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Tuesday, 01 May 2012

A Quiet Cup of Tea: Low Season in Darjeeling - Page 2

Written by Adam Amir Smith
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On the fringes of the main town, Darjeeling’s Zoo and Botanical Gardens offer some space and solitude without the high-season crowds. Set on a steep slope, the Botanical Gardens (Free Admission) house a range of Himalayan flora – each plant is labeled, in Latin - and some pretty cast-iron glasshouses. On the other side of town, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is another highlight. Although it charges foreigners 100 Rupees to enter, this is worth it just to see the Siberian Tigers (India’s only population) and learn about the local fauna and the naturalists who discovered them.  

A visit to Darjeeling couldn’t be complete without indulging in some Himalayan cuisine and finding a bargain in one of the town’s markets. The food in Darjeeling is a strange mix of Indian, Tibetan and European. Stalls along The Mall offer the best bites for no more than 40-50 Rupees. Tibetan Momos (stuffed dumplings) are as good here as in their homeland; for desert, little bakeries offer a range of cream-filled pastries – another colonial legacy. Further down the hillside, clothing, craft and tea shops abound. Stall-owners are receptive to bargaining and it’s possible to get some great prices on anything from silk scarves to Tibetan crafts or one of the many blends of local tea.

Darjeeling was founded as a hill-top retreat, a respite from the heat and crowds of the Indian Plains. With a flexible and varied itinerary, a visit during the off-season can recreate the relaxing experience of days-gone-by. The off-season is more than merely low prices however; it’s an opportunity for the visitor to have Darjeeling to themselves (for a while at least) and to take a unique experience back down the hills with them.

(c)Adam Amir Smith

Darjeeling’s nearest train station is 3-hours away by shared jeep (100 Rupees). The station at New Jalpaiguri (NJP) has regular services to Kolkata, Delhi and other cities in India. Busses also run to NJP but a change to a jeep is necessary to reach Darjeeling itself.
Accommodation in Darjeeling is clustered along The Mall or by the Jeep stand along Hill Cart Road. Luxury Hotels (1000-10,000 Rupees) won’t offer much of a discount but 100 Rupees (approx. $3) doubles are common among the cheaper guest houses further up the hill (although some bargaining is required).

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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