Darjeeling enjoys worldwide acclaim. It is known for its tea, the Darjeeling Himalayan railway, and its panoramic mountain views. The town’s history is replete with interesting stories too. It was, at one time, part of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim, until it was annexed by the British. Following independence, it remained as an integral part of India. Sikkim, meanwhile, became an Indian state in 1975.
What is lesser known though is that Darjeeling was the first municipality in the country to receive electrification. More importantly, it was derived from renewable sources — the kind that Elon Musk has popularised in recent times. The source in nearby Sidrapong was a hydroelectric one.
It strikes an immediate chord
Darjeeling possibly saw its zenith during the colonial era. The weather was, and continues to be, typically British. Regardless of season, there are always chances of showers and it is a Darjeeling tradition to carry an umbrella on most days. And this weather pattern has lent itself well to the renowned brew that comes from tea estates in the vicinity.
Over the decades, this hill town has grown by leaps and bounds. Its population has increased, it has become busier but what hasn’t changed in the least are its character and the splendid views on offer. It has a certain innateness that many newer tourist destinations have attempted to replicate, although they have always fallen short. Even as residents of Darjeeling, we seem to never tire of the vistas and the crisp mountain air. And this was why we chose to stay on in Darjeeling even after having sampled life in several parts of the world.
European settlers, the maharajas and its now cosmopolitan population were all charmed by Darjeeling. The Europeans were, no doubt, drawn to it because of its cool climes. But along with them, the town also found favour among several Indian maharajas who built summer getaways here.
Our family established a hospitality presence long ago. The flagship property–called RJ Resorts–is located close to two of these former summer palaces. One former palace was commissioned as the Governor’s House.
As you walk into RJ’s premises, it will take you a moment to register that you are actually on the highest floor. In most places, the lift (or elevator if you will) takes you to floors above. Here, the lift ferries you to floors below. With a large atrium and a spacious interior, it all does seem an optical illusion at first glance.
Our guest rooms have a simple yet elegant feel to them — much in keeping with Darjeeling’s colonial charm. We, therefore, use table and floor lamps to impart a more period feel. In fact, should you have many virtual meetings lined up during your stay here, the decor and lighting will ensure you do not need to use a green screen with a virtual background. Besides, the writing desks and chairs are especially comfortable. Long before the pandemic struck, we made sure to pick chairs and desks that were ergonomic. High speed internet availability goes without saying. However, you need not necessarily work from your room only.
With remote workers and digital nomads now becoming a regular part of our clientele, we put into action one of our long held plans. We converted our sun deck on the terrace into a quaint cafe. So while you type away, work on creatives, or record the online course you’ve been meaning to, there are beverages to keep you charged, and snacks to keep hunger pangs away. But this is only the more mundane part of it. When you step onto the terrace, what will catch your attention immediately are the mountain views.
Darjeeling will work its magic on you
On clear days, the Khangchendzonga range comes into view. And if you are lucky, there are, at times, absolutely magical sunsets that unfold here. Mountaineers and trekkers have often shared stories and pictures of how mesmerised they were by a sunrise or sunset from some hostile perch at some unforgiving altitude. While we do not discredit their claims, we are rewarded with the most spectacular views from RJ itself. And all of it without needing to walk for days on end. You sure must come and see them for yourself.
Much as the temptation does arise to call ourselves the best that Darjeeling offers, we will refrain from lavishing praise on ourselves. Rather, we’ll let our offerings and service speak for themselves. Regardless of whether you choose to call RJ your local address when visiting Darjeeling, we implore you to come and experience this beautiful town. They say once you visit the Queen of Hills, it works its spell on you — the kind that your childhood crush, or the ‘one that got away’, might have cast on you.