Chris snuggles up to Uncle Joe, Chris was later treated for shock
Don't ever let anyone tell you that it doesn't get cold in India. When we were planning this trip we had visions of Darjeeling as being this wonderful hilly country, covered with tea plantations and happy natives picking away in their loin cloths and sari's. Well it is sort of like that but when you head out to Darjeeling in January --- you'd better bring your thermal loin cloth and your down-filled sari. It is amazing what altitude does to the ambient temperature! We did have a wonderful hotel, the Bellevue Hotel the owner was one of the Dalia Lama's personal assistants from back in the 50's. He presented us with a prayer scarf when we left, as is his custom.
Darjeeling central heating (25 BTU's)
The only problem with the hotels and the restaurants in this town is that most of them are not heated. Why worry about the cold weather when your in India, right?? We did have a wood burning stove in our room and it was very nice and warm up against the stove, oh, and while there is still actually wood burning in the stove. Unfortunately our bed wasn't really close to the stove, and the wood ran out about 5 minutes after we fell asleep. Darjeeling is also close to the Ghoom Monastery, which is a Buddhist Monastery, very nice with a 20 foot Buddha inside and although we didn't actually ride on the train in Darjeeling, we did see it steaming it's way along the track to the Ghoom train station, which is the second highest train station in the world, or the highest.
(depending on what book you're reading) This is a smaller version of the old fashioned trains you see in western movies, about 1/2 the size of a normal steam engine. We waited for 3 days for the weather to clear, which would have allowed us to see the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchengjunga. Unfortunately the fog and clouds were with us for our entire stay in Darjeeling. We did visit a world class zoo, which houses species specific to the alpine regions of the Himalayas, including, the big cats. Tigers, both the Siberian and the Indian, leopards, cloud leopards and snow leopards. As well as, big wild, fluffy pussy cats. Another point of interest was the "ropeway", similar to a cable-car or gondola which you would find in mountians in Canada or the Alps.
Rumtek neighbourhood watch
Unfortunely it is no longer working after it accidently dropped a few paying customers... we're not sure if insurance was ever paid out to the families.... And if your really getting into the mood of the mountains the Himalayan mountaineering Institute has a 28 day mountain climbing course for only 1000 rupees, they also had a great exhibit on the history of the Himalayas and the conquering of Everest.
Our next stop was to the former Kingdom of Sikkim. This is the most magical place in all of India. The people are different from those of the south with more of the population from Tibetian or Nepalese descent, as well as the native people who lived there before. Again it was very cold, and again there is no central heating in the hotel rooms, although they did provide ( at an extra charge) a lovely electric space heater, which heated the space exactly 1.5 inches radius around the heater itself, but it made a lovely nightlight.