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Friday, 20 November 2009

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongSikkim is the greenest state in India in more than one way. It is lush and vibrantly green due to its unique micro-climate, created by its location in the shadow of Mt. Kanchenjunga and between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Books have been written about the miniature biosphere created here, and the region’s multitude of different species. The cyclones of the Bay of Bengal reach up to the Himalayas and to Sikkim in particular; that, combined with the monsoon, means Sikkim receives more than its fair share of rain, but it is also ‘green’ in an eco-sense. For instance, plastic bags are banned so they don’t end up on roadsides and in rivers like in the rest of India. Shops use paper bags or newspaper to wrap things and shoppers can buy inexpensive re-usable bags in most places. In fact, Sikkim is definitely the cleanest state that I’ve been to in India.

There are also many other progressive initiatives such as planting trees – all over you’ll see bamboo cages around seedlings so that animals don’t eat them before they grow. Another difference in Sikkim is that you will not see animals grazing in the streets and blocking traffic. Indian roads are usually a mix of cows, cars, goats, rickshaws, pigs, cycles, dogs, trucks, and monkeys. In Sikkim, this is not allowed – animals have to graze on private land. Environmental policies have been in effect for a long time. It was early in the 1900s when a prince went to study forestry in England and upon his return became king and implemented the no-grazing and forestry management policies along with ending child labor and indentured servitude. When the Kingdom of Sikkim was incorporated into India in 1975 they kept their independent policies.

Sikkim is entirely mountainous and has some of the tightest valleys I’ve ever seen. Roads are carved into the sides of mountains and snake along rivers. There is little flat land anywhere, so houses cling to hillsides and rice paddies are terraced. Since most valleys consist of a river running between two mountains without wide swaths of land at the bottom, as you’re driving on a road on one side of the river, the other side seems very close and so do the larger mountains behind it. I felt like if I reached out I’d be able to touch them.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongDarjeeling is a district in West Bengal full of hill-town retreats that produce some of the finest teas in the world. The most famous town is of the same name, Darjeeling, and the second largest is Kalimpong. Siliguri is the gateway to the area where you can fly or take a train to before making your way up to the mountains for the gorgeous views. Darjeeling is an extremely popular destination for Indians on holiday, especially Bengalis from Calcutta who come up to escape the heat and dust of the city. While not quite as clean as Sikkim, it is also a vast improvement over the lowlands.

Although both these areas are popular with Indians, they are well off the usual tourist routes of foreigners. When I mention Sikkim, many people don’t even know which country it’s in, and Darjeeling is better known as a type of tea than a place. This makes them both intriguing destinations to explore further, especially for nature lovers.

My trip to the area was put together by Quest Himalaya Adventures , a small tour operator based in Sikkim that focuses on quality treks and authentic cultural tours. They specialize in customizing any journey to exactly the places you want to visit and with the level of accommodation that you prefer: from budget to luxury, or an eclectic mix. Either way they use comfortable local hotels and believe in low-impact, responsible tourism, so will only organize small group tours or treks. If you’re looking for an authentic experience I would recommend them. My trip was two weeks long, but if you have one week you can still explore the area.


Kalimpong

My journey to Kalimpong was a series of frustrations as I traveled overland from Bhutan, which I would not advise because the road is an endless series of potholes and it is a long ride – in my case made extra long as we made a detour to Siliguri to get my permit for Sikkim. Foreigners need a permit to enter Sikkim, which is another reason that fewer people visit. Permits are given out at certain border crossings, but not at all of them, and we made the trip to Siliguri so we’d be able to take a shortcut towards Pelling. Unfortunately, it was a big waste of time; at the huge Government of Sikkim office in Siliguri there wasn’t one person there who could sign a simple tourist permit! Hopefully the Indian government will soon drop this permit requirement for Sikkim, as it discourages tourism without having any benefit for the people of Sikkim. Flying to Siliguri is a much better option for arriving in the area, and from there it is much easier to get to Kalimpong, Darjeeling, or Gangtok.

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Rustic cottages are set in the garden surrounded by plants and filled with birdsong. The road seems very far away when you descend into the garden, and the retreat quality is enhanced by the fact that there are no TVs or telephones in the rooms. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseong The cottages reminded me of being at summer camp – peaceful and close to nature yet very basic and could use a good spring cleaning. There are also rooms at the main house which are less rustic, but have fewer birds since they’re above the main garden.

The meals were very good. For dinner I was brought a delicious vegetarian soup, an appetizer, one meat and two vegetable dishes, roti (flat bread), and a tasty rice pilaf followed by sweets and tea. It was a huge meal. There was another woman traveling alone there and we ended up talking and then eating together. I also met Mr. Ganesh, Honey’s father-in-law, who was very hospitable and extremely knowledgeable about all the plants, as he has been in the business his whole life and has traveled many places around the world to lecture about orchids.

It was the tail end of monsoon season when I was there (early October) and the sky opened up at night with thunderous rains, but luckily daytime was clear. For breakfast I requested Indian fare and was given poori (fried bread) with curried potatoes, a well-spiced omlette, and a basket of fruit. My guide for Kalimpong arrived and after consulting with him and Mr. Pradhan we decided on a little sightseeing in Kalimpong and then driving east to Lava, a small mountaintop town. Mr. Ganesh got the guide’s cell phone number and acted like I was his own daughter – I felt very protected.

We went to Deolo Hill, which is a park and lookout point, and also to the international school, which had been around since colonial times and had a British style stone church. The drive to Lava was beautiful – the forest was thick with tall trees and moss. Lava is at a higher altitude and is much cooler than Kalimpong. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongWe visited a monastery where monks were busy with debate class. They would quickly make their points and follow it with a loud clap pointing at someone else who would then do the same; it was contrary to the quiet, reflective atmosphere one usually thinks of in a monastery. Though I know this is common practice at many Buddhist monasteries, I hadn’t actually run into it before, so I was lucky to here.

We drove halfway back and then went for a hike through the villages. Rural stone paths are what most people use instead of roads. We saw many houses, crossed some streams and even ran into a small hillside factory where they make glass noodles Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseong(supposedly the glass noodles from Kalimpong are better than those in the rest of India due to the minerals in the water). Afterwards, we went to Kalimpong Park Hotel for a late lunch with the owner of Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, who would be my main guide for the majority of the trip.


Pelling

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Dinner was a nice affair, served buffet-style with helpful waiters. The food was very good with a multitude of options. I slept well under a pure white duvet with lots of pillows. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongThe only disappointment was the weather. I woke at 5:30 the next morning to see Kanchenjunga, but only the close mountains were visible with just clouds in the distance. By 8:30 everything was covered in mist. The Elgin breakfast buffet was plentiful and tasty and prepared me for our village walk through the rich forests and past people working and children playing.

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For lunch we went to Norbu Gang House which is a new part of Norbu Gang Resort that has its own kitchen, lounge, yoga/meditation room and just a few bedrooms for an exclusive feel. If you want to cook and have guests over this is the place to do it. The chef’s kitchen is huge with everything you could need and the dining room elegant with a wall of glass looking to the mountains. We had a fabulous lunch prepared by their chef with more dishes than I could even try – all presented in style.

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Yuksom

We continued on to Yuksom, a small town known as a trekking outpost where the famous Goche-la trek begins. We stopped at one of the area’s large waterfalls Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseongalong the way and arrived at Hotel Tashi Gang just after dark. The hotel has a comfortable lobby and good rooms for this area. It is one of the better places in town, but is definitely not luxurious, with its lumpy pillows and an electricity outage that lasted most of the time we were there. The power outage was not their fault, though; almost as soon as we arrived the sky opened up and heavy monsoon style rains disrupted the entire area.

Arthur arranged the meals here – he had his favorite trekking chef prepare dinner and bring it to the hotel’s dining room. This is actually a common practice in the area – there were a number of trekking groups staying at the hotel either before or after their treks and almost all of them had their meals presented family style by their chefs. The chef he employs for treks is one of the most sought after in the area, so I would have been well taken care of if I had gone trekking. In some ways I wish I had gone, though that particular day I was very glad that I didn’t have to go out. The weather had worsened overnight, and by morning the rain was so heavy that our morning hike was cancelled, as well as a planned detour to Tashidang, a hilltop monastery, on our five-hour drive to Gangtok. In fact, the weather was so bad that I was afraid to even make the drive.

Sikkim’s skinny, winding roads, which traverse many waterfalls make travel a little nerve-wracking even in sunny weather, but during the monsoon there are frequent landslides due to the steep slopes and loose soil and rocks. Locals are used to the problems, so it’s not such a big issue, but for foreigners it can be very unnerving. Arthur said to me, “Don’t worry, if there’s a landslide it will only take them a few hours to clear the road and then we’ll keep going.” This was not reassuring, as what I was afraid of was getting pushed over the edge into the abyss, not being held up along the way. Landslide management has been perfected in Sikkim, though; bulldozers are kept near spots with frequent problems and major roads are cleared quickly. Despite the fact that we had a very safe, quality SUV, and probably the best, most careful driver in Sikkim, Prakesh, I was still nervous.


It was disappointing that we didn’t get to hike in Yuksom, or even see the mountains from there, but I think I just made the trip too early (I was in Yuksom Oct. 6th). Usually by early October things are clear, but you can never be sure – especially now with climate change, so it’s best to go in late October or November. Even early December should be fine for clear mountain views, but it will be quite cold by then so bring many layers and be sure to go before the snow starts.

Luckily, the downpours stopped just before we left after lunch, so we didn’t have to drive in them, and halfway through the journey the mist separated enough to get some nice views of the medium sized jagged peaks mysteriously shrouded by passing clouds.


Gangtok

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In the morning I was met by another large buffet including masala dosas (large south Indian crepes filled with spicy potatoes) cooked to order and an array of other popular south Indian and continental breakfast items. Then Arthur introduced me to Pema Wangchuk, editor of Sikkim Now (a local English daily newspaper) and my guide for the next couple days in Gangtok.

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We stopped in town for lunch and then proceeded to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology where we visited the stupa and their museum with many priceless Tibetan artifacts. Many Tibetan items and much of their gold were brought to Sikkim before the Chinese invasion of Tibet and held in safe keeping by the king of Sikkim. When the Dalai Lama and many others escaped years later the king returned their treasures. The gold was used to help the huge number of refugees who had lost everything, but many of the artifacts were put on display here as part of the museum’s collection.


Upon return to the Mayfair, I wandered up to the spa to book a treatment, but there were so many good choices that I couldn’t decide! The manager even gave me a tour of each of the treatment rooms, which were incredible (but I’m not sure if that helped my decision!). They have zero-degree massage tables and the best couple’s treatment room I’ve ever seen, with its own plunge pool and a huge bathtub for two. Eventually, I decided to have foot reflexology and also booked a ‘Cloud 9’ treatment for the next day.

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My ‘Cloud 9’ treatment was on a special bed that was a cross between a massage table and a waterbed. It starts with a 60-minute Swedish massage on a hard table that comes up above the water, but once the massage is finished the therapist pushes a button and the table descends; then I was floating for 30 minutes surrounded by warm water while the colors around me changed using color therapy. It was a very relaxing experience. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Cochrane Place, Christina Kay BoltonI haven’t seen these tables anywhere else, so this is a pretty advanced spa. The whole Mayfair resort is meant for luxury – it had a beautiful honeymoon suite with its own pool, a deck, a kitchen, living room, nice bedroom and bath with a tub built for two.

 

 

I had planned to go to Dzongu in North Sikkim for a couple nights to visit a Lepcha village and do a home stay there. The Lepchas are one of the original tribal peoples of Sikkim and I’m sure it would have been a fascinating stay, but I changed my plans due to the heavy rains and their effect on road conditions in Sikkim. As a result I ended up with an extra night in Gangtok, so I moved over to the other side of town to the Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongHidden Forest Retreat – a family-run lodge with a nice view over the valley. The retreat has 12 rooms, a restaurant, and a large greenhouse where they grow orchids. It is spotlessly clean and the staff is very friendly.

I went on a one last sightseeing trip to Tashi viewpoint, a Ganesh temple, and then to take the cable car above the city with long views to the hills beyond. For dinner, I invited my guide and his wife to my guesthouse, and it was fantastic: the best chicken momos I’ve had and an assortment of other local specialties like sautéed ferns. Breakfast was also a treat with porridge and brown bread with honey. The only problem here was that the walls were quite thin, and having a loud Bengali family next door meant I was up late.

Glenburn Tea Estate

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Breakfast was served under the pommelo tree and it is another nicely prepared and abundant meal. The many choices included: freshly squeezed juice, fruit, yogurt, granola, porridge, eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausages, potato cakes, toast, and Glenburn tea or French-press coffee (which is tough to find in India!).


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The next day I visited the village school that Glenburn helps support at 9 am for the school assembly. The kids are very cute – they do exercises and sing songs before they file off to their classrooms.

After breakfast I went on the tea tour, where Sanjay (the manager of the tea plantation) and his assistant showed us the process of making tea. There is a lot to explore: picking, withering, drying, separating, and tasting. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongI learned much about tea – for instance, that most of the ‘tea’ that makes it into tea bags in the west is mainly dust and stems and it is also usually about a year old (which means it has lost most of its flavor). To have a good cup of tea you need to use whole tea leaves and steep them for five minutes; you’re also not supposed to drink it too hot. Darjeeling is a prized and delicate tea and should not be taken with milk (milk degrades tea’s antioxidants and actually creates carcinogens). Glenburn is coming up with a program to sell tea directly to customers and ship it the day after it’s finished so connoisseurs can receive fresh tea all year long.

Later in the day I hiked down to a different river with other guests and a guide, and had a picnic lunch on its wide, sandy beach. Another stunning dinner followed – this one a south-east Asian feast.

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Glenburn Photos ©Nathalie Boscq

 

Darjeeling

My next stop was Darjeeling itself, and I stayed at the Mayfair there. Though not as elaborate as the Mayfair resort in Gangtok, it was still very comfortable with nice rooms, a library, and a great location. The most popular viewpoint is only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, so at sunrise Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseongthe next morning I went there and watched as the snowy peaks were turned pink when the sun glimpsed the mountains. It was spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a breakfast buffet at Mayfair we went on a walking tour around the city and we found Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseongan even better spot to take pictures of Kanchenjunga, near the train station. Then we went to the Tibetan Self-help Center where refugees make traditional crafts and receive support in their new lives in India. Sightseeing was cut short due to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the zoo being closed on Thursdays. We walked across town again to Glenary’s for lunch. The food was good, and the view at the big tables by the window great, but the problem there was the absolute stench of moth balls coming from the bathrooms. It made it hard to even taste the flavors of the food. I can’t imagine why any place serving food would use such strong scents. If you come here it’s better to stay as far away from the bathrooms as possible (even though then you don’t get any mountain view).

After lunch we went to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Its stupa is beautifully carved, though it is not historic – its only 25 years old. There is the constant sound of a drum beating which adds to the spiritual feeling of the place. We also went to the Ghoom Monastery and to the railway museum. Unless you’re a rail fanatic you could give this a miss, and if you’ve already seen lots of monasteries the one in Ghoom doesn’t have too much more to offer, but it was interesting when we were there as we saw a funeral cremation underway.


Back at my hotel I had a good, plentiful dinner buffet with great service. I woke early the next morning to go back to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and zoo before my 10 am toy train ride to Kurseong. Though I only had about a half hour there, I managed to see snow leopards, red pandas, tigers, and a bit of the HMI. Red pandas are very rare and this zoo has one of the world’s only successful breeding programs that re-introduces the pandas into the wild. Snow leopards are also endangered and I loved seeing them, even though they are in cages. The HMI has many of the paraphernalia used by Tenzing Norgay on the first ascent of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary.


Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongWe made it back down to the single-gauge steam railway in time and watched its coal-fired engines get started. The train moves very slowly and much of the time is directly next to the road, but it is still fun to be on it as everyone seems to stop and wave as the train chugs past, with its loud horn blowing every couple of minutes. Due to the slow pace, it’s very easy to take pictures and there are great views, but you could get there in half the time by driving. The drawbacks are that the train is filthy – it looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in years, and the glass is so dirty you can’t even see out of it, so you have to keep the window wide open – and there are plumes of black smoke coming out of the engine that waft right into the passenger cars. There were two attendants on the first class (!?!) car I was on – and one of them slept most of the trip. I don’t know why they don’t have one of them clean the train once in a while. It is interesting seeing them operate it, though; there is a large wheel right in the compartment that needs to be turned sometimes and at the frequent stops they shovel piles of coal into the engine. I would choose the train for a short haul – just for the experience.

Kurseong

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongOnce I arrived in Kurseong I was picked up by my driver and guide for this area, Raju. We drove up to the top of Dow Hill, but it was a long round trip considering that there was not much to do. It was supposed to be a viewpoint because it’s the highest spot in the area, but I found the view from my hotel, Cochrane Place , to be better – it looks over the mountains on both sides and down to the valley below. You can hike from there down which would be a better use of your time, and you can see Dow Hill without the long drive.

I was in a standard room at the hotel which was decent, though I got a glimpse of the superior rooms and they looked much better, and at only a few dollars more it is worth it. My bed was really hard, so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep as I kept waking up, also the bathroom smelled. The food was very good, however, and I had a number of tasty items out of their tandoori oven. Breakfast was good, too, and from Kurseong it is a smooth, easy ride to the airport – only about an hour and a half.

Darjeeling and Sikkim are great areas to explore – especially for nature-lovers, ‘green’ travelers, and hikers. There are many outstanding treks that go through the area; from Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongGoche-la in Sikkim to Sandakphu in Darjeeling; that, I think, would be the best way to see the area, and I wish I had gone on one myself as I heard many great reports along the way. But, as I found out, many creature comforts can be found along the way as well if you want to stay in hotels every night and do more of a cultural tour with day hikes included to see the villages. Again, if you want a trek or tour organized for you, contact Quest Himalaya Adventures.

©Christina Kay Bolton

Darjeeling and Kurseong Photos: ©Arthur Pazo

If you go:

Treks and Tours:

Quest Himalaya Adventures

http://www.questhimalaya.com/

Quest Himalaya Adventures, Grand Hotel Bldg. Top Floor, Opposite Police Headquarters, 31-A National Highway, Gangtok-737101, Sikkim, India

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Accommodations:

Note: at time of press there are approx. 47 Indian Rupees (Rs) to the US dollar.

Kalimpong

The Orchid Retreat

http://www.theorchidretreat.com/

The Orchid Retreat, Home Hospitality Guest House, Ganesh Villa, Kalimpong, Darjeeling West Bengal, India – 734301, Phone: +91-3552-274517, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Reservations required. Rs 2250 single or Rs 3300 double w/breakfast and dinner (approx $48-70).

Pelling

The Elgin Mount Pandim

http://www.elginhotels.com/thepelling.html

Elgin Mount Pandim, Pemayangtse (Pelling), Sikkim
Telephone : +91-3595-250756/273/353, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Rs 5100 single, 5400 double including breakfast and dinner.

Yuksom

Hotel Tashi Gang

(no website – book through agent) http://www.questhimalaya.com/comfort/index.htm

Gangtok

Mayfair

http://www.mayfairhotels.com/gangtok_about.aspx?page=gangtok&sid=abt&lid=ovr

MAYFAIR Gangtok, Lower Samdur Block, Ranipool 737 135, Gangtok, East Sikkim, +91 359 2250 555, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., From Rs 12,000 double with breakfast and dinner.

Hidden Forest Retreat

http://www.hiddenforestretreat.org/

The Hidden Forest, Middle Sichey , Gangtok - 737101, Sikkim, Tel:91-3592-205197, 91-3592-203196  Mobile :(0)9474981367, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Rs 1900 single, 2500 double with breakfast and dinner.


Darjeeling

Glenburn Tea Estate

http://www.glenburnteaestate.com/


Phone : +91 33 2288 5630/1805, Phone(mobile): +91 98300 70213, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rs 12000 single, 18000 double including meals, activities, guides, transfers, laundry, etc.

Mayfair

http://www.mayfairhotels.com/darjeeling_about.aspx?page=darjeeling&sid=abt&lid=ovr


MAYFAIR Darjeeling, The Mall , Opposite Governor House, Darjeeling – 734101 , +91
354 225 6367, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Rs 9000 double with breakfast and dinner.

Kurseong

Cochrane Place

http://www.imperialchai.com/ Phone No : +91 99320 35660
+91
354 2330703   E-mail : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., From Rs 2750 single, 3650 double with breakfast and dinner.

Access to the area:

Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri railway station. The toy train makes its way up to Darjeeling from Siliguri, but taxi’s or busses are much faster.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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