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Paul & Luiza´s World Tour

India - West Bengal - Darjeeling and Kolkata

INDIA | Thursday, 6 December 2018 | Views [31]

India, West Bengal - Darjeeling & Kolkata - from freezing to chaos, and planning an early escape from India  

After 4 days in Rishikesh, we take a taxi to the train station, a 7 hour train back to Delhi and then, after a nice metro ride to the airport, a Spice Jet 2 hour flight to Bagdogra Airport. From the airport, we take a pre paid taxi to Darjeeling. The taxi takes 3 hours to get there and were so tired that when the driver wants to stop for 10 minutes for coffee or tea, we want to strangle him, but if you’ve ever been to India, you know people take their own time and do their own thing… actually, things seem to take their own time in this country… so, at the end, we just have a cigarette, freezing our butts out, while our driver enjoy his chai. When we get to Darjeeling, the driver doesn’t know where the hotel is and we need to sort it out, asking for directions. He also doesn’t have change and he expects us to sort it out, which we end up doing, by walking into a shop and asking for them to break the money. So we finally arrive at the Mount Royale Hotel, 20 Euros. The hotel is a bit simple but the rooms are nice and very clean. Breakfast is just great, chilli omelets with toast, followed by dum aloo, a delicious spicy potato dish served with roti, we’re hooked!

We were last in Darjeeling 8 years ago and we obviously have high expectations as we loved it the first time. Thankfully Darjeeling doesn’t disappoint. It’s freezing, with temperatures ranging between zero and 6 degrees but it’s still just a lovely, clean, Zen, slow paced city with gentle people and the best momos in the whole wide world. The city is also quite high up at 2,200 metres, which makes you move slowly and breathe hard. We go back to visit monasteries and the Tibetan Refugee Centre, revisit Hasty Tasty, our favourite veg restaurant, and man, it’s still the best food in town. We also discover new restaurants, stuff ourselves with momos and do the little bit of hiking the high altitude allows us to do. Darjeeling is definitely still a very special place for us. During our stay in Darjeeling we have a team meeting and decide to change the itinerary and go to Thailand and Cambodia earlier than planned. After all, it’s a celebration of our silver anniversary and we deserve a bit of comfort and relaxation, so we swap Sikkim and the 7 sisters (northeast India) for Thai massages, Tiger Beer, South Asian food and Cambodian swimming pools, can’t blame us, really!       

After 4 freezing but lovely days, it’s time to leave Darjeeling. We decide to take a local bus down to Siliguri. It’s a 4 hour ride on a local bus and we get accordingly squeezed and sneezed on and pray all the way down the narrow road and cliffs, it’s just insane, another freaking crazy adventure. After the bus, a rickshaw to the train station and an overnight train (9 hours) to Kolkata, in a 2AC cabin. Nothing in our travels could really have prepared us for our arrival in Kolkata. We catch a rickshaw to our “serviced apartment”, only to realize it was a bedroom in somebody’s house. We obviously spit the dummy and get away from there ASAP. Then we are in a big city without any pointers or accommodation. We are tired, hungry, dirty and grumpy, so we walk around asking for hotels and they are all fully booked, any of the ones you would want to stay in, anyway. We take a cab to another suburb and the story is the same. Finally, a guy on the street asks us what we are looking for. I ask him if there’s a nice place nearby where we can have breakfast and he sends us to a nice cafe. When we get there, we see it’s catering for Westerners - expensive food and coffee, but with AC and Wi-Fi. So, we sit down, wash our battered hands, eat breakfast and search for a hotel online. We find a decent one and take a taxi there but soon realize it’s in the middle of nowhere. We decide to stay anyway and go out looking for something else for tomorrow. While walking around the touristy part, I walk into The Golden Apple Boutique Hotel and they have a room for the next day, 24 Euros, in the heart of Sudder St- the tourist district. We have 4 days in Kolkata with nothing much to do but eat, market hop and plan our escape to South East Asia.  Kolkata is cleaner than we expected but it’s quite chaotic, crowded and loud and above all, there’s nothing much to see or do besides hitting the markets and restaurants. So, we walk around a lot and after 4 days, it’s time for Bangkok. So, we have lunch and take a taxi to the airport but our flight only leaves at 01:45 in the morning. Another long day.

 

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