Friday, April 6, 2012

Darjeeling and Sikkim for Your Honeymoon

Darjeeling is a blissful hill station in located at the footsteps of the majestic Himalayas. The heavenly ambience, the misty mountains, rolling tea gardens, evergreen forests and friendly people constructs Darjeeling into a most sought after tourist destination in the world. Synonyms with “Queen of the Hills”, Darjeeling is a truly a honeymooner’s paradise. The overwhelming charisma of Darjeeling is sure to mesmerize its visitors. Come to Darjeeling and let the cool breeze revitalise you.

Darjeeling is a small hills station with big surprises. Reaching Darjeeling is quite easy as it is well connected with roadways. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, a downhill ride of three hours via Kurseong. Tours to Darjeeling is usually an escape from the scorching heat of the plains. On the way to Darjeeling the view of the lush green hill, the Kanchenjunga the third highest summit of the world, monasteries and slanted roof house are repeated. Once you reach Darjeeling check in the hotel and get ready for a mystical journey in the “Queen of the Hills”.

The first attraction of Darjeeling is the World Heritage Toy Train. The toy train of Darjeeling is the hallmark of the town. Introduced by the British and came in effect in the year 1881. From then till date, the toy train of Darjeeling is known worldwide for its joy ride. Previously the train used to go down till Siliguri but due to natural calamities, the journey is limited up to Ghoom Station, the second highest station in the world. The chugging of the engine, the smoke from the chimney and whistle at every bend, the view of the train amaze the passersby.

Darjeeling honeymoon tours Packages is a getaway from the hassles of the long marriage reception. Come to Darjeeling with the soul mate and explore the diverse attraction together. The best thing of the Hotels in Darjeeling is the fireplace. Darjeeling is usually cold in the evening so most of the rooms in the hotels have fireplace to keep the room warm. Share your intimate time and be together forever. Other places of interests in Darjeeling are the tiger Hill the sunrise point, the Japanese Peace Pagoda, PadmajaNaidu Zoological Park, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Ropeway, Chowrasta, Observatory Hill and the Mahakal Temple and the Rock Garden. If time permits you can pay visit to Kalimpong. The same road takes you to Gangtok, the second smallest state of India.

Sikkim is nestled in the lap of the Himalayas. The land of Sikkim is blessed with lakes, monasteries, gardens and picturesque landscapes. Sikkim honeymoon package is an opportunity for an exquisite and unforgettable experience in paradise. Thought a small state, Sikkim is a hub of life-size surprises. The Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim is of major attraction. The lake is frozen in winter and the view of the neighbouring landscapes and mountains are breath taking. The Nathula Pass is the border between India and China. It is a trading zone you will have to get a permit to visit the place. Tashi View Point, Lachung, Gurudongmar Lake, Lachen are some of the other places that you must visit during you tour to Sikkim.

In totality, Darjeeling and Sikkim offers a phenomenal experience to all the visitors. Click candid photos and take back memories lasting for a lifetime.

Arvind Kumar is an eminent analyst and writer in Travel & Tours related topics. He has authored many books on Honeymoon Packages in Darjeeling and Darjeeling Tourism.

Salvation A La Mode!

  • Tea-tasting An art perfected gradually, a taster’s highly attuned taste buds register even subtle shades of scent, taste and nuance of different teas. Tasters swirl the liquor in their mouth, spit it out, and taste several samples at one go. Then they certify them ‘dry’, ‘biscuity’ ‘hungry’, ‘light’ etc.

  • On the Tea Trail

    • Ambootia tea tour: Right now guests can visit only Kochrane Place lodge, as the focus is on production and export rather than tourism. Tourist attractions include a Shiv temple and Balason River, compost manufacturing and biodynamic cultivation. A full conducted tour costs Rs 500.
    • Makaibari tea tour: The garden has its own forest cover, with six tiers of forests, with wild animals and birds. Makaibari created the tea known as Silver Tip leaf, which is picked in full moon nights. Accommodation is in stone houses, with four luxury bedrooms, and a spacious living room with an iron-and-burnt-clay fireplace. Homestays are arranged by workers in their houses. More details are on the gardens’ websites.


    “The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away...”, the distant strains of The Beatles waft in with the wind. We are in a glass house atop a hill in Kurseong, in the eastern Himalayas, as the soft, early morning light streams in. A group of people from across the globe are gathered around a chai bar (tea counter). The green-gold liquid called Silver Tip that swirls gently in our transparent tea cups is soaked in that golden light. “Close your eyes,” a voice commands. “And drink up. But before, do make a wish.”

    That is how the tea tour at Makaibari Tea Estate begins. As far as Rajah Banerjee, the owner of Makaibari, is concerned, if at the end of a trip through his tea garden you don’t feel you’ve had a magical, mysterious and mystical experience of sorts, you haven’t really experienced anything. The dry dictionary definition of tea tourism—as “a journey that takes you through the process of tea manufacture”—he dismisses from his presence with a scornful wave. Pouring you a steaming cup of aromatic brew from a glass kettle that he has been moving in a circular motion, he insists that tea tourism “is nothing less than an enchanted journey of serendipitous discoveries”. Closing his eyes meditatively, as though in contemplation of the cosmic, he reveals that if you undertake a tea tour you may find love and luck, happiness and health.

    Fragrant brew A tea-tasting session in progress at the Makaibari estate. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)

    The colonial government started promoting tea tourism way back in the late nineteenth century. By then, markets across the world had opened up for high-quality Indian teas from north Bengal and Assam, and foreign buyers and investors were interested in the process of tea production. Darjeeling and its environs, the original tea country, was already a tourist destination because of its breathtaking natural beauty. It was also famed for the summer cottages of British officials eager to escape the plains. The region, of course, produces the world’s finest teas and has the best kept gardens. Planters and estate owners welcomed tourists, cashing in on a lucrative business option.

    March-April is the first flush season. That’s when fresh tea leaves begin to appear after the dry winter spell in the region.
    In Kurseong, at the heart of tea country, the speciality of the two tea estates, Makaibari and Ambootia, is given out as being “organic” and “biodynamic”. Ambootia Tea Estate, which owns 11 gardens in Darjeeling, including its largest in Kurseong, does not yet offer a full-fledged tea tourism package for visitors, but has a tie-up with a local tourist lodge, Kochrane Place, and allows its guests to visit their tea gardens and factories through conducted tours. “These tours are designed to simultaneously provide our guests an opportunity to witness the process of tea production as well as to take in the sheer beauty of the Darjeeling hills,” says Ravinder Kang, manager of Kochrane Place. Ambootia Tea Estate, which stretches across 350 hectares, expansive by Darjeeling standards, is the world’s largest biodynamic farm and has won the ‘Model Farm’ award from the United Nations. When asked about biodynamic farming, Krishnendu Chatterjee of the Ambootia Group lays it on thick: “We follow the principle that the earth moves in rhythmic tandem with the rest of the universe, including other planets and stars. The position of the moon, the sun and other stars and planets are taken into consideration at every stage, from cultivation and harvesting to plucking. The lunar influence on water has been scientifically proven. Soil quality and condition is likewise controlled by the forces of the universe.” Ambootia tea, in short, is grown in perfect sync with cosmic rhythms!

    No wonder, understanding tea takes time. Tourists who wish to witness the entire process have to be prepared to spend considerable time—real enthusiasts can spend an entire season of plucking and handling, withering, rolling, drying and, finally, tasting tea. Others content with watching a day of tea manufacturing do so beginning March-April—the ‘first flush’ season. That’s when the first fresh tea—a bright green bud ensconced inside two dark green leaves on top of the plant—begins to appear after the dry winter.

    Seventy-year-old Laxmi Pradhan, along with Sarita Lama and Renu Chetri—employees housed in the estate—are already out in one of the lush green fields that dot Ambootia, and in friendly contest to pluck the freshest shoots. The younger women gently tease Laxmi for being slow. “At your age, I was the best plucker ever,” she brags in answer. Laxmi goes on to demonstrate how to place the basket on the head and pluck the choicest leaves.

    The next part of the tour takes tourists to the shed where the tea is weighed and the substandard shoots weeded out. Then there’s the factory, where the tea is laid out and dehydrated using blowers before being poured into and passed through a chute, where the leaves are broken down in the final stage of production. Ambootia has a special attraction. Being an organic farm, it has a vast a compost production site located at the base of its tea hills. “Water is scarce in the mountains. The valley taps rainwater. We also rely on seepage water from cracks in the rocks which we then tap into containers,” explains Jay Guha Neogi, who looks after plantation at Ambootia, and is a sought-after tour guide.

    “This is an extraordinary experience,” smiles Gloria Yuen, a Canadian college student who is on a tea tour at Makaibari with two friends. The Makaibari tour has provisions for ‘home stay’, in which guests live with local families (Makaibari employees) within the estate. Sevan Bhujel, a driver at Makaibari, says, “Every season we welcome a new guest who comes here to learn about tea. We give them a room but they share our meals and have tea with us.” His wife Bhumika has taught some of her guests how to make local delicacies.

    It’s a great learning holiday, agrees Lindsay Goodwin, an American food writer with a special interest in tea and coffee, who has twice taken the Makaibari tea tour.

    Time spent in a tea estate is rewarding. It’s time spent well—the trekking aside, the processes of plucking, pruning, and tasting. “And making wishes,” says 19-year-old Martha Wells from the US. The Shiva temple in the Makaibari estate is known as a favourable place to ask wishes. Martha is on a one-year gap period before college starts and has chosen to spend it “tea touring” in India as it was a unique idea. So, has it been the magical mystery tour that it was touted to be? “So far, yes,” Martha chuckles. “Can you believe it? I am actually waiting for my wish to come true!” The astute Rajah Banerjee does give you a timeframe within which your wish is supposed to come true. Only a visit to the Kurseong hills can put his claim to the test. After that, it depends on your karma.


    Darjeeling Truly A Home in the Mountains

    Darjeeling is a place of wonderland. On the way to Darjeeling you get the glimpse of the tea garden and tea estates of lure beauty. Darjeeling is synonyms with tea and no doubt the world best tea is blended in one of the tea estates of Darjeeling.

    Darjeeling is a small hill station nestled on the lap of the mighty Himalayas. The cool blowing breeze, the lush rolling hills, the snow capped mountains and the remains of the East India Company makes Darjeeling a sought after destination in the world.

    Reaching Darjeeling is easy as it is well connected with roads. Once you get down on Jalpaiguri Railway Station or the Bagdogra Airport you can take a taxi and climb up hill from Siliguri to Kurseong and then Darjeeling the “Queen of the Hills”. Darjeeling is a place of wonderland. On the way to Darjeeling you get the glimpse of the tea garden and tea estates of lure beauty. Darjeeling is synonyms with tea and no doubt the world best tea is blended in one of the tea estates of Darjeeling. The tea gardens and tea estates were introduced by the British a long time back and it still remains as an attractive tourist spot till date.

    Darjeeling tour packages are offered by many tour companies as it is a splendid holiday destination. Take a joy ride on the toy train which is a World Heritage Property declared by the UNESCO. The train journey starts from the station in the main town and travel all the way to Ghoom the second highest railways station in the world. On the mystical journey of the toy train you can get the panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga, Ghoom Monastery, Dali Monastery, Batasia Loop and the amphitheatre of hills and mountains.

    Darjeeling tours include a visit to the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park which is a home of wild and endangered species. The Royal Bengal Tigers, Barking deer, Tibetan Wolves, Himalayan Black Bears and Red Pandas are some of the animals in captivity. The Darjeeling Zoo has a unique feature of snow leopard breeding in captivity. Nest to the Zoological Park is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which offers courses on mountaineering. The Institute has a museum, indoors and outdoors artificial climbing rocks. Other places of tourist interests are Japanese Peace Pagoda, the Observatory Hills and the Mahakal Temple, Chowrasta a sitting room for all.

    If you are an adventure enthusiast then you must trek the Shangri-La Park. The starting point of the trek is Manay- Bhanjang from where you trek uphill to Sandakphu and Phalut. If you are lucky then you can catch a glance of red panda or a bear in the wild. From Sandakphu you get the panoramic view of the Mount Everest the highest summit of the world and the Kanchenjunga. The view of the two mountains side by side is breath taking. In the month of April the valley is covered by the blooming of Rhododendrons and Magnolias. The trek is tiring but there is “no sweet without the sweat”. Take candid photos and “take back nothing but memories” to reflect back upon lifetime.

    From Darjeeling you can opt for a Sikkim tour packages as well. The state of Sikkim is the second smallest of India blessed with abundance bounties of nature. Some of the places to visit in Sikkim are Ganesha Tok, Hanuman Tok, White Hall, Ridge Garden, Tashi View Point, M.G Marg, Rumtek Monastery, Tsomgo Lake and Char Dham. You can also take a five day tour to Lachen, Gurudongmar Lake, Lachung, Yumthang and Zero Point.

    Sikkim and Darjeeling are the two precious gems of the India subcontinent. We guarantee that you will have a lonely day out in the foot hills of the Himalayas. Try the mouth watering momos which has an authentic and original taste from rest of the world. Have a wonderful time and live in the moment.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Heritage Hotels In Darjeeling – Of Hills And Heritage

    Darjeeling is actually a breathtakingly stunning hill station that’s located in the Indian state of West Bengal. Thanks to its popularity with tourists (each regional and international), hotels are in wonderful demand in Darjeeling and accommodation should always be booked properly beforehand.

    Darjeeling has a fine blend of hotels that cater to distinct folks, and you can find 3 star and finances hotels that are targeted to households and four star and heritage hotels which are targeted to a more posh segment of people. Heritage hotels in Darjeeling, in particular, are many and these hotels are recognized for their homely interiors and hot hospitality. Heritage hotels aren’t want luxury hotels – they are not too grand or flashy. They’re erstwhile houses of royalty changed into hotels, consequently they retain a personalized touch in excess of time.

    With the heritage hotels in Darjeeling, the Elgin Darjeeling is the popular hotel that is located in Lama Road. This hotel is located half a kilometer far from the bus stand, and fifty percent a kilometer far from the railway station as nicely. The design is 125 decades previous, and it absolutely was when a regal residence.

    The interiors are tastefully crafted, by having oak flooring, teak home furnishings and sizzling fireplaces that deliver endorse memories of the bygone colonial era. You can find 30 areas within the Elgin Darjeeling, and they are all spacious and aesthetically classic.

    The hotel has actually 2 restaurants, namely the Orchid and Kanchan. Kanchan is actually a multi-cuisine food that functions delectable cookware that you could tease the flavor buds with, though Orchid offers continental and Indian cuisine within a no-frills approach.

    The Elgin Darjeeling is one of the few heritage Hotels in Darjeeling that present banquet facilities, considering that most hotels predominantly do not characteristic this service. You’ll discover other services that you can go for for your stay in the Elgin Darjeeling, similar to baby care services (similar to babysitting services), conference services, and cash changing services (currency conversion).

    Ironing boards are supplied in all places in this hotel, coupled with online connection, satellite Tv access and direct dial telephones. All areas in this hotel feature a security box as well, exactly where the tourists could store their valuables in a definitely risk-free way. Fax on require services are presented in this hotel for those who drop by Darjeeling for organization purposes. This really is however another service that are unable to be located in other heritage hotels within the scenic town of Darjeeling.


    TAAB recommends steps for speeding up tourism development in West Bengal


    The Kolkata based Travel Agents' Association of Bengal (TAAB) in a letter to Mamata Banerjee, chief minister, West Bengal has welcomed the state government's initiative towards overall tourism development in the state especially places like Kolkata, Darjeeling, Dooars, Digha and Sunderbans to attract more number of domestic and foreign tourists.

    In a letter written by Amalendu Mookerjee, president, TAAB, on behalf of the association has suggested some measures to make plans foolproof. Elaborating on the contents of the letter to Express TravelWorld, Mookerjee said, “We have suggested to the state government to reassess the geological status of stability of the Digha coast in consultation with Geological Survey of India (GSI). In the letter TAAB has also asked the government to consider directing its investment to development of infrastructure, like building or improving roads from the main highways to tourism centres, building of common internal roads, ensuring adequate supply of water and power, laying of parks, gardens, common spaces, planting of trees on common spaces, etc.

    The central government funding also should not be restricted to schemes like building of tourist lodges, but should be directed to development of infrastructure. Investment for building of new hotels and resorts may be left to the private sector. Also maintenance, improvement, upgradation and extension of the existing government tourist lodges should be attended to TAAB has also asked for more flexibility of central government's plan funds so that it can also be used in maintenance of tourism infrastructural assets like hotels, lodges, etc.

    At present, the central government's plan funds are not allowed to be used for maintenance of tourism assets. It also pointed out that master plans prepared for development of tourist spots should also specify the maximum number of hotels of different categories that should be allowed at a tourist centre. This is because in some locations several illegal constructions have mushroomed overshooting the stipulated norms as is the case in Mandarmoni, the beach resort in South Bengal.

    To cope with the increasing influx of tourists at different tourist centres, more satellite centres should be build and this provision should be inbuilt in the master-plans.

    The state government should fulfil its essential regulatory role that has been neglected so far. Non-star hotels should be mandatory categorised according to different standards, and regularly inspected, so that visitors may know what facilities they can legitimately expect at a particular hotel. This, if properly planned and executed, would be a great facility to tourists and would render tourist traffic smooth. Regarding marketing of government tourist lodges, the present unreasonable restrictions should be done away with, and booking facilities should be opened to all bonafide travel agencies offering to pay full advance. The quantum of incentive to travel agents should be reasonable.

    These steps would increase bookings at tourist lodges, and certain state governments like the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation are already following these practices.


    Indian Tea Tasting: Darjeeling

    As everyone knows, us Brits love our Tea! But it is the Indians who are second to China in terms of production and consumption. Approximately 4% of India's national income is derived from its Tea Estates.

    In India, tea is very popular with a lot of milk and together with or without spices (If you've yet to try one, ask for a ‘Masala Chai' the next time you are in your local Indian restaurant).

    For India Week, we will be trying a different blend of Indian Tea every day of the week. First up, is Darjeeling.

    Darjeeling: The Champagne of Teas

    Now, first things first: we are not tea experts or connoisseurs. So if you are expecting nuanced descriptions of the intricate flavours, then chances are you'll be disappointed. However, if you want an overview of the general flavour as well as a little bit of information about Indian teas then you're in the right place. Right, that out of the way, let's get on with it.

    On the packet it claims that Darjeeling is the champagne of teas. There is no justification for this claim, but the light, delicate yet distinctive flavour makes you understand why (kind of). You can get black, white and oolong (a different type with a unique drying process) Darjeeling, but we opted for the black variety.

    DarjeelingCup of Tea

    Generally drank without milk, it was first created in the Indian district of Darjeeling (surprisingly). It was first planted by a guy called Dr. Campbell after he bought the seeds from China in 1841. It was a big success and others in the region soon started growing their own plants. And so, as it's popularity grew, it spread throughout the world. In 2003 it became the first Indian product to be given a GI tag, which means that it can only be called Darjeeling if the tea was grown in the area of Darjeeling.

    Our conclusions? Very clean taste that is perfect for cleansing your mouth or after a big meal. Brilliant for a late afternoon break.


    Tea Board successful in 'protecting' Darjeeling

    Kolkata, Mar 6 (IBNS) Tea Board, India on Tuesday said it has been successful in Taiwan in seeking rejection of a trademark application for Darjeeling in respect of articles of clothing filed by a French company, Delta Lingerie on the basis of its certifications marks DARJEELING and the reputation of Darjeeling tea.

    "Tea Board welcomes its first victory against Delta Lingerie and the important recognition of DARJEELING as a highly well-known and distinctive certification mark and geographical indication in Taiwan deserving protection against dilution," read an official statement.

    "The determinative issue in any opposition proceeding is whether registration of the mark applied for is likely to confuse consumers. In the present case this was a concern as the goods of the parties were different - items of clothing v. tea."

    Making important observations with regard to protection of well-known geographical certification marks against dilution, the Supreme Administrative Court of Taiwan upheld the decision of the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office and the Intellectual Property Court that although goods designated by the marks are different and the relevant consumers may not be confused, due to the fame of the Darjeeling as a well-known place of tea protection in India, use of a mark containing the word DARJEELING on unrelated goods would dilute and distract the single source indication of the DARJEELING marks and diminish the distinctiveness and fame thereof.

    The Supreme Administrative Court of Taiwan also sustained the observations of the lower courts that the opposed mark which contained the identical designation DARJEELING was ‘highly similar’ to Tea Board’s DARJEELING certification marks.

    "The decision is very significant in that it recognizes Tea Board’s long-time marketing and promotional efforts relating to Darjeeling tea and its consistent and diligent steps in protecting the DARJEELING geographical indication and certification marks,"said the statement.