Kalimpong – A Beautiful Hilly Retreat
Six months in the concrete jungle and I was already having nightmares of being stuck here forever. It was high time to take a break from the routine life and the most difficult part of it was to convince my husband for going again to the hills. But thanks to my face making skills that I learned from Bolt (from the movie BOLT) which finally made him succumb to my wish :). We wanted to make a full proof travel plan this time taking all the lessons of our last trip into consideration whether it was regarding vehicle, travel agent or places to visit. As always, I had to play the travel planner role and my husband stuck to the travel partner and photographer roles :). We wanted a relaxing trip this time with a limited budget and as the duration of the trip was also short we did not want to spend a lot of time in traveling. So after a lot of research we decided to visit Kalimpong and Chhota Mangwa [both in Darjeeling district] for 3 nights and 4 days towards the end of November. Train tickets and hotels were booked, dresses were finalized, leave was applied and the wait began.
On the cool night of 27th November our journey started from Kolkata station by Garib Rath and we reached NJP at around 8am the next morning. Unlike the last time we did not fall prey to the tricks of the taxi drivers at NJP and instead caught a shared auto directly to Siliguri bus stand. The auto driver was kind enough to guide us to the bus stand and we caught a Govt. run bus to Kalimpong at 10:25am after waiting for almost 45 minutes. The journey took around 3 hours and the road passed through beautiful landscapes. The green water of river Teesta, the high mountains and the cool breeze added magic to the holiday mood. As we moved closer to Kalimpong, hues of yellow and red started appearing at both sides of the road. Yes there were this whole lot of yellow and red flowers (even though I don’t know their names but the yellow flowers looked very similar to Sunflower) spread everywhere in patches all through kalimpong making the whole place colorful. It was a pleasant surprise for us as we never expected to see so many flowers in November [we thought April May is the season of flowers in Sikkim and North Bengal]. We reached Kalimpong bus stand at around 1:30 pm and after getting down from the bus a gust of chilly wind brushed our cheeks welcoming us to the beautiful hill station. The bus stand was quite crowded with lots of vehicles and people moving around and that reminded me of some of my friends who had suggested me not to go to Kalimpong as it has been quite crowded and had nothing much to offer. But I tried to keep that positive feeling inside me alive and we caught a cab to move to the hotel.
We already had made our booking for 2 nights at Morgan House Tourist Lodge which is a Government run heritage hotel away from the milling crowd. The hotel is a beautiful property having a colonial look and is placed on a ridge right in front of the army golf course. It has a lovely lawn and many colorful flowers adorned the area when we visited the place. All the rooms in the hotel have a wooden flooring and the staircase is wooden too which adds to its archaic look. After checking in, we had an yummy lunch and came out to explore the area. At 3:30 pm, it looked like late evening as the day was cloudy and cold had grown stronger due to the chilly wind. We wrapped ourselves in our winter clothes and went to the near by golf course. The golf course is huge and beautiful and has an army run cafe inside that sells tea, coffee and some souvenirs too. Visitors are allowed to a certain point and can even play golf for sometime by paying Rs 50. The strong cold wind made it difficult for us to stay there for long, so we had two cups of hot coffee and headed back to the hotel. A plate of hot momos and two cups of hot tea were the prefect snacks for the cool evening and we laid down in the bed passing the whole time watching TV. The cold grew stronger with night, but thankfully the hotel room had a room heater that provided some relief from the biting cold. Fortunately, there were less guests on the day we checked in to the hotel and it turned out to be a blessing for us as there was absolutely no noise or disturbance. The serenity of the place could truly be felt and this reminded us that we took the right decision in choosing Kalimpong as our holiday destination this time.
The morning came with the chirping of birds and I removed the window curtains to have a view of the outside world. The morning was cloudy and there was no sign of Kanchenjunga. Even though I was a little disappointed, but a voice inside told me I had one more morning here and that could bring some luck with it. So we got ready and came out for a morning walk. Somehow mornings in the hill stations look extra beautiful, may be because we do not have the tensions of work and other responsibilities or because the weather of the hills have a special charm to make us forget everything. Whatever might be the reason, every time I visit the hills, I feel to be at total bliss and thank God for giving me the opportunity to see his beautiful creation through these eyes. We had a stroll around the area, had tea in the lawn and came back to the room to get ready for the sightseeing. We talked to one of the hotel staffs and booked a Maruti Omni for sightseeing for Rs 900. Since we did not want to roam around a lot, we decided to visit only 2 places, Deolo Hill and cactus nursery.
The cactus nursery is a private property that was started by late Mr.Pradhan and has a wide variety of cactus plants. There is an entry fee of Rs 10 per person to visit the nursery, but it is worth every penny. The cactus plants are very well organized and some of them even had different colors of flowers on them when we visited. The nursery has many varieties of Roses too and also provides good views of the surrounding. The complex is very well maintained by Mr. Pradhan’s family and lodging facility is also available in the complex even though I am not aware of the tariff. This is a place not to be missed as you would not get to see so many types of cactus plants together at any other place. We clicked a few pics there and resumed our journey towards Deolo Hill.
Deolo is the highest point of Kalimpong and provides panoramic views of the town as well as the surrounding hills and valleys. There is a beautiful garden in the area with lots of different flowers all around and pathways have been well laid to guide the visitors through out the park. Benches have been set up aesthetically under canopies amongst the flower beds to sit and enjoy the beauty of the place. Activities such as horse riding and zorbing ball are also available in the park. Even paragliding facility is provided by various operators just a few meters away from the park. There is a Government run tourist lodge at the top of the hill named as Deolo Tourist Lodge which is a beautiful property. This place provides great views of Kanchenjunga on a clear day, but unfortunately when we visited it was very foggy blocking the view completely. The chilling weather with mist floating around and colorful flowers here and there created the perfect environment to sit quietly and get lost in the beauty of nature. We strolled in the garden for some time, had a cup of coffee and came back after clicking a few pics.
After having lunch we decided to visit the local market. The market is a huge area with lot of shops selling winter items and other souvenirs. There were many roadside shops too selling beautiful scarves, knit leggings, winter caps, gloves etc. and the place looked absolutely colorful. If you are a shopaholic, then this place is a must visit, But you need to keep in mind that all the road side shops close by 6pm and other shops close maximum by 7pm. The market area also has some restaurants to try out the Tibetan cuisines. We stopped by one of the restaurants to have a plate of hot momo and coffee and then came back to the hotel.
Next morning too was foggy and there was no sign of Kanchenjunga again. It was time to say good bye to Kalimpong and leave for our next destination that was Chhota Mangwa. Before leaving the place we thought of visiting the golf course again, but it did not open till 11am that day. I don’t know if it was closed for Sunday or it opens late on Sunday. So we took a walk around the Tashiding Tourist Lodge that is near Morgan house and one of the staff members of our hotel was kind enough to show us the newly made cottages in the area. Then we came back to the hotel and after a sumptuous breakfast left Kalimpong with heart full of beautiful memories.
1. There are Government run buses as well as private ones running from both NJP and Siliguri to Kalimpong. But the Government run buses are in better condition and traveling by them is comfortable too. The fare from Siliguri to Kalimpong is Rs 95 by bus. Apart from this, there are shared vehicles such as Sumo, Bolero etc. that could be availed from both NJP and Siliguri even though I do not have any knowledge of the fare [But it should not be more than 300 per head].
2. Both the Government run tourist lodges, Morgan House and Deolo tourist lodge can be booked online from West Bengal Tourism site: http://www.wbtdc.gov.in/
3. Booking an exclusive taxi from the stand or market area to Morgan house costs Rs 100. But there are shared taxis available all the time from hotel to market/stand and vice versa at Rs 10 per head.
4. There are many ATMs available in Kalimpong town, But if you decide to stay at Morgan House, then it is advisable to withdraw cash from market area ATMs as both the ATMs near by the hotel were running out of money at the time we visited.