Our stay in Darjeeling was made particularly pleasant by the helpful hotel staff.
On our first morning, whilst taking breakfast, I had taken a picture looking out from the dining room.
When the waiter saw me fiddling with my camera, he smiled and pointed to a large notice by the stairs:
An arrow directed upwards and invited interested guests to enjoy the viewing gallery.
And so, when twilight fell, we thought to try out the facility.
Following the sign, we found ourselves in a narrow corridor which led into an extremely spacious room.
It was not quite what I’d expected.
Although the large windows provided excellent views, this rather grand room was fully furnished
with wardrobes, armchairs and a slightly dishevelled, king-size bed.
But the sun was setting fast. There was no time to ponder our hotel’s eccentric décor.
Opening up the windows to get better photographs, I took my shots.
It was only when we left the room, and retraced our steps back along the corridor, that I noticed a second sign
advertising “panoramic hill views”.
This sign pointed in the opposite direction to the one from which we’d come.
We had taken our pictures in another guest’s bedroom…
Pictures inadvertently taken from the windows of a deluxe suite, in Hotel Seven-Seventeen, Darjeeling.
Like all good tourists, our days in Darjeeling were spent negotiating its steep, narrow streets,
visiting Ghoom monastery,
a narrow-gauge railway,
the Japanese peace pagoda,
and buying gifts for friends and family.
We also sampled some exceedingly fine Darjeeling teas.
All pictures were taken in Darjeeling.
The information pack we had been given on arriving in Sikkim was quite explicit:
“Due to shortage in space for parking, please be informed that you will have to be ready on time & wait in the lobby. Due to uncalculated situations the vehicle reporting may get delayed. We will request you to bear with us, and as soon as vehicle arrives you will have to get in, within few seconds, before the policeman blow his whistle.”
Our itinerary for today:
“an early morning tour to Tiger Hills to view sunrise over Kangchenjunga Peak (subject to clear weather)”.
We were to be ready in the hotel lobby by four o’clock in the morning.
My mobile alarm was set.
The morning began with a barely tepid shower and, for once, no early morning tea.
Wrapped in multiple layers of clothing, hats and gloves, we tried to leave our room causing minimal disturbance to the other hotel guests. But, reaching the eerily darkened lobby, it was soon apparent that the hotel entrance was locked and bolted.
After a few minutes of blindly bumping into lobby desks and sofas, the sound of a car’s horn could be heard.
Sanjeez, our driver, was summoning us.
The phrase “before the policeman blow his whistle” sprung to mind.
Like latter-day Cinderellas watching the clock hands about to strike midnight, we waited in hopeless frustration.
Suddenly, a shadowed sofa began to groan gently.
Not the yeti, but one of the hotel’s countless diminutive bellboys emerged hesitantly from a heap of blankets and cushions.
He pointed to the side-door of the lobby: an emergency exit, designed to be pushed open without access to keys.
We muttered sheepish apologies for disturbing the boy’s sleep and emerged to greet a grinning Sanjeez.
Forty-five minutes later we tumbled out of the car at the summit of Tiger Hills.
As it happened, we were not “subject to clear weather”. Kangchenjunga kept herself shyly veiled in mountain cloud.
But the experience was still worth that bleary-eyed, early start.
Pictures of dawn taken from Tiger Hills, Darjeeling.
A confluence of colour,
The contrast of light and shade,
A meeting of land and sky,
The occasional harmonies of monks and music,
The fusing of health and safety,
And the fellowship of friends in need.
All were encountered as we travelled on to Darjeeling.
..”Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also..
From “Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen.
Schoolboy monks in the classroom.
Picture taken at the Ghoom Monastery, Darjeeling.
Room with a view..
View from the dining room in our Darjeeling Hotel.