“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!”
Whenever I hear the word “vacation”, the primary thought is how to arrange a kid-friendly holiday where the kid can have a great time and we, the parents can sneak out some relaxing period as well.
This time, it was no different. The moment I got to know my mini Monkey’s summer vacation, I quickly made up the plans to visit Darjeeling (again after last year) and Tinchuley. Of course I was pretty late – so last minutes hassles of getting tatkal tickets and building up the suspense till the final moments. So we traveled on a Friday night aboard Padatik Express and reached New Jalpaiguri Station pretty much on time around 9.15 am on Saturday.
So what’s the plan?
We reach Darjeeling on Saturday afternoon and then spend next 3 nights here. On Tuesday, we then move onto Tinchuley, a quiet village about which we have been hearing nice things.
Darjeeling – Bengali’s summer sojourn
It was a blessing in disguise that we got an extra day in Darjeeling (unlike last year when we stayed for 2 nights). The first day was almost lost in traveling to Darjeeling from NJP. We started at 10 am from NJP and checked in at our hotel in Darjeeling at exactly 5pm. This included a 1.5 hours leisurely lunch break at Margaret’s Deck by Goodrick Tea Pot, after Kurseong. The last 20 mins drive from Ghoom took us almost 2.5 hours! Yes – thanks to the summer vacation crowd lining up!
Food break en-route Darjeeling?
I will absolutely recommend Margaret’s Deck Tea Lounge by Goodricke Teapot, after Kurseong town. This place is almost in the middle of the journey, so a well-placed cafe overlooking the valley, serving wide variety of tea with continental food. We had two pots of tea along with pancakes, fish fingers and then the two combo meals of Grilled Chicken and Fish Sangria (each combo meal served with bread-rolls, soup, salad and dessert). All of these cost us INR 3350/-. I will say absolute value for money considering the location, the ambience and of-course quality of food served. Here is a sneak peek on what we had.
What to do in Darjeeling?
With my mini-Monkey, generally I keep it light while planning. So we have breakfast, then head out to the first plan for the day. Then have lunch, come back to the hotel for the Monkey to catch some rest and then again head out in the evening for tea and then dinner. So yes, activity for the kid and adequate rest for us(!). This time, we had our other Honuman friends Doel, Subhajit and their kiddo Aadit with us. So this was generally the plan:
- Day 1 morning: mandatory visit to the Darjeeling zoo. And trust me, it’s must to-do thing here.
- Day 1 afternoon: visit Mall, laze around
- Day 2 morning: ride the Darjeeling Himalayan toytrain and then take the horse-ride for the kids at the Mall.
- Day 2 afternoon: we made plans to go to the Japanese Peace Temple but a sudden downpour made our plans go haywire – so again laze around the mall
I generally try not to do the 5-point or 7-point day trips for mainly two reasons. First, not everything is of interest to us. Secondly, too much crowded are those places and didn’t we come here, precisely, to escape from the crowd?
Recommendation: The places I felt is must do in Darjeeling town itself is to visit the Zoo, go to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, visit the Japanese Peace Temple and then have walks around the Rajbhavan area and then have lots of food. I mean lots. Are you getting the drift? Yes, relaxation is also an important part of the plan 🙂
Where to stay in Darjeeling?
There are certain non-negotiable things from my better half: a big, clean room and a clean bathroom. It’s not necessary to have mountain view at all but the sleep should be good. Also it should be at a walking distance from the Mall, oops… sorry.. the food joints! So as a dutiful “hus-friend”, I first tried Snow Lion Homestay where we stayed last time. The very helpful owner Gailey, this time, had to say No as the place was fully booked. Next I tried The Revolver but same with them. With not many hotels available due to the summer vacation crowd, we finally booked Hotel Sinclairs. It was above our budget but honestly we didn’t have much choice.
Hotel Sinclairs – the Honuman feedback
Let me say, almost everything about this hotel is good except two points. First, the steep uphill walk from Gandhi road to the hotel (considering it’s very near to the Mall) – there is no way you can know about this beforehand. So if you have problems in your knee or back, don’t venture into this place. Second, for the price they charge, the Deluxe rooms don’t have any view of the valley or the mountain. For 3 nights, we paid around INR 6200/- per night per room (including breakfast). Yes, it’s expensive but keep a watch on travel booking websites where you can good deals upto 50%. So what’s good? Rest everything – rooms are big, clean and super comfy beds. Service is awesome and prompt. Food at the in-house restaurant The Kanchenjungha is pretty nice. Finally the magnificent buffet breakfast every morning – I am sure you will get nothing like that. So full marks for that!
Food in Darjeeling
There have been loads and loads of information already around this. So do not want to dump the usual stuffs. This time, we tried Dekevas (right next to Kunga’s) for late dinner and everything was nice. Try here, in case you land up after Kunga’s has closed (7.30pm). Here we had 2 plates of momo, 2 plates of fried rice, 2 plates of noodles and one garlic chicken plate – all for INR 1000/-! Yes – that value for money!
Nathmull’s Sunset Lounge, just next to the Mall, is another place we loved. You can laze around here, sipping the finest tea and gazing towards the mountains next to you, almost. The food they serve is also pretty nice and we had a leisurely lunch here with Tea, donuts, Grilled Chicken Mayo sandwich, Grilled Fish in Lemon Butter Sauce and two plates of Chicken Pasta in white sauce and we were billed INR 2670/- only.
Coming to the hallowed “Glenary’s” – this place seems to be stuck in time – so the ambience, the live music, the people’s smile to greet you all remains as it is, except the food. Now let me warn you. This feedback on food is purely what we were served. The first night there ,we ordered Steamed Rice with Chicken and Mushroom (from last time, this was my kiddo’s fav) and Fish Au Gratin. The Steamed rice bowl had strand of hair inside it and I was livid. The Fish Au Gratin had a complete overdose of cheese (we ordered this on two separate days and the dish served was inconsistent). We naturally complained to the manager and he apologized and replaced those dishes and didn’t charge us finally. But for my love for Glenarys, I will think that the huge rush during the summers, probably was the cause for this debacle. But… We went back the second night as well for dinner – this time had Roast Pork and Chilly Beef but the quality left lot to be desired.
You must be thinking if we had any Tibetan delicacy? Yes. Presenting the super delicious “Thukpa” at The Kanchenjungha, in-house restaurant of Hotel Sinclairs.
Monkey Recommendation – This time, I felt, staying in Darjeeling itself is probably not a good idea any more, specially during this peak season. Next time onwards, I will be staying somewhere around 30 mins drive, away from Darjeeling, enjoy peacefully, make a day trip to the Mall and have food at my fav places. So if you think like me, probably you can try this out.
So that’s all for us for now. We will soon be back with our experience at the wonderful peaceful hamlet called Tinchuley. A teaser pic for what’s coming up next! 😀
Bye for now… Your Honuman Shongothon