Descending the mountains from Sikkim I arrived in Darjeeling amid a light rain in need of a guest house with good internet. After a few miscues I settled on Hotel Fairmont with cheap rates, basic rooms, good wi-fi, and well, I never figured out how to get hot water but was too tired to go back to the lobby. I had previously popped my head into backpacker-favorite Dekeling Hotel which had indifferent staff being chased by blond northern European women also in search of hot water. With that many backpackers their wi-fi was overloaded.
I awoke to a bustling, noisy regional trading center rather than the hill station retreat I imagined. A British couple I met in Lakshadweep has said it took them a day or two in Darjeeling to figure out that the good stuff is all outside the city. The draws are heritage accommodation and treks in the tea fields.
I only had a few hours before the 2.5 hour trip down to Bagdogra Airport so did a 2-hour walking circuit of the city, from the UNESCO-listed toy train, which was having technical issues and very run-down, through the markets, down to Happy Valley Tea Estate that supplies Harrod’s, to Nathmull Tea for obligatory tea purchase and wrapped up with a slow-cooked Tibetan meal.
Darjeeling the city is not the stuff of its legend. Make the time and enjoy its countryside rather than stay in town.