Tag Archives: West Bengal

Darjeeling – West Bengal, India

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Tourism plays a major part in the economy of any country. But, before mass tourism becomes a problem, development needs to be carefully considered with thought-provoking concepts of how to solve it before any damage to the landscape becomes evident and problematic.

Before leaving Kalimpong for Darjeeling, we all appreciated the beauty and serenity of the Teesta River basin, while still in its infancy of being converted into a major tourist region.


On our way to Darjeeling, there certainly was no shortage of hair-pin bends. From Bagdogra, the road distance to Darjeeling hill town is 94 kms (if you take the national highway NH-55, also known as Hill Cart Road). It takes about 3.5 hours to reach Darjeeling by car on that route. However, the drivers from Bagdogra airport take a shorter route via Rohini or sometimes via Pankhabari if the Rohini road is closed for some reason. You save 30 minutes and a distance of 12 kms. These roads are quite narrow, steep and winding. But this is the stipulated route for pre-paid taxis from the airport unless you are part of a tour of which we are on this journey.


A stop along the way we basked in the natural beauty of the Gorumara National Park and with its super thick forestation, let’s hope it stays that way …


We visited a nursery with all kinds of plants and fauna. With a coffee in hand, it’s a delight to absorb all the love and care that goes into these beauties.


Travelling along Hill Cart Road, beautiful scenery is evident most of the way and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to have a break as there’ll be quite a few breath-taking excuses to take that precious photo.


Spices galore. Now you’ll be salivating for a taste test and bargain away for some more unusual goodies.

Darjeeling known as a hill town was originally set up as a sanitarium or health resort by the British in the mid 1800s. But over the years, it earned its name for its world famous aromatic tea. Then with the opening up of roads and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for tourism, it’s become a drawcard with travellers from all over the world.


Ghum Himalyan Railway being the highest heritage-listed station in the world is a must see – and to experience yourself!

Ghum is the highest altitude station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Rail track at 2,225.7 metres (7,407 ft). Here the toy train stops for 30 minutes where it’s possible to visit to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum as well.


Affectionately known as the Toy Train, only few would let go an opportunity such as this whilst in Darjeeling; to ride on one of the world’s favourite and very cute trains. For me personally, it was the most pressing of all sites/attractions to visit and definitely on my to-do list. After all, this Toy Train has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status.

Operating on narrow gauge tracks since the 1880s, it provided an important transport link to various parts of the Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the train is still unmatched when it comes to occasioning the magnificent beauty of the mountains.


The Toy Train’s joy rides operate from the main Darjeeling Railway Station. It’s a 2-hour round trip from Darjeeling up to Ghum and back covering a total distance of 14 kms. There are several such round trips during the day starting in the morning. Number of rides per day depends on the demand during the month or season. The train stops for 10 minutes at the Batasia Loop.

At Batasia the train makes a loop around a wonderful manicured garden. The view of Darjeeling town and the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga from here are unparalleled. The War Memorial was built in honour of the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives and is located at the centre of the Garden.
Interestingly, the Gorkhas came from this region and were renown for their fighting ability and courage. “Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gorkha soldiers who are an integral part of the British Army. It’s said they still carry into battle their traditional weapon – an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri. Nowadays, the Gorkhas say say it’s used mainly for cooking!


Early in the morning and yes, long before sunrise we had to secure our spot at Tiger Hill, and yes, it was worth the wake-up call to enjoy the view of the colossal Kanchenjunga with many other snow-clad eastern Himalayan peaks which  can be seen from here.

Locals know there are many visitors who relish the smell of a good coffee, regardless of the alarm clock’s timing and there weren’t any shortage of offers – and cheap too.


Later in the day we had the chance to experience an original tea plantation in the near to Darjeeling.


The Ginger Tea House is an established Bed and Breakfast style stay giving guests first-hand experience of how a tea plantation operates, along with a tour of the  in-house operational aspects.


We were greeted with exquisite food and welcoming beverages for a delightful afternoon tea service.


So when it’s a National Holiday and your driver can’t pass by the students and workers dancing in the middle of the roadway of the plantation, what do you do?


Easy, you all jump out of the van,  join in with them and simply have fun!


The centre of Darjeeling is quite busy, but some of the most interesting heritage sites are high above with magnificent views sweeping back over the valley.


View of the Himalayan Mountains from the township which is a  gem and known for its youthful vibe combined with a colonial charm throughout the area.


Final resting place for Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. His historic ascent of Mt. Everest along with Edmund Hillary inspired and guided the country to set up the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. This is the first of its kind in India where the climbing legend served as Director of Field Training since its inception and a must-see.

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Kalimpong – West Bengal, India

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The nearest airport to Kalimpong is Bagdogra in Siliguri and it’s a quick flight from Calcutta. All major domestic airlines from various Indian cities offer good connectivity between Bagdogra and the rest of India. Direct flights to Bagdogra are available from Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati.


Enroute to Kalimpong , we drove through the Teesta Barrage Project, where we witnessed one of the largest irrigation operations – not only in West Bengal, but also in the entire eastern region of India.


Travelling along the Teesta River’s banks showed very peaceful, yet captivating scenery – this is where some of us would’ve loved to have stepped out of the vehicle and happily walked for some time to admire the charming waterway’s tranquillity.

Kalimpong is well connected by road with Siliguri, Gangtok, Kolkata and Darjeeling and regular buses operate from these areas to the township. Two beautiful tourist places, Darjeeling and Gangtok are just 50 and 75 km away respectively.


River Teesta originates at Tso Lamo, Sikkim, it flows through West Bengal and then enters the Rangpur division in Bangladesh. It’s the fourth largest among 54 rivers shared by India and Bangladesh.


Upon arrival our Hotel the Silveroaks revealed a charisma reserved for the discerning travelling guest who is either on their way to Darjeeling, or returning as Kalimpong  (which by the way), is a reasonable stretch by road from Bagdogra Airport for our first overnight stay.


Next day, we started off in the thick of a small traffic jam with sacred cows always having the right of way. Lorries, motor bikes and any other mode of transport you can think of goes about its daily livelihood.


Kalimpong was earlier a subdivision of the Darjeeling district, but now it’s a separate district of West Bengal effective 14th Feb 2017 with an area of 1,056 square kilometers and inhabiting 49,403 people (as per 2011 census). All around, the mountain ranges are snow capped and include Deolo Hill with Sikkim and Bhutan being in the near.


How to reach Kalimpong by rail? The bordering rail line is New Jalpaiguri, which is almost 77 km away. This is an important railway station in the northern Bengal and also serves as a gateway to the remote northeastern India. You can easily take trains from different Indian cities to this region.


Jang Dong Palriffo Brang is a beautiful monastery which is located in the majestic hill station of Kalimpong. It’s the  ideal place for meditation and the Buddhist monks everyday offer prayers within for spiritually inclined people.

Model for this day was an unknown little doggie who was happy to sit and have his photo taken. A reminder that pets make the best mates.


Elisa who is our travelling companion from Spain, is testing out the prayer wheels. Luckily for us all, we travelled safely and had a great time in West Bengal.


A fitting memorial for the best-known Sherpa. Tenzing Norgay GM OSN, a Nepali-Indian Sherpa mountaineer from this region, He was one of the first two individuals known to reach the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal, which he accomplished with New Zealander Edmund Hillary on 29th May, 1953.

P.S. If you happen to ever be in Aoraki  Mt Cook, New Zealand there’s The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre of which a large part of the exhibition is a tribute to Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.


Outlook from the Monastery shows the mountain ranges stretching across West Bengal for all to enjoy its beauty and serenity outside of the larger cities of India.


Along the way to Darjeeling, we had the opportunity to enjoy a break at a lovely garden estate and flower nursery.


Not too long to go (and not as long as it might take this worker), we’ll arrive at our next stop of Darjeeling.

Might only be approximately a three-hour’s drive from Kalimpong, but it’s an extremely winding road one which will keep you seated.

For group booking enquiries, you can contact me directly through this website.

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Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal – India

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Tourism Minister Mr Gautam Deb for West Bengal and Mr Debjit Dutta (centre) who is the Chairman at the Indian Association of Tour Operators. It was undoubtedly a great honour and privilege to meet with them and understand more about the region and its massive growth as a tourist destination.

It’s been said, “Owing to the diversity in geographical contours from the Himalayas to the beaches of the Bay of Bengal, the state offers everything to a tourist.”

During the British Raj, until 1911 Calcutta was the capital of India. By the latter half of the 19th century, Shimla had become the summer capital and King George V proclaimed the transfer of the capital from Kolkata to Delhi at the climax of the 1911 Imperial Durbar on December 12, 1911. The buildings housing the Viceroy, government and parliament were inaugurated in early 1931.
Vidyasagar Setu, also known as the Second Hooghly Bridge is a toll bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India linking the cities of Kolkata and Howrah. With a total length of 823 metres, Vidyasagar Setu is the longest cable–stayed bridge in India.

In May 1972 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone of the Vidyasagar Setu, so named after the 19th-Century Bengali intellectual and reformer Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

Normal hussle and bussle of city life, but Kolkata has a somewhat different energy. Not much opens early in the morning and a delayed awakening occurs for the not so early risers. Suits me. Restaurants won’t really trade until noon and the street life comes alive with the smell of spices, marsala and burning coals readying for the day’s onslaught for all meat eaters to enjoy. Vegetarian dishes are easily found and a tiffin plate served thali style has been one my favourite for many years.

There’s something a little fishy going on here?

In India food cooked at home with care is considered to deliver not only healthy eating, but relatively cheap traditional and very tasty meals. Lunch is usually eaten thali-style, with a tantalising selection of regional delicacies that may include any combination of spicy vegetables, dhal, yoghurt, pickles, bread and pudding served on a large metal plate or a banana leaf.

There is one market that’s bustling with street food offerings in the morning and that’s Terreti Bazar, which is most popular with the locals and tourists as well.


Once, beautifully built rickshaws now serve as a reminder of how times have moved on. Recently, the use of human-powered rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of workers and pulled rickshaws have been replaced mainly by cycle or auto rickshaws.

St. John’s Church, originally a cathedral was among the first public buildings erected by the East India Company after Kolkata (Calcutta) became the effective capital of British India.

Tall columns frame the church building on all sides and the entrance is through a stately portico. The floor is a rare hue of blue-grey marble, brought from Gaur and large windows allow the sunlight to filter through the coloured glass.

Nearby is the Second Rohilla War Memorial and the Black Hole of Calcutta Monument. Survivor from this atrocity was John Holwell who later became the Governor of Bengal and went on to build a memorial at the site.

I’m thinking Alexandre travelling with us, would actually like to hop on the train and wave us goodbye. Some of the world’s best train journeys can be found in India and I can’t wait to show some of them off …


Paddocks close to the city are filled with mostly goats and sheep hard at work doing the mowing.


How could you not love goats? They’re extremely loyal, funny characters and yes, their milk makes the best cheese and yoghurt.


When was the last time you visited a book bazaar like this?

College Street has a unique charm of its own and blanketed with makeshift book stalls constructed of bamboo,  canvas and sheets of tin on both sides of the road;  it’s a paradise for book lovers.


Join in the craze of being in College Street – it’s the epicentre of Kolkata’s literary crowd. A second home to the intellectuals, scholars, academicians, students and book lovers of Kolkata city and international visitors. Also colloquially known as ‘Boi Para’ (book-mart), it houses Kolkata’s most prestigious and renowned academic institutions such as the University Of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Sanskrit College, Hare School and Hindu School.


Kali is the Hindu goddess (or Devi) of death, time and doomsday and is often associated with sexuality and violence, but is also considered a strong mother-figure and is symbolic of motherly-love. Here she’s being mass produced for upcoming festivities of which there is no shortage in West Bengal.


Additionally, there are quite a number of men’s outside toilets installed for them to use in Kolkata – as our mate Kevin was willing to model for me.


When you have the opportunity to inspect a hotel of distinction, without doubt they include some of the best-dressed personnel of any five-star hotel group. And here, I’d felt like royalty just by having my photo taken with one of the distinguished staff members!

And as we all know India and Australia encourage youngsters to be the best they can at cricket. Never know, there could be a rising star anywhere in the making.
Next stop the new district of Kalimpong and then onto Darjeeling.

For Australians wishing to travel to India please check my website for the correct E-visa link. www.travelgracefully.com.au under the Visalink tab for some handy hints.
http://www.travelgracefully.com.au/visalink/indian-e-visa-for-australians/
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