A heated discussion started at home the moment my father mentioned that he would take us for a holiday. And that too for five days! Everyone rattled out their suggestions about where to go and what to do. We finally decided on Kalimpong.Since we were pressed for time, we chose to fly to Bagdogra, which is the nearest airport and about 80 kms from Kalimpong. The journey from New Delhi to Bagdogra was short but boring. I decided to take a train the next time.
The two closest rail heads are New Jalpaiguri (80 kms) and Siliguri (66 kms) which are well connected to major train junctions in India. From Kolkata, an overnight journey of about 14 hours takes you to New Jalpaiguri.
When we landed in Kalimpong, we were welcomed by some cows and buffaloes grazing close to the airstrip and a strong winter wind that kissed our noses red.
That is what is nice about Kalimpong. It is cool and quiet. Thankfully, most tourists prefer to go to Darjeeling, which is just 50 kilometres from here. In other words, it is largely like Darjeeling, minus the crowds.
When you are there, try out this exercise. After you wake up, keep your eyes closed and walk up to a window. Then slowly open your eyes. The sight will be breathtaking. You will find yourself surrounded by lush greenery which stretches on to snowcapped mountains in the horizon. Watch the sunrise as you sip tea made from the fresh tea leaves. It is one blissful experience!
When we began exploring the small town, the locals told us we could actually cover the whole place on foot. And walking was such a pleasure. We went to see the Tongsa Gompa or Bhutanese monastery, which is considered the oldest monastery in the area. The present structure is however, not very old. The original was destroyed by Gurkhas when they invaded Sikkim before the arrival of the British.
Then, we strolled into the nurseries and the tea gardens. Kalimpong produces most of the gladioli and orchids that are exported abroad from India. A couple of nurseries also specialise in the cacti.
Apart from walks, you could also go river rafting on the Teesta river and visit the Changu lake which lies amidst the mountains.
Before you come back, remember to pick up some special Kalimpomg lollipops and cheese, which tastes almost like cheddar, for your folks back home.