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NE-GQ Tour: Darjeeling– An early morning whitewash

An early morning sunrise atop Tiger Hill is a must see in darjeeling and every tour operator will have this in their iternary. Ours was no different. Tiger hill is one of the main view points in darjeeling which offers a panaromic view of the Kanchenjunga range and darjeeling town.

As the sunrise is hyped up people rush to tiger hill as early as 3.30 in the morning to get the best vantage seats to view the sunrise. There is a glass enclosure built which allows people to view the sunrise from the comfort of the seats rather than stand in the freezing cold outside. The building built has 3 levels and tickets are priced from Rs 20 to Rs 40 where u can go to the top and sit comfortably.

A huge crowd was already present by the time we reached the place. I was confident I could get the sunrise as the weather was very clear and we could see the moon and stars shining brightly. Since it was too cold I got the Rs 40 ticket so that my wife could sit comfortably. The chairs was almost filled up, however I managed to get a seat for her. There wthias still an hour to go for the sunrise and more people were gathering down. The place seems to be run by a couple of people and one of them came to the room and gave an overview of darjeeling, how the tiger hill got its name among other things.

The weather which was clear suddenly began to deteriorate. Mist and clouds threatened to spoil the party. Within few minutes the entire place was covered in white mist disappointing everyone there.

Morning Whitewash

The sunset time came and went and the weather remained the same. There was a tourist from kolkata who said that seeing sunrise from tiger hill is very rare and one can see better and more beautiful sunrises from Lolegeon. Disappointed, I went upstairs and found that many people had already left and the remaining were packing up . We too headed back to the car.

We began the local sightseeing with a visit to ghoom monastery first. Located 8 kms from darjeeling, this is one of the first monasteries to be built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso. This monastery is also called as Sampten Choling Monastery or Yiga Choeling Monastery.

Ghoom Monastery

The monastery contains statutes of Maitreya Buddha and his disciples Chenrezi and Chongapa. The walls of the monastery is covered with paintings.

Maitreya Buddha and his disciples

Paintings

As this is on the way to darjeeling town, all the people who had gone to tiger hill had come here and as expected there was a huge rush.  A quick tour of the monastery and a couple of photos and we were of to batasia loop.

The batasia loop is one of the main attractions in darjeeling. The place contains a war memorial and the railway line for the toy train. Misty weather meant we could only see the war memorial.

War Memorial@ Batasia Loop

One of the other things one can do a Batasia loop is to play dress up by wearing traditional darjeeling dress. There are lots of local merchants who try to entice people by asking them to wear the dress and take photos for a nominal fee.

Since we couldnt see the loop which is considered an engineering marvel, there was nothing much to do there. Taking a few snaps of the war memorial and the mist filled darjeeling town we went back to the hotel to freshen up. The driver told us he would come after couple of hours to pick us up and show us the remaining places.

Couple of hours of rest and we were on the road again. The first place we visited was peace pagoda a Japanese temple. The pagoda contains statues of buddha and various events that have occurred in the life of Gautama Buddha.

Peace Pagoda

One can go round the pagoda and see various buddha statues in various positions such as reclining, standing etc. Below each statue there are is a small carving showing various stories/teachings

Buddha and his various teachings

There is also a Japanese temple very close to the pagoda which we visit after seeing the pagoda.

HMI and the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park  was next to be visited. The zoo contains various animals and birds ranging from leopards to bisons and tigers. There are also a wide variety of birds which are kept within glass enclosures. The zoo is part of HMI(Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) which offers basic/advanced and other specialized mountaineering courses.

We spent some time at the zoo clicking photos and looking at the various animals present in the zoo.

Zoo

The zoo covers quite a big area and it takes atleast a couple of hours to cover everything.

HMI is also part of the zoo complex. There is a museum within HMI where one can see the various equipments used during mountaineering expeditions. The museum also contains photos of famous expedition leaders both from India and from other parts of the world. Scale models of all major himalayan peaks are also present.  The museum is a must visit for all those who are interested in mountaineering as one can gain a lot of information and also look at the equipments used for climbing himalayas and other peaks elsewhere in the world.

Since photography is not permitted inside the museum no photos could be taken. There is also a climbing wall present within the campus. Those interested can practice some wall climbing.

Information on basic and advanced mountaineering courses can be found here

HMI

Spending a couple of hours at the museum and the zoo we went back to the car and to the tea estate while briefly stopping at tenzing rock. The rock is open to public for climbing for a fee of Rs 50.

Tenzing Rock

Apart from being known as Queen of the Hills, darjeeling is also famous for its tea. There are numerous tea estates which produce some of the best tea’s. We stopped at one such estate. We could view the estate from the outside as we didnt have permission. Had a couple of Tea’s from a nearby shop and went to have a look at the estate.

Tea Estates

I was also interested in seeing the rock garden but the driver told me it wasnt that interesting to see. Evening was spent at the local mall shopping.

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