Hello people! I’ll pick up right from where I left in my previous post. 🙂 We reached Darjeeling by the end of Day 2, where we had drove off from Kalimpong.
In Darjeeling too, we had pre-booked our stay. I always prefer advance booking to avoid last minute hustles. Day 2 had us touring almost the whole of Kalimpong, and a long road journey to Darjeeling, so by the end of the day, our high spirits were pretty much subdued. I couldn’t imagine rushing about in that fatigue in search of a hotel. Thank God for online hotel booking websites.
In Darjeeling too, we had opted for a homestay. Little Singamari seemed like a perfect choice. Even though it was labeled a “homestay”, the service was pretty professional. The BnB facility had a very congenial atmosphere and extremely hospitable hosts. It was about 9pm by the time we reached our abode for the next two days. Fresh and steaming dinner was awaiting us at Little Singamari, prepared with utmost love and care by our hostess, Ramila. More on this later in the post. 🙂
We decided to keep it light on the third day of the tour and started with local sightseeing. What we really wanted was a stroll in and around the place, just lay back and enjoy the local life.
The Japanese temple & peace pagoda:
The first stop was at the Japanese Temple and the Peace Pagoda, also known as Darjeeling Shanti Stupa. This is the only one of its kind in the East Himalayas and its construction was initiated by a Buddhist monk from Japan. There is a flight of stairs leading to the Japanese Temple surrounded by lush green gardens, and another flight of stairs leading up to the Shanti Stupa. From the base of the Shanti Stupa one can delight in the breathtaking views of the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains on a clear, sunny day.
Unfortunately, our view was intercepted by clouds on that day and we could not get a clear view. However, both the temple and the shrine were so peaceful and serene, that it immediately put the mind at ease and filled the heart with happiness. Although the day was cloudy, I couldn’t help but bask in the cool mountain breeze that blew through the hairs and touched the skin. I was thoroughly refreshed and full of energy. 🙂
The rock garden:
The next stop was at the new tourist sensation of Darjeeling, the Rock Garden. The drive to this place was utterly enjoyable, as the car drove through narrow hill roads though lush tea gardens. The view from the car was simply amazing: the city and its tea gardens on one side, and valleys and peaks on the other side. The Rock Garden is a man-made garden while the streams and the water bodies in it are natural. Since, this garden is made by cutting the walls of hills, there are stairs to climb and enjoy the garden. By the time we reached Rock Garden, the sun was shining again. The drive was long since it is situated 12 km from the main city.
Himalayan Zoological Park:
The third stop was at the Himalayan Zoological Park. This zoo is one of the famous and highest zoological parks in the world. Honestly speaking, I was not very interested in the zoo coming from Kolkata, a city that boasts of having the biggest zoo in India. But I could not deny the temptation to see a few rare Himalayan species of animals and birds. Another word of caution: this Zoological Park is spread over a huge area, and the touring has to be done only on foot.
This Himalayan Zoo takes pride in housing some of the most rare and endangered species of animals like the Himalayan Black Bear, Siberian Tiger, Snow Leopard and Red Panda. However, I could just about manage to walk to catch a glimpse of the Red Panda. The rest of the species were scattered throughout the park and none of us would agree to cover the entire zoo. It was starting to feel tiring and we really wanted to visit a Darjeeling tea garden.
The happy valley tea garden:
On expressing our wish to the driver, he took us to the Happy Valley Tea garden and factory. Needless to say, I was completely thrilled and fascinated by the beauty and the exuberance of the tea gardens at Happy Valley. The entry fee was Rs. 100 per head, and included a visit to the tea plantation and a session on demonstration of the tea-making process in the factory.
I had no idea about the meticulous processes that are involved in making Asia’s favorite beverage – TEA. I have written a few things about Happy Valley in one of my Instagram posts. It is no secret that Darjeeling Tea is admired all across the world, and the demonstration session took us through every single step of the tea-making process. We were also shown across the entire factory, so that we could see for ourselves how tea is processed till the last step.
A few points that I picked up during the demonstration are:
- Darjeeling Tea is processed from Camellia sinesis, variant sinesis. This has smaller leaves as compared to its sister variant assamica, that has larger leaves.
- Although, Darjeeling Tea is traditionally processed as black tea, the leaves do not turn fully black. These tea leaves often referred as oolong or semi-oxidized tea.
- The finished teas could be first flush (most premium), second flush and third flush teas. The factory also produces flavored teas like rose flavored ones, along with white and green teas.
And how can I not mention the tea-tasting session at the end of the demonstration? This gave us an opportunity to taste the different kinds of teas being produced at the Happy Valley Tea factory. The experience was simply marvelous. Each kind of tea had its distinctly noticeable flavor! And I was in love with their white and first flush tea variants. 🙂
The MALL ROAD:
The final stop of the day was at the Mall Road, the most popular street shopping hub in Darjeeling. Mall Road has some good options for food and stay, as well as innumerable shops. Starting from all types of woolen clothes, to exquisite tea shops, to beautiful ceramic crockery sets, to home and car decor items, and even fancy jewelry – this place is a shopper’s paradise! If you ever visit Mall Road, I’d suggest you pick up some regular woolen garments because the prices are really affordable here. It was already evening by the time we reached Mall Road and we had lost track of time, treading lanes and the nooks and crannies of Mall Road, and never having enough!
It was 08:30 pm by the time we reached Little Singamari. The next day was important to us, because that’s when we planned our trip to Tiger Hill to catch a glimpse of the majestic Kanchenjunga in early morning hours. Our driver would pick us up at sharp 4 o’clock in the morning.
Day 4: A memory never to forget
the tiger hill & the majestic kanchenjunga:
Darjeeling is situated at a height of 2042m (6700 feet) above the sea level. It is quite chilly in the wee morning hours. So, you would necessarily need to cover yourself up in sufficient warm clothes, also because Tiger Hill is the highest point among the Darjeeling Hills (8482 feet). We left for the sunrise view atop Tiger Hill from our homestay at sharp 04:00 am, as planned. Now I would put forward a small suggestion at this point: try to leave even earlier. Somewhere between 03:15 – 03:30 am. This is because the road is long and the narrow road leading to the top of the hill is lined up with a bevy of tourist vehicles.
If you are in time and you enjoy walking, you could easily climb the road to the top. But the same might be difficult for aged people or those with breathing problems or with high blood pressure. We had to walk up the road for around 45 minutes to reach the summit. I have to admit that it was pretty tedious, as the slope was steep. But the view from above literally took my breath away. 🙂
the spectacular view…
The early morning rays shining on the twin peaks of Kanchenjunga was a sight so ethereal that it cannot be put to words. We had been hearing about bad weather conditions prevailing throughout the previous two weeks that would obstruct the view from Tiger Hill. Naturally we were quite apprehensive if the same would be a problem on the day we went. But by God’s grace, luck was on our side and the Himalayan peaks were clearly visible! 🙂
The sight of snow capped peaks on the backdrop of clear blue skies was nothing short of a heavenly magic. I thanked God in my heart for making my birthday so special. So much so, that a rare sight of the highest peak of the world, the majestic Mount Everest was also distinctly visible! What else could I ask for? The nature had just endowed me with the best birthday gift. 🙂
Since Mount Everest is at an areal distance of 170 km from the Tiger Hill, it is only the summit which is visible from this point. The sun was shining up and bright in the sky, bathing the mountains in its divine sun rays. There is something celestial about this sight which could feel hypnotic to the viewer. This post would never end if I kept on describing the glory of the view before my eyes. But there was a certain piety about the mountains which somehow inspires, teaches us to be strong and hold our grounds, and keep our heads high, no matter what befalls us…
the batasia loop, war memorial & the darjeeling himalayan railway:
We came down from Tiger Hill by 07:00 am and headed for the Batasia Loop. Batasia Loop is famous for three things:
- The spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks.
- A war memorial just at the center of the Batasia Loop, and
- The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway track that spirals around this place.
The mountain view was vivid and clear from this place as well, and we could not help but marvel at the engineering intellect and expertise of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. The Batasia Loop is a wonderful amalgamation of natural and man made splendors.
We hadn’t the heart to leave this place so early but it was about to be breakfast time at Little Singamari. Although we missed a toy train ride from Ghum (the highest railway station in India), the incredible mountain views had us spellbound.
Post breakfast and bath, we headed towards the last leg of our Darjeeling trip: the Gopaldhara Tea Estate at Golpahar View Point in Mirik.
Little Singamari: Our cozy little BnB in the lap of the Himalayas
Home to Mrs. and Mr. Shiromani, Little Singamari has three double-bedded rooms for guests. We had booked two rooms and both of them were extremely cozy, not to mention how neatly maintained they were. The rooms have a balcony overlooking the valley and tea gardens. This place was a love-at-first-sight for me. Not only the subtle home furnishings and decor made up for a homely and pleasant ambiance, but also the location was wonderful.
The hosts were extremely amiable and helpful, and Mrs. Ramila Shiromani was an expert cook. They helped us arrange cars for all the sight-seeing in Darjeeling, and even helped us get confirmed rail tickets for our return! The hosts also helped us book a stay in the tea estate at Mirik. Everything in this homestay was spick and span. They also had ironing facilities in an adjoining prayer room as well. To my utter delight, Little Singamari was surrounded by bright flowers, flourishing happily in its outdoors!
the food at little singamari:
Coming to the food, never were we served cold food. Ramila took utmost care to cook us delicious meals and serve them fresh from oven. There was no dearth of hospitality at Little Singamari. Since it is a bed n breakfast facility, the breakfasts are complimentary and any other food is chargeable. However, you’ll always need to inform the hosts at least 3 – 4 hours prior to the meal time so that they can arrange for the same. The stay at this place was amazing and we loved every minute of our time spent here. 🙂
Day 4 was totally worthwhile and a birthday well spent. I will forever be thankful to mother nature for bestowing me with her abundant blessings on my birthday. 🙂 With Our hearts filled with contentment of the spectacular views of Mount Kanchenjunga, we drove off to Mirik, located around 50 km away from Darjeeling. Stay tuned for the final leg of the tour!
P.S.: all pictures are taken with Google Pixel 2.
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