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Mar 13, 2014 - Singalila Trek Part 2

Day Four When the sun has still not risen and it's hovering around freezing outside, it's not easy getting out of bed. But when you know Mount Everest could be visible, it's not so hard. I peeped out of the window and saw it was totally clear, even in the pre dawn light. I ran outside and saw a whole panorama of mountains. Which one was Everest? It turns out that Everest is not the one that looks highest because of the angle and distance. That's Makalu. Everest is the one to the left with a long sloping face covered in snow. The sun was...

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Six months in Asia

Mar 11, 2014 - Singalila Trek Part 1

Day One Why is it that so many treks start with an incredibly steep gradient? I know that the only way into the mountains is up, but the initial part of the Singalila trek follows a curving road which climbs very quickly and with the altitude I was struggling. I had hired a porter at the trail head to carry my main rucksack and I was convinced he thought I wouldn't make it as I was stopping every 100 metres to catch my breath. But I soon got into my stride. We stopped for lunch at a darkened inn where I had a delicious warming noodle soup,...

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Six months in Asia

Mar 5, 2014 - Darjeeling - more than just a good cuppa

Darjeeling - a long way to go for a cup of tea you might think, but there's so much more to the place than a good brew. Established by the British as a centre for tea plantation as well as a hill station where people could go to escape the heat on the plains, it's now a busy, chaotic, ramshackle place, built on a series of bluffs with houses stacked vertiginously on the slopes. At the highest point you escape the noise and traffic, but not the cold. There are also stupendous views of the mountains including Kanchenjunga, the world's third...

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Six months in Asia

Mar 2, 2014 - Life in an Indian village

The silence was astonishing. When I woke in the middle of the night, I expected to hear at least the distant chug of a train, the hoot of a car horn, the howl of a street dog. But here in a village in the Sunderbans Reserve, there was nothing, no electricity so no mechanical sounds of any kind. After three weeks in India it was almost unnerving. The journey there was part of the adventure, a three hour ride south of Calcutta to the delta which also spreads across into nearby Bangladesh. I was in a group of other travellers and some local...

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Six months in Asia

Feb 26, 2014 - A pleasant surprise

Before me the Victoria Memorial is reflected in the lake which is set in peaceful gardens and I can just see the spire of St Paul's Cathedral. Where am I? Transported to some alternate version of London? No, I'm in Kolkata which has turned out to be the biggest surprise of the trip so far. Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj until it was moved to Delhi in 1911 and the city is full of colonial architecture, although sadly many of the buildings languish in a sorry state of decay. When you think of Calcutta, the cliches spring to mind;...

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Six months in Asia

Nov 14, 2013 - Siliguri to Darjeeling

November 15, 2013 My note book is just about out of pages. Last night I stayed in Siliguri. I had trouble finding a hotel. I saw one on the outskirts of town. It looked very expensive. Yep 3000 Rs. Time to move on. It was almost dark. I continued through Siliguri and the first one I stopped at I went in and told them, “I need a basic room, no AC, no garim pani, no TV just a bed.” I was only about 75km’s from Darjeeling. The kid showed me a room for 400 Rs. Perfect. I through him my passport so he could get started no the paperwork. I...

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Nov 14, 2013 - Darjeeling

November 16, 2013 The hotel I picked is lovely. It’s right in off the town square. Just enough off that it’s quite private AND Suu Kyi is sleeping safely in her sleeping bag. We’ll be unmolested when I work on her tonight. The floor of my room is covered in jute and feels great on the feet. I will have to pick some up when I return. The high traffic areas have fax Middle-Eastern rugs on them. I have a boot area when my stinky shit is, the main bedroom and a tea nook that overlooks the Himalaya. Perfect. I have satellite TV and internet in...

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Nov 13, 2013 - Purnia to Siliguri

November 14, 2013 First chai break. I didn’t leave until 10:30am. I just about stayed the day add read. The hotel, abet a shit hole, was away from town thus no ‘traffic’ and it had a good restaurant. I found that I learned a lot by following a bus earlier. When to honk, when not to plus everyone hears a bus horn and can see it’s size thus following it I am almost guaranteed to have a clear roadway. I should be in West Bengal and Darjeeling by nightfall. There is an albino working at the shop next to the chai stall. They are calling him a...

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Nov 6, 2013 - 28 October - Karmi Farm

After a three hour very bumpy jeep ride over mountain roads with beautiful views, we arrived at Karmi Farm on Monday afternoon. We are really out in the wilds here and the place is not marked on the maps. Karmi Farm is run by Andrew Pulger, whose Sikkimese grandparents once owned this land. Andrew's father, a Scotsman, married into the family in the 1950's and ran the tea plantation, which is now managed by Andrew. The farm is also a guesthouse with a very rustic main house and lovely bungalows and dormitories scattered close by. There is a...

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Oct 31, 2013 - India

While visiting India, our first stop as a class was in the city of Calcutta to observe children being raised in a brothel, a very hostile and inappropriate environment for young children to grow up. This however shocking and terrible, was still just their way of life, and what seems so strange to myself is not quite so bad to them. But they do recognize that their lives could be better through education. The documentary we watched cataloged the fight to earn these children a proper education with hopes to help them contribute more fully to...

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Oct 27, 2013 - 25 October - Darjeeling

We left Calcutta on Thursday to catch the overnight train to Siliguri, then onwards in jeeps to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling area belonged to the Buddhist kings of Sikkim until around 1780 when it was invaded by the Gurkhas from Nepal. The East India Company got in on the act in 1816 and later returned most of the area back to Sikkim in return for British control of any border disputes. In 1828 two British officers discovered the Dorje Ling monastery surrounded by uninhabited land on a ridge and decided it was ideal for a sanatorium (they...

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Oct 23, 2013 - 22 October - Calcutta

A 5am start today to catch our train to Calcutta, or Kolkata as it's now known. We have a few days there before catching another train to Siliguri up in the hills of Darjeeling. Juan left yesterday with the truck to drive to Siliguri, where we will all meet up again. On Wednesday 6 of us hired a car and driver for the day to take us round the sights - this seemed the easiest way to see a lot in a short time. We visited Jain temples, which were so heavily decorated they were like something from a fairy tale, a Kali temple which we didn't go...

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