Tag Archives: Darjeeling

Writing the Journey: Kolkata’s Neighbouring Gateways

Imagine this, having returned from a long and tiring trip you report to the office and immediately you are asked to put your thoughts into the word processor so that the whole world reads about the places you have seen.

Sounds easy isn’t it? But life is not on a high for a travel writer with IHR. Most of the time on a short trip, you are challenged with how to squeeze more information in the minimum time. You need the best of photographs capturing the slice of a culture in a single snapshot along with the regular attractions, loads of information about the hotels- rates, accommodation et al, distances along with fares and most importantly reproducing the same excitement and movements of a trip that more often than not makes you feel how farcical about the line “be a Travel Writer and get paid to see the world”.

This time the places assigned were as diverse as Mayapur Dham, Darjeeling, Pelling and Gangtok all within 10 days which meant absolutely no time for any relaxation and traveling leisurely.

My first stop was Kolkata’s Sealdah station. A bustling place, which comes to buzz early in the morning, a scene quite contrary to Delhi’s way.

Road Near Sealdah Station early morning

Road Near Sealdah Station early morning

My first destination was Mayapur Dham the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I took the first local train available for Navadweep the nearest railway station for Mayapur Dham. Navadweep is around 2 and a half hours journey from Sealdah.Navadweepa as I found hold on its own as a tourist attraction for a variety of temples and Vaishnava Mathas.

Sri Devananda Goudiya Math at Sri Dham Navadweep

Sri Devananda Goudiya Math at Sri Dham Navadweep

From Navadweep to get to Mayapurdham the best option is to cross the expansive Ganges on a boat from the jetty. Braving a boat ride along with people, cycles and livestock which was no mean task in itself but listening to the unfamiliar conversation amid bit of trepidation was an altogether new experience.

Boat Ride from Navadweep to Mayapur Dham on the Ganga River

Boat Ride from Navadweep to Mayapur Dham on the Ganga River

From Mayapur a short Rickshaw Ride took me to the famed ISKCON Temple complex. Spread over hundreds of acres, the place is far removed from the stark reality outside the temple precincts.It was a solemn place with large number of foreigners all with big tilak on their foreheads and wearing Dhotis and white Saris chanting prayers throughout the day.

The ISKCON Temple at Mayapur Dham

The ISKCON Temple at Mayapur Dham

Finished with the ISKCON Temple I headed for Krishna Nagar by a local bus to get a convenient train ride back to Kolkata. An ingenuity of a vendor selling Lassi using the railings as racks for keeping his wares caught my attention and I could not resist taking a snap.

Ingenuity of a Lassi vendor at the Krishn Nagar Railway Station

Ingenuity of a Lassi vendor at the Krishn Nagar Railway Station

Back to Kolkata and I was on Kanchenjungha Express ready to venture to my next set of destinations. Darjeeling, Pelling and Gangtok. For Darjeeling I had to get down at the NJP station. NJP or NEW Jalpaiguri station is the gateway to the North East. As It was not a tourist season ( It was during February) the station gave a secluded look and the railway over bridge was one of the most clean I found on the railway station in india.

The clean Foot over bridge at NJP Station

The clean Foot over bridge at NJP Station

Plenty of taxies are available at the NJP railway station for Darjeeling. The 4 hours drive in a share Taxi through the picturesque sceneries and not so comfortable roads cost me Rs 220. The route bypasses the Siliguri Town and links to national highway 55 for Darjeeling. Darjeeling is really beautiful and with the arrival of the malls and multiplexes does not look that much of an isolated hill station.

A busy Darjeeling morning

A busy Darjeeling morning

IF you are South Indian and love Tea then these two things should excite you. Hotel Lunar in the heart of the city provides sumptuous South Indian specialties and Tawang Tea Stall sells finest quality Darjeeling Tea at Rs 5 per cup.

My next destination was Pelling in Sikkim 120 kilometers from Darjeeeling. Tourists to Pelling should note here one or two vital things that I found out. (i) There are no direct vehicle available for Pelling from Darjeeling during off seasons .(ii) You have to reach a place called Jorethang almost midway (iii) From Jorethang you do not get any vehicle for Pelling after 4 in the evening.

Pelling at around 6800 feet is a beautiful place and relatively peaceful perhaps also as I was not in the height of the tourist season. Again a piece of information for travelers, I was told that after 2 pm you can’t get any vehicle for outside from Pelling. This puts a lot of discomfiture to harried travelers like me.

Finally my last destination was Gangtok the capital of Sikkim at a distance of around 120 km from Pelling. Gangtok is a beautiful place and moves at a leisurely pace with no body in any hurry.

MG Marg of Gangtok invigorates with a relaxed pace

MG Marg of Gangtok invigorates with a relaxed pace

From Gangtok plenty of transportation is available for different places. After spending a night I Traveled back to NJP in a share Taxi for Rs 350 and took North east express for Delhi to end my sojourn in the east and north east India.

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Set- jetters Paradise: Bollywood Tours and Filmi Chakkars in India

Remember a lovelorn Arvind Swamy in Blue Jeans and striped T shirt singing the soulful melody of “ Tu Hi Re, Tu Hi Re/ Tere Bina Main Kaise Jiyun” on the ramparts of a magical fort lashed incessantly by the sea waves under the fading lights of a monsoon sky. A desparate Shaila Bano aka Manisha Koirala unable to bear the agony of separation comes down running on the slopes of a tower in the fort. Guessed right, indeed it was Mani Ratnam’s Bombay, the biggest blockbuster of 1995.

Then there was Saif Khan romanticizing Vidya Balan amidst the huffing and Puffing of a train in the song Kasto mazza hai relaima/ Ramailo o kaali oraali in the movie Parineeta.

More recently in the movie” Jab We Met “Kareena was seen dancing to the hit number “Yeh Ishq/ Haan Hai Koi To Wajah/ To Jeena Ka Maza Yun Aane Laga “with a troupe of dancers from Himachal Pradesh in a verdant valley. The beautiful dancers were roped in from Chamba, Bilaspur, Kinnor, Dharamshala, Hamirpur and Kullu.

By this time, you must be wondering what this post is all about or what on earth does IndiaHotelReview.com has to do with Hindi Films or the songs we are talking about.

FYI, “Tu Hi Re” of Bombay was shot in the magnificent Bekal Fort in the Kasargod district of north Kerala, Parineeta’s song was very much in the toy train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) while “Ye Ishq” with bollywood bombshell Kareena was shot in the verdant hills of Kulu Manali. All top tourist destinations.

Welcome to the world of Film tourism or ‘Set-Jetting’, a term that has become very popular abroad especially in Britain. Set- Jetting means that potential tourists are likely to get influenced and visit the places, restaurants, because of its appearance in the films or TV. Essentially it is an effort to capitalize on the ‘Screen Magic’.

According to researches made on film tourism it has been established that 8 out of 10 people have got their interest aroused in a particular destination by it’s presence on the film and 2 out of 10 will actually travel to the location of the film.

Not so long ago before the Bollywood directors and producers made a beeline for more glamorous locales offshore, Indian landscapes offered( still it does) great locations for outdoor shoots.

Ask your grand parents about how a boatman would point the place near Dhuandhar falls on river Narmada in Jabalpur where a charming Padmini frolicked in the water in the super duper film of the 60’s “ Jis Desh Me Ganga Bahti Hai “. In the 70’s flick “Aradhana”, Rajesh Khanna, the then heartthrob of many female fans wooed a gorgeous Sharmila Tagore on the slopes of Darjeeling Hills or more recently Amitabh Bachchan doing a Lolita in “Nishabd” with sprightly Jiah Khan in the very picturesque Munnar. Tea County in Munnar where Amitabh stayed was teeming with people to catch a glimpse of the superstar.

Not many know that “Chaiya Chaiya” presumably one of the best train songs ever shot for an Indian Movie in Mani Ratnam’s controversial “Dil se” was picturised on the train of Nilgiri Mountain Railways that runs between Mettupalayam and Ooty. This is a 46 km breathtaking journey across hair-pen bends and curves, tea gardens, dark tunnels, narrow valleys of lush green vegetations. During shooting lasting over a week Shahrukh sung his heart out atop this train over a period of 8-days.

By the way Ooty is also the place where hit films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Saajan, Raja Hindustani, Maine Pyar Kiya, Jo jeeta Wohi Sikander, Raaj, Dil Hai ki Manta Nahin etc were shot.

While milking the Indian Film Industry has caught on the fancy of Tourist Boards abroad, unfortunately in India inspite of Filmstars enjoying status of Demigods and Films such a big passion, Set –jetting or it’s slightly skewed Hindi “ Filmi Chakkar” is neither very popular nor promoted aggressively.

It was amazing to learn that after “Kaho Na Pyar Hai” New Zealand made special efforts to woo Indian tourists or Britain is having a dedicated Bollywood map to trail the places where our stars danced or had an intimate tête-à-tête. It’s high time that we understand the potential of Set-Jetting and set the ball rolling with our very familiar or not so Known Bollywod Hotspots. Let’s start our Filmi Chakkar with Ooty.

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