I woke up at 5:00 am to the sounds of the town clock. It was too cold to get out of bed yet and it still looked dark. I wanted to know if we had a view of the Himalayas but it was too early. At 5:30am I heard the sounds of a drum in the distance and it soon got closer. Was someone actually walking around town with a drum? This I had to see. So I got up and peeked out the window and sure enough there was one lone person walking and drumming past the hotel. I watched as he slowly carried on up the street and out of sight.
I looked out of the window and up to see a snowy peak with the first light shining on it. I watched as the sun rose and lit up the mountains looming over Darjeeling. I watched for more than two hours as the sky changed colors every few minutes and more and more mountains came into view. It was spectacular and I couldn’t have asked for a better view from our room.
Mt. Kanchenjunga, is the third highest mountain in the world and it seemed so close. Apparently Mt. Everest could also be seen from Darjeeling so (being the Everest experts that we are) we got out the binoculars and looked for it. After scrutinizing all the peaks we decided that we found it – just a little peak, right behind Mt. Kanchenjunga. We were very excited and showed it to the kids and they were excited too. Well, later in the day, we were told that we could not see Everest from our hotel. We would have to go up higher to Tiger Hill to see it.
After staring at the mountains for a long time we ventured out of the hotel and started on our list of things to see around Darjeeling. First, we went to the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre. There is a large population of Tibetans in Darjeeling and it feels very different from other parts of India. At the refugee centre there is an orphanage and men and women knitting and weaving – things to sell to raise money for the Tibetan refugees.
Of course there were Tibetan prayer flags strung from tree to tree and building to building. And Tibetan prayer wheels that get turned as prayers are said.
Next, we went up the hill to Bhutia Busty Monastery. Just as we were walking down the lane a man said to us, “you are very lucky, prayers are just starting, run.” Inside we followed the sounds of a drum and chanting upstairs. There was one monk in a very small room doing all the prayers by himself. The four of us sat on the floor in front of him. He chanted, drummed and banged the symbols, poured liquid (buttermilk?) into metal bowls and threw rice. He repeated this over and over for about an hour. An amazing experience for us – the sounds are mesmerizing.
Another cold night and early to bed with hot water bottles. Darjeeling pretty much shuts down by 9:00pm. So far with the mountains and the Tibetan influence we were loving this little town high on the hill top.