DARJEELING


  1. Destination: Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
  2. Visited on: October 4th 2016 – October 7th 2016
  3. Peak Season: October to March
  4. How To Reach:
  • By Train – There are trains from Howrah and Sealdah station of Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri. From there, one needs to hire a cab to reach Darjeeling

About: Darjeeling  is noted for its tea industry, the spectacular views of Mount Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our Journey Starts:

 I have returned from Bangalore to Kolkata, my home town for the grand festival “Durga Puja”. Before the puja starts, I planned for Darjeeling this time, with my parents. Train tickets and hotels were booked in advance. We reached Sealdah station on October 3rd 2016 and boarded the train “Darjeeling mail” which departs from Howrah at 22:05. Had home-cooked Luchi and alur dam in train and went to sleep. The journey was very comfortable. Reached New Jalpaiguri next day around 9:00. We hired a taxi from the pre-paid counter to reach Darjeeling for a fee of Rs 1600. Had to pay Rs. 100 extra to take us to the hotel.

We reached Darjeeling after a ride of 3 hours. My mother got fever and fell sick on the way. Apart from that, the journey was smooth. We booked hotel “Dolphin” in advance which is located just next to Governor’s house. The area is not at all crowded, yet located next to a Kanchenjunga view point. Many people decides to stay near the “Mall” (Central hub) and complains saying “ Darjeeling is too crowded”. We checked in. The hotel offers clear view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. However, at that time, the weather was cloudy and no view on offer.dsc_7897

Ordered lunch in our room as my mother was very sick then, yet excited to see Mt Kanchenjunga. After lunch, I went out to see nearby places. The first day passed with a stroll in the Mall. Mall is the central hub of Darjeeling and one can get all sorts of shops there including KFC. In the evening, we went went to a heritage outlet called Keventers in the Mall and tried Darjeeling tea with some snacks. The outlet, offers scenic view of the Himalayan range in the morning (if the weather permits). Glenary’s is again a heritage outlet and offers same kind of stuffs.

I woke up early at 5.30 next morning hoping to witness the sunrise reflection on Mt Kanchenjunga. However, the weather was too cloudy to witness nature’s masterpiece. The weather was cold. Locals busy doing light work-out or busy taking a jog. I strolled around the place. Had tea from the Mall and went back to the hotel. In the evening, went out with my parents to the Mall and had Darjeeling famous Momos and tea.We also bought tea, from one of the renowned store called “The House of Tea”. It is operated by Goodricke co. and located in the Mall. While buying tea, get the “First flush”. First flush tea tastes best and slightly on the expensive side. But, buying a small pack will worth.

Batasia Loop

Batasia Loop

Woke up again next morning to see the sun-rise. The weather again turned me down. We didn’t opt to go Tiger hill to view Mt Kanchenjunga closely, as the weather was foggy. Spent most of my time roaming around the place and enjoying the cool weather with nature. We had our tickets booked for a jolly ride in a toy-train pulled by a steam engine. This is a UNESCO world heritage site. The tickets were expensive for the steam engine ride. Normal engines were also available and are less expensive. However, we choosed the steam engine, as we have never tried anything like that before. The train goes until Ghum via Batasia loop. Batasia Loop is again scenic. The train halts for 15 minutes there. And starts it’s journey to Ghum station. Ghum station has a museum related to Darjeeling trains. One can get down at Ghum and come back to Darjeeling by car. Or else, one can board the same train and come back. While returning, it comes to Darjeeling station directly. If booking a round trip ticket, the code you need to put in the IRCTC.COM website is – “DJ” (From) and “DJRZ” (To). And for a one way ride, put “GHUM” (To). The ride was beautiful. But as per my experience, spending so much on a steam engine doesn’t worth. So one can book a diesel engine ride and take photos with the steam engine. Both moves together, one after another.dsc_8618

View of the valley from the view point located next to our hotel was amazing. I couldn’t witness the sun-rise in this trip. However, I did capture the sunsent reflecton over Mt Kanchenjunga through my bare eyes. Also, made a timelapse video of that view. Walking in the hills was fun.dsc_9042-3

Next day, again woke up early. Missed the sun-rise. But got a clear view of Mt Kanchenjunga from our hotel room and also from the view-point. This is our last day stay in Darjeeling. As my mother was very weak, I planned to go for some known sight-seeing alone. I went to the Mahakal mandir located slightly uphill, early in the morning. The place has it’s own charm.dsc_9209

After that, I walked downhill for 15 mins and reached the Darjeeling zoo. The zoo and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute are in the same place. One can hire a taxi also to reach there, but that could be expensive. I went to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute first. They have a museum built. The museum was fascinating with lots of information on mountains and mountain climbers. I bought a T-shirt, sun-glass and a Cap as souvenir. Then moved to the zoo. The zoo has lots of animals like Royal Bengal tiger, White leopard, Black panther, Red panda, etc. Visiting the museum and to the zoo was worth. The museum and the zoo remains closed on Thursday.dsc_9292

Then again walked further downhill for 15 mins and reached Rangeet Valley Ropeway. The rope-way ride cost approximately Rs. 170 per head for a round trip. Option of one-side trip is not available. The queue to the ride could be very long during season. I got my chance after waiting for 45 minutes. The rope-way journey was beautiful. It’s lush green with tea plants below. In clear weather, one can witness the Himalayan range in front. After a journey of 20 minutes, I reached downhill through rope-way. I had to get down (Mandatory) and need to stand in a queue again to go back to the origin. However, I went down from the rope-way and walked to the left in the left. Got a hint of local life. Also got very close to tea-gardens. Checked how the tea leaves, looks like. Came back after spending some time in the tea garden and stood in a queue.  Took the rope-way and got back to the origin.dsc_9013

As I didn’t booked any car, I had to come back all the way back by walking. This time, it was uphill and took 30 minutes to reach my hotel. After having lunch there, we boarded the same cab and reached New Jalpaiguri station. I called the same driver a day before and asked to be at the hotel to take us back to the railway station. He was on time. While returning, we came through a route called “Rohini”. The route was scenic. The car is taking a sharp turn through the hills. Each turn opening up a new scenery. The entire mountain is lush green because of dense tea garden. You can ask your driver to take the route of Rohini while going. Nothing will be charged extra.

We reached New Jalpaiguri station well in advance. Kept our luggage in a restaurant and waited there. Boarded Darjeeling mail which departs at 6PM. Reached Sealdag station next day morning around 6:30. We booked an Uber cab from the station and reached home. The trip to Darjeeling was beautiful with lush green tea-gardens, beautiful sun-set, cold weather, sky full of stars. Nothing more we can expect…

Note:

  • Smoking is not allowed in public in Darjeeling. Locals may shout at out.
  • The zoo and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute museum remain closed on Thursday
  • One must go for the toy-train ride
  • Don’t miss the rope-way ride also.
  • Hotel prices during season may get double.
  • One may hire a geared or non-geared cycle to roam around Darjeeling from local shops.
  • Try Keventers and Glenarys’ for tea and snacks
  • Buy tea from “The House of Tea” located in the Mall. Get the “First flush” tea if the budget permits
  • Kindly follow no trace policy and save mother earth.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL PICS OF DARJEELING

WEEKEND TRIP TO DIGHA & MANDARMANI


  1. Destination: Digha & Mandarmani, West Bengal, India
  2. Visited on: October 24th – 26th 2015
  3. Peak Season: During holidays and on any weekends
  4. How To Reach:
  • By Train – Tamralipta express is one of the most common train for Digha
  • By Bus – Many buses operates from Esplanade area including Volvo AC buses.

About: Digha is a seaside town in West Bengal. It lies in East Medinipore district and at the north end of the Bay of Bengal. It has a low gradient with a shallow sand beach with gentle waves.

Our Journey Starts:

I visited my hometown Kolkata from Bangalore for Durga puja. The plan was to visit Digha and Mandarmani just after Durga puja ends. This time, the plan was with my parents who needed a break from their busy city life. Train ticket was booked in Tamralipta express a month in advance. Reached Howrah station on time and boarded the train. Tamralipta express departed the station on time at 06.40AM. The train was full without a seat to spare. Food is never a challenge in West Bengal. Many vendors boarded the train and offered delicious breakfast and snacks at a very low cost. Reached Digha station at 10AM

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Digha Beach Near Jhau Forest

 

I also booked the “Hotel Mahek” located at New Digha well in advance through cleartrip.com . Took a rickshaw (man pulling vehicle) from the Digha station to reach Hotel Mahek which is adjacent to the sea beach. The hotel was nice. Without wasting any time, we went to the sea beach to take a bath in the sea. The sea waves were rather pleasant. After a refreshing bath, came back to the hotel and had lunch.

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New Digha Beach at Night

 

In the evening, we went out to see the sun set. Unfortunately, I fell at the boulders near the sea beach and suffered minor injuries. Damaged my Nikon 55-200mm lens too which was later repaired from Bangalore. This didn’t stop us from enjoying the evening in Digha. After a quick first-aid, walked around the sea beach and enjoyed the refreshing atmosphere. Lot of vendors selling foods and stuffs. Digha is a paradise to try sea foods like fish, prawns, crabs, etc. Tried variety of sea foods including crabs at a very low price. Went back to the hotel around 8.30 pm and had dinner.

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Vendors near sea

 

Next day, after breakfast, we booked a cab for Rs 800 to visit Mandarmani. Hiring a cab is also not a problem as there are many cabs available around the town. But one needs to bargain to get a fair rate. After a journey of 90 minutes, we reached Mandarmani. Digha is very crowded in compare to Mandarmani. The long stretch of Mandarmani will definitely fill anyone’s conscience. I took a ride in a fisherman’s boat by paying Rs. 100. There was another family too in the big boat. The ride was for 45 minutes and they took us quite deep inside the sea. After a successful boat ride, had breakfast there in local shacks. After spending around 90 minutes there, we boarded the cab and came back to Old Digha. Old Digha was very crowded and I didn’t like much.

Mandarmani beach

Mandarmani

 

From Old Digha, we hired an electronic taxi run by rechargeable battery to come to our hotel at New Digha. The distance between Old Digha and Digha is only 15 minutes by car. After taking a bath, we went out to have food in a local restaurant. Food is very cheap in Digha. We tried the famous Hilsa fish there.

After a filling lunch, took some rest and out again in the evening to try some more sea foods, chicken kababs and ice-creams. Having some delicious food sitting next to the sea is a wonderful experience. The next day, we are supposed to head home. Already started to miss Digha and Mandarmani.

Digha Food

Chicken Kabab

 

On Monday 26th October, we woke up early to see the sunrise. The sunrise view from Digha is magnificent. My father took a horse ride there. Had breakfast and tea near the sea beach keeping a continuous eye on the sun, preparing himself for the day.

Sunrise

Sunrise From Digha

 

Later, I took a walk to the north of the beach and reached the forest of “Coastal She-oak” (Bengali – Jhau). Took many pictures there. One can hire a bike from there to go to Orissa border, and come back. I was not interested and didn’t ask for charges. But I am sure; the charges will not be too high.

 

Jhau forest

Coastal She-Oak (Jhau) Forest

Then, came back to the hotel and packed our bags. Later, we took a rickshaw and reached the train station which took only 10 minutes. We boarded the Tamralipta express which departed Digha at 10.25AM and reached Howrah 2PM. From Howrah station, took a taxi and headed home.

 

Digha & Mandarmani is mostly crowded by Bengalees as it is very near to Kolkata. Digha is also one of the cheapest tourist spot in India.

Suggestions:

  • Try sea foods. You will love it, if you are a foodie
  • Mandarmani is the place for peace-lovers
  • Kindly follow no trace policy and save mother earth.