Darjeeling is a wonderful tangle of narrow wandering roads draped over a mountain ridge.
Darjeeling is famous for its teas and is a wonderful tangle of narrow wandering roads draped over a mountain ridge and provides magnificent vistas including Mt. Kanchengjunga (the world’s third highest peak). The faces of its people are inherited mainly from Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (a World Heritage Site) is a narrow-gauge (2 feet/0.610 meter) steam train described by UNESCO as “The first and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, it applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problems establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. It is still fully operational and retains most of its original features intact.” Ghum is the closest station from Darjeeling and makes for a pleasant two hour round trip including a short stop at Batasia Loop. For train enthusiasts it is a must-do.
Hotel & Restaurant Shangri-la in Darjeeling
Address: 5 Nehru Road, Darjeeling – 734101, West Bengal, INDIA
Location: Mall Road, Darjeeling (different location than Shangri-la Regency)
Phone: (0091) 354 2254149 – 9.30am to 9pm
Mr Sonam Lama: (0091) 9679999830
Mr Ranjan Lama U.K (0044) 7894333396 / India (0091) 9800045899
Skype I.D: ranjanlama1
Travelin’Ted review for Trip Advisor
“GREAT LOCATION, SPACIOUS ROOMS but COLD”
Our travels took us to Darjeeling in early December, the weather was great during our stay and we found the outside temperatures comfortable for walking.
Shangri-la Darjeeling on Mall Road (same owners but different location than Shangri-la Regency) is a short walk up from the taxi stop and has an excellent location between the taxi stop and the town square at the height of the town.
The rooms were spacious and looked out on Mall Road where we could watch the population walking passed, which was very much to our liking.
Like the bedrooms, the bathrooms were clean and had hot water, most of the time. The bathroom in the first room at the top of the stairs has a very thin wall between it and the staff’s sleeping room as we could easily hear snoring from the other side.
The biggest and most troublesome problem with our room was the lack of heat … there wasn’t any. If we wanted heat we had to pay additional for an electric heater … whether the electricity went off (which it did frequently throughout our stay) or not. Consequently we found the overly-spacious room colder than the outside temperature, wore several layers of clothing and hats to bed and piled on as many blankets as were available. We found the demand for additional monies to heat an already more expensive room than others in which we stayed in India an insult to their guests since no mention was ever made of such a basic need in advance.
The staff was most pleasant and breakfast was good (the tea was hot) and served in the room as we sat around the coffee table with the bed blankets wrapped around us.
We had planned to eat in the Shangri-la restaurant but found the dining area vacant and felt others might know something we didn’t (perhaps it also too cold) so went out in search of other restaurants more populated and found numerous to our liking.
Hotel reservations were made via email with the courteous Mr Ranjan Lama. He offered to arrange pickup at the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station but we were able to secure a shared taxi for just the four of us at a lower price directly at the station without difficulty; likewise with our return trip and the sunrise trip to Tiger Hill.
During a time of year when temperatures inside and out are more comfortable, it would be a pleasure to recommend the Hotel & Restaurant Shangri-la.
SIGHTSEEING IN DARJEELING
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (aka The Toy Train), Tiger Hill, Zoological Park (check for closed dates), Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre, Buddhist Monasteries and at the right time of year botanical gardens and tea plantations.
If walking up and down hills does not pose difficulties then Darjeeling, with its views of mountains and valleys, is a most pleasurable place to tour on foot. The people of Darjeeling are pleasant and many will take the time to stop for short visits. Shared taxis are treated like mini buses and their prices are most reasonable.
For souvenirs consider the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre and for teas the small Kev’s Market on Nehru Road (The Mall) has a good selection at good prices.
FOOD & DRINK IN DARJEELING
To the palate of many Westerners, the highly flavourful, spiciness of Indian cuisine can be unagreeable. But even for those who prefer a blander diet, India is still doable.
India’s population has the lowest individual consumption of meat in the world and animal based ingredients, other than milk products and honey, are seldom used in traditional dishes. Ghee (clarified butter) is the traditional cooking medium. For the traveller who wants their animal protein most restaurants have meat options unless they advertise themselves as vegetarian. Most popular meats are chicken, lamb and goat as religious practices forbid beef products to Hindus and pork to Muslims. Finding truly fresh fish in Northern India may be challenging. In place of animal protein most of India turns to dhal (curried lentils or pulses). Yogurt and other dairy products also play a big part in providing protein.
If a steady diet of Indian spices and dhal are not appealing the traveller will find, on most menus, an oriental style noodle dish with influences from Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
In Northern India, flat bread and rice are the staple starches. Bread, more commonly referred to as roti and chapati (the latter being a thinner unleavened, whole-wheat version) is often used as a vehicle to get food, such as dhal, from plate to mouth.
Vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive. Other than in American style hotels, salads are a rarity and the savvy traveller would be best to avoid anything which is not cooked or, in the case of fruit, peeled.
Vegetable pakoras are a popular finger food in India and can be ordered spicy or non-spicy. Made from chickpea flour and a variety of vegetables, then deep fried, pakoras are a tasty option for the non-spicy traveller and can be accompanied by yogurt or sweet & sour sauce for dipping.
For some excellent recommendations on restaurants consult a Lonely Planet guidebook – money well spent.
It is advisable for travellers in India to consume only bottled water. A nice change, when available, is bottled carbonated water. Buying water in large two litre bottles from a small vendor is usually the least expensive. With the proprietor watching, check the cap to ensure it is sealed.
Chai (tea) is a much consumed beverage often accompanied by heaps of sugar and generous pours of milk. Although tea is by far the most popular drink, coffee is gaining in acceptance.
Street stands offering fresh squeezed juices can seem tempting however lax hygiene practices – reusing cups which have been sloshed through a basin of tepid water – can ruin a vacation.
Lassi is a traditional drink of blended yogurt and water available ‘savory’ or ‘sweet’. The savory contains spices such as ground roasted cumin, whereas, sweet is made with sugar, honey or fruit. Sweet lemon, a variety of citrus, tastes more like orange to Western taste buds than lemon.
GETTING AROUND DARJEELING
Train travel is a great way to experience India. Day travel will allow you to see the countryside as it whizzes (sometime plods) by. Night travel can get you to where you are going and provide an inexpensive place to sleep. If you have limited time in India it may be best to make reservations prior to leaving your home country.
Lonely Planet India
Note: There are very convincing scam artists at railway station entrances ready to ‘help‘ you by telling you the ticket office for foreigners has changed locations, after which they put you in a rickshaw and then hop in for the ride to their ‘travel office’ some distance away. The real foreign office was exactly where it should be, inside the railway station.
The motorized auto-rickshaw provides an exhilarating experience and offers a wonderful way to get around a city while affording some protection from the elements. The driver is supposed to use a meter but generally a bartering exchange is carried out before you get in … if the price is not agreed to BEFORE the cost at the end of the ride could be substantial. We were often able to squeeze four people and four backpacks into an auto-rickshaw.
Bicycle-rickshaws offer a slower paced view of a city and are good for short distances. They have limited protection from poor weather. The pedal-drivers work hard for their money.
Taxis are best for longer distances, wet weather conditions or for transporting over-luggaged tourists. Like the auto-rickshaws, taxis have meters which are seldom used. Before getting in, or putting luggage in the trunk, agree on the total cost to get to your destination.
Insisting on hiring another cab or rickshaw usually either “fixes” the meter or lowers the price. If your hotel offers to make transportation arrangements for you, it may be cheaper to decline and walk out to the street and flag down a rickshaw or taxi.
If you like your driver you can make arrangement to have him pick you up at another time and/or place; most often they will be there, particularly if you paid them fairly or tipped above the agreed price. For sightseeing you can arrange to be taken from place to place for the day at an agreed price payable at the conclusion of the day’s travels. Drivers may also be a good source of information as to where to go and what to see.