Homestay experience in the Queen of Hills Darjeeling

Author: Michelle Tirkey
Date: 2021-07-14

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Darjeeling is a picture perfect getaway in the lap of the Eastern Himalayas where one can experience serene landscapes, iconic eateries, beautiful monasteries, and heritage sites. But what I find most fascinating is the hospitality of the local people. The connection and the bonds made is the primary reason I go back to the Queen of Hills again and again. 

Not very long ago, my friends and I made a sudden plan to trek to Sandakphu, one of the best Himalayan treks in the country from where you can see the mystical range of Khangchendzonga, more often known as the Sleeping Buddha for its shape. We decided to spend a day in Darjeeling before we headed for the trek. My hometown, Siliguri, is just 2.5 hours away from Darjeeling, and so I’ve visited Darjeeling countless number of times but spending a day with friends in the town that exudes old-world charm did not seem like a bad idea. 

During all my travels, be it the majestic mountains or coastal areas, I prefer opting for homestays over hotels as it gives me an opportunity to interact with the locals and get tips and recommendations. I believe that a place is all about its people and their history, values, and culture. A traveller has so much to learn from the local people, starting from sustainable practices to food and traditions. Keeping this in mind, I booked a homestay in Darjeeling through Airbnb. The location was one of the main reasons why I chose this particular place but upon reaching there, there was much more that added to the charm of this stay.

Dorje Homestay, Darjeeling

The Dorje Homestay, run by Mr. and Mrs. Chogyal, is located very close to Chowrasta, or Mall Road as known among tourists. There is an ample number of restaurants, cafes, and eateries close to the homestay. After we reached Chowrasta, Mr. Chogyal came to receive us and took us to the homestay. We were assigned a sparkling clean room that had a balcony overlooking the town. Due to the rough weather, we could not spot the peaks of Khangchendzonga but our host claimed that the snow-capped peaks are quite visible when the skies are clear. 

Sky and clouds

View from the balcony

Common area of Dorje Homestay, Darjeeling

The common area of the homestay

Bedroom in Dorje Homestay

The room we stayed in

We relaxed for a while and headed out for lunch. We took a short walk to find a cute little cafe by the name of Tom and Jerry. Upon entering, we were greeted by the owner, who ran the cafe himself. We ordered thukpa, burgers, and some beverages. The food was delicious. This is a common experience I have had each time I’ve visited a town in the mountains. Hidden cafes, which are run single-handedly by the owners or with very little help, always turn out to be good experiences; most of the time, tourists overhype few well-known eateries and miss out on the best of experiences like trying local cuisines. After finishing our lunch, we headed for a walk and did a little street shopping. We took a stroll in Chowrasta, clicked pictures, and walked to St. Andrew’s Church. As we did not have a checklist to follow, we moved at our own pace and soaked in the vibe of the town. We observed tourists taking endless photographs, people bargaining with shop owners at Mahakal Market, and kids enjoying horse rides in Chowrasta. The remnants of colonial architecture found in the nooks and corners of Darjeeling town coupled with the monsoon made our experience even more thrilling. The weather soon got colder after the rain that we were forced to buy umbrellas, gloves, and caps for ourselves. After the teeny bit of unplanned shopping, we went to meet some friends. Later in the evening, we enjoyed a swanky dinner at Glenary’s, an iconic restaurant in the heart of Darjeeling that’s been there since the British era. Post dinner, we returned to the homestay and retreated to deep slumber.

Burgers at Tom and Jerry Cafe

Lip-smacking burgers at Tom and Jerry Cafe

Glenary's, Darjeeling

Glenary's, the iconic restaurant in Darjeeling

The next morning we woke up to chilly weather and a light drizzle. Our breakfast was ready by 9 am. Who does not like a sumptuous breakfast to start the day? We were served toast, omelette, and tea, and the hosts happily accepted the request of our friend to prepare her some rice and vegetables. We enjoyed our breakfast as we chatted with Mrs. Chogyal. She was a very warm lady who shared with us her experiences when she worked in Israel. Upon learning that all three of us belonged to the Christian faith, she narrated to us about her visits to Jerusalem and insisted that we visit the Holy Land once in our life. She was kind enough to give us a fridge magnet, a souvenir she brought all the way from Jerusalem. This little gesture of hers has stayed with me and still makes me feel connected to Darjeeling. We finished our breakfast and relaxed in the common area for a little longer before Mr. Chogyal came and greeted us. Upon learning that we were about to head to Manebhanjan that day, he explained the route to us in great detail and informed us about the place from where we could get a shared taxi. The information really came in handy as we did not get a direct taxi for Manebhanjan and had to break the journey at Sukhiapokhri. But we could manage the journey with ease as we already had the idea of the route; all credit goes to our host.

Breakfast spread

The breakfast spread at our homestay

Group picture

Our host Mr. Chogyal and us

By early afternoon, we were ready to leave towards our destination and commence our trek the next day. We clicked pictures with our host and often look at them on days we miss travelling. It is encounters like this that make me believe that travelling is not about visiting every famous and touristy spot or about having a checklist to follow; it is about those engaging conversations shared over simple meals and the care of the hosts that make our travels memorable. As stated earlier, it is the people that make a place special. 

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2 Comments

  • Sameer lugun     July 14, 2021

I saw all your photos of the trip and all of them were amazing. Thank you for sharing the details of the trip on this blog. We want more travel stories from your side and hope to join you in one some day.


    • Michelle Tirkey     July 20, 2021

    Thank you so much Sameer for your kind words. I'm glad to know that you've enjoyed reading this travel story.


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