Last year, 2016, we went on this soul refreshing journey to Darjeeling and Gangtok. That's when i knew i had to write. Write about this beautiful paradise, the people and lifestyle, which is a complete stark opposite of the place that i currently reside in, Bangalore. And i love Bangalore! I love the busy streets, the wonderful cafes, the punk pubs and rocking bars, the carnival malls and the buzz. I love it all. Yet, that is where the difference lies. Both Darjeeling and Gangtok have the same busy streets, pretty little cafes, their own hard rock pubs and in case of Gangtok (tax free) outlets, crowded markets and the buzz. A calmer one, an at-peace one. Maybe its the altitude, maybe the setting amongst those mystic hills but something helps you lay down that guard, that we (metro people) had taken years to build and fortify. And it all starts with the ride.
Bagdogra Airport, is the only one that you can use to reach either Darjeeling or Gangtok. It takes about the same time to reach either of them from there, though we decided to visit Darjeeling first. Bear in mind we were the 'foolish' ones, to have decided to visit in August. Why foolish? Landslides. Incessant rain causes it and that makes traveling an ordeal. Bangalore has its own fair share of rain all through the year. So i thought, "Hey how bad could it be?". The ride to Darjeeling, didn't have landslides but when you're riding at the edge of a hill with zero visibility due to the rain and clouds (yes, clouds), one can't help but pray. Hence foolish. But were we?
The exact reason of our foolishness made the whole scene so much better for photography and as a memory. Of course you had to wait till the rain stops and in all honesty apart from the first day, we were lucky not find any of it till the end of the trip in Darjeeling. The moist heavy air, the magical parade of clouds, the mysterious fog, the beautiful smell of earth and the green, Oh the green.
You can easily find out what you want to visit in Darjeeling and they all are worth it. I'm not going to give you an itinerary. Once you make yours, you start making your own story. What i can tell you is that they are beautiful, all of it. The early morning rides for sunrise and Kanchenjunga sightings, the "tea bagan" visits, the Mall road strolls, the monastery visits. all of it is an experience. The food is healthy, the people are jolly and their smiles are infectious, as is the case in any part of the world.
It gave me my first experience with something, i had dreamt as a kid even if i had no idea how to do it then. Remember i told you it rained the first day we were there, well that continued till 11 pm in the night and thanks to me, mucking around, i wasn't asleep by then even if it was cold as, well as one cozy sleep requires (important note to never stop mucking around, that's when the magic happens). So the rain was beating down and it was a kind of tranquility that you seldom experience. And then there was another. The literal one.
Around 11:30 pm i notice the calm has changed its attire, its more unclad, more natural. I parted the curtains of my room and walked into the balcony. Into a sky that had the most number of stars i had seen in atleast a decade. I almost could tell without any instrument where the Milkyway was. Of course the camera does a better job at it, but boy, all alone walking to the bigger open balcony of the hotel room's floor, setting up the camera for the shot in that shivering cold, under a sky that was cleared, nay washed of its impurities by that blessed shower only to show the jewels it possessed. Unmatched.