Darjeeling – an old British Hill Station where the British living in the plains of India could escape the summer swelter. Indeed, it seemed as if, no matter the time of year, the temperature was always somewhere between 35 and 70 degrees. The mists were never far. The close air and the hanging moisture, I guess make it an ideal place for growing tea, and some of the world’s best tea is grown in the Darjeeling Hills. As a student on the Pitzer program in 2005, we toured “Happy Valley” Tea Estate, though I dare say that the conditions in many of these tea estates are anything but happy.
Today, you can still feel the remnants of the old British rule. A tiny toy train chugs its way through the hilly town. The town is still known for its tea, but it is also known for its good schools, and its extensive network of non-governmental organizations that strive to improve the conditions of many in the surrounding areas. Water shortages are frequent, and the city has outgrown its infrastructure without a lot of new being built on. And yet it still has an incredible charm to it. It still feels like an escape into the past, but a past that has the present catching up to it as well.
Here are some of my favorite photographs from my brief stay in Darjeeling in August, 2010 (I stayed at Andy’s Guest House above the Chowrasta – it’s my favorite spot! And Sonam’s Kitchen has the best coffee and breakfast in town. And they’ll even cook up a plate of greens for you if you bring it in and ask them to! Sonam remembered me from when I had been there in 2008. What a small world!)