Friday, July 30, 2010

Darjeeling: still the Queen of Hill Stations?

In late March 2010, we decided to make a quick trip to Darjeeling. My wife Paula had not been there for twelve years and I had made a brief visit in 2005. From Siliguri, we went up the  new road which is known as Rohini. The road passed Sukna and entered the Army Cantonment. After driving through some tea gardens, the road climbed steeply  navigating a series of hairpin bends and then reached a ridge with a splendid view over  the hot and sultry plains of Bengal. 
As we approached  Kurseong the mist rolled in. The window boxes of the houses in  Tung and Sonada were full of geranuims and hydrageas. The tea  estates of Margarets's Hope and Castleton  were green and lush. The fresh smell of the rain on the pines, the white  out at Ghoom, the dogs asleep on the roadside  and to top it all the toy train suddenly trundling  past at Batasia blowing it's whistle at full throttle through the white out gave the drive it's own flavour. The entire journey done after so many years was quite spectacular  not to mention the rosy cheeked kids chasing each other in front of white and red cottages with washing laid out to dry in the brief intermittent spells of sunshine. 
We passed Ghoom around noon and drove into Darjeeling a while later.  I noticed that large concrete buildings covered the entire hillside cheek by jowl with each other. The traffic was terrible to say the least. Large four-wheel drive vehicles like Innovas, Scorpios and Safaris dominated the roads forcing the pedestrians against the walls of the sidewalks. The fumes from these vehicles clogged the air leading to an atmosphere which was far removed from the clean, crisp air of the mountains. 
 Darjeeling was once famous for it's walks like the Calcutta Road, Jalapahar, Auckland Road, Hermitage etc. most of which have been overrun by continuous traffic and  walking is now a chore not a pleasure.
We stayed at the Classic Guest House, formerly known as Dant Kothi. It is located just below the Mall on the eastern side and has a fine view of the valley and is very quiet.
And, what of Kangchendzonga?  " The Five Treasures of the Great Snows" remained behind a stubborn haze which refused to lift during our visit.  I used to wake up every morning at dawn and look outside the window in vain. The last morning before we were leaving,  we saw the tips of this great mountain floating high above the town from the "Observatory  round", the scale as impressive as always. After so many years it did take my breath away!  Within seconds it was gone, a brief fantasy viewed from a town which we would all like to remember as still being the "Queen of the Hills". Some photographs of Darjeeling follow:
Kangchendzonga from Sandakphu on a November afternoon
North Point, St Josephs College, Darjeeling 
Mendang opposite the Classic Guest House

Lloyds Botanical Gardens
Glenarys

6 comments:

  1. Amazing photos, Sujoy ! Your words and images really brought back some deep childhood memories. Remember looking for Kanchenjunga through the mist from my Dada and Dadi's flat in Ajit Mansions (just off the mall) every morning. And the cherished visits to Glenary's, Keventer's, the Windermere hotel, the skating rink, the Planter's Club and so much else..........my father actually studied at North Point for a few years.

    Took the family back to visit Darj a few years ago - I agree that it has just been totally ruined so for me it was a bittersweet visit. Will send you the piece I wrote after the trip - as much for myself as for anything else :)

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  2. i seem to have skirted around Darjeeling quite a bit.... Kalimpong, Kurseong,Gangtok, and other places on the way, but never Darjeeling. Your photographs make me want to visit. Spoilt or unspoilt, i want to visit that bakery!

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  3. The first pic is just too awesome and beautiful. I have never been to the Darjeeling but now feeling like to visit it, specially when its so hot here in Delhi :)

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  4. Darjeeling is one of the best holidaying destinations in India. Visit the town on next vacation and pick from the best Darjeeling hotels with an best amenities. Popular for its sprawling tea industry, the hill station is the original home of Dorjees, Bhutias, Lamas, Lepchas, and Pradhans.

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