Our group boarded a sleeper train en route to Darjeeling from Kolkata. Unfortunately I got stuck in one of the middle bunks and very soon after departing the people sitting on the bottom bunks wanted to go to sleep. This meant that we had to go into our bunks as there is nowhere else to sit in sleeper cars once the people in the bottom bunks want to call it a night.
There is very little room between the upper and lower bunk so even getting into the middle bunk is a bit of a challenge. There isn’t enough room to sit up, so I awkwardly watched a movie with my laptop on my chest for a bit until I gave up and tried to go to sleep. Then the snoring began. It was truly astonishing, there were six of us in the compartment, and no fewer than four were loudly snoring by the time I tried to get some sleep. The woman in the bunk below me was by far the worse. There’s snoring and then there is the horrendous cacophony of noise emanating from her below. She sounded like a epileptic warthog with a python wiggling in her throat. The noise from her and the other three culprits in my compartment was so loud that it became comical at one point so I even got out my recording equipment to capture the horrendous concerto.
I somehow managed to get a bit of sleep and before I knew it, we were in Siliguri, the nearest major rail stop to Darjeeling. From Siliguri, it is a 2.5 hour jeep drive through a steep winding mountain road to get to Darjeeling. Siliguri is only 120 metres above sea level, whereas Darjeeling is 2000 metres above that, so the change of temperature is palpable–I left Siliguri in a short-sleeve shirt and arrived in Darjeeling wearing my warmest gear.
When we arrived in Darjeeling, our reserved hotel, the Dekeling Hotel in the centre of town, had to move us because some previous travelers had to extend their stay due to illness. For us this meant an upgrade as they took us to their other property, the Dekeling Resort, a kilometre or so away. The views from the upgrade were amazing:
Two shots from my walk down from the resort, to the main part of town:
We ended up at a great little restaurant by the name of Glenary’s that night. They have a really nice bakery and a good menu serving excellent western, Indian, and Chinese food:
The following morning we went on a short little tour of some of the areas surrounding Darjeeling, starting with the World Peace Pagoda. If you’ve followed my posts from Nepal, the same Japanese group that built the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara, also built this pagoda. The general idea behind the pagodas is to build quiet spots for contemplation which the group hoped would allow people to contemplate world peace and act to achieve it. My favourite part of visiting this particular site is that in the Buddhist temple (depicted in the second photo), the meditation hall has a bunch of small hand-held drums that people are encouraged to play while chanting a mantra. It was a surprising amount of fun.
After the pagoda we ended up at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and the attached Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The institute contains the brilliant little Mountaineering Museum which has gear from a number of the first expeditions and the more recent expeditions up Mount Everest. What I love about this place is that it is the only place in the world where the not-so-famous sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who along with Sir Edmund Hillary scaled Mount Everest for the first time, is finally the head honcho. The Mountaineering Institute was founded in 1954 and has been one of the most important places in India where mountaineers go to train–Norgay was the director of the institute for many years and lived in Darjeeling for most of his life.
Tenzing Norgay was cremated in the institute:
A photo of Laura and me in the institute:
And a bear:
After the zoo and institute we got back into the jeeps and traveled up the mountain to the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre. It was founded in 1954 and has a home for the elderly, a school, an orphanage, a clinic and a number of workshops for Tibetan crafts. The crafts produced in the workshops are sold only in the building captured on the left in the first picture:
A tea plantation right outside the Tibetan Centre:
I just liked the look of the seats in one of our jeeps:
Three shots from my walk back to the hotel that night:
I spent the following day on my own, taking pictures around town. I will be the first to admit that I purchased one of the least masculine sweaters ever in that city:
The Darjeeling train station is said to be the highest train station in India. It’s not connected to the main railways in India, and the trains are essentially “toy trains” (i.e. very small), but the diesel version is actively used for transportation. They also run a pricey steam engine for tourists.
Shot of a rooftop cafe, Keventers, known for the heaps of sausages and bacon they serve up at breakfast:
I bought myself a ticket for the steam engine return ride from Darjeeling to Ghum. The ride is a little bit on the pricey side at $21 CDN but the journey there and back lasts two hours and is definitely a worthwhile thing to do once in your life. That being said, I now know why steam engines were discontinued–aside from being horrendously inefficient, they are jerky, smelly and pollute like crazy.
I was going to meet up with people from my group for dinner, but unfortunately the train was delayed by 45 minutes so I missed the group. I ended up at a restaurant called The Park which makes some phenomenal Thai food–I would highly recommend it. I then finished up the night with a quick drink at a quaint little bar called Joe’s Pub. The place only has four tables and is really cozy.
Random shot I know, this is the men’s bathroom in The Park restaurant. I’ve just never seen a bathroom at the foot of a stairwell before:
I’ll leave you with three final night shots of Darjeeling: