Friday, 29 March 2013

First full day in Darjeeling

Awoke to the sound of traffic from the street outside, and, then, once that had died away somewhat, I could hear birds singing nearby.

We set out to book tickets for the "toy train", the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This involved queuing to get a form to fill in to request a reservation for seats. It's full until the 1st April, so we have two seats reserved on the 10:15 steam train to Kurseong, via Ghum. To claim them we'll need photo ID.

After getting our reservation we caught a cab from the railway station to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, which is just north of Darjeeling, and also includes the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Here we saw black bear, blue sheep and red panda, and a Bengal Tiger, along with goats, deer and leopard. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute used to be run by Tenzing Norgay, and is where he was cremated.

A shared cab back to Darjeeling (Rs10 each rather than the Rs250 to get to the zoo), and then lunch in the Frank Ross café, and shopping in several places around Chowrasta, which is mercifully car-free.

In the evening we met up with Oliver, Anna and Henry, a German couple and their son, who we met in Kolkata and came to Darjeeling the day before us. We ate at Sonam's Kitchen, Lonely Planet's top choice restaurant. This is clearly the place to go for Europeans. I had "Happy Birthday" sung to me in German and Russian (yes, really). Food excellent, but takes a long time to come, and the place was getting a little chilly by the end of the meal.

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