to be stood up by our pre booked taxi we realized it wasn’t meant to be.
Darjeeling feels like a small town when in actual fact it is quite big. For a town that is three hours drive from the nearest transport links it is quite cosmopolitain which makes for interesting people watching. From the traditional women in Saris, to teenagers hanging outside the mall, and Tibetan monks walking down the streets – it is never short of diversity. It was a perfect place to relax after several big cities!