I have no complaints against the hotel room we were staying in apart from the fact that it severely lacked outdoor views. The solitary window was blocked by a structure almost adjacent to it. Afterall OYO had promised to give us a ‘room with view’.
We hurriedly gobbled the generous portions of complementary breakfast and dashed out of the room with a whole day outdoor plan. We didn’t check the weather forecast app in our phones.
Hiring The Taxi
The hazy sunshine and strong wind didn’t feel good. We paced down the street to the Darjeeling Tourist Information Centre, it looked more or less like a mere taxi stand.
The rates for hiring a small car+driver to drive us around the scenic locales around Darjeeling were as follows:
7 points: INR 1500
5 points: INR 1200
2 points: INR 1800 (Ganga Maiya Park, Rock Gardens)
The combined package of all these 9 points together would cost INR 3000 and the entire trip would take around 8 hours including the halts.
The sunshine faded away. The day turned grey. Winds grew stronger.
We settled for a 3 point package which would take us to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, Batasia Loop and Ghoom Monastery for INR 1000.
Japanese Peace Pagoda
The car came to a stop in the slope. We removed our shoes and climbed up the flight of stairs. The Sun was playing hide and seek. Standing on one of the stairs I gazed up above. The clouds looked angry. The tall Himalayan trees were swaying violently.
We moved round the pagoda and watched the fine art work all around it.
The Japanese Temple was adorned by murals, paintings, masks, scriptures and a large statue of Lord Budhha. As we entered the prayer hall we saw an aged lady offering prayers.
On being aware of our presence she welcomed us and chatted for a long while. She asked us to visit the Japanese Temple in our hometown. And that’s how we came to know there is one Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple in our hometown Kolkata!
What travel taught me: Talk to the strangers, they may teach you a thing or two!
It is undoubtedly the most popular sightseeing destination from Darjeeling where the cute toy train takes a loop around the manicured park with the Kanchenjunga in the backdrop. A memorial was established in the park in remembrance of all the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting for India.
For us, Batasia Loop was the same as above minus the majestic Kanchenjunga.
It costs INR 15 to enter the park. We heard the cute whistle of the toy train while purchasing tickets for entry. The round shape of the park messed with my head and for the life of me I cannot understand from which side of the tracks am I supposed to expect the train. No I am not the guard but definitely I had planned interesting selfies and ‘couplefies’!
Well, we got lots of opportunities to click them as we saw several trains go round and round.
Everything about the trains were so cute, the size, shape, whistle, tracks and oh my God the station! Only if we had enough time we could have enjoyed the lazy ride.
Though the Kanchenjunga eluded us we totally enjoyed our time in the landscaped park. We found a nice couple who finally fulfilled my wish of owning ‘couple jump photos’.
Thank You strangers!
The Bengali of Ghoom literally means ‘sleeping’. My mom used to explain me the place is named so because it is shrouded by fog and looks sleepy most of the times.
Thanks to my mom’s explanation I was expecting fog; we got clouds. Not just clouds but clouds which could result in heavy downpour any moment. The wind was at its strongest, I was almost getting imbalanced by its force. I was thinking of my mom who suggested me I should carry more warm clothes.
We walked down the steps of the monastery. The cold was so terrible we decided we are not in the mood for removing our shoes and socks. We took some outdoor pictures and cocooned back into the car.
The Lama kids were playing in the monastery complex. When I used to play outdoor games as a kid, I hated being disturbed by ‘talks’ from adults. So when I had a desire of talking to the playing kids I thought better of it and concentrated in photographing the beautiful doors and windows.
The taxi left us – the two ‘honeymooning’ adults, in Darjeeling city centre, hungry and cold.
We tried getting our teeth into the non-vegetarian items of Keventer’s last night but it was a houseful. Today we managed a seat and tasted the Chicken Salami Sandwich (INR 60).
Darjeeling definitely knows its food culture!
N.B: Dear Indian budget travellers, I know how it feels when you strongly want to walk in an eatery but fail to find its menu card in Zomato. So here I have attached it for you!
“Life is short. Eat dessert first”. – Jacques Torres
The sweet lover in me pulled us to the Glenary’s again. The husband got us brownies (INR 100) and a seat in the open balcony. I almost forgot how grey the sky was and how cold the wind was!
I loved everything about Glenary’s from the baked goodies to the decor and oh those extremely budget friendly price. In the metro city I live in I may have to pay the same price to get a brownie from a mall sans the ‘feel good’ ambiance.
This was the first trip I had without any of my original family members – the Mukherjee descendants; the people who inspired me to travel in the first place; the people who enjoyed my marriage ceremony more than me; the people without whom the most important event of my life would have been stale. I wanted to gift them a souvenir from my first trip as a married couple.
I have read on the internet the domestic travellers are not well received in the souvenir shops. The owners don’t like the haggling Indians. There is a remarkable difference between how a westerner and how an Indian is greeted and treated.
I had no such experience of racial discrimination in these shops. I don’t know if the sources in the internet were wrong or was it the effect of the lean season.
We visited many shops and got souvenirs available from as low as INR 30. Obviously they were small and feeble but it’s the thought that counts.
A very miniature version of the 5-coloured Budhhist prayer flags with the chant “Om mani padme hum” inscribed on it cost us INR 40.
The worship bell was worth INR 30.
For us Mr.Banerjee chose the cutest of the element in the shop- a hat worn laughing out loud lama kid worth INR 90!
With evening the roadside momo sellers flocked opposite Keventer’s. We weren’t hungry but after all how can we say no to hot steaming momos in a chilly winter evening?
For a mere 50 bucks we enjoyed 8 pieces of heavenly momos!
Well the taste was so salivating that we returned after an hour to have more only to find the happy lad have sold the entire stock of the day.
Every single time I leave the Himalayas I feel a pang of pain. We were supposed to leave Darjeeling the next day. Generally, the thought of returning to boring ‘routine’ life kills me but this time it was different.
In no time I will be flying to an entire new city to live my life with my husband cum best friend…or shall I say husfriend?
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