Monday, June 2, 2008

Divine Darjeeling

Our trip to North East India began with Kolkata. One can reach Darjeeling through Bagdogra (Road) or Siliguri or New Jalpiguri (Train). Enjoy the picturesque scenery through a joy ride in Toy Train from these stations. Or just fly to Bagdogra from Kolkata and take a taxi ride through the mountains leading to Darjeeling.

On route to Darjeeling, we stopped over at a nice mini hill station called Mirik. We had our breakfast here. Stopped over for some serene early morning moments across the river & mountains. Clicked some snaps against this scenic background, then again boarded our taxi for a 2-3 hour long journey to Darjeeling.

From Mirik to Darjeeling, the route is too beautiful to be missed. So do not sleep at all. We came across numerous Tea Gardens, lush green and very refreshingly laid across vast stretches of these mountains. You also get to see very cute kids, walking through these curvy roads, enjoying their walk to school.

The weather is super cool and you can completely feel the beauty seeping into you through each breath that you take. If you have only dreamt of Heaven, now you can see and feel it too! : )
Step down into one of Tea Gardens on the way and feel it fresh and dewy!

Finally, we reached Darjeeling, after a series of breath-taking views at each centimeter! And I must say that being in India and not visiting Darjeeling - is just not done. Mount Kanchendzonga - the third highest in the Himalayan Range, was covered with Clouds and not visible (when we reached in the afternoon), though, the next day, early morning when I woke up, it was right there - outside in the view of my room's window!

One should visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Zoo over here. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's tales of braving the hurdles to reach the Everest can be elaborately heard and felt at the Institute. At the Zoo, you can come face to face with Red Panda, Siberian Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Cheetah and many more lovely animals. This is one Zoo that provides a natural habitat to the animals and for once at least you wouldn't feel they are poorly caged!

After a nice walk through the Zoo and HMI, we headed for a cultural program by a local group at a garden. This is well known to all the guides and drivers, so one can easily reach here. The dance ofcourse, was a treat as you don't get to see it anywhere and everywhere.

The later part of evening was spent at the Mall Road Market, where you would find many shops for souvenirs. Beautiful Buddha statues, Khukuri (Nepali Knife like stuff) & many more Indo Chinese kind of things can be shopped for. There are several nice restaurants too in this market, so head for one of them for a nice hot cup of tea - or simply lunch / dinner!

The next day was an important one. We had to get up at 3.00 am, to go to Tiger Hill to watch Sunrise. This is one splendid, heavenly view, which is I guess only once in a lifetime occurrence. You have to scale a height of some 1200 Mtrs (Tiger Hill) to watch the first streaks of Sunlight emerge out of the Blue skies. The clouds below give an impression as if you are flying across the Heaven. The first golden yellow rays of Sun fall on the Kanchendzonga. The Ice clad Mountain, in its majestic glory slowly turns orangish-blue-white. This is one phenomenon that no one would like to miss. And Thank God for a clear day that morning.

Slowly the mist and clouds fade away and a huge, king size majestic Kanchendzonga comes into full view, as you start scaling down - back from Tiger Hill to Darjeeling. On the way is the Ghoom Monastery. As every other Monastery, this one is beautiful, colourful and peaceful (though the tourist crowd doesn't let it be that way!!!)

As we headed for Gangtok that day, on our way we also visited the Japanese Monastery and the Stupa. They were a true abode of peace and purity as the monk chanted their holy prayers.
Leaving Darjeeling was like leaving behind a small heaven on Earth and am really happy that this little heaven belongs to my Country - India.

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