East India

by David Woollan

Global Mark : to come

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 



Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.

Description & comments :
This town, about two and a half hours by jeep from Darjeeling, is not a true hill station, although it is promoted as such. In many ways, it is a more authentic Indian town than Darjeeling. Set at 1250 meters above sea level, it is less likely to be under cloud when Darjeeling is, and is a lot warmer in winter. There is plenty to see, and one can easily spend three or four days looking around.

What to do ? Wander around the sprawling bazaar in search of a bargain. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday / Walk around the beautiful grounds of Dr. Graham's homes and school / Visit the Catholic Church on Relli Road to see the paintings of Saints seen through the eyes of Indian painters / Visit the Queen Mother of Bhutan at her residence, Bhutan House / Visit the Durpin monastery and chat to the trainee monks / Visit one of over twenty flower and orchid nurseries.

What you may not like ? (anything ?)

Where to stay ? There are about 45 hotels in Kalimpong. The better hotels will be found on the outskirts of town. A large number of basic hotels can be found by the bus park, but this is a noisy area.

  • Deki Lodge (55095), Tripai Road / Clean rooms with or without bathroom. Doubles R450, single R250. Restaurant in a rooftop garden setting. You will be living with a large, Tibetan extended family. Good trekking and sightseeing information. Internet access. What you may not like: Madame is hard to bargain with. Her small dog is not house trained so be careful where you tread!
  • Hotel Kanhaa Delux (55324/58524), D.S. Gurung Road / A classic case of a 'delux' hotel going to seed. Squeezed behind the bus park and a main road, so quite noisy. Clan and tidy rooms all with European style bathrooms. Hot/cold water. End rooms have TV. Telephones in all rooms. Singles R450/550, doubles R550/650. Vegetarian restaurant.
  • Hotel Gompu's (55818), Dambar Chowk, telephone 55818 / Overlooking a pedestrian walkway cum market area. Airy, basic rooms with attached bath. Wooden rooms. R150 single, R250 double. Also popular restaurant and bar.
  • Paramount Inn and Restaurant (55037), main road / Spacious, basic and clean. Fairly quiet. Doubles R250 with attached bath or R450 with television.
  • Hotel Shree Punjab and restaurant. Rishi Road (10 mile Road) / Very basic and dirty. Triples only. Single occupancy R150. Three in a room R300. One to avoid.

Backpacker's Tips : Joel Cauterucci, USA (May 02)
Recently in 2002, I visited Kalimpong for a three week research trip and practically relied on your web site for hotels. I was disappointed in the poor quality and service of some these dirty and dingy rooms as cheap as their rates came. A few of the high end hotels were beyond my budget, and found them to be overly pretentious and unexciting. Then I come across a Hotel Drolma, on the outskirts of town run by a Tibetan family, beautifully maintained as perhaps the cleanest hotel in town, a British Raj style bungalow renovated and decorated in Trans Himalayan style with old pictures of past Tibet and a lot of rich heritage and history to the hotel. There are about 15 rooms, mostly attached baths in a rustic fashion in the range of 300 to 1000 Indian Rupees, and the grounds of this hotel provide an awesome view of the breathtaking Himalayan Mountains. The Kitchen style restaurant provides real authentic Tibetan cuisine as well as Chinese and Indian Tandoori dishes. I was highly impressed, and stayed in of the moderate rooms which had a real bathroom, wooden floors and clean bed sheets! For anyone traveling to Kalimpong, I completely recommend this fine hotel and staff that make the difference. Later, I discovered a write up in the Lonely Planet Guide, Aug 2001 that list this hotel, and in the Rough Guide for India. I hope this helps tourists reduce some of the stress and headache in looking for a fine hotel. E-mail: hoteldrolma@sify.com for your information. 

Internet ?
Fastcom, Rishi road (10 mile Road). On the second floor of a shopping mall. Depending on the mood of the telephone line, very slow up to surprisingly good. R1 per minute.

Durpin monastery ? Walk out on Main road, past the Silver Oaks Hotel and the Kalimpong Park Hotel. The road slowly climbs and passes the golf course and a large army cantonment. At the top of the hill is the monastery, which also doubles as a school for trainee monks. There is also a large Tea Shop recently constructed by the Tourist Board.

Day walk from Kalimpong to Relli Bazaar ? Walk along Rishi Road (10 Mile Road). Follow this road out of town, passing Bhutan House. When it has changed its name to 12 Mile Road, it branches into two roads. . Take the road that descends steeply to the right and follow this road down, passing huge stands of bamboo to arrive at Pudung Village. Pass through the village and continue to Relli Bazaar. This bazaar village is hardly more than two dozen houses on either side of the bridge over the river. Most of the work here is extracting and breaking stones from the river bed.
In the village is a Buddhist gumpha, known as Sesu Gumpha, revered by the local Tamang community.
An alternative way to Relli is to walk through the two arches of Kalimpong bazaar and turn hard left onto Relli Road. This is a metalled road. After fifteen minutes walk the road branches into two roads. Keep on the left-hand road. After another fifteen minutes the road branches again. Keep left and continue walking on a metalled road. This road undulates for about another three miles and then descends more steeply to Relli bridge. Total walking time is about two and a quarter hours. Return trip uphill about three and a half hours.
A third way to Relli is to walk, as above, down the Relli Road but when the road branches for the second time, this time keep straight on (i.e. don't turn left). After another fifteen minutes the road ends and becomes a track through forest and paddy or corn, depending on the planting season. Follow the path down, passing small homesteads until you arrive at the river by a pedestrian wire bridge. Turn right and follow the river bed to Relli. You will need to rock scramble and maybe have to wade a couple of times across the river.
There are some good swimming spots near Relli bridge and behind the village. Also a small waterfall where you can take an invigorating shower.

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