Dearth of sites in hill town

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Darjeeling
  • Published 21.09.04
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Darjeeling, Sept. 21: The hill town is no longer synonymous with scenic spots. Rather, it has become a nightmare for visitors, with tour operators taking them for a ride, forcing them to visit insignificant sites and places.

This is what tourists complain and travel agents admit.

The half-completed Gorkha Stadium in Lebong is among the many such not-worth-visiting spots.

?Going to some of these sites are a waste of time as there is hardly anything to see. The lesser said about Gorkha Stadium the better. We have paid a lot for our Darjeeling visit since we hoped that we would get our money?s worth. The tour operators should take us to places of considerable interest. It is better to walk around the Mall rather than waste money visiting such uninteresting sites,? said Abhijit Das, a tourist from Behrampore.

Tour operators generally organise package tours under three-point, five-point and seven-point categories.

For example, a three-point package includes a visit to Tiger Hill, Ghoom monastery and Batasia Loop. Most visitors are satisfied with this tour plan. Another package might consist of the now-closed ropeway, Gorkha Stadium near Lebong, an outside view of a tea garden and Tenzing rock. Tourists complain that these places are not worth visiting, especially after travelling so many kilometres from the plains.

Tour operators usually charge Rs 60 per head for all sites of a particular category. A visit to Rock Garden and Gangamaya, however, comes at Rs 120 per head.

Even St Paul?s School figures as one of the sites and Lal Khoti, where vehicles are not allowed to stand for long, is also included as a place of tourist interest.

Not much can be seen at Lal Khoti except for the 8-ft wall, which fortifies the place. Some tourists are also made to visit Lebong Race Course where the last horse ran over a decade ago.

Foreign customers have it better. For them, a package includes select points like the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, a proper tea-garden tour, Japanese Pagoda and Tiger Hill/Batasia Loop.

Pradip Lama, the secretary of Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents (DATA), said: ?We do feel awkward taking people to places like Gorkha Stadium. We usually explain to them that unlike in the plains, stadiums in the hills are difficult to build.?

Defending the tour operators, Lama said: ?This has been the practice since the early 1980s. We have been taking tourists to these places since then. There surely seems to be a dearth of good sites in Darjeeling.?