To travel is to live. When we travel places it’s not just about the place or the people it’s their culture, it’s a new way of seeing things. Different people and their different lifestyles. Their struggle for earning their livelihood and finding the happiness in little things. Their way of doing things differently & learning new things from them. Whom of you know me know that I am a travel freak. If I had enough money I would travel the whole world. Still I made some plans for travelling around the world. I try to save some money for going to new countries which started with India. Though I stayed in India for only 7 days but it was one hell of a tour.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well preserved body; but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’”
– Hunter S. Thompson
So this is the second part of India tour. I hope you liked the first part of the blog. The train journey started. I bought a book for me from the Sealdah station “Love stories that touched my heart by Ravinder Sing. I was amazed to see there were very good books in the little bookstores of the station.
So we got introduced with the three foreigners. They were from Belgium. They were doing some kind of course here in India. They travelled most of the places around like Delhi, Kashmir, Shimla, Manali, Shilong. This time, they were heading towards Darjeeling & Gangtok( Sikkim). They were very friendly we talked almost 3 hours. Habib vai was feeling sick & the others fell asleep. I have a sleeping problem kind of like insomnia so I was talking with them. They seemed very curious about coming to Bangladesh as well. I did give them some information about which places to visit and some other advice as well when travelling to be safe. I also gave my number so that they can contact me if they come. We shared our insights on India and I think, their thoughts the only thing they complained about was not getting the ticket directly from the Sealdah station.
So one of them had some kind of exam the next day and he left us and started studying in his tab. The others also went after few minutes. So I was alone wandering around the train doors :/ nothing to do, Then another Indian guy about my age came to smoke and we got introduced. He gave me some info on Darjeeling and which are the must for sightseeing. I asked him about how to go to Sikkim and he told me Bangladeshis, Pakistanis & Chinese, Nepalis are not allowed there without proper permission even the Indian need permission. We need Inner Line Permit from the high commission of India situated in Delhi. After a few minute, he left also and I had to go to sleep cause there was no one to talk. One thing I noticed in the train that some of them brought Pillows with them and they are very comfortable travelling in trains. Their trains are very fast compared to our trains and clean as well.
10th October(Day 4):
So we reached New Jalpai Guri train station at 8.00 clock. After reaching there, we
did our breakfast in Jamai Hotel with Aluu Porotaa & Chicken masala. After that, some bookies were trying to get in and show their offers but we didn’t give them any chance & got into a Maruti Suzuki from the station there which will take 10 person and 200 rupees each. You can also reserve one for 2k or so as well. The driver was really good with his driving skill and actually after staying in darjeeling I got to know that every single one of them are very good.
Anyway, the this is the starting of a great 3-hour journey which you can’t describe. We were going up, up and up and the mountains of Darjeeling they were making mad with their beauty. The roads were super clean and well made. I was really amazed to see how they made these roads so high. Actually, I was thinking how they bought the Road Rollers and other heavy trucks there. The height of our Bandarban is 3488 feetwith GPS accuracy of 3 & Darjeeling is 7600 feet. So you can imagine why I was confused how they made the roads there. So after crossing 4000 feet everything changed and we entered into the CLOUDS! yeah, I was wearing shorts and tshirt and it was freezing cold. You will notice another thing there that your won’t hear anything. Seriously your ear will get blocked and on and again blocked because of the height. If you have highfobia than don’t look below. It’s really scary :/ The roads are dangerous like hell as well. The view was mesmerizing & the best part were clouds. It was covering us, going through us.
You can’t describe this feeling in words 🙂 You have to be there to feel it. Beside the road you will see a train line going up. It’s the world Himalayan Railway Train of Darjeeling aka Toy Train. Which was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, only the second railway to have this honour. Though it’s closed because of the Landsliding. It was made In the mid-19th century, the British rulers built a recovery home away from home in the Himalayan city Darjeeling where the stress of colonial rule and the hot Indian climate could be put away for the summer. A sanatorium and a military depot were set up. The soft climate was not only good for recreation but also supporting extensive tea growing and plantation. Subsequently, Darjeeling became a well-known new British settlement and trading point for tea. We reached the Darjeeling main city and there were houses built on the mountain. I was thinking how they made those there and it’s not like just only one floor they made one over another. Girls were coming from school and they were nicely dressed but they didn’t wear any Jackets or sweater I mean no warm clothes but it was 13-degree celsius out there and I was freezing and shaking in cold. There was an Old couple sitting in the back of the Maruti with us. Their age will be around 70 or so. They were here to celebrate their anniversary & spend some time together on their own. The husband and wife they were so close and caring it made me realize the fact that love is a very hard thing to find & who have it are the most happiest person on earth.
So after getting off from Maruti we were trying to find a Hotel named Hotel Crown retreat which I researched about before going to Darjeeling. It had some offers going on and had good reviews from their past customers. You should check the rating and customer feedback before you decide to stay in a hotel and it’s better if you can book the hotel online because you will get more benefits and discounts. Anyway, we couldn’t find the hotel crown retreat and there was no phone number given there so we checked in another hotel named Hotel Broadway.
The manager of the hotel is a nice guy and the staffs there are very helpful. After Bargaining we booked a room with two king sized bed with a balcony for 1400 rupees per day. So we paid 2800 rupees for two days in advance. The rooms were comfortable and were great according to the price. If you go to Darjeeling make sure you check if the washroom has hot water or not 😛 because it’s really cold here :D. So we took a nice refreshing shower and we were so tired we all fell asleep. It was a 37 hours continuous journey for me.
I woke up at 6 PM and opened the door to the balcony. BOOM it struck me like a needle. It was fucking freezing out there. I closed the door instantly and wore my jacket. Everyone was still sleeping so I thought let’s take a look around. So I got out with my camera & it was almost dark and tourists were roaming in the roads. Some of them were buying clothes and other things from the shops. I also bought a pair of hand gloves because my hands were freezing.
It was nice feeling going there by myself and the satisfaction of reaching Darjeeling with just one-day planning. All credit goes to Habib Bhai who let me hook up with them in this sizzling tour. So when returning to the hotel I saw that Habib Bhai & Faruque bhai is also out. So we went to the newly decorated Gol Chottor, which was previously used for horse racing and all. Couples were sitting there holding each other :3 I need to get married soon :/ Then We had the famous Darjeeling tea there. I confess though the best Darjeeling tea leaf is being exported outside still what I had there is the best tea. It’s only 10 rupees so we had few more. I took some photos there and saw the football match of Indian Super League between Kolkata & Kerala on the big screen to spend our time. On our way back we went to KFC and had their special burger. Then we came back to the hotel with another burger for Hassan Bhai who was still sleeping.
The temperature dropped even more. The real feel is now 10-degree celsius. So we did our dinner in the hotel restaurant just below. Which was very good and we were so hungry we ate like an elephant. I saw the beast inside Faruque Bhai!! Oh, My God, this guy can eat! I mean really eat! He ate so much that I think I don’t eat that much in a whole day! Another thing is that he was the best one of us who adjusted with Indian food really good. We all had to cope up with the Indian Foods but he was really cool with these foods and ate everything:3 So after having dinner we got off to bed and I opened my notebook and noted few things so I can write this blog post. The reason for that is I forget everything so quickly:3 Then I was watching tv and we were gossiping. We were laughing on Faruque vai. We talked to our home & I talked with ammu.
Then I was browsing and went to the balcony. Stayed there for 30 minutes and felt the weather, Darjeeling in the night, Trucks bringing water inside the city from down below Jalpaiguri. They do this everyday bring water from Jalpaiguri so if you go there don’t wash your clothes there or waste water. Then I was thinking yeah I did it. My first tour outside Bangladesh. That’s it for today the blog post it already big and I hope you like it and I will be back with the last and 3rd part of my Darjeeling tour. Enjoy!
So you already know I got my Indian visa few months back and I was planning to go there. Finally just few days before my visa expires I went to India as a solo traveler. I love to travel and explore places. I have been travelling a lot lately, but I never gone solo before. In all other time, my friends were with me. This time, I was waiting for Rikon vai to get his visa so we can go together but he didn’t get the visa due to some passport related problem. So I was preparing myself to go alone. As much as I was excited to go to to a new county alone, I was scared as hell! Cause I was going to India! Which is one of the biggest country and I never been to a foreign country before. So I had a lot of thoughts how to communicate with the people there, things I should avoid and so on. I know that their language is Hindi and I will be in Kolkata who speaks Bengali just like us with just a little different pronunciation. I couldn’t take many pictures on the way as I had heavy bags with me. But i didn’t miss any chance of taking pictures when i reached Darjeeling even when i couldn’t focus due to low light and heavy clouds. So if this post doesn’t have much pictures then be sure you will be flooded with pictures in the next one.
I only had two days in hand before leaving for Kolkata via Haridaspur immigration point aka Benapole Border( called Petrapole by Indian People). So I did my research on Kolkata & Darjeeling also on immigration process, things I will be needing to go to Kolkata, I read a lot of blogs on travelling to India, which train I need to get on, As I will go to Darjeeling so how to go there and which places are must to visit for sight seeing! I also tried to book a hotel there via MakeMyTrip app suggested by Adnan vai but as I couldn’t decide which one will be better so didn’t. I also downloaded some other apps Like GrabTaxi, CheapFlights and Oye. So I was well prepared for my visit to India.
7th October (Day 1): The day before my journey to India. I packed my bags. As my backpack was with Onick vaia I had to pack my clothes the other bag of mine. Which is not good for travelling. Things I packed for travelling – clothes, books for reading in bus & train, Jacket as I will be in Darjeeling where the temperature goes down below 10 degree Celsius which is really cold for people like us from high-temperature countries, torch, archived few TV series in my Cell, Camera & a Notepad. Later at night I don’t know why I posted a question seeking help in a Group called Travelers of Bangladesh to check if anyone is going to India same time so I can hook up with them. Maybe I wasn’t ready for going to India alone! So one guy named Jawad bhai mentioned Habib Bhai who was also going on the same time and Habib Bhai said I can hook up if I want to. I wasn’t sure about them as I don’t know him.So what I did was I checked his facebook profile to find out few things about him. But there wasn’t much in his profile and ammu was saying not to go with them.I was lying that I know him, I met him before but in reality I never seen him. I talked with him over the phone asking for advice what else I need, how much money I should take and all. After talking with him, it felt like he is a good guy so I asked him to buy a ticket for me & he said he will. So I will be leaving for Dhaka tomorrow.
8th October (Day 2): I got up early in the morning, I came to the bus counter and bought my ticket for Dhaka. It was TR Travels. The bus started at 10 AM. It was raining heavily and I was enjoying my journey. It was a nice feeling. It took me almost 7 hours to get to Dhaka and I was really tired when I reached Dhaka at 6 PM. I wasn’t feeling good. I bought $200 for my expenses in India. I also had around 7K BDT cash with me. I called Habib vaia a few times to check whether he got the ticket or not but he didn’t pick up. So I was confused what to do. I thought if he doesn’t pick up the call I will sleep tonight and I will fly by plane tomorrow morning which takes around $80 and only 1 hours to reach Kolkata. Where by bus It will take around 12 hours. I also found a very good deal on MakeMyTrip which was a combo offer for Flight & Hotel booking. The offer was Round Trip + 2 days stay at a 3-star hotel in Kolkata for around $180. But all in vain Habib Bhai called at 9.30 and said he got the ticket and the bus will leave at 10.45 PM. So I did my dinner. My mom was worried about me going with someone unknown and asked me to leave my camera here (it’s been only 1 month I bought this new camera canon 600D) in Dhaka. As always I refused by saying nothing will happen don’t worry. I left for bus station at 10 and it was 15 minutes away from my aunt’s place. I reached there first and was waiting for Habib vai and his friends. After 10 minutes they came and we got to know each other. Att first meeting Habib vai seemed very nice and fun loving guy. His friends Faruq vai & Hasan vai is also a good guy and this tour would have been incomplete if Faruque vai wasn’t there. So our bus was 15 minutes late and it left for Benapole border at 11 PM.
9th October(Day 3): Our bus got stuck in Ferry. There was huge jam and we had to wait 2 hours to get into a ferry. So We reached at benapole at 8.10. We were already 2 hours late. The immigration process is another nightmare. To be honest, it’s so easy a child can do it but the people, Bookies, Coolies they make it look like hell. You better go through hell but not the immigration process. But In this blog I will share every detail you need to know for the immigration process!
Immigration Process: First you need to fill up a card they will give you. Which is easy just a few basic things like Your name, father’s name, birth date, visa no: which can be found in your visa, departure date, passport no, passport expire and issue date etc. Then you need to pay the travel tax which is 500tk BDT and one-time payment.
You can it in any bank near you or in the border where you will find a small office or room with Sonali bank or other banks name on it. After you paid the tax they will give you another receipt which you need to show along with your passport to immigration staff inside. After you do that they will seal your passport and the immigration part of Bangladesh is done. Now you will go to the Indian immigration where first you have to get in line and the Coolies will ask you for money to get you in front but believe me, it’s better you go in line. Cause everyone is waiting like you. It’s selfish to do something like that always try to follow the rules. So you will go inside the immigration office and again they will check your baggage and then again you have to fill up another card like the one you filled in for Bangladeshi immigration but this one for Indian immigration another office you. They will check your passport and visa and take a picture of you. After you do that you are ready to enter into India! What do you think? It’s really easy? It’s tough? Actually it’s easy but as I said the people around you will make it look like hell. Anyway just don’t bribe anyone to get this quickly done. Do this by your own and you will be beneficial. You will see 2 types of coolies there one who are wearing red and another who are wearing green shirts. I was thinking may be some of them are Bangladeshi and the other ones are Indians. Based on the shirts as the national flag of Bangladesh is green and red I thought may be the green ones are Bangladeshi. Actually the thing is they are Trinomul & Congress supporters and yeah some of the Bangladeshi ones do wear green. So we are off to India. It’s 10.45 so it took us around 2.30 hours to complete the process.
After crossing the immigration, Habib bhai asked us to convert our dollar into rupees from the money exchange booths situated just outside the immigration office. Habib bhai converted 200 dollars to rupees. Then we booked a taxi to go to Bonga station to get on the train to Kolkata. You can go directly from Dhaka to Kolkata by bus. GreenLine, Shohag & some other bus are providing this service they will get you into a bus from Dhaka to Benapole and then after crossing the border you will get into another bus of their waiting in the Indian side. But the thing is it takes more time and the bus leaves after all the people who came by one bus crosses the immigration. So if you want to take the shortcut and save your time follow the way we are going. So it took around 30 minutes to reach the station and in the meantime we made calls to our home and let them know we crossed the immigration. You will get Bangladeshi sim working inside India for 2 Kilometers from the border so you better do this quick.
After reaching the train station Habib vai booked 4 tickets for us and the train will leave at 11.30 sharp. So we didn’t have any time to do our breakfast yet the last time we ate was yesterday at dinner. I was really hungry but there was no time to eat. So we got in the train and it was a local train which was stopping on every station. After two crossing two stations, the train became very crowded with people and it was really hot inside. I wasn’t feeling well and dizzy as well. So after crossing 6-7 stations Habib vai got down and brought some foods & drinks for us. It’s really amazing what I saw in the train. The people were sitting side by side even when it’s really tough to move an inch. They were sweating but no complains. The ladies and guys were sitting side by side which is not possible in our country. I saw some Feriwalas selling goods like Chips, Chocolates, Apples, Nuts, Lassi & lot other stuff which I don’t even know. I was thinking how they can live by selling these things cause only a few people were buying those. Habib bhai was talking with local people about what is the easiest and best way to go to Darjeeling and all. So after 2 hours 45 minutes of journey we reached Kolkata Shealdah Junction. Which is very big and crowded. Everyone was running for their desired train. So after reaching Kolkata we tried to book a cab and go to a place called Fairly palace. Where you can book train tickets in foreign quota if you are a foreigner travelling to India. But we didn’t get any taxi cab instead we got on a AC bus. Which was jam packed with people and we had to stand inside and sweating even when the ac was running. After going few blocks, the ac wasn’t working anymore due to some technical problem. So it got more frustrating for me as I had to adjust with my bags in one hand and people pushing from behind to get in front. I was really mad at Habib bhai for not taking taxi cab but what to do now! One thing I noticed inside the bus that people were adjusting with one another if there’s any room or space available they were letting other use it which is a very rare scenario in our country. Also when the ac got switched off they didn’t say too many things. The bus driver and conductor was polite as well. He took half money from the passengers as the ac was not working. The bus driver was also worried about the Black smoke coming out from the bus. He talked to the mechanic asking should he bring the bus into the garage. So they are really worried about the environment. I felt really good seeing this. So it took us around 50 minutes to get to Fairly Palace and 60 rupees for 4 people and then another 30-40 minutes to get the tickets from there. It’s easy they will give you a paper where you have to put certain information’s like your name, birth date, journey date, which train you want, passport details etc. There were other foreigners as well. So we got the ticket from there. The price was 375 rupees per person. The train will leave at 10.45 and it’s called Super Fast Darjeeling Mail. After seeing the name I had no idea why is it called super fast and I was like how fast can a train go. So then we got to a Bengali hotel called hotel Khalek. We were so hungry we ate like monsters. We bought 3 sim cards for us so we can talk to our home. I also bought a net package so I can use facebook and all. As I can’t live without internet :3 . So after finishing this we gone to a place called Goal Chootor in new market. This place was awesome :p I saw the actual form of kolkata there nice girls, peoples, couples hanging out. The hole day I was thinking where is all the nice girls and now I found them 😀 The thing that got my attention was the attitude. There were many girls and guys hanging out they weren’t even looking at each other. They were busy within themselves. I forgot to tell you we had tea and the cups were so small that I had to drink twice! As I am a tea guy and I drink a hole big glass of tea everyday. The price was higher than Bangladesh too. 10 rupees per cup. So we left from there and reached Sealdah again at 9 PM. We got on our train. And in the other compartment there were 3 more foreigners. So the actual Journey to Darjeeling Started from here.
This is it for this blog. I don’t want to make it too big. So I will write the second part of this blog till then enjoy!