I am the kind of a traveler who travels with a backpack. Packed only with essentials, which consists of some food, some spare clothing, extra charged batteries, power banks. I look for cheap accommodation and love to thrive on local food. I take walks to get to know the place a bit.
This was not my first visit to Darjeeling, but it was the first time alone though.
My trip began at the Venus More, Siliguri where I got on a waiting cab on its way to Darjeeling. They charge about ₹100/₹150 per head for the trip. Charges are considerably higher in the NJP station, but, thats a price you pay for being a tourist though. Anyway, the journey from Venus More to Darjeeling, if uneventful, takes about 1.5-2hours through the winding roads. It is very scenic. Be advised, the weather might get a bit chilly here, even during the day time, so have a jumper of sorts handy. And yes, If you are prone to motion sickness, please do have your tablets before you board the cab.
The best thing about the ride to Darjeeling is that there is a string of cabs going up and down quite frequently. So, if you plan to just hop off at Kurseong, you can do that, and still get a cab for the onwards journey. I didn't get off at the Batasia Loop on the way to Darjeeling.
I was there with an agenda. I had a shot in my mind, and I wanted it. Simple as that. The cab approached Darjeeling quite on time, to hear the shrill whistle of the toy train. Now, the advantage of travelling light is that you can just hop off. I did right that. Paid the driver, hopped off right outside the station. This is where you can get the tickets for the trips to Kurseong and/or Siliguri Town stations.
With the shots accomplished, now it was time to find a place to stay for the night. I went in March, most of the cheap hotels were full. I managed to find a room at a hotel located behind the Telephone Exchange. Checked in, took the key and walked right out. Next stop, Keventer's!
This is one of the most famous places in Darjeeling. It offers amazing chicken and pork delicacies and is a must eat place. The outdoor seating faces the Kanchenjunga and on the clear days, one can see the summits very clearly. Post breakfast, I made my way to the Mal. This is like a huge yard with shops on the sides and a lane leading up to the Mahakal Temple. Nice, clean temple, where lord Shiva and lord Buddha bless you quite together, in perfect harmony. Beware of the numerous monkeys though.
It was noon and I had my lunch of momos and corn at the mal. Yes, it was frugal, but tasty and quite comfortable on the pocket too. I lazed at the Mal for some time and then made my way towards the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Its one of the places where you find Tenzing Norgay's atrefacts being preserved. Theres a zoo too, which has loads of Red Pandas; good place to go.
The walk to and fro upto the HMI from the Mal is nice, long and windy one; walkable. One can find a few shops along the road serving maggi, tea and smokes too.
In the evening, I roamed about in the local bazaars checking out the various wares. One can get some good woolen stuffs. Do try out the exotic tea collection at the Nathmulls at the Mal. It is pricey, but definitely worth every sip.
For dinner, one has the choices, from the roadside shops to the cafes and proper two storeyed restaurants. Food is costlier than what you would usually find in the plain, and it is quite justified, I feel. I informed at my hotel reception that I would like to visit the Tiger Hills the next morning and that they were to wake me up in the morning, about 0300h.
Next morning, by 0430h, me and few other tourists from one more hotel were huddled in the rear of a jeep and were on our way to Tiger Hill, waiting for the sunrise.
The place gets very crowded very quickly and one must make it a point to remember how your car looks like, or it ll take quite some time to find it. Anyway, I requested a drop at the Batasia Loop. So, I was dropped there and the rest of the team went back to the hotel.
Had another plate of piping hot momos and hailed a cab , which was on its way to Siliguri. Simple as that, and I was on my way back. In less than 36 hours, I had covered the main attractions of the Darjeeling city and it didnt cost me a bomb.
It is recommended highly that one must make a plan of the places that they expect to visit and know about them to a certain extent so that they can avoid being taken for a ride by the taxis. The taxis, in general ply on fixed prices and bargaining doesnt yield a lot of results. The roadside shops, on the other hand, please bargain hard. People like to treat others with respect and expect the same too. So, smile when someone smiles at you. It may not be the perfect honeymoon destination, but it certainly is fine enough for a quick break from the monotony of daily life.
Check out the following link too: https://senkaustav.wordpress.com/?s=Darjeeling