For most of our travels we have generally stayed two days in each city. Enough time to hit the hot spots and skedaddle on to the next location. Darjeeling has been the exception. We stuck around for five days. This had always been the plan, but as we were still recuperating from our recent illnesses the extra days were nice albeit chilly. Our first night a porter dropped off a hot water bottle. The simple gesture was received, pardon the pun, warmly.
The room we had was large but on the shaded side of the building and always seemed cold. On our way down to breakfast of the second day we spied a space heater in another room. After breakfast Chelle stopped at the front desk hoping to secure us a similar unit. Instead they moved us to a new room with a view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. The afternoon sun heats up the room perfectly.
As Chelle was perusing the library area she was greeted by the Tibetan owner/hostess Yezere and received an invitation to her apartment. Chelle had been gone for a fair length of time but I knew she was looking at books and I didn’t give her absence much thought. A light knock on the door and an odd question of my decency…the hostess had wanted to meet me and prepared a rice and dal soup sure to make me feel better. Later that evening she had another hot water bottle ready and proper instructions for me to follow.
It bears repeating the hospitality and generosity that has been demonstrated by nearly all the folks we’ve met on our trip. Obviously, tourism is an important industry but our experience extends beyond a superficial layer of dollars and sense. It has also been the other tourists we’ve met: Simon and Darren two Brits Chelle walked up to at the Kolkata airport to inquire if they wanted to share a taxi from Bogdaga to Darjeeling. An Indian lad who helped broker our taxi and joined our merry group for the ride up the mountain. Arjit, a Sikh fellow from England who was taking sunrise pictures at Tiger Hill and we chatted and met by happenstance later in the day with more conversation…snipits of what we’ve seen or where we’re going, where home is.
Yezere sat with us at dinner and discussed the family history with the hotel. She talked about her sons. One a pilot with Indigo and the other a taxi driver in San Francisco. She spoke of her life back in Tibet, her husband who taught her English and the family wedding that was approaching. We met her husband Jigme one evening after dinner and we had a lovely time discussing India and future travels. Our porter Nair was ever vigilant in his attention to our smallest requests. I met him once while out and about and we chatted, he in broken English and me in very broken Hindu.
The warmth of the Indians and Tibetans throughout our time in Darjeeling definitely took the chill out of the air. Warmed in the hospitality and generosity of our friends, hosts, fellow travelers and guides (in whatever form they appeared).