Finding peace in childish delights

Hill station

Whoever can identify with the pensive mood of William Wordsworth will find the hills of the north-east and West Bengal a complete get-away from the madding crowds of so-called urbanisation.

all aboard Hitch a ride on the famous toy train of Darjeeling.

A nature lover’s paradise, the mystic hills, the majestic mountains and the lush valleys here can boast of a great climate, mesmerising landscapes that tickle the imagination, enticing locales and fascinating folklores that depict the rich cultural heritage. As such, the majestic and wild east has lots to offer than just beauty in terms of nature...the only male river, India’s biggest monastery, Asia’s cleanest village, Douki, rhino-sanctuary Kaziranga, Kamakhya temple of mythological and religious significance...these are all situated in the north-east.

If you are planning a vacation, two highly picturesque places would be Darjeeling and Kurseon in West Bengal. Darjeeling is not new to people, a beautiful valley with plenty of tea gardens. The best season to visit this valley is from April to June,
after which the rains start. Darjeeling has been a major attraction for tourists and film directors, for its beautiful locations. In Darjeeling, the roads and the railway tracks run together. Sometimes, you can encounter them on your side as you drive around the city, making it a very fascinating sight!

The toy train, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, is very famous. It reaches a height of 7,400 feet and drops gradually on zigzag, hairpin loops and curves. Apart from the toy train, many monasteries are situated here, namely Dali, Sam Tencholing and Ghoom. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is also situated on the Birch Hill. It includes a mountaineering institute with hostel facilities for students and boasts of historical climbing equipments. Attached to this is the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. This happens to be one of India’s biggest zoological parks. It has India’s only Siberian tigers and a rare species of red panda and Tibetan wolf. The zoo is every child’s delight and also a spectacle for the child in every adult! Another must-watch is the Site-Batasia Loop. This is a natural spur of the Tiger Hill, around which the narrow gauge rail makes a double loop, as it makes its way between Ghoom and Darjeeling towns. This itself is an engineering marvel.

Also delightful is the Sanctified War Memorial, which consists of the raised marble, oval-shaped platform. There is a bronze statue of a gorkha soldier that is 9 feet high. The soldier is in shok shastra, along with a high, triangular granite cenotaph on a 3 ft octagonal base, with the ‘roll of honour’ engraved on it. People also travel to see the highest point in Darjeeling, Tiger Hill. The early sunrise strikes the snow-capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga range in a blaze of colours and the scene is every nature lover’s delight. Other places worth visiting are the Rock Garden, the Dhirdham Temple, Mahakaal Mandir and the numerous curio shops and bakeries in the bazaars of Darjeeling. The cakes, pies and muffins are extremely popular, as is the local cheese or churpi. The chang, thungba or raksi, the local alcohol and beer, are also an attraction here.

A popular hill resort nearby is Kurseong, situated at 4,864 ft. One could relax and unwind here after the adventurous trip to Darjeeling. It has a typical small-town charm. The toy train can be tracked down here as well. It has been reported that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was kept here in confinement and he wrote many personal letters to his dear ones, describing the beauty of Kurseong. It is in fact a fine place with some breath-taking views.

So, what are you waiting for? Summer is already here. And Darjeeling and Kurseong would make ideal spots for a vacation. Let the joy ride begin!

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