Darjeeling tourism is not limited to Batasia Loop, Ghum Monastery, and the Himalayan Zoological Park. There are many hidden gems in the Darjeeling district like Palmajua, Chatakpur, and Rishop.
As our daughter was turning a year old, we wanted to spend her birth-week amidst nature, at any destination which is not crowded with season’s tourists. We were joined by our friends and their 1.5-year-old kid. Fortunately, we found not one but two places – Palmajua and Chatakpur, located in the Darjeeling district, about 50 and 26 km from Darjeeling, respectively. These places, comfortably shying away from the mainstream travellers, offer wonderful rendezvous with pines, rapids, birds and the wilderness replete with serenity and silence all around them.
The Journey to Palmajua:
We boarded the Darjeeling Mail and upon reaching Siliguri (the train offered an occasional halt there, normally it stops at New Jalpaiguri) we took a hired cab till Sukhiapokhri, which is situated about 69 km from Siliguri. Enroute Sukhiapokhri, we stopped at an eatery near the Rohini Highway for a heavy breakfast with Puri-Sabzi-Tea while our kids had instantly made Cerelac. We reached Sukhiapokhri around 1 PM and headed straight to Bhansa Hotel for lunch. They offered us ‘Thakali Thali’, Nepalese equivalent of Indian ‘Dhaba’ food and for the kids, they served rice and boiled daal. The food was awesome as well as toddler-friendly with no hint of chilli tempering at all. After the hearty lunch, we booked another cab to our destination, Palmajua. The 34 km road was a bit of a bumpy ride via Maneybhanjan and Dhotrey. As we neared our homestay, the Himalayan greenery threw off a wonderful guard of honour welcoming us into its fold.
Singalila Jungle Lodge:
We booked our stay in Singalila Jungle Lodge, a homestay located in Palmajua. The property owned by Mr. Avinash Rai was surrounded amidst a lovely setting with green hills beckoning afar on one side and the other side overlooking a valley with an incessantly chirpy rapid with flowering trees like Rhododendrons, Camelia and Magnolia as well as unknown non-flowering trees dotting the quaint area. Just what one meant by the phrase ‘in the lap of nature’.
There were 4 cottages, two smaller, just sufficient for a stay of 3 people in each, and two bigger to accommodate more members. All the cottages had attached bath with no geysers. The helpful staff provided with hot water on demand. There was an annex building too which had 3 rooms with a common toilet.
There was a big wooden dining table of indigenous make lying under the sky inside the property boundary where you can have your food and a cozy wooden setup specially made for the people who love interesting conversations over lazy strums of guitars, hot tea, and pakoras (the nikhad Bengali adda).
Food served in the Singalila Jungle Lodge:
The food served here was very basic, Puri/Chapati – Aloo Sabzi in breakfast, Rice-Daal-Egg Curry/Vegetable Curry in lunch and Rice/Chapati – Chicken (country fowl) Curry/ Vegetable Curry/Daal. The staff was very particular about the food they served for the kids – every single meal was served punctually on the time. The quality of cooking was pretty good which enhanced in the last night of our stay when one of the cooks took leave and Mrs. Rai herself cooked our meals. The personal touch one feels while putting up in a homestay was rightly felt by us on that day thanks to the warm hospitability of Mr. and Mrs. Rai.
Our staying experience in the Singalila Jungle Lodge:
We stayed here for 3 and a half days to be precise and the only sounds which broke in the tranquility of the place are the twitters of plenty of local birds and the water of the cascading rapid nearby.
In these 3 days, we simply threw ourselves away in the hands of the mother nature. We went for very short to short hikes with our kids strapped to the carrier bags, went for lazy strolls around the property, and visited a place called Momokhola for spotting more birds. The colourful birds flittered around the naughty stream while we amazed ourselves with the panorama the place offered. The sweet experience of Momokhola came to an end with beautiful home-made momos and sweet teas of a tea house.
On the mornings we basked in the warm sun, appreciated the beauty of the seasonal blooms of the red rhododendrons and other flowers and became children with our kids while showing them the different birds our eyes caught.
The evenings here were spent indoors. The kids played with each other while we played referees when any of them became more mischievous in the course. We had our dinners inside the rooms too, to avoid the chill outside.
On the penultimate day of our stay, Mr. Rai came to meet us. He had some work in the city so he couldn’t make it earlier. In between a friendly conversation, he offered to show us a documentary film on Red Panda which was commonly found in the nearby Singalila forest prior to their decrease in number due to continuous poaching. The film was an emotional tribute. We barely managed to not shed a tear while leaving the room where the projector was arranged.
The warmth of the host is something that makes a mark in our hearts every time we return from any Darjeeling tourism.
We started early on the last day, mechanically finished packing, feeding kids, feeding ourselves and hurried off in our booked cab. The hurry was an induced one because deep inside our minds we did not want to leave the beautiful place.
Contact details of Singalila Jungle Lodge:
Address: Palmajua, P.O Bansbotay, Rimbick, Darjeeling, West Bengal
Phone number: 09635109201
Name of the owner: Mr. Avinash Rai
Booking process: You need to call the given phone number to book the cottages and pay 50% advance.
P.S: Please reach out in the given phone number to know about the ongoing tariffs (w.r.t your date of travel) The tariff rates are subject to change in rush faced in Darjeeling tourism.
To Be Continued in Serenity Exemplified-Palmajua & Chatakpur (Part 2)
(Keep following our blog for the next part of the travelogue)