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Where to stay and what to do in Darjeeling.

In the following section, we will give you some ideas on where to stay in Darjeeling District. We actually stayed in all the places mentioned here so, we can speak with some education about their amenities and service.

Just a word about choosing a place to stay. If you have just arrived in an area and you know that you can't wait to see the whole place, you might want to book yourself into a lesser hotel for a few days while

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City-scape of Darjeeling in the District of West Bengal.

you are sight-seeing. You can save yourself a few rupees and you won't be in your room much, anyway. With the money you save, you might be able to afford a little vacation from your vacation. Travelling is often not easy, it can be dirty, tiring and sometimes down right unpleasant.

Nothing can rattle the nerves of your travelling companion like being crammed face first into your armpit, along with thirty-five other people, in the back of a land rover! Especially if personal hygiene has fallen down your list of priorities lately. This can happen and it is no exaggeration! I honestly once counted thirty-five people being transported by a land rover in Orissa and I was one of them. I am sure this is not a world record especially coming from India, the land of world records, but it sure seemed like a lot at the time. There were twelve of us in the rear compartment alone and that is not to mention the people hanging off the back and sides. But I digress. If you are out and about in a particular area and you are feeling a little haggard, why not decide to book yourself into a nicer hotel for a few days after your sight-seeing. Actually sleep in a nice bed, enjoy the room and a nice meal or two, write some postcards to friends and family as they are wondering how you are. You may find this little respite will refresh you for the next leg of your journey, but don't get used to it!

One of the best places that we stayed at in India, is a place called KARMI FARM. It lies in a north-westerly direction from Darjeeling in beautiful hill walking country. Your can do some hiking; or go on a pony trek up to 12,000 feet (it takes a week);or do some easy walks and visit the local people and their villages; or just sit back, relax and enjoy the great food and atmosphere! It was a truly fantastic place to experience! Included in the package price is all your accommodation, all food, all the home-made chang you can drink (a tasty treat after some of the walks we took!), services of guides, porters, etc., and they pick you up (also, drop you off) from Darjeeling which is a 3 hour jeep ride through the tea gardens in that area. You can contact them directly in the U.K. at by telephone or fax: 01303 253803 or by writing to Karmi Farm, PO Kolbong, via Bijanbari, Dist. Darjeeling, West Bengal, India. Even the Dekeling Hotel or Samsara Travel Agency on Ladenla Road (near ANZ Grindlays Bank) can arrange your stay there.

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An obliging black bear at the Darjeeling Zoo.

While in Darjeeling, try the Dekeling Hotel. It is reasonably priced and centrally located. It has comfortable rooms and a good restaurant for breakfast on the ground floor. It is surprising what a bowl of corn flakes can do for your soul. The Dekeling is located directly across the street from Keventer's where you can get a hamburger and an ice cream, although they do take the term "hamburger"

a little too literally. It is actually made with ham! Glennary's, which is only a few steps away, has a great selection of baked goods and serves an excellent pot of the local brew -Darjeeling tea- as well as a tasty pizza made with Kalimpong cheese. A ten minute walk will get you to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Darjeeling Zoo. These days, the zoo is a bit of a sad place though. The conditions the animals are kept in are not the best, but it is still fun to watch the Indian vacationers wearing their toques and gloves in the middle of May!

One of the truly great things about this hotel is the owners, the Dekevas. If you are under six feet tall, ask them about the attic rooms. The ceiling is a little low but so is the price and with the view, you will truly feel like you have your head in the clouds. Also, if you are ready for your little retreat from your travels, ask the Dekevas' about their second hotel, The Hawk's Nest.

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The view from our attic room at the Dekeling Hotel.

You will be pampered by an extremely attentive staff, who become part of the family.We had four people, plus a driver taking care of the three of us (Dad came from Canada to stand up with me at my wedding). We were the very first guests at this lodge after it opened and the Dekevas' joined us for some chang and a wonderful Tibetan meal one evening. In the morning, you will be treated to tea in bed (called bed tea, go figure) and asked what type of meal you would like for dinner, Tibetan, Indian or continental. While you are out, the most stylish chef in all of India and one of my Dad's favourite guys will prepare a real spread with several dishes for you to enjoy. What better way to get to know a culture than through its food.

Apart from the few things that got mixed in above, if you are interested in one of the many treks available, the single most valuable pearl of local wisdom on how to get around in Darjeeling is:

Go up in the morning and down in the afternoon...

Many of the best walking paths to Darjeeling's sights are built on slopes of greater than 45 degrees. It makes for a good location for the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute but can virtually kill a traveller foolish enough to try to tackle Darjeeling in one or two days. In my humble opinion, Darjeeling is a place that truly deserves at least a week, maybe longer. If you are interested in trekking, try to spend one or two days with Indra Gongba at Trek Mate in Darjeeling. She is located near Chowrastra on Nehru Road, across from the Bellevue Hotel (ph. 54074). Indra joined us for dinner one night in Kalimpong and I can say that just meeting her and being in the presence of so much energy is a spiritual experience in itself. She is very knowledgable about regional history, religion, food and of course, tea.

We were in Darjeeling in late May. The air was warm and clear during the days. I remember being in the sitting room of a friend and there was Kanchenjunga, larger than life, perched on top of my wife's shoulder. Well, what else could I do?...but..."I'm crushing Kanchenjunga!" (Explanation to be found at:Kids in the Hall, try searching Headcrusher). As the day drew on, the air cooled and you could watch the town fill up like a soup bowl with fog. It rose from below until you could not see more than a metre or so out of the window. It gives you a pleasant sense of privacy after dealing with the crowds all day.