It is well known fact that Hebrew is much shorter language than English, so be prepared for a miracle – the English version of the blog is going to be much shorter than the Hebrew one…
You are welcome to read the review, but do not forget to look at the pictures from the relevant dates, back in this blog (see Archive for dates and pics)
We left you suspended on March 9th, just a couple of days after arrival. We were in Darjeeling then, so we are back there.
Early in the morning we heard drums beating. Going to the window we saw a precession of young children. We dressed quickly and went to the square. It turned out to be Tibet Uprising Day – there were children from the Tibetan school, monks from the monasteries, old man and women, many dressed in traditional dresses, some with anti-Chinese signs tied to their bodies. After hearing the Dalai-Lama's proclamation, singing the national anthem and praying for the dead, the ceremony ended with a quite march.
Later we walked to the Japanese peace Pagoda which is in the hills East of Darjeeling. We saw a drummer using a giant drum in the Japanese shrine, and proceeded to the giant very impressive white pagoda erected by a Japanese Buddhist sect.
Drab morning – we went downtown, and saw a Christian very dignified funeral in a very poor neighborhood. We went through the totally chaotic central bus station, down to the Lloyd Botanical Gardens and its "Queue-Garden like" hothouse. We decided to walk to the "Happy Valley Tea Estate", the way turned out to be very cumbersome, through a very poor neighborhood, crossing a running open sewer, but finally we got to the estate, which includes a factory that is not operating until the new crop of April will be picked. We roamed through the empty factory, escorted by a local guide who explained the whole process. On the way up which was much easier than the way down we stopped at a smallish restaurant and had our first Momos – this is a kind of a Kneidle filled with chopped vegetables, steamed and then sometimes fried. It is very common here, found on every street corner, costs 7 rupees (= about 20 cents) for 8 pieces, including tea and some clear soup that comes along. We have eaten since hundreds if not thousands of them.
I woke up very early in the morning due to a mysterious drummer who walked alone in the square beating his drum and disappearing. Once woken, I saw that the weather is extremely clear and the mountains show very clearly. I climbed on the roof and had a very nice session with the camera and the mountains – The Kanchanjunga range was very photogenic in the sunrise, as you can see in the pictures.
Late we walked to the north of the city – North Point as it is called here. We saw the Jesuit school of Saint Joseph and the Methodist Mt. Hermon School, and were very disappointed that the Cable car was not operational. They said it will start functioning on April first. (Update from April 7 th – it is still not moving…).
Being very tiered we took a shared taxi, four people in one bench, Eti, me and an Indian couple, using the special Indian way of compacting people – the ladies sitting leaning back, and the Gentlemen lean forward, so there is much more space than one may estimate. On the way up from the central bus station we bought a local SIM for our cellular phone, and spoke with the children.
Walking down from Observation Hill we came to the Tibetan school for refugees, with lots of pupils sitting on the roof reading their books and enjoying the warm sun. Further down we found the local Buddhist monastery, where the original Tibetan Book of the Dead is stored, but it was closed.
Uphill we passed a small wooden hut with the sigh "Mahatma Gandhi High School" and heard singing voices. Entering the hut we saw a teacher and several girls rehearsing for a choir, and it turned out that they have later a ceremony in honor of a member of the school board who passed away recently. They were very impressed to have visitors from Israel which they described as "Intelligent and forceful' to illustrate Intelligent the teacher told the students about Albert Einstein and we had a rough time explaining that Einstein was Jewish but not Israeli…
After obtaining the first document from the District Magistrate for entering Sikkim, we went up to the market, where Eti was measured for her new Punjabi dress. The whole dress, including tailoring and material, costs 8 US dollars…
We concluded the day with Dinner at our Lepcha friends' restaurant, together with our friend Tikva and her daughter Ayala.
We woke up early in the morning, at 4:00, and walked to the travel agency for and early morning ride to Tiger Hill, where the best view of the mountains and sunrise is supposed to be. We arrived at about 5:15, it was freezing cold and ladies with hot thermoses walked and offered coffee. The sight was all hazy, the sun hardly broke out of the clouds but the Indian spectators chirred up very loudly. All the hundreds of cars that parked on the mountaintop started to go down simultaneously, so the chaos was indescribable, but somehow, with much patience and no anger, everybody found its place and we all went down. On the way home we were led to several tourist traps – the Ghoom monastery where we have been before, the war memorial on the train loop where we saw all the Indian tourists change cloths and having a photo dressed as Courageous Ghorka soldiers,
After getting some sleep we went to the market for some shopping, and changed money at the private changer in Laden-La street. The old man was missing but we had a very interesting conversation with his son, who told us that his whole family, 122 in number, live in Delhi, Kolakata and Darjeeling as one economic unit, all revenues go to the family and money is distributed according to needs. The whole business is managed by the 91 years old mother of the family, and they have 3 factories for plastic woven sacks exporting to Germany, and a couple of stores. The father was missing because he was visiting their family Guru in their home village near Agra.