Part IX in a series on Sikkim
In my last few posts in the Sikkim series, I described our arrival in Gangtok, how we planned our trip to the remote but breathtaking interiors of North Sikkim. I described the unforgettable experience of conquering Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest frozen lakes in the world. After visiting Yumthang Valley and Tsomgo Lake, it was now time to leave Sikkim and head to Darjeeling, our final destination in this week long trip.
Day 6: Gangtok- Darjeeling
8am: We catch a good breakfast at Suhim Portico and check-out. The cab booked at Peling Stand arrives on time, but refuses to run the AC once we sit inside. While the weather is not particularly hot, we are keen to run the AC through parts of the journey because of the excess of diesel fumes on the highway. Moreover, we had fixed the price of Rs 2500 for an AC vehicle and feel cheated to have to pay the same fare for non-AC. We have barely gotten out of the hotel and reached the District Court, by which time this altercation takes place, and we get off there itself. We call Emmanuel, Ninden and Khum-sum for help and each of them tries to arrange a taxi for us.
We are pleasantly surprised, when Emmanuel comes in a vehicle from the hotel to pick us up and take us back to the hotel while our plans are finalized since we had been standing in the middle of the road with all our luggage. Khum-sum manages to find us a driver who would take us in an AC Wagon-R to Darjeeling for Rs 2500 and we accept.
9:45am: We finally set forth on our journey and manage to have the driver run the AC on and off for most part of the trip until we begin the ascent to Darjeeling. The landscape starts changing here and we begin seeing tea-bushes.
1:30pm: We arrive in Darjeeling to discover an untidy, crowded little hill station. We also spot the toy-train, but cringe when we see the large amounts of black smoke it releases because of it running on coal! We get in touch with Rahul and Aradhana, who had travelled with us from Bagdogra to Gangtok. They are in Darjeeling too and are returning to Delhi on the same flight as us. They invite us to join them for the last Toy Train ride at 4pm that evening, but we decline deciding that a 2-hour ride with all those black fumes around us is not our idea of a pleasant, clean holiday at a hill-station!
Tip: For anyone who is interested, the toy-train does three trips in a day: 10am, 2pm and 4pm. Each trip is a 2-hour ride starting near Chowrasta and going down about 7kms till the Ghoom Monastery, where it turns around and brings you all the way back.
This time our hotel, Yashshree Summit, is a stone’s throw away from the Mall Road and we are glad about it since we only have an evening at Darjeeling and have to return to Delhi the next day itself. The rooms are good and comfortable, but don’t have a spectacular view. If you are looking for a good view and a peaceful stay, try Summit’s other property in Darjeeling, which is on the outskirts and affords a view of the Mt Kanchenjunga itself.
2:30pm: We walk up the road to the Mall Road, also called Chowrasta in Darjeeling. Someone at the hotel recommends Glenaries for lunch, which is apparently Darjeeling’s biggest and best restaurant. It turns out to have a bakery on the ground floor and a quaint restaurant on the upper floor. They promise that Continental is what they are famous for, but we don’t particularly enjoy the food.
We enjoy the evening, walking up and down in the Mall Road. We recommend stopping by at the Nathmull’s Tea Room, which is the most authentic place to taste and purchase Darjeeling tea. We sit there and sip Lemon Honey Tea. Teas at this tea parlour range from Rs 25 per cup to Rs 400 per cup, depending on your choice of flavour.
At the other extreme end of the Mall Road is the famous Keventers’, where we stop by for cold chocolate milk. They have framed photographs of the shootings of Satyajit Ray’s films at their cafe and more recently, the shooting of the Hindi movie, ‘Barfi’. Keventers also sells Darjeeling and Sikkimese tea.
Tip: Do pick up some Darjeeling tea as gifts and for your own use if you are in Darjeeling. Nathmull’s is the most authentic place to do so.
Also, note that the Mall Road at Darjeeling is closed on Thursdays.
6pm: As we decide to head back to our hotel, we need to decide whether we want to go to Tiger Hill in the morning. It is an hour’s drive away from the town and on a clear morning, you can see four of the world’s five highest peaks at sunrise, including Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga. However, since it is raining and misty, we are not sure if we will get a view. We decide to ask the locals for an honest opinion and a lady at the Nathmull’s Tea Room gives us a lovely tip. She says that if you can see the stars in the sky at night, you would be able to see the peaks from Tiger Hill, else it is a waste of time. With the incessant light rain going on, she advises against trying to go the very next morning.
Day 7: Darjeeling-Bagdogra-Delhi
We give Tiger Hill a skip and set off for the airport at 8:30am. The previous evening, we called the same driver, Bijay, who had driven us all up to Gangtok from Bagdogra airport a week back and he offers to drop us back at Rs 2000 (of course, a little bargaining helps). Rahul and Aradhana join and we all head back after a lovely, but tiring holiday.
We arrive at the airport by noon. The flight is on time and we have an uneventful return journey back home.
All in all, Sikkim turned out to be a tiring vacation, but one that offered breathtaking sights and moments. I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure and if you do decide to embark on a journey to this part of India, feel free to send me any queries you may have. If I can, I’d love to help you
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PIyushi Dhir is the author of the romantic novels, 'In Search of Love' (2014), 'I'm Yours, The Next Time' (2015) and 'Enmeshed Evermore' (2015). A voracious reader, a keen traveler and an ardent dog-lover, Piyushi currently resides in Ivory Coast, Africa. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.