Darjeeling has a much more Asian-oriental feel to it due to the huge shadow of China. The cultures of Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India, Sikkam and Burma all mingle together in Darjeeling.While there, the kids discovered a fondness for Momo's - a Tibetan dumpling filled with pork, chicken or cabbage. Lesa and I savored the Tibetan soups... very nice on a chilly evening. We all enjoyed eating at the "English" bakery in Darjeeling as well!
We traveled to three hill stations in the district. Kalimpong was the first and our favorite. It was quiet and we stayed in a lovely family-run Guest House (Holumba Haven). Good food and plenty of garden space for the children to play in. The owners had two small children (aged 6 and 8) - so Audrey and Evan had a blast there. Hide and Seek, Tag, bunnies and guinea pigs - plenty to do. All while under the shadow of massive Kanchenjunga. Who could ask for more?
Kalimpong has a fascinating past as it was a trade crossroads for hundreds of years between Sikkam, Nepal, and Bhutan. As a result, all four major orders of Buddhism are represented in the town by monasteries - the oldest of these dates back to the 17th century. Buddhism is probably the most prevalent religion in this part of India. There is also a strong influence from Christianity and, of course Hinduism. We chatted with monks in each of the several Buddhist monasteries we visited - they were all well spoken, educated, and gracious.Darjeeling, (elev approx 6,000 ft) was the second place we visited. Although established on a high ridge, the city was a bit of a disappointment. The city-center is crowded, noisy and has a lot of diesel pollution because the taxis ("Sumos") constantly running between neighboring towns. More on Darjeeling (and the unusual neighboring town of Ghoom (elev. 7,400 ft.) later...
Finally, we had a one-night stay in the town of Kurseong - in a pleasant, but weathered hotel called, Cochran Place. This small hotel sits on top of a ridge line with a near-360 degree view of the neighboring foothills. Warmer, and lower in elevation (4800 ft), Kurseong is surrounded by tea plantations. This is the heart of Darjeeling Tea country where many plantations have operated for 150 years or more.
The trip to Darjeeling District included a three hour flight from Delhi to to Bagdogra and then at least another 2-3 hours by jeep/taxi up into the many hill stations above.