It always takes me aback how we youngsters and adults have forgotten how a vacation feels and why it is okay to hit the pause button to our bustling lives to recharge and rejuvenate ourselves by deserving a cozy retreat. We exist in this real world as dreamers fantasizing over exotic destinations and breathtaking sceneries before pulling ourselves into action.
I decided to change that norm for once, for the whole family felt like they needed a “real break.” After an array of discussions and brainstorming, we decided to tour Darjeeling as it was something Mom wanted to do ever since to rekindle her “traveling genes.” I was nothing short of elated about traveling to Darjeeling for it’s been a while since we had some real time-off for ourselves.
But another challenge I faced before this trip took form was the mode of travel from Leh as we live there. Our best option was to fly from Leh to Darjeeling and then tour our destination as we please.
Being content with my plans, we went to the Jammu Cantonment airport to take the 6-hour long flight to Bagdogra International airport. Our hotel was 2.5 km away, so we availed a reliable car hire in Darjeeling with a driver from Savaari cabs and went back to our hotel room. A river-facing hotel located along the banks of the Panchai river and I happened to affirm myself about how this vacation would only get better.
As my parents were tired of air travel after a long time, along with the inviting climate of Darjeeling, we planned on relaxing for the day and visited the ISKCON temple in Siliguri. So we booked a cab from Siliguri to Darjeeling. If there is anything associated with visiting temples, it is the intangible feeling of divinity and calmness that is soothing to the mind and body. The evening times are the most recommended timings as one would get the divine vibrations amidst the settling peace of the breezy climate.
Our vacation officially kickstarted the next day as we took our rental cab to visit the Observatory Hill located at Naya Basti in Darjeeling. This place has a place in history dating back to the 18th century when it was first built. The Observatory Hill houses two historical places that are held dear by the Hindus and the Buddhists of the then period. The Bhutia Busty Monastery and the Mahakal Temple located atop the Observatory Hill.
Our experienced driver took us by awe when he explained that the name Darjeeling (Dorje-Ling) originated partially from the very person who built this place, Lama Dorjey Rinzing. The term Dorje-Ling, by ancient religious terminologies, means the region of Thunderbolt. While I found the monastery to be a place of abstract artwork and Buddhist deities, the Mahakal temple trumped my expectations about a temple as it served to be a site of historical importance and a bridge for the harmony of Hindus and Buddhists. With so much information to process about history, we ended our day by relishing some local dishes at some roadside joints and darting back to our hotel.
The next day was a welcoming morning with an unusually cold climate leaving us to explore the famous Barbotey Rock Garden. Our Savaari driver was an absolute entertainer throughout the 3-hour ride with his stories about Darjeeling, and we were nothing short of surprised. An abode of natural beauty with foggy green cover all around, my family was in literal trance losing themselves to heaven on earth they were standing on. Located 10-12 km away from the epicenter of Darjeeling town, this garden also facilitates a naturally formed waterfall called the Chunnu Summer falls, which serves as a significant tourist attraction for the visitors in summer. There was something unflinchingly peaceful about this place that appealed to me beyond words that I convinced my parents to stay there for the entire day to drench myself in the falls.
My suggestion for the final day of the trip was adventuring the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. As promising as the name sounds, the zoological park exists as the asylum for numerous endangered species of animals. We hired a local guide for the tour of the Zoo, and his revelations about the fauna astounded us beyond belief. I learned that this Zoo once housed the famous Siberian tigers presented in the 1960s by the Soviet government. We found that the Zoo has its state of the art breeding center for red-listed endangered animals like the Himalayan Goral, the Red Panda, and the Snow Wolf. Witnessing the scenic beauty of flora and fauna of the Zoo, we returned to our hotel with our hearts brimming with happiness and the satisfaction of a good retreat into nature. We left for the airport the next morning, bidding farewell to our beloved driver, with heavy hearts.
Getting back to our routines was something the whole family dreaded together for the first time but decided to rub it off as we made sure to carry those beautiful memories in our hearts for a brief while. Availing Savaari’s Leh Taxi service from the airport we got back home after a rejuvenating vacation.