Caution: Boiling hot tea coming right up!
The city of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal, is the place to go if you enjoy your daily cuppa. Darjeeling Tea is one of the most popular teas in the country and it also has a revered place in the world, earning it’s title, ‘The Champagne of Tea.’
Apart from its association with the second most consumed beverage in the world(the first being water), Darjeeling is also known as the ‘Queen of Hills’. Complete with hilly roads, snowy mountains and a whole playground for Mother Nature, Darjeeling is the place to be if a state of mental peace and a yearning for natural aesthetics is on your mind.
So, without further ado, let’s spill the tea on Darjeeling.
Darjeeling is a great viewing point for the Mt. Kanchenjunga peak as well as many other peaks in the Himalayan range, even Mt. Everest if you’re lucky! There’s a point in the city known as ‘Tiger Hill’ which is the best place to get a glimpse of the youngest mountain range in the world.
Tiger Hill is a viewing point atop a hill and in order to get the best view, one must get there at a time before sunrise(about 5:00 am) and watch the crack of dawn illuminate the snow-covered peaks.
This is the Kanchenjunga peak from Tiger Hill, just before sunrise. It feels like an exhilarating achievement when you get this first glimpse of the mountain as the weather here is quite cloudy and one needs to have a wee bit of good luck to get a nice view. Besides, the whole ambience is almost godly with freezing temperatures a view of the sprawling hilly roads below your feet, complete with a nice cup of tea provided by the hawkers at the viewing point.
The Kanchenjunga peaks at sunrise. Now this experience, gives me goose-pimples whenever I think about it. The mountains are a mighty presence and they show how raw and beautiful nature is and really instils respect for the world in which we live.
So much respect that I dropped my scarf at the viewing point as homage to Mother Nature. Unfortunately, my mum doesn’t see it as an act of reverence.
Plot twist: It was her scarf that I had borrowed.
The journey to Tiger Hill is quite an interesting one. As I mentioned, one needs to reach the point at about 5 am and in order to do so, one must leave the hotel at least at 4am in chilly cold weather. We had a cab booked for the day as we had planned to visit multiple places after Tiger Hill and the vehicle that we got was a large SUV which came with two local guides. Now, these guides are the actual definition of superhuman. On the way up the hilly road, one of the guides hung onto the side of the SUV, holding on to the luggage carrier as the vehicle sped up the winding path. And this was the case in all of the tourist vehicles going up the hill, with one guide driving and the other hanging on the side of a speeding vehicle in near freezing temperatures.
This is straight out of a Mission:Impossible movie for us wee metropolitan lambs but for these local guides, the feat is an everyday mode of commute.
If the cold doesn’t wake some sleepy heads up, watching the daring guides surely will.
After visiting Tiger Hill, our next stop was the Bloomfield Tea Garden.
Here, you get to see the origin of the Darjeeling Tea, right from tea-pickers picking the leaves to a brief tour which describes the whole process of drying the leaves and getting them ready to brew. It’s very interesting to watch the tea-pickers at work. They are mostly women who work on the bushes with a basket carried on their back or supported by a strap from their head. They pick out the good leaves and toss them into the basket till it is full. Tea-picking is a popular source of employment for the women in the area.
At the end, you get a nice, hot cup of Darjeeling Liquor Tea which you can sip while taking in the hilly surroundings. Darjeeling Tea is usually had without milk and sugar, however, there are different variants which can be had with milk. The leaves can be processed to make red, green, oolong or black tea. Darjeeling tea has a slightly spiced, musky taste with a lovely aroma. It isn’t very bitter unlike the chai found in other states of India, mainly Assam.
Note that when I say chai, I mean a nice cuppa of hot tea with milk and sugar and not chai tea latte which seems to be popular right now. I mean, why would anyone make a latte out of such a divine drink? It is absolutely boggling. Besides, it’s odd how it’s called ‘chai tea’ considering ‘chai’ is the Hindi word for tea. It’s like saying, ‘Tea tea latte’ which makes zero sense, much like the whole idea of latte-ing tea and ruining it’s flavour.
That escalated quickly. I mean, I had to rant somewhere. One does not simply make a latte out of chai!
Right, back to the trip.
After the tour to the tea garden, we went to the Rock Gardens and the Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling. On the way, we stopped for a bit of rock climbing at the Tenzing Rock Climbing centre, named after Sherpa Tenzing, the first man to climb Mt. Everest. Seeing my skills at rock climbing, I can say that Everest is a bit of a far-fetch but never say never.
After the rock climbing, we went to a Peace Pagoda for a taste of inner peace, almost close to Nirvana.
The Peace Pagoda is a Japanese Buddhist shrine, aimed at fostering global peace among human beings. The landscape of the place really brings out the peaceful vibes and is a good place to enjoy the view and take a moment to relax.
Our last stop in Darjeeling was the Rock Gardens. It is a beautiful park, filled with mini waterfalls and flowers. It is a nice place to get some real aesthetic pictures and have a nice picnic amidst birds, bees and butterflies:)
Notice the bee in the last picture, right at the centre! She’s called Buzzee:)
After the tour, we made our way back to our hotel. The road to the hotel was very foggy and almost eerie. We also passed by the Ghum Railway Station built in 1891 by the British rulers during the Colonial Rule in India.
As you can see, Darjeeling is quite a cloudy place with a good amount of rain. It is for this weather that Darjeeling gets its name which means ‘Land of Thunderbolts’ in the Tibetan language.
I wonder if there are any ghosts lurking in the fog. Probably just Casper:)
On the way back from Darjeeling, we went to a place called Mirik. It is a small town which has a beautiful lake known as ‘Mirik Lake’ and is a serene place to hang out and have a nice picnic.
This is Mirik Lake, bordered by conifers. This reminds me of Mr. Darcy’s home at Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice as well as parts of Rosings Park, where resides Mr. Collins. I wonder if there’s a mansion nearby, complete with a pianoforte and a gentleman who ‘loves his girl most ardently.’ Alternatively, there could be a parish with a Countess who absolutely dreads the idea of the ‘shades of Pemberley being thus polluted.’
Jane Austen sure can make a girl dream:)
This is the view of a monastery from Mirik.
And that is a wrap!
Until Next Time,
My hedgehog came to say bye, hehe:)