It is said that Kalimpong has got its name from Kalibong or Kaulim, which is a local fibrous plant used in paper making industry. There’s no doubt that till today Kaulim is found in abundance at Kalimpong and that is not the only plant to flourish there. The little hill station is extraordinarily blessed with flowering plants and roses, orchids, lilies, rhododendrons etc bloom in amazing profusion there. Flowers seem to grow out of thin air there and we had been mesmerized by the way locals had used them in profusion to decorate every inch of their houses. Flower spotting had been one of our favourite activities in Kalimpong and our little forest hikes had left us wanting for more.
Kalimpong’s slopes had been covered with pine, neon green bamboo, maple, oak and fir trees and many beautiful ferns and mosses had crept among them. Naturally the air had been scented wild green from such profuse vegetation and occasional rolling mist had painted the landscape even lovelier. We had loved the days when the sun had played hide and seek between the rolling candy floss clouds and breeze had blown in cool whispers over the Teesta Rangit valley. It had rushed into our room in refreshing gusts; making the white curtains go awry and bringing in shower of red geranium petals along calls of wild birds. The gorgeous garden of our home stay had attracted local birds of all kinds and sometimes at dawn, we had been stirred awake by their busy chatter. The rich fruit trees and strawberry patches had drawn large bushy tailed squirrels too and many a times, bejeweled frogs and noisy geckos with glinty eyes had nestled between them. Our Kalimpong mornings had always started with cups of signature Darjeeling tea at the flower filled verandah and post breakfast, we had walked all over the town.
Our favourite walk had been to the Deolo Hill viewpoint and back and the downhill hike had always been via the small hilly hamlets. Deolo Hill with its manicured lawns, sweeping views and masses of blooming flower beds had always been a visual treat and the blooming rhododendrons had splashed the garden in brilliant pinks and reds. At the summit, apart from chatting with photo friendly local monks and enjoying some ice cream, there had not been much activity to indulge in and pregnancy had ruled out our chances at paragliding. We had enjoyed our downhill walk more than the viewpoint and wandering around the small villages, sampling wild raspberries and exploring little forests had been a lot of fun. That road had held many old colonial buildings, churches and schools and often melodious hymns being practiced by local choir groups had rung through the hills. We had passed many pleasant hours of our Kalimpong days there; staring at medieval aged rustic pig pens, bordering bushes of wild sunflowers, poinsettias and blood red lilies and idly chatting with red cheeked local children and their shy friendly mothers.
On one occasion we had wandered up the Durpin Dara Hill and had returned after paying brief visits to the Army Golf Course, the supposedly haunted Morgan House and the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang Monastery. Consecrated by none other than His Holiness Dalai Lama himself, the monastery had been a lovely stop and it had been a storehouse of rare Tibetan scripts. Beautiful paintings had decorated its ceremonial hall and colourful strings of Buddhist prayer flags had fluttered in the peaceful wind. Everything about Zang Dhok Palri Phodang Monastery had been quiet, tranquil and we had enjoyed the solitude with a hot plate of vegetable momos. The food of Kalimpong had also been one of our favourite memories of the hill town and we had gorged on momos, soupy thukpas and other Chinese Indian dishes during our stay. With such luxury of time on our hands and so less to do, Kalimpong had been an indulgent lazy vacation and it had been the best ending of our ambitious India summer trip.
TRAVEL TIP – Kalimpong is an excellent jump off base for exploring the nearby destinations of Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap, Pedong and Rikkisum. Day trips by road are possible to these places, although at least an overnight stay is advisable. NJP (New Jalpaiguri) is the nearest rail head and Kalimpong is accessible by Bagdogra airport. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Kalimpong from Darjeeling by car via Peshoke Road and from NJP and Bagdogra minimum 3 hours is required by road. There are hourly North Bengal State Transport buses to travel to/from Siliguri/NJP, along with shared jeeps to Darjeeling, Gangtok etc. Sit in front of the jeeps to be most comfortable during your mountainous journey. Taxis and rental cars can be hired from NJP and Bagdogra Airport. These taxis are government controlled and regulated and come with fixed tariff. Ask for proper receipt with mention of the car number issued to you. There are different charges for ac and non ac vehicles of different sizes.
Kalimpong is an easily walk able place with few attractions and public transportation includes shared jeeps, motorbike rentals etc. Deolo Hill, Durpin Dara, Zang Dhok Palri Phodang Monastery, Dr Graham’s Homes, Morgan House etc are some of the places to visit and nature lovers can opt for visits to the cactus, orchid and other exotic flowers nurseries. There is also a sizable amount of great wildlife around Kalimpong and being a part of the Neora Valley National Park, the surrounding forests are home to endangered species like the Red Panda, Himalayan Tahr, barking deer. Bird watching is also a very popular activity there and avifauna lovers can look out for the Himalayan woodpecker, flycatchers, pheasants, warblers etc. The surrounding forests and villages of Kalimpong are perfect for hiking and it is also possible to trek all the way to Pedong. The hike from Lava to Rishop is also pretty spectacular and apart from hiking, Kalimpong is also a great place for paragliding, white-water river rafting, golfing, fishing etc. It is possible to opt for these tours through your accommodation or from any of the tour operators in town.
There are few government run resorts, heritage hotel and guesthouses at Kalimpong and locals offer excellent many home stay facilities. We had stayed at the Roots, Shoots and Beds and it had been the best accommodation we had stayed at during our entire India trip. The food at Kalimpong is pretty awesome and you can feast upon delicious local cuisine. The town has many restaurants and street food stalls offering amazing momos, thukpas, chicken lollipops and the locally made cheese is worth a try too. Shopping in Kalimpong mainly includes Indo-Tibetan souvenirs like handicrafts, embroidered items, thangka paintings, ornaments, bags and artifacts. You can also shop for local pickles, preserves, orchid and other plant bulbs at Kalimpong
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE