I was seeing a generic ‘expectation vs. reality’ meme on other day in Facebook. It contained pictures of some iconic buildings and monuments and depicted how the wanna-be tourists expect them to be and how they look in real life. While Great Chinese Wall, Eiffel Tower and Giza Pyramid look all-shiny and isolated in pictures of ‘expectation’, the reality brought throngs of travelers jostling for space. It got me thinking- which place crashed my very own barrier between expectation and reality? Darjeeling has already topped the chart.
The recent outing ( 2 years back and I am sure things have not changed much) to Darjeeling flipped the dreamy imageries I have cherished so far from my childhood trip to a quieter Darjeeling- on its head. Planning to go there in your next vacation? Beware of these over-hyped places in and around Darjeeling. Just keep in mind that these are my personal picks. You are entitled to digress. Thank you.
If I have to pick up single overstated place in Darjeeling, it has to be this. Back in late 90s when I travelled to Darj with my family in tow, Tiger Hill was less crowdier (is it even a word?) and better organized. Not anymore. The latest trip to the hill to watch a divine Sunrise turned into a total chaotic melee for me. The people were toppling over each other, creating a ruckus. The whole place was littered with plastic coffee cups and you had to compete with 100 more just to see world’s most natural phenomenon- sun rising in the east.
I don’t know since when sunrise watching gained its momentum in Tiger Hill but over the years it created havoc in surrounding natural habitat. Come here only if you have the mind to ignore the entire circus and be more focused on shooting the whole ‘sunrise’ phenomenon on your camera. Also the steep ascend from the foot of the hill to the peak may give you a strain on legs. Better book a Kanchenjunga- facing room in your hotel and enjoy the ascension of sun while sipping your coffee.
Batasia (airy) Loop is another ‘once awe-inducing’ spot which is now defaced by the constant cacophony of over enthusiastic travelers, during its touristy time. The Batasia Loop from my olden days used to remind me the well maintained garden, the spiral toy train line surrounding the hilltop park, the breath-taking 360 degree panoramic view of the town of Darjeeling (along with Mt. Kanchenjunga peak) and the soldier-memorial statue glistening under the sun.
The 21st century’s Batasia Loop is a victim of throng of makeshift stores in the garden, selling every type of knick-knacks under the sun .The hush of the place is nowhere to feel or reflect upon, and we just ended into giving the garden couple of walks.
Deolo is listed as the number one attraction of Kalimpong right now in TripAdvisor. Some things are good on photos and paper but if you are like me, then tranquility and well maintenance should be in your must-have list of requisite for an idealistic hill-top garden. Well, Deolo failed to impress me on both the accounts. The first marred by loud murmurs of 100-odd travelers in a foggy morning and second happened, when I discovered heaps of rubbish gathered in the middle of the garden.
The Deolo Guesthouse was stunning to look at, though do your research well before booking any room there. I have heard mixed reviews about its service.
It was transparent water, thick pine forest, laid-back stroll around, feeding the fish in the past around the Mirik Lake. But right now, the water body is way beyond its glory. The flora and fauna is gone. What replaced them were discarded bottles and floating trash. You will find plenty of momo stalls and chana stalls close-by, which are totally not worth-it. Better spend your time shopping in the curio shops adjacent to Darjeeling mall or sipping hot chocolate on the terrace of Keventers.
At the end, I would like to say that Darjeeling is full of under-stated gems that are holding up to be discovered. It might be the delectable French-toast with honey at Sonam’s Kitchen or the historical house called ‘Step-a-side’. Stick to the off-beat locations and you will see why this mid-19th century town is still so much in vogue; garbage, mushrooming of flats and general dilapidated state notwithstanding.