Supplement, Travel & Tourism

Darjeeling On a shoestring budget

Published : 25 Dec 2019 07:02 PM | Updated : 06 Sep 2020 11:48 PM

Travel makes you realize that no matter how much you know there’s always more to learn” The sky is overcast and the clouds are all around me. As I stir my cup of hot chocolate un-mindfully. I, stare into the gloomy horizon, the hills form a backdrop behind. A sweet chap smiling at me across the table as I watch Darjeeling enveloped in incessant rain. My virgin experience of travelling where I was totally responsible for myself and the itinerary that I stuck to (well almost, I have a lovely wanderlust stricken college senior of mine who always helps me out, so you know mystery woman thank you, your inputs in my itinerary have always been lovely). Balancing life and a full time job at a big 4 accounting firm is a task in itself and is award worthy if you ask me. Holidays and work overlap each other and working hours are always erratic, so the credit to planning this trip of mine goes only to scoopwhoop’s article on extended weekends in 2018. Though I didn’t follow the article to the T, but it’s an amazing article for people who love to travel. The entire planning with the Gandhi factor is being explained in details below.

Reaching Siliguri : There are no direct flights or train or bus to Darjeeling, so you need to reach Siliguri at first and then take a car uphill to Darjeeling. Trains are the best option if you are looking for a budget travel. Start looking for trains to Siliguri from Sealdah or Howrah Railway station. Always choose those trains that reach siliguri in the morning since evening or night isn’t a very convenient time to reach the hills. Try to book your train at least two months in advance to get a train of your preferred timing. Use the irctc website or mobile app for trains and red bus for booking bus services. Reaching Siliguri by train or bus takes almost the same time, but in case if you are thinking of taking a flight to Bagdogra, then it might take you a few more hours. As for me, I travelled via Royal Cruiser AC Volvo to Siliguri. I would advise you to choose either Royal Cruiser, Shyamoli Paribahan or Greenline Buses since they are the most comfortable for traveling. In case you are a female traveler making her solo trip, the websites for booking provide you a guide to safe seats. Our bus departed from Karunamoyee Bus terminus, in Salt Lake at around 8pm. Make sure, you have enough dry foods with you that will help you throughout your journey. The buses also provide dry food, packaged mineral water bottles and blankets in case you need them. The buses halt at two place once during dinner time and once early in the morning just in time for an early breakfast. After reaching siliguri, take a break for half an hour to freshen up and gear up for the remaining leg of your journey. You can smell of freshly prepared kachori and subzi the moment you get down from the bus. These serve as wonderful options for breakfast. You’ll get a flurry of shared cabs (tata sumos) and small cars that will take you to Darjeeling or Gangtok. If you are looking to travel cheap, board a shared taxi, it will cost you something between 150- 200 rupees and will drop you off after Ghoom station. If you have travelled to NJP station and you are unable to find shared cabs, travel to pani tanki from NJP station in a shared auto and you’ll find cheap shared cabs once you reach “pani tanki more”. It is always advisable to book your hotel and trains at least two three months in advance, and try to find a place from where, transport is easily accessible. We stayed at “seven17 hotel” situated near Lamhatta Road, near chowrasta Darjeeling. Our hotel was only a few minutes away from the mall and was close to most of the tourist spots, so it was easy for us to be well connected and find transport. After checking in to our hotel and freshening up we had our lunch from the in house restaurant of our hotel. We polished off our lunch in a matter of a few minutes, maybe because we were famished or maybe because of the beautiful weather and journey. After resting for a few hours, we set out to explore the city on our own. We walked all of Lamhatta road to reach the mall and started looking out for the quaint shops near the locality. Darjeeling might be the most commercialized destination in the North East of Bengal but it also one of the most pretty sight to see for people who have been living their lives in the concrete urban jungles. After browsing through the knick knacks available there, we decided to have a light snack from the famous Tibetan restaurant called “Kunga’s” which is situated just below “Ramada Inn, Darjeeling”. Their flat noodle thukpa is to die for and so is the chicken and cheese fried momo. After a rather filling 

snack we headed off to our hotel with the only intention of lazing around and enjoying the sight of foggy weather.

Sightseeing: I had booked transport facilities from my hotel for the local sight-seeing around Darjeeling. Book shared cabs for the five point or seven point sight-seeing according to your convenience. The next morning I had an early morning trip to watching the sunrise at Tiger Hill. October to December is the best time to watch sunrise and believe me it’s the best sunrise you’ll ever watch. Since the roads, leading to Tiger Hill is uphill, so it is advisable not to bring people with a bad knee. Some of the other destinations that the tours will cover are Batasia loop, ghoom monastery, tenzing rock, the Himalayan zoo, mountaineering institute just right beside the zoo and so on. Take ample rest during the halts in between. Since I had very little time on my hands, I had a tight schedule and wanted to make the most of my time. If you are exploring the area near the mall, do visit the Mahakal temple near the mall. It is believed to be an amazing one in case you are looking for that one miracle just waiting to happen.

Food and drinks: There are a lot of places in Darjeeling that are pretty famous for their food and drinks. Do try out the meat platters from Keventers with a warm cut of hot chocolate. If you are looking to spend a quality time with your loved ones over a quiet meal, head to Glenary’s and dig into the continental favorites’. For the non-experimental foodie in you, who loves his fried chicken, there’s a KFC right on Nehru Road. There’s also Kunga’s right below Ramada Inn if you are in the mood for some authentic Tibetan delicacies. Apart from that there are road side stalls selling momo, thukpa at very pocket friendly rates. In the evening head out to Joey’s pub to enjoy a night of slow live music and drinks from the bar. Balance sheet after the tour: Train ride to NJP- 700 per person (if you consider up and down both) Hotel: 3500 , Food and sightseeing: 1500 After a lovely vacation for 2 nights and three days, it was time for me to bid adieu to the queen of hills. I traveled to Darjeeling with a lot of anticipation in my heart but returned with a heart full of memories of travelling and exploring an unknown terrain that I will always cherish.