I do not claim to be well traveled, but I have been around a bit. This is the story of April 2013, when I visited Darjeeling and Ghum with my chosen family.
Now this one was one of those trips you talk about all your life. One of those trip, where you did not really do anything but remember doing a lot! I am not really sure what makes this one of my favorite trips with fondest memories, but here is my chronicle about the trip.
With an over zealous family and the camera around my neck, I was ready to embark on a brand new adventure. The 4 hour drive from New Jalpaiguri to Ghum is simply breathtaking. There is rarely a dull moment. The route is dotted with little eateries and we had a quick brunch at a little nondescript family run eatery where the lady served fresh, made to order, chow mien, fried rice and momos.
We stayed at the Sterling resorts in Ghum which shares its boundary with The Ghum Monastery – one of the oldest monasteries in Darjeeling. Ghum is a great place to stay if you are looking for some peace and quiet away from the noise of the market.
An afternoon walk to the picturesque Ghum Railway Station and Museum with a cup of steaming tea in hand and conversation with loved ones, is like chicken soup for the soul – only better.
The English influence is predominant all over Darjeeling and resonates in its gastronomic culture. One of my favorite stops was the Glenary Bakery. The nice cozy bakery/cafe in the heart of the Darjeeling market serves a variety of pastries, snacks and breads, all freshly baked and displayed enticingly, that a foodie like me just cannot walk out of there without a couple of boxes of goodies. sipping a cup of their decadent hot chocolate milk in the Darjeeling cold is pure bliss.This red fake telephone booth at the center of the cafe attracts a lot of attention and every member of our 6 people group wanted a picture in it!
There are some fancy and iconic must visit cafes in Darjeeling but one of the best momo I had was on the streets of Ghum. A little street leads from the sterling resort in Ghum to the Ghum main road and it is dotted with small households selling homemade momos from their tiny kitchens. I had a plate of 8 momos (veg) for Rs.25 and it was the best I have eaten. The lady was stuffing and steaming momos in front of us, and we got a freshly steamed batch! They were served with a spicy red chilli sauce and a small bowl of mild beetroot and vegetable broth. It is truly an amazing experience to sit with these very friendly locals, swapping stories and enjoying their local and authentic food.
There are a lot of things to do in Darjeeling, Himalayan Mountaineering Museum, Sri Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Trying out rock climbing at Tenzing rock, Great photo ops at Batasia Eco Garden and the Tibetan Refugee Camp.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Batasia Eco Park
My favorite tourist spot was the Japanese temple and the Peace Pagoda. Tourists are invited to join in the ritualistic chanting in the prayer hall. The beating of the ceremonial drums by the priest, fills the little prayer hall and reverberates within the soul. Within moments you are in a trans-like state. The experience of praying along side the monks and being a part of their rituals was a unique and amazing experience. Make sure to inquire about the prayer timings ( 4:30 AM to 6 AM and 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM) before you go so that you don’t miss out on the experience.
The peace pagoda is a 100 yards away from the temple. Peace pagoda is a Buddhist Stupa, built to unite all the races in the world in search for world peace. It is one of the most beautiful structures in Darjeeling and one to not be missed. One can have a panoramic view of Darjeeling from atop. It is a beautiful place for some amazing photography and some intense soul searching. I would recommend visiting here in the evening to avoid the tourist rush.
I love the temples in Darjeeling with their endless rows of vibrant and colorful prayer flags.
Prayer Flags at Mahakal Temple
No trip to Darjeeling can be complete without the mention Kanchenjunga or the Tiger Hill. We were fortunate enough to get clear glimpses of the mighty peak from our resort’s backyard though we missed the iconic sunrise tour coz of bad weather.
Glimpse of Kanchenjunga
There is something magical about the air in the mountains and with a very heavy heart I bid Darjeeling farewell, making a silent promise to return and explore everything I couldn’t.
For the Foodies: You simply must try the Momos, Thupka, baked goodies and Laal chai.