Day 0 – We started off
Who would be crazy enough to visit a place in off-season because the temperature crosses sub zero level?
Well there are some crazy people like us (Satish, Chandan, Imdad and Me) who would do just that – especially because we had 3 days off (Republic Day, Saturday and Sunday) and we couldn’t possibly miss that great chance. So off we went to Darjeeling – booking a ticket in Kanchenjunga Express from Guwahati to NJP.
The journey wasn’t that bad. We booked us 3 Tier AC compartments and so whether it was hot or cold outside, it didn’t really matter to us.
Day 1 – To Darjeeling
Satish and me woke up early and found ourselves some nice DOSA and TEA which we obviously finished in no time – considering the fact that we had our dinner at 9PM the previous night.
The train was supposed to reach at around 7.30 AM but it got 3 hours late and we reached NJP at around 10.30 AM – we were obviously frustrated but couldn’t really help on that. Frustrated only because we have such less time in our hands and it would take us around 3 hours to reach Darjeeling from NJP – and this late train made us miss out almost half of the day. But yes, whats done can’t be undone and we decided to move forward with our plan.
We got down at Siliguri and went to have our Lunch. We had a nice paratha which was 50 INR. Satish and Chandan went out to check if there are any cars that would take us to Darjeeling as our plan was to book a car before each trip and travel like that. Imdad and me waited in the restaurant.
Satish and Chandan returned bearing a news – they found a travel agency that would help us with the travel and hotel and it would cost us a total of 10k INR (2.5k INR for each). The calculation sounded good to us and so we decided to try it out.
We booked it and we got a reserved car right away and we started our journey forward. It was around 11:40 AM.
After travelling a few kilometres we could already feel the temperature drop. We went up the hills and could see the clouds and mist all around us. We stopped for a while to have some tea and luckily, we could see a few guys were sitting around a small fire. It was 1:30PM at that time. We couldn’t see the Sun at all. We spent no time in gathering around the fire – it was around 10 degrees at that time.
At around 2:20 PM, we reached Darjeeling city. We walked up to the Hotel Rockville, managed by the Travel Agent we talked in Siliguri. It was a decent hotel, preferable by backpackers and was okay to spend some cheap nights.
Here is a look at the famous Clock Tower of Darjeeling, featured in movies like Barfi – took this picture after we came out to the Chowk (around 200m from our hotel).
In the Darjeeling Mall Chowk, we went for some shopping. The rates were quite normal – nothing too cheap but not too costly as well.
You should definitely try those humongous momos from the roadside. Loved it. We also went to have Thukpa from a Restaurant (I forgot the name though).
And this is how I looked almost the whole trip (too cold for me to change clothes too often :p)
And here is the interior of the Restaurant we had the Thukpa. Loved the taste immensely.
Pro Tip from a foodie – Definitely try out the street food. You will be happy to get some cheap, hot food. And it tastes really good.
We roamed in the market till 7.30 PM I guess. You will get some really cheap options for warm clothes. You will need these if you are planning to go to the Tiger Hills – which you should, to see the sunrise. From Tiger Hills, you can see Mount Kangchenjunga in all its might.
Coming to the hotel, we changed and dinner was served. It was 8:30PM. A much needed dinner as temperature dropped drastically. We are from Guwahati, Assam and so this – almost zero temperature – wasn’t something we were used to.
Day 2 – First Stop – Tiger Hills
Next day, we had to wake up early – like at 3 AM as we had to head to the Tiger Hills. To book a trip to the Tiger Hills, you can ask the Hotel Manager to book a ride for you or you can meet any driver from the Taxi stand and book him for the trip the next day.
Mind it – You will have to leave your hotel by 4:30 AM if you want to reach Tiger Hills on time. It is not that far but too many people goes there and if you are late, you will have to walk a really long distance uphill due to the commotion.
Reached Tiger Hills at around 5:30 AM after walking uphill for around 300m, had a really hot coffee served by a lady (really helped us get some warmth inside our bodies). It was around -1 degrees at that time.
There were literally about 1000s of people, all gathered to see the sun rise and the mighty Kangchenjunga. At around 6 AM, we could see slight sunrise and by 6:30 AM, the sun was up. Here are a few glimpses from that place –
And want to see Mount Kangchenjunga? Here you go – took with a 55-250 lens.
Next Stop – Batasia Loop
After the Tiger Hills trip (the cold one), we were taken to Batasia Loop. A panoramic view of this nicely decorated place. A good place for some lovely photos.
Next Stop – Rock Garden
A huge garden to exercise your leg muscles – too many steps but very beautiful. It is a place to spend some time – talk – took some photos. Reached there at 9AM. Have some hot Wai-Wai noodles just outside the gate. Stayed for an hour there.
Next Stop – Ghum Monestary
Want to spend some really quiet and cool time alone? Ghum Monestary is the place you would want to be. We reached there at around 10:40AM. This is a Buddhist Monestary – with a wide panoramic view of the mountains, prayers almost all the time. You will see monks chanting prayers, little kid monks running and playing around, really old monks sitting and chanting. A great place to be. Stayed for like 30 minutes as we had more places to cover in the same day.
Next Stop – Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park & Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Around 30 minutes of car ride and we reached the place. It is another place to exercise your legs. It has slopes and animals on either side. Sorry – didnt take any photos of the animals (I did try but wasn’t good to share). Sharing some random pictures taken inside the place.
Next Stop – Tenzing Rock
Although this place wasn’t in our plan, it was on the road and so we stopped. It is a place where you can try hill climbing. Although we didnt try it as our clothes weren’t ready for it but we did enjoy the time there – especially because of those kids that were playing with some leaves which had a unique way of falling. Here are some pictures and a video of those kids –
Next Stop – Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda
One of the best places I visited. Peaceful. Huge. Maintained well. If you are from Guwahati – I had a feeling of the Balaji Temple in this place. You should definitely try sitting inside the Prayer room and sing along with the priest there. Very peaceful. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures inside the Prayer room – it was not allowed.
Next Stop – Darjeeling Railway Station
On our way to the Darjeeling Mall (the place where we were staying) we came across the Darjeeling Railway Station where we got down. It was like 1km from our hotel and so it was all cool with us. We stayed, saw the Steam Engine train (very few are left in India), got up and talked to the person who was maintaining.
Next Stop – Dheerdham Shivalay
When you are at the Darjeeling Railway Station, do give a visit to the Dheerdham Shivalay. It is within 50m from there. It is not readily visible from the road. You need to get down 30-50 stairs into an alley (ask the locals), then ask the locals again to guide you through the entrance. The entrance is (the one we found), surprisingly, through a house, take a few stairs up and there you are. It is a nice peaceful little temple where you can sit for sometime.
Spent some time in the market – enquired about any possible movies that we could watch but the time didn’t match and by 8pm, we got back to our hotels.
Day 3 – The Final Day
I woke up way too early that day (around 6 AM) – well not that early but it was too cold to get up and get out off the blankets. But given the fact that I am always hungry, I had to come out for a cup of coffee or tea or anything hot. Came down the hill (where we were staying it was definitely one kind of trekking we were having every single day), thanked God that some shops are open and had a pretty nice Puri and a cup of coffee.
First Destination – Shrubbery Nightingale Park
Later at around 10AM, we began our journey (walking) towards the Shrubbery Nightingale Park. The funny thing about this journey is that locals – travellers – no one was sure about the place, no one was sure when it will open or gets closed. Everyone had their own opinion. But it was our last day and we thought we should go and check it out ourselves.
This park was around 2kms from our place but mind it, the place is hilly. It was a tough walk for us lazy people. In that cold weather, we were definitely having a pretty good leg workout.
After walking some time, asking locals and getting lost now and then, we finally reached the park. Luckily it was open and there was no one on the gates and so we skipped paying for the ticket.
The park is pretty big and supposedly you could see the Kunchenjunga mountains but it was too foggy. We could hardly see the other end of the park.
Time to leave Darjeeling
By 12PM, we checked out from the hotel and came to the taxi stand. Due to our bad luck, there was some strike going on that day and so there wasnt any taxis available and a whole lot of people waiting to catch any car that is available. See how tensed Chandan is
but Satish is all cool, he needs a final picture with the Clock Tower, so here it is –
After fighting for some time for our seats, we finally managed to get a car to Siliguri, where we took an auto rickshaw to NJP Railway Station. The interesting part starts now – our reserved train was supposed to reach at 2PM. But at 2:30PM, we got to know that our train is 10 hours late, so it will reach NJP at around 12 midnight.
After reaching the platform, we learnt it will arrive at 1:30AM.
After waiting and enquiring if there was any other train that is available for us to board, which unluckily there wasn’t, we went to have our lunch (pending). It was around 6PM then.
You will feel so special when you try to select a restaurant to eat something. There are tons of restaurants and before every restaurant you will find a person marketing about their place and would try to pull you towards their place. You will feel so important.
After doing some akkad bakkad (a game to choose random stuff), we chose to visit Mampi Hotel & Restaurant. We ordered Punjabi Thali and it was just mind blowing. I definitely loved it. Chandan ordered Dosa and it was great as well.
So now, what to do? We had so many hours to pass our time. We did the most obvious thing that an Indian would do to pass time, we bought LUDO. We also bought few plastic bags where we could sit and play and spend the time. And yeah, please note that we already got the news that the train got more delayed. By this time, we almost lost hope that we will get Guwahati anytime soon.
Then a sudden change of plans happened. We jumped on a General Class – it costed us around Rs 180 maybe – each. We had to go because it showed arrival was 4 AM and it wouldnt have been practical for us to wait thaaaatttt lonnnngggg.. :O
For me, it was my first experience on a General Class – you cant easily sleep there to be honest. I couldnt. I need a place to lie down to sleep and there wasn’t any. Saw some people tieing up bedsheets on the rods and sleeping there. Couldnt capture those as my battery died.
Satish Chandan and Imdadul slept in installments. Imdadul slept exactly like he was sitting with occasional bents, Satish slid before now and then or had a curved forward posture but the most interesting was how Chandan slept. He had a book in his hand, we read for a few minutes, slept for like half an hour; woke up suddenly and started reading and then slept after some time – this process repeated the whole journey. And Me? I couldn’t sleep. I had my DSLR and my GoPro all in the open, we didnt purchase any locks or chains to secure our luggage and so I was a little scared to sleep. I put on my iPod and listened to a whole bunch of songs which I never knew existed. I sang, I danced when no one was watching (hopefully), changed seats, stood, sat. It was almost 4 AM when we realised we were near Guwahati and by 5AM, we jumped out of the train in Kamakhya Station.
So how was the journey?
It was a short, sweet journey that we four did – to a place which has a beauty of its own. It is not one of the fanciest places to visit but a great place to spend your weekend. It is cheap, it is relaxing – it is worth checking out place.
And yeah – you will definitely have some really good Hamstring exercise there – every place doesnt have to be that high – but it is.
Definitely check out Darjeeling. Drink the famous tea. Eat from the road-side. Talk to the locals.
Here is a glimpse of the Darjeeling City – taken on our way to the Nightingale Park
Thanks for reading through.
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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Traveller