The mountains called me when I had to travel to Darjeeling for a photo shoot at our resort there - Darjeeling - Silver Oaks, a Sterling Holidays resort. The resort is situated in Ghoom at an altitude higher than Darjeeling town making it one of the best locations one can be at. I was travelling with Kunal Daswani, the photographer for the shoot who happens to be a very good friend and the best company one can ever have.
My week-long sojourn began with a journey uphill from Bagdogra airport. The journey was quite pleasant proving me wrong as I imagined it to be curvy as all mountainous terrains are. But this travel was a winner in more ways than one. We took short breaks in between, mostly for coffee and reached the resort in approximately 4 hours. Since we reached the resort after sunset I was unable to take in the beauty of the location which I usually do. As a norm I always walk around the resort to gaze at the beautiful location which all our resorts boast of. I soon checked into my room which was warm and cosy with an inviting bed that put me to sleep instantly.I woke up the next morning to a gorgeous surprise. As a habit I draw the curtains of my room when I wake up every morning back at home so I did the same here. However, I forgot that this was not home and I was in Darjeeling. As I drew the curtains my jaw dropped. "Wow!!" was the only reaction I had for 5 minutes as I looked upon the snow-capped mountains. I etched the amazing view of the Himalayas in my memory and that moment... that moment was so so special. My very first tryst with the Himalayas.
The shoot went on fine that day and in the evening as we were wrapping up the shoot I walked to a view point at the resort and caught the most beautiful sight. As I looked at the far end of the sky I saw that the entire skyline had turned an eye-catching red and orange. Though I had my camera with me I did not take it out to click a picture. Instead, I stood there breathing in the mountain air with the mist blowing on my face as I felt amazed at the beauty of Mother Nature wondering how much the skies hold in them. It was truly magical!
In the course of the week we had dedicated a day to exploring the destination. You have to trust me when I say this, that day was the best day I had in Darjeeling. I'll tell you why...
We started with the Batasia Loop, a war memorial and also a place where you can watch the Darjeeling Himalayan toy train at its best as it chugs all the way through the loop with the majestic Kanchenjunga range in the backdrop. Such a beautiful sight it was!
On our way back to the car from the tea gardens a very sweet lady at the stall stopped us to ask if we wanted to sip tea prepared with freshly plucked tea leaves. I immediately said yes as that was all I wanted that very moment. The tea was definitely one of the best teas I’ve had. Sipping tea in a cloudy tea garden setting was an experience that was out of this world.
We moved on to go to the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre. If shopping is on your mind then I would suggest you visit the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center. You will get beautiful carpets and Tibetan souvenirs here. The feel good factor of shopping here is that the monies spent go towards the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees. A good deed is awaiting you :)
Our sightseeing trip ended with lunch at Glenary's, a charming restaurant at mall road. And some tea shopping at Golden Tips, do purchase Makaibari tea from here - tea from Darjeeling's finest tea estate. While we were walking back to the car we noticed that mall road had gotten crowded and there was this traditional procession that was happening right outside the community centre. We stopped to take a look and I loved it. It was the very first Tibetan procession that I witnessed. A good experience and a fulfilling end to the day!
We were soon back in the resort packing our bags to leave the next morning with a heavy heart. But we had to leave. We didn’t want to miss visiting this one place on our way back to the airport ‘the Ghoom Monastery’, the oldest monastery in Darjeeling town. So we visited the monastery in the early hours of the morning. The monastery shares its boundary wall with our resort and this being my first visit to any monastery was truly an experience that I would cherish for a long time.
On our way we got to stop at Zero point, Nepal border and sip some good tea at one of the stalls there*. We also visited the quaint little town of Mirik which is slightly off the route to the airport but we planned a visit since Mirik has a good lake and some monasteries that are popular shooting spots.
I don’t know when I will be writing my next blog or where my next travel would be but I am glad that I am leaving my readers with fond memories (I hope!) of good times spent in Darjeeling. I don't know how much my blog has impacted others but I definitely know that I want to visit Darjeeling again for all the lovely moments that it has given me. See you soon Darjeeling!
*Just a week after we returned from Darjeeling a major earthquake struck Nepal. I just hope the people who touched my heart at those little stalls at Zero Point are safe and their families are safe. I am constantly praying for Nepal and I hope that the country recovers sooner from this grief. I would urge everyone to do their bit and reach out to the people of Nepal by donating towards Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. I have done my bit, please do yours.
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