The queen of hills – Darjeeling is defined to be the love and emotion of Bengalis. There are only a handful of Bengalis who haven’t been to Darjeeling at least once in their lifetime. However, most of the tourists prefer to visit during the summer or winter and try to eschew the season of monsoon.
People generally avoid Darjeeling during monsoon because of various reasons like unacceptable weather conditions, risk of landslides and imprecise views. However! Believe me, if you have ever been to Darjeeling on monsoon, I promise you won’t adore any other season at the queen of hills. It’s a completely different feeling, a different emotion.
Monsoon is the season when Darjeeling is in its full bloom. Amid the monsoon, the mountains bend to be lush green that spreads different hues of green throughout the hills. This is the time when you will find only a handful of tourists in Darjeeling. As a matter of fact, this is the time when the town witnesses no tourists at all.
Monsoon is the best time to visit Darjeeling if you wish to rejuvenate and relax your soul while you feel the calm and peaceful aurora of the hills. It is the time when you can feel and hear the natural sounds of various birds and insects. The drizzling sound of the rain and its dropping harmony on the slopes of the roof tins will run a different vibe through your soul. This is the time when you will find nature in her mood without any interference from the madding crowd.
As fewer tourists prefer to visit Darjeeling during the monsoon, most tourist spots remain out of bound during this time. Together, all these factors impose you on a different experience and a different perspective of the queen of hills – Darjeeling.
It has been a long time since we were stuck at home due to the second wave of Covid-19. Though we visited Tajpur for a weekend, our passion for travel and ardent love for the hills were now consequently compelling. We previously also had to cancel our 2 months long workation plan of Goa and Himachal Pradesh together due to various issues with Covid restrictions, homestays not accepting guests, mandatory RT-PCR, the madding crowd in Himachal respectively.
Darjeeling in monsoon was on our wishlist for a long time. With our Goa and Himachal Pradesh plan going down the vein, we had a wish to visit Darjeeling in the monsoon. We asked our travel partners Dilip Da and Boudi if they would like to accompany us. But alas! They revoked our appeal!
However, as we all know, “agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho toh puri kayanat use tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jati hai”. Bonafide enough, our nephew, Avijit, had the same wish as ours. Unlike us, he also wanted to escape ASAP because for two reasons – he was also sick and tired of being locked down at home and most importantly the fear of the upcoming Covid third wave by the end of August would only extend the lockdown.
We made a plan on Tuesday late at night and decided to travel within immediately on Friday. “Abhi nahi to kabhi nahi”! Believe me, this is the first time that we are travelling within a day’s notice and that too without a fixed date of return.
Being my first workation and long wishlist of experiencing Darjeeling in monsoon, I was quite excited for the trip. Done with all kinds of packing and all, I was waiting for the D-Day to arrive.
In the meanwhile, on Wednesday night a piece of news popped up on some media channels regarding the requirement of mandatory RT PCR negative reports. Being too late at night we couldn’t verify the news. The next morning, we called our hotel to verify the same. Our hotel manager, Yogesh Ji confirmed that till now, he hasn’t received any such circular. Ahh, what a relief it was!
However, within an hour or so, he called us back to confirm that they have received a circular a few minutes back, stating that from the next day onwards, RT-PCR negative report or a complete vaccination certificate (double dose) has been made mandatory while check-in at any hotels or homestays in Darjeeling.
We were like “What the hell!” and “What shall we do now”. Avijit being the cool-headed amongst us, immediately called upon some ICMR accredited labs to enquire about the test and the duration within which they would be able to deliver the report. Finally, we fixed upon Pulse Diagnostic at Sarat Bose Road. They assured us to deliver the report by the same night if we could just get our tests done within the next few hours.
Done with everything, we were anxiously waiting for the report to arrive. Finally, at around 9:50 PM we received the email of our reports. Blessed, we all were negative, thank God! Finally, we cheered up for the early morning flight tomorrow and impatiently waited for a few more hours to pass by.
Being a workation we had scheduled our flight during the wee hours of the morning considering that we’d be working for the day. For the same reason, we planned to halt the first night at Siliguri at Avijit’s house over there and move uphill to Darjeeling the following day, Saturday.
We woke up at around 4 AM, completed with our basic morning chores and bidding goodbye to mom and dad, we finally left for the airport at 5:30 AM. We first travelled to Gariahat to pick up Avijit from his house and then eventually embarked to the airport.
Our Air Asia flight to Bagdogra was scheduled at 9 AM. Done with all our security check-in procedures and we eagerly waited to board the flight. Krish and Avijit made a quick visit to the Lounge to enjoy their complimentary breakfast.
Finally, our flight touched the sky at around 10 AM, with an hour of delay because of bad weather at Siliguri. It hardly took us an hour to reach Bagdogra. The weather was kinda humid in Siliguri. We hired a local prepaid taxi from the airport and reached Avijit’s place in Hakim Para within 40 to 45 minutes.
It was already 12:30 PM by then which is quite late for Krish to start his day. He immediately rushed and set up his laptop to join his meeting. Me and Avijit on the other hand went to a nearby shop to buy some miscellaneous household items such as water bottles, disinfectant sprays, hand sanitisers etc. Settling off with everything we freshened ourselves up and ordered lunch. Krish was quite shocked to know Zomato, Swiggy, Uber, Ola etc. have also made their way into Siliguri. It’s no more the same town that he experienced during his childhood. After having our lunch, we took a quick nap for some time and then decided to hop over to the most famous local market of Siliguri, Hong Kong Market.
We strolled around the market for quite a long time and did some shopping. Before proceeding to our house we made our way into Kalpana Cabin, a famous food joint in that area. Krish and Avijit shared their childhood memories of Kalpana Cabin. The speciality of two of these adjacent cabins is their butter toast and half-boiled egg.
We luckily reached home before it started to downpour heavily. We spent the rest of the evening gossiping amongst ourselves and fixed on a vehicle to drop us to Darjeeling tomorrow. At around 10 PM we had our dinner and dozed off while listening to “Professor Shonku” on “Sunday Suspense”!
Going Up The Hill
We were supposed to start by 7 AM, so we all woke up by around 5:30 AM and got ourselves ready. We all were heavily excited as we were travelling to the hills after a long time.
Our shiny Innova was already there before its scheduled time. Well, I must mention here that due to Covid-19, only 3 guests are being allowed at 4 seater vehicles and 5 guests are being allowed at 7 seater vehicles, excluding the driver. That’s the reason we had to fix upon an Innova.
The first half an hour of the journey through the chaotic roads of Siliguri was uninspiring. The scene, the environment and our feelings started to change as soon as we touched the Sukna Forest Range. Concrete buildings and the noise of horns recreated into the lush green forest and the smell of fresh air.
Travelling a few minutes through the forest road we spotted two wild elephants just a few metres ahead of us. The driver exclaimed, “bhaiya aap log bahut lucky hai ki itne samne wild elephants dikh gaye”. Yes, we were really lucky that day. We have travelled at least fifty times through this road but never spotted a wild animal so close. We were really overwhelmed.
As we crossed the toll plaza of Rohini Road, we were overjoyed to spot our love – the hills. We were sort of hypnotised to see the rain clad clouds crowning over the head of the lush green mountains.
As we gradually ascended upward through the steep roads of the hills we were completely in the core of the clouds. At some stretches, it was like we were lost in the thick dense clouds. It was like driving through the abode of clouds. Those moments were one of our best experiences while travelling to Darjeeling in monsoon. The view and the feeling of losing yourself amidst the dense clouds are abominable. It was like we were in heaven.
While playing hide and seek with clouds along the curved roads, we eventually reached Darjeeling. It started raining quite heavily by the time we reached our hotel – The Hermitage. We called over to the hotel and requested if they could help us with an umbrella and our luggage. They assured us the same and sent a housekeeping staff to aid us with.
To begin with, we were really impressed with the sanitization procedure during check-in. They thoroughly sanitized us and our belongings which assured us during these unprecedented times. We were shown our rooms as soon as we completed the check-in formalities and submitted our RT-PCR negative reports. Being a luxury hotel, every safety procedure is taken care of at The Hermitage Resort. But as it they say – “Prevention is better than cure”, keeping the point in our mind we sanitized each and every corner of our rooms before settling down.
After settling down, we ordered a light brunch from the hotel’s in-house restaurant. The food was really appetizing.
After having a power nap, when we woke up it was almost late afternoon. As we all will be working as usual from Monday, we wanted fully utilize the available time. Thus we decided to go for a stroll over to the Mall. Next, we spent the evening at Glenarys, a famous cafe cum restaurant in Darjeeling. While returning back to our hotel we collected some street side chicken pakoras for our evening amusement.
As we know “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. We can’t construe wealth but yes it definitely makes a man healthy. Thus, we called off the day at around 10 PM going by the norms of hills.
With the sound of various birds chirping around the surroundings we woke up at around 6 AM. Upon sliding the curtains off the window we found everything white outside. Being the time of monsoon the dense cloud has capped up everything. We took some time for morning chores and finally ordered a cup of Darjeeling tea.
Even the rays of the Sun could not help the clouds to surmount. It started drizzling in a while. Being in love with the monsoon in Darjeeling we even revel in the drizzle on the lush green hills. Relaxing on the couch of our room, while sipping our cup of Darjeeling Team we kept staring over the monsoon in the hills through the window before we headed for breakfast at around 8:30 AM.
Today we planned to visit Kunga, a famous Tibetian restaurant located at the opposite of Keventers for lunch. According to our plan, we got ourselves ready and left at around noon. We ordered a plate of chicken fried rice, chicken noodles and chilli pork. Aha! What a delicacy it was. We kept drooling over it. Post lunch we hovered over the Mall and Mahakal market before we headed back to our hotel.
As we would be at workation from tomorrow we spent the evening relaxing with our poison. We were served dinner at around 9:30 PM. Post dinner we went to the terrace to endure the cool breeze along with the twinkling views of the surrounding hills. Finally, we hit the bed by around 10:30 PM.
Workation at Darjeeling in Monsoon
Being in workation is something distinctive from a normal holiday. Our days used to begin relaxingly with the sounds of chirping birds or with the sound of rain shedding through the tin panel of the hotel window, unlike regular holidays where we used to wake up early to make the most out of it
Generally, we used to spend the wee hours of the morning on our couch sipping a cup of aromatic Darjeeling tea gazing at the view of the lush green valleys by the casement windows with soft Nepali music being played in the background. Being monsoon in Darjeeling, we lazed our mornings, watching the clouds pass over each other and clashing over themselves. We were amazed by this bizarre view and kept on relishing it.
Sometimes we’d be lazily sitting at the couch, listened to some soft tunes or be at work, we could see and perceive the smoky white clouds fondling the window pane and entering our room. Let this short video take you to that moment.
Being a workation and not a proper vacation this time we experienced Darjeeling in a different way. Most of the days before commencing with our work, we used to go out for breakfast, hopping and exploring through some of the well-known eateries of Darjeeling like Sonam’s Kitchen, Glenarys, Keventers and Tom and Jerry. These cafes and restaurants are famous for serving various types of breakfast delicacies such as English platters, pancakes, continental platters, Tibetian dishes, etc.
One day as we woke up we heard some hip-hop music being played at a distance. Curious by the tune, as we moved out, we found it to be from the Observatory View Point. As we went forward, we found that the locals of Darjeeling are having an aerobic session. A quick chat-chat revealed this being their daily routine. We hesitantly asked for their permission to join their rhythm. They welcomed us warm-heartedly. Though we could not match up with their pace or rhythm either, we still enjoyed the moment. For next few days, this became our daily morning routine before heading for breakfast or a quick stroll over the mall.
Being a lazy lad at our homes we don’t know where we got all the energy from. Some days we also went for a jog from our hotel up to the Mahakal market through the cloud-covered lush green roads. Aha! What a beauty it was. No wonder if given a chance, I’d stay there forever. This seems to be the reason that people at the hills are so beautiful. A simple lifestyle is a key to good health and peaceful life.
We used to return back to our hotel between 9:30 AM to 10 AM and finally used to start with our work. Working here was also a completely different experience. Even with our hectic work schedule, we were never tired. It seemed like God has bestowed us with all the energies of the world. The view, sometimes completely covered with clouds and sometimes revealing the distant lush green valleys, the foggy weather, the drizzling sounds of the rain, the pure oxygen and mainly the aroma of the mountains kept us hypnotised while we continued with our work.
One fine morning we woke up and as we agape our windows we were left awestruck. We couldn’t believe our eyes! We pinched each other and yes we were right, we are not dreaming! The mighty Kanchendzonga stood apparent in front of us. We were beguiled. Truly speaking we never expected to spot Kanchendzonga during monsoon in Darjeeling. Though it was sighted only for around 30 minutes or so, still it was competent for us. That day we spent the wee hours of the morning on the terrace of the hotel enjoying the sunrise over the snow-capped Kanchendzonga while sipping over our hot cup of tea.
Being in the middle of working hours we used to have our lunch at the hotel itself. Considering the long stay, upon requesting the manager, Yogesh Ji, a special package of fooding and lodging was formed for us (sorry, we won’t be able to disclose the financial details). The lunch included the meal (thali) that is generally served in any homestays in North Bengal. We are grateful to the General Manager – Yogesh Ji and Operation Incharge – Apurba Da for all the co-operation and for making our stay memorable.
The food was homely and sumptuous. With our daily interactions with the housekeeping and restaurant crew, we also developed a good bonding with them, specially Phinjo Ji (Manager of Restaurant, Day Shift) and the other staff. We’d really like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
We used to get our work done by around 5 PM or 5:30 PM and go out in the evening for a walk through the Chowrasta Mall Road or by tasting different strains of teas at Golden Tips or Nathmulls – the two famous tea shops of Darjeeling. However, at weekends, we generally used to hop at some pubs like the basement of Glenarys or Ara by Bellevue.
Being in the hills and primarily because of the lean season, everything used to get closed by around 7 PM -7:30 PM. So we mostly used to get back to our hotel by around 8 PM. Rest of the evening we used to enjoy the solitude of mother nature.
While we gazed at the adjacent twinkling hills from our room we used to switch the lights off and open the window to let the chilled winds run through our veins. Most of the days we’d adapt to pin-drop silence to experience the calmness of the night while the clouds covered and brimmed the glittering hills, listening to the screeching sound of insects playing in the mountains.
We used to have our dinner at the hotel post which we used to visit the terrace to experience the tranquil and peaceful nature, the cool breeze, the clear moonlight kept on mesmerising us and took away all the tiredness of the day. We’d observe the clouds stirring us and passing from one hill to the other. Finally, in an amicable mood, we used to hit the bed and doze off for the day.
The Hermitage Resort
Hermitage Resort is one of the most well known and primaeval hotels of Darjeeling. The hotel is constructed in attic attire with all of the rooms having a view of the entire 180 degrees Kanchendzonga range.
Hermitage Resort is located in one of the most prime and prestigious locations of Darjeeling, near the Raj Bhavan and just beneath the Observatory View Point. It is one such property in the whole town that has the view of Mt. Kanchendzonga, Sikkim, local villages and the tea gardens from all of its rooms.
Bringing in the fusion of old and new Darjeeling with classical and contemporary references the rooms in Hermitage Resort are well planned and luxurious enough to provide every little comfort for the guests. The rooms of the hotel are categorised as Victoria Deluxe Rooms and Victoria Club Rooms. At Hermitage Resort there are 4 floors with a total number of 5 rooms on each floor. The Hermitage Resort being situated right at the edge of a cliff, the floors are situated at the negative level from the ground floor offering you a similar view from each of the rooms.
According to our experience, the rooms were neat and clean and were well furnished. Each room is furnished with a large couch by the casement window facing the Kanchenjungha for giving you an amazing experience. Every room has luxurious amenities such as free wifi, water heater, tea, coffee, milk sugars etc. The rooms are also equipped with large wardrobes and dressing tables. The washrooms are well maintained and equipped with western toilets, geysers for 24 hours and basic toiletries.
You can opt to have food at the hotel’s in-house restaurant. The menu has a wide range of delicacies for you. During our stay, we tasted a lot of dishes that were quite appetizing. The food is served in your room or you may choose to have it in the restaurant. The restaurant has a sitting arrangement for around 5 to 6 groups at a time.
All the team members of the Hermitage Resort are very courteous, friendly, generous and humble. They try their best to satisfy the guests in each and every possible manner. We are really thankful from the core of our heart to Yogesh Ji, Apurba Da, Phinjo Ji and the other staff members of the Hermitage Resort for providing us a memorable workation experience. We were overwhelmed with their warm hospitality.
Hermitage Resort has an open terrace with sitting arrangements as well as arrangements for bonfires in winters. This terrace is an added plus point for the hotel. Here you can relax at this open terrace with a cup of hot Darjeeling tea while gazing over the mountains and letting the clouds touch your soul. You can even opt to do some exercises or yoga in the purified fresh air. During the peak seasons, you can experience the mesmerising sunrise and sunset over mighty Kanchendzonga from your room itself and the terrace while avoiding the crowd at the observatory viewpoint. This terrace is one of the best things a photographer would lust for.
Apart from the above, from Hermitage Resort you can even take a small leisurely walk through the exquisite green road to the nearby Gymkhana Club, Mahakal Mandir, the Mahakal Market and The Chowrasta Mall.
Though Hermitage Resort is located a bit away from the hustle-bustle of the main town still it comes in close proximity to all of the prime locations of Darjeeling including the famous food joints, cafes or restaurants at the Darjeeling Mall.
Hereby, I solicit you to stay at The Hermitage for once in your lifetime and experience Darjeeling differently. I assure you’ll be loving each and every bit of it.