West Bengal – Darjeeling – Day 5 – 2005

Today we go into the Indian state of West Bengal.

At the end of the day we begin to climb up to the hill station of Darjeeling. The highway is lined with manicured tea plantations. We pass a sign that reads “elephant crossing”. In the time of the Raj, the Bengal government escaped from Calcutta and the heat there, to take up it’s official residence here.

Today’s citizens now come up here to spend pleasant holidays away from the heat below. It is 2134 meters or 7001 feet here on the high mountain ridge where the city is situated.

The streets are full of Hindus and hill tribes such as the Lepchas, Bhutias and even Tibetans.

You can see the snow covered Himalayan Peaks off in the distance on a clear day. It is amazingly beautiful.

I may be mistaken about which day it was or where, but we stayed in a hotel high up in the mountains in the snow for one night. The ground was covered in snow as we went out on a journey to see the yaks and the country side. When we arrived back at the hotel, we all stood around the giant fire to get warm.

We ate dinner, stood around the fire for a time again, and then ran up to our rooms. There was no heat in the building, except for the fireplace and a few electrical heaters that were available for some.

We put on several layers of clothing to stay warm. The windows had no latches on them and were made of wood and swung on hinges. They were not air tight by any means. The curtains were made of a thin fabric like that of a negligee. The windows in the bathroom had no glass and were made of louvered wood slates in a frame.

The shower head was in the ceiling of the bathroom and it was like a carwash. Everything that was not removed from the bathroom was cleaned along with us. A novel approach to showering.

And by the way, when you’re in this part of the world, turn on the small water heater up in the corner of your rooms when you enter them. If you don’t, you will have a cold shower in the morning. We discovered this the hard way.

I am not complaining. We travel to see how people do things differently from us in different countries and to experience that. Every country does somethings different from us, and sometimes they even do things better.