Oleh : Jeffri Ricardo
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The first city that I visit in India after on a 20 hour bus ride from Nepal to India and strangely I still felt that I was in Nepal instead of India.
Actually I never thought that Darjeeling will be the first place that I will visit in India. Most traveller probably use Delhi, Mombay, or even Kolkata or other major cities as the starting the points. The reason I choose Darjeeling for my first stop because I cross border overland to India from Karkhabita, Nepal after I spend a couple of days at Chitwan National Park. Crossing from Karkhabita to India takes a more than 20 hours bus ride and when I said a bus ride I mean literally “bus”.
An old bus that probably more then half century old and filled with local people standing, lift their legs on top off the seat simply because there no more room after they filled up the floor with bigs luggages and stuff, smell of sweats and arm pits was the common scent. Usually I never have a problem sitting on busses in Asia but even this time I can stretch my legs. I can’t imagine the discomfort that the western tourist have on their ass after ride on this bus.
I arrive at the bus terminal near the border at 4.30 AM while the immigration office open at 6AM, so with butt hurt like hell and hardly get some sleep I sat around the bus terminal with some locals. Good things about the Nepalese is that they all very friendly there always some people around for you to talk to.
I’m quiet surprise that the Indian immigration didn’t even check my bag, the just take a look at my passport and visa and BAM..that its they put a stamp on passport. But the journey is not finish, I still need to take a public bus from Indian border to the nearest town before I can take a ride to Darjeeling. It was Monday morning so the bus was really full with locals trying to go the office and again I have to stand up for two hours. Most of the passenger were male and all of them love to chew tobacco. If you fancy of this tobacco naturally you need to spit every few minutes. And yep that what happen, almost every minutes they would open the window and spit (and I mean a real spit, that the spit that sound “cwuhh” but a spit that sound “ccwuuuahhh”). After two hours I arrive at town c
all Siliguri where I will take another (yes another bus) bus to Darjeeling for 4 hours. So in total in took me around 20 hours by bus from Nepal to Darjeeling.
The first thing that happen was this old men said some prayer to me (and off course expecting some donation) and then he put this red mark on my forehead for good fortune or also known as Tilaka in Hindi which define as the third eye or mind’s eye that strongly associated with spiritual enlightenment.
Finally I arrive at Darjeeling after more then 4 hours ride on a jeep. Before I come to Darjeeling, I read lots of people said that Darjeeling was one of their favorite place in India. But for me when I arrive I did not impress too much. Probably most people put Darjeeling in the middle or at the end of their visit in India where after spend weeks or months in the crowded, dusty, hot, and bustling traffic they finally can be up in the hilly mountain where the air is so fresh with less traffic and less dust. For me, after spend a month up in the Himalayan where every day and every step you take while trekking will bring you a perfect mountain and valley right before your eyes, so when I get to Darjeeling I was “oh so this is Darjeeling, well OK..”. It was like a small version of Namche Bazzar in Nepal I guess.
Because Darjeeling located right on the northern part of India near Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal so most people that live here was originally come form those places and no wonder Nepali still speak quiet often. The iconic landmark of Buddhist influence marked with a dozen of prayer flag hanged in all monastery. After spent three nights in Darjeeling I forget that I actually in India. The people look very much like Nepalese, they greet you in Nepali. And sadly for me the things that probably consistently indicating India were the beggars.
The town pretty much build on the steep ridge with Kangchendzonga (the worlds third highest mountain 8598m) dominating the background during clear day. The British use this town as a tea plantation and colonial house during 1800s. Up till now the left over from British architecture still dominating the city. Clock tower was one off my favorite along with lots of other churches.
One of the main spot for hunting photograph of sunrise in Darjeeling was from Tiger Hill located 8km from the down town. During the first two day I woke at 4AM to catch the the sunrise but as went outside the mist still covered. I just wish I have more time to wait till the weather clear enough to get a nice view. At night it was really cold that I need to put on my sleeping and on the next day I decide its enough for me to stay up in the mountain, in the cold area. Its time for me to hits the lowland. So I drop the plan to go to Sikkim, town near Darjeeling that have a spectacular Himalayan view and rich encounter with the Buddhism.
But even though I only stay for three days in Darjeeling , I understand why many traveler love this place so much. The unique mixture of people, the harmony between Hindus and Buddhist went along side by side with its people, and the cold and fresh air that escape you from the India famous traffic and pollution. Darjeeling definitely a place you need to visit once you come to India.
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