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admin 21.03.2014

Siva Afi, or fire-knife dancing, is one of the most exhilarating aspects of Samoan festivities.
There is a unique vibe about the Bocas del Toro archipelago in far west Panama, the true gateway to the country for overlanders from Costa Rice. Mt Yasur is the most accessible live volcano in the world, with eruptions every five to ten minutes. Two 16th-century monuments of the Durbar Square of Patan on the occasion of Krishna Janmashtami (the birth anniversary of Krishna), when thousands of pilgrims and devotees pay homage at a temple. As the waves of the Indian Ocean gently lap at your feet and the beach's slowly cooling sands, the sun’s last rays of the day paint the sky with a beautiful range of colours and tones. Two cheetahs standing ready and vigilant in the rays of another remarkable day at the Selous Game Reserve, the largest ‘unscathed’ game reserve in Tanzania and a UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Site. Surrounded by the snow-capped ridges of the Himalayas and gorgeously blanketed by a patchwork of beautiful rural tea plantations, old-world temples and monasteries, stunning Darjeeling, India, is an internationally renowned tourist destination for good reason. To get to the bottom (or top) of the best, though, takes a local with intimate knowledge of the place.
Here, therefore, is a list of the Top Five things to do in Darjeeling, courtesy of the travel experts at Tathagata Journeys, your local connection. First and foremost, lovers of the outdoors should not miss the many spectacular highlights of trekking at Sandakphu. It takes me eight or nine days to finish the entire trek route, but the initial panoramic view filled with the colours of magnolias, rhododendrons, primulas and silver fir forest recovering from fire, not to mention the close-ups of the entire Himalayan Belt, stays enduringly in my mind.
The idea of a joy train ride chugging up through hilly terrain is so romantic that the Darjeeling toy train has been featured in many famous Bollywood songs. Second on our Top Five list is definitely the Joy Train Ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Fortunately, travellers like me who get restless on long slow train rides need not skip the full journey from JNP to Darjeeling altogether. If it weren’t for Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), I would probably never have discovered the mountaineer in me.
HMI continues to provide a great deal of information on mountaineering, as well as provide basic and advanced mountaineering, adventure and survival courses. Last but not the least on our Darjeeling highlights list is definitely breakfast at Keventers Restaurant. In Darjeeling, Keventers is the place for great breakfast indulgence, especially non-vegetarian fare. My favourite dish is the non-vegetarian delight; it consists of mouth-watering sausages, ham, bacon, eggs and toast. As a child, my parents told me these enticing stories of Darjeeling, world famous for its tea( now it has a geographic patent to prove it). So, when I visited Darjeeling some time back on a family holiday, I had to take a ride on the Darjeeling Toy Train, formally called as Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), which now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A full train ride from plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling, which takes travelers through all the stations and is approximately 8 hours ride.
Joy Ride - There are 2 joy ride routes on offer, each of which is approximately 1 hour long. Since we were staying in Darjeeling, we opted for the joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghum & back. We arrived on the station an hour before the joy ride was about to start and there was such a buzz!!
Soon, the steam engine came chugging along, blowing steam & whistling loudly along with the carriage. We sat down in our designated seats and after some time, the train started off from the station and chugged along towards Ghum.
Again, the toy train started off and this time, it stopped at Batasia Loop, a spiral created in the route so that the track spirals around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop. I absolutely loved the Darjeeeling Himayala Toy Train joy ride, it was everything that my parents had told me about and much more.

If you are in Darjeeling, you cannot miss a joy ride on the Darjeeling Himalaya Railway Toy Train!!
Kurseong Municipality established in the year 1879, Kurseong is a historical town having rich heritage.
Kurseong is a perfect place for people who want to derive the pleasures of being in an alpine surrounding without worrying about higher altitudes and bone-chilling cold weather. The plains are much more warmer than the hills and as the train climbs up the mountains the climate gets much colder and pleasant. The schools can be classified into 2 distinct groups, namely the English Medium and the Nepali Medium are affiliated to ICSE of Delhi or WBBSE of West Bengal or CBSE of Delhi. Walking through the small town you can find acres of verdant slopes covered with tea bushes a€“ one of the finest varieties of Darjeeling Tea is found in the tea gardens surrounding Kurseong.
Tea plantations in Darjeeling although started in the small area initially, later it was extended in the Kurseong area as well. Given the breathtaking beauty of the caves, they have always been an ideal site for rites associated with the divine.
Although a traditional pre-war ritual that was used to psych up Samoan warrior, it is today a demonstration of agility.
The 15-minute trek to the crater increases the prospects of a shortened life, but that’s why thousands make it.
This church, built before the 18th-century expulsion of Dominican monks Its geographical location, is distinguished by its red decor, made with ochre. Fortunately, the founding staff and I at Tathagata Journeys were born and bred in Darjeeling. The Sandakphu trek follows the Singalila Range, which is our kind of route: full of scenic nature and modest village dwellings. Four of the world’s five highest peaks – Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse – are all visible on this trek. Instead, I take the short joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghoom or vice versa, an enjoyable distance that allows you to appreciate every bit of the journey without growing tired of it. Darjeeling Tea doesn't need to steep for long, as the colour and flavour are readily absorbed by the hot water, which then emits the most fragrant aroma. Back when I was still a kid, I remember my mother making Darjeeling tea in huge vessels early in the morning and reserving it in flasks for all-day drinking. I often go with the intent of capturing some of my favourite photographs: shots of  local tea pluckers picking fresh tea leaves in the huge green garden with the mountains in the background.
I was inclined to climbing and travelling from a very early age and got my start with an adventure-based outdoor training program taught by HMI.
I often take my like-minded friends to the HMI Museum, where I marvel all over again at the mountaineering equipment used by great climbers like Tenzing Sherpa. Like all the locals of Darjeeling who never tire of dining at Keventers, my grandfather, my father and I all love paying a visit.
Keventers specialises in delicious ham, bacon and sausages; these items are even sold in packages at the counter. He discovered his passion for travel quite early and has travelled immensely in India as both a tour leader and a traveller. The most exciting part of the stories were about the Darjeeling Toy Train ride that one could take from the plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling. Travelers, both Indian and from all over the world were admiring the smaller width tracks, the old world platforms and the cute little engines being prepped up for action.
It was such a grand entry and all of the travelers went click click, taking numerous photos of the engine and the carriages inside( we did too). The train route goes through heavily populated areas of Darjeeling town, through some forested areas and some very lovely views of the mountains. It also happens to be one the most picturesque views of the Darjeeling toy train joy ride route. The Ghum Railway station happens to be highest railway station in India, situated at an altitude of 2,258 metres.

I felt like a kid again & so did the rest of my family (in laws and husband that is!!). Kurseong does not suffer from severe winters and a healthy, comfortable climate is prevalent throughout the year except the monsoon season.
Together we have decades of experience arranging meaningful tours and activities for travellers in and around town, from treks and mountain biking to cooking classes and urban walking tours. The forest of Beekay Bhanjang (poisonous pass) is visible here; it was named after an infamous plant – poisonous aconite – found in the area. The trek to Sandakphu starts from a small village called Manebhanjang, inhabited by Buddhist Sherpas. Within the loop, a war memorial dedicated to Gorkha soldiers further enhances the beauty of the location. I am still in the habit of drinking tea all day long, and, after having tasted so much Darjeeling tea, I don’t think any other tea in the world can match its flavour and the aroma. These days, Darjeeling also produces white and green tea, but for me, Darjeeling black tea is the real local tea and not to be missed. We are very proud to share that Darjeeling produces 10,000 tons of tea yearly and is now protected by Geographical Indication, meaning that only tea that is produced in Darjeeling can be termed Darjeeling Tea. Located on Nehru Road, Keventers is very easy to find and I have met many travellers who make it a point to eat there every time they are in Darjeeling.
The upstairs area of Keventers has open-air seating, where diners can bask in the warm sun.
He says India is so diverse and rich that every region is a different experience altogether. In the mornings, one can see a clear view of the Kanchenjunga, which ofcourse we could not see because it was afternoon & clouds gather by this time (We went again in the morning another day but that shall be a separate post!!). It also has a Darjeeling Himalaya Rail Museum, inside the railway station itself, which showcases interesting historical facts & images about DHR.
It rains non-stop in the rainy season; infact, Kurseong receives the highest amount of rainfall after a€?Cherrapunjeea€™ in Meghalaya. From there, I like contemplating the entire trek route, imagining  the effort of the near-vertical climb at the end toward distant but visible Sandakphu. Just as there is nothing like the champagne of France, so too can nothing compare to Darjeeling tea. It was all the start of my passion for travel, since I began guiding in the mountains of Nepal and later led cultural tours throughout India.
Enjoying delicious food while watching the mountains is an activity that we absolutely love.
He founded Tathagata Journeys (your local connection to Darjeeling) and aims to enrich travellers with incredible local experiences.
The toy train again takes a rest here as the passengers visit the museum & have snacks.
Ironically, such heavy amount of rainfall is ideal for white orchids that adorn the hill-slopes of Kurseong in abundance. The best parts of the trip are the steam engine and the slow speed that gives one ample chance to appreciate nature and enjoy the journey.
The natural beauty of Kurseong thrives because of the generosity of the rain-gods.
Of particular fame is the Batasia Loop, where the train completes a steep full circle, but from this point I particularly like the marvellous view of Darjeeling nestled below the majestic Himalayan Range.

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