After a few days in Delhi, I decided to head to the hills and the cooler weather of the hill station of Darjeeling.
The road trip to Darjeeling takes a couple of hours, nearly as long as the flight to Bagdogra but the views are lovely and the time goes quickly.
If you are a train enthusiast, you might want to catch the famous Darjeeling toy train that takes you from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway’s toy train is one of the few hill trains that still operates.
As we drove closer to Darjeeling, we climbed higher and higher often being surrounded by clouds. Darjeeling stands at 6000 ft above sea level. Tea plantations surrounded us, the dark green of the tea bushes broken only by the colours of the women working in the fields.
I was not staying in Darjeeling but on Glenburn Tea Estate, about an hour from the town.
Staying here meant that whenever I could, I would wander around the hills watching the women with their baskets on their backs picking the tea leaves and chatting to them and learning about tea. Did you know that green black and white tea all comes from the one leaf!
The leaves would then be sorted in the factory.
I’d pop down to the nearby village of Shilkari Dura….
One day we headed into Darjeeling. We wandered through the Mall, the main street of Darjeeling lined with tempting shops selling local crafts and antiques, admired the colonial architecture and stopped for tea at one of the old tea rooms.
One of the highlights was a visit to the Ghoom Monastery about six kilometres from Darjeeling. It was established in 1850 and belongs to the Yellow Sect of Buddhists also known as Gelupka.
They worship this 15 feet statue of the Buddha known as the Maitreya, that was built in 1875.
We also visited the Tibetan Refugee Centre which was established in 1959 to support Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama out of Tibet. Many of the elderly Tibetans here are artisans…weaving, knitting and making rugs to support their community.
Darjeeling is definitely off the beaten track but once you are here there are many other places to tempt you to visit……Bhutan is only a couple of hours away!!