A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
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This Holi, the festival of colours, we planned our celebrations little differently. We booked a night stay at the century old heritage bungalow of the Dinajpur Kings to treat our eyes with the colourful Holi celebrations of the rising Sun and majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga. Since my childhood, I remember my grandma’s description of the mesmerizing views of the peaks on a full moon night. What could have been a better time to witness the celestial colour plays in the morning and gorgeous views of the entire range on a full moon night?
‘Dinajpur House’ is located on Ringkingpong Road, at a beautiful hill top near Kalimpong. Perched at an altitude of 4100 feet above sea level, it is around 80 kilometres (three hours’ drive) from the Bagdogra airport. It was not my first visit to Kalimpong though, but yes the first stay at the vintage bungalow for sure.
We boarded a local taxi from airport after loads of bargains and filthy negotiation with the prepaid brokers. Honestly speaking, where so many foreigners visit round the year, the transport authorities must work towards strengthening the governance, in interest of the tourists.
View of Teesta River from Coronation Bridge
We continued on NH10 for major part of our journey, crossing a rail bridge near Sevoke. A chilly wind pierced our skin as we kept soaring up the hills towards Ringkingpong. We avoided the overcrowded downtown area by taking the Kalimpong Bypass route. Fortunately, the driver knew the roads well and we faced no issues reaching our hotel. We had a prior reservation at the ‘Dinajpur House’. Fresh gleams of moonlight had totally flooded the place by the time we reached the place.
Beautifully decorated entrance of ‘Dinajpur House’
The hotel entrance was beautifully lit and decorated with flowering plants to add a festive touch. Our check-in was hassle free. We were given a garden view room at the third floor. The antique woodworks of the hotel lobby and reception area were noteworthy. However, the room quality and cleanliness must be improved compared to the tariff.
(No tea coffee kits were provided, wall to wall carpets were not available, no slippers in room, toiletries provided were of very ordinary quality, bathroom was very clumsy, drinking water was not purified and so on. These are some basic amenities which any boarder would expect from a star hotel.)
Keeping aside the hotel amenities, the building has a very attractive fact attached to its existence. Centuries ago, ‘Dinajpur House’ was inhabited by the Maharaja of Dinajpur as his summer retreat. It is strategically positioned around a kilometre above the Kalimpong town, facing north-east, with a panoramic view of the landscape from the main podium. It still belongs to the Dinajpur royal estate; however a portion of it has been recently renovated and leased out to the luxurious Park Hotel group for tourist accommodation.
I would like to highlight an important point here – location of the hotel is splendid only for tourists who want to avoid the crowded Kalimpong market area, otherwise one might feel very isolated being here. That also implies there was not a single shop in and around the hotel within a kilometre’s range. Since we were in an utterly relaxing mood, we just loved the seclusion.
It was the eve of Dol Purnima (full moon night before Holi) and the prevailing weather was just complementing the cosmic positions of the celestial bodies. The outside temperature was little below ten degrees with a frosty breeze blowing at night. Being there at this time of the year, a bonfire was arranged by the hotel staff and we were warmly invited to attend it while completing our check-in formalities.
Bonfire at ‘Dinajpur House’
We quickly freshened up as we had midnight plans to observe the much awaited view of the snow-caps on a moonlit night. The beautiful aroma of hot Darjeeling tea refreshed our weariness in a jiffy. And we decided to take a walk within the hotel premises.
Antique fireplace and other vintage items at ‘Dinajpur House’
The heritage aspect of the hotel was the most attractive part of our stay and it was quite evident from the well maintained trophy room and outhouse turned to bar. There were wonderful antique collections of furniture, utensils, grandpa’s clock, a Victorian wall clock, a magnificent fireplace, stuffed animals etc to add up to our grand experience. From one of the hotel boys we came to know that the building has been often portrayed in old and new Bengali films including a recent release.
Bonfire had already started by the time we came back to the reception area. We planned to have our dinner at the adjoining restaurant. Food taste was good and of sufficient quantity but they did not have water purifiers at all. Only option was bottled mineral waters being sold at elevated prices. They serve natural spring waters without being cautioned. People planning to stay with kids, beware.
The receptionist told us that on a cloudless night, Mt. Kanchenjunga peaks are best visible from its top floor observatory (fourth floor) and the ornate garden adjoining reception area. But we must wake up early to experience the best view, say around 1am in the morning. It would be our first midnight view of the Kanchenjunga range and so we were extremely excited.
Midnight View of Kanchenjunga Range on Dol Purnima (full moon night before Holi)
Alarm echoed sharp at 1am and we dragged our tired bodies to the top floor observatory. It was dark otherwise, except a glowing snowline at a stone throwing distance. Couldn’t believe our own eyes – it was absolutely cloudless that night and we could clearly see all the peaks of the entire Kanchenjunga range – right from Mr. Kumbhakarna at extreme left to Mt. Pandim and the main Mt. Kanchenjunga peaks at the centre. Oh, what a lifetime view it was! Our midnight celebrations were revelled with a toast.
Rising Sun – as viewed from top floor observatory of ‘Dinajpur House’
Next wait was for another three and half hours – the fire plays of rising sun kissing the snow peaks with saffron and silver colours. Alarm buzzed sharp at 5.30am. Morning sun’s first glows started appearing and slowly the blue outlines became visible. It was right at 6.15am when the Mt. Kanchenjunga main peaks became feebly visible.
By 6.30am, the outline of the entire Kanchenjunga range was visible on our left while the sun rose from our right. The view of the changing colours on the white snow was not just great, but splendid. It seemed like as if Lord Krishna took the form of the Sun, to play Holi with his beloved Radha in a white dress, waiting to be drenched.
Colour plays of Sun and Kanchenjunga on Holi morning – Saffron – Yellow – Blue – Silver – White
We also went to the garden to experience the view and it was worth the efforts. Nevertheless, most of the hotel rooms did not face the snow clads.
(From left) Kumbhakarna, Ratong, Kabru S, Kabru N, Talung _ Kanchendzonga peaks
Mt. Kanchendzonga Central peak
Mt. Kabru South peak
Mt. Pandim peak
This time, our festive revelries were truly colourful, cheered up by a lifetime stay at the heritage hotel. We thoroughly enjoyed the multi-coloured views of the Kanchenjunga range, ultimate solitude, lovely bonfire, tasty food, aromatic Darjeeling tea and the prevailing chilling climate – exactly what we had planned as part our Holi celebrations.