You cannot call yourself a true-blue Bengali if you haven’t visited the hill stations in North Bengal with your parents during your summer vacations as a child or teamed up with friends during college days for a trip up in the hills. In my case, my tryst with North Bengal was as a five-year-old to Darjeeling, memories of the trip are only stored safely in pictures as I barely remember much. They say you cannot visit the mountains unless you get ‘the call’ and this time it came to me through a WhatsApp message, requesting for a property visit of Rosa Allita Hotels & Resorts — a magnificent hotel situated in Kurseong, located at an altitude of 6,500ft. With a glint in my eyes I said yes, as I couldn’t wait to reunite after 25 years with the mountains up there and make the last trip of the decade a memorable one! With woollens and jackets in my luggage, I took off from CCU to Bagdogra airport and within 90 minutes I reached the beautiful property that pampered me for two nights and made me promise to come back again!
Rooms: The hotel broadly has three room categories — executive, suites and heritage deluxe rooms — that are spacious and designed with modern amenities without losing the heritage touch. Our room offered a gorgeous view of the lush green Shivalik hills.
Chef’s garden: This might not be the ideal place you would want to visit in a hotel but during season time you can see this organic garden blooming with seasonal flowers, herbs and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, coriander, spinach, table radish, carrots, pak choy, Chinese cabbage and so many other produce that are used in the kitchen. There are four green houses in the property. And if you are a botany enthusiast then its worth exploring and appreciating the flora.
CHIA BAR: Tastefully done with wood — think wooden floor, ceiling, furniture… the “tea house” is a treasure trove for teaholics! With over 30 unique blends and infusions, some of the highly recommended teas are Spiced Saffron Kahwa, White Needle and Lavender Bloom Green Tea. Situated adjacent to the hotel, Chia Bar has the kind of snug vibe where you would want to curl up on the cosy couches with a book, a warm cup of tea and say goodbye to stress.
THE TREE HOUSE: Kick-start your day with a scrumptious breakfast at The Tree House, an all-day multi-cuisine restaurant with glass walls that offer a view of dense trees wrapped in a thick blanket of fog. As the day progresses you can see sunlight pouring in, making the 52-seater restaurant almost glow. Open for both in-house guests and outsiders, the menu comprises some of the yummiest international, Indian and local faves.
Starry night dinner: You can make your trip memorable with an exclusive dinner date under the starry sky with bonfire and a food and beverage menu of your choice.
The in-house music band will impress you with their performances. We soaked in the spirit with a glass of wine and yummy pepper chicken.
ORCHID SPA: After all the trekking and hiking, all you would need is a good spa session that will rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. The spa at the hotel has various wellness plans and after spending time in the sauna you will be all relaxed and glowing! The hotel also has a fitness centre overlooking the lush green hills.
Games: Equipped with games like chess, poker and billiards, the recreation room (picture above) is where you can leave your kids to play in, while you sweat it out in the gym or rejuvenate in the spa.
Banqueting facilities at the hotel has seen birthday and anniversary bashes, as well as weddings take place here.
Piano lounge: Sit back and sink yourself in the plush couches and listen to the pianist play some soulful classics.
F&B: Tongba, lounge bar, will blow your mind with a wide spread of cocktails, mocktails and liqueurs. You can call for some lip-smacking munchies like sandwiches, kebabs, tikkas or you could also relish a hearty meal at The Tree House that serves local delicacies besides Indian and global dishes.
Things to do
For a die-hard Ranbir Kapoor fan, missing Ghum station was not an option. Ghum railway station is the highest railway station in India and anyone who has watched Barfi! knows that this tourist spot features quite a few times in the film. On reaching the station, I immediately went up the wooden bridge set above the station where Ranbir had gone down on his knees and had offered Ileana D’Cruz his beating heart in the film. “Sigh, if only it was me instead of her” were my thoughts as I watched a couple of trains pass by.
For a tea-lover like me, a visit to the famous Makaibari tea estate was a must. Located in the Kurseong area and established in 1859, Makaibari is one of the oldest tea factories in the world and is a pioneer of organic and biodynamic farming. A tour of the factory is highly recommended with a tasting session of an array of teas — First Flush vintage, Muscatel, Darjeeling Oolong and so on. It is here that I learnt that every acre of tea is surrounded by around 2 acres of forest, covering almost 1,100 acres of rainforest that is also home to a wide variety of birds and animals like leopard, tiger, hornbill, wild boar, deer and snakes.
A visit to the monastery was followed by a trip to Batasia Loop. This popular tourist spot is known for its railway track that forms a loop through a tunnel and over a hilltop, offering a breathtaking view. You can visit this place to get a clear view of the snow-clad mountains, which is referred to as the “sleeping Buddha” and also spot the city of Darjeeling. Batasia Loop is also known for the War Memorial that was built to commemorate the Gorkha soldiers of Darjeeling who sacrificed their lives in various wars post-Independence. Surrounded by gardens and local shops selling curios, you could indulge in some shopping too!
One of the best things to do was hiking up to the nearest view point to catch a sunset. If sunset by the sea has a certain romanticism, there is this lingering mystery about the hills when the sun goes down while the stars come out. There was tranquillity, peace and mystery as I stood there watching the sky change colours as darkness descended on the mountains. Eagle’s Craig and Giddapahar view point are some of the popular picks.
Just an hour from my hotel was Samten Choeling Buddhist Ghoom Monastery that is believed to have been built in 1875. Situated at almost 8,000ft altitude, the monastery has a 15ft statue of Lord Buddha, a good collection of Buddhist texts, and also has a small section where you can buy souvenirs and trinkets. I made the most of my time there praying, and it had a calming effect on me that lasted even after I left.
Pictures: Pramita Ghosh and Rosa Allita Hotels & Resorts