The dreamy vacation starts almost immediately when you step out of the Bagdogra airport, as if you are already made lightheaded by the intoxicating aroma wafting from acres of tea plantations and the surreal mist typical of the monsoon in the hills. Our welcoming hosts at the Ging Tea House made sure that we had a driver and a car waiting for us at the airport.
The journey to Ging Tea House is as beautiful as the destination. The military base at Sukhna gives way to rolling hills at Kurseong, covered in greenery impossible to imagine any other time except in the monsoon months. The mist only added to the quiet, calming environs, playing hide and seek with us, only giving us a glimpse of what’s about to unfold. Kurseong incidentally, is midway from Bagdogra to Darjeeling and we took a short lunch break at the West Bengal Tourism Department operated Tourist Lodge there
It started raining by the time we finished our meal and the pitter-patter on the tin roof of the lodge had already set in the tone of our days ahead. The road outside had turned into a sort of umbrella carnival with giggling school kids holding umbrellas of myriad colours. The school crowd had a way of right and I could not help notice the patient drivers waiting for the long serpentine rows of pedestrians to pass through.
I had fallen in love with winding roads on Kurseong hills and just then I noticed a narrow railway track on my right side moving parallel to the road. Ah, the charm of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway had now begun. “Madam, you too can enjoy a ride on the toy train, but make sure you ride on one with a steam engine…” Bidwan, our driver was now donning the role of a guide. “It is better to book in advance, this one hour joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghum station is very popular with tourists and often tickets are sold out” he informed. And we lost no time in deciding that we have to book our seats now. We soon found ourselves at Ghum station, which at 7407 ft is the highest station in India. Purchasing a ticket from this tiny station was in itself nostalgic and left me wondering about the last time I had booked myself a train journey offline.
Armed with train tickets for the next day, I was on my way to Ging Tea House to feel the colonial set-up, soak in the air from an era gone by and find luxury amidst the rugged terrains. I had imagined an old bungalow somewhere in the hills but never did my imagination stretch to find myself surrounded by tea plantations, engulfed in mist, to give that special feeling of being cut off from the rest of civilization instantly.
It will be an understatement to say that the drive from Ghum to Darjeeling station and further to Lebang valley was interesting. In fact, it was one of the most memorable drives in my recent memory, with the sun setting behind the hills covered with tea plantations. I had started dreaming of my tea plantation retreat. Soon we found ourselves at Ging Tea House which brings the colonial charm of the late twentieth century, when the British had established miles and miles of tea slopes in Darjeeling.
The charming hosts, Seema and Shilpi, welcomed us and in no time made us comfortable in the heritage property, which was going to be our home for the next 48 hours. It was drizzling and the whole valley was covered in mist. But realizing our enthusiasm to stay outdoors, the hosts arranged a welcome tea session in the gazebo overlooking the valley (which was of course, not in sight).
The evening was a quick lesson in the history of tea in the Darjeeling hills. Ging Tea Estate came up in 1864 and the legacy of tea gardens continued to flourish in this part of the Himalayas. Today Darjeeling has almost 87 tea gardens but only a handful have converted into a heritage property.
Heritage, nature and luxury
Ging Tea Estate gives you the unique advantage of planning a vacation in a perfect luxurious setting soaked in vintage air. Who would not like to live in a heritage bungalow that was a once upon a time a tea estate director’s house, in the middle of acres and acres of green?
Wooden flooring, high ceilings and large French windows add to the charm of this perfectly restored heritage structure. “We have not altered the basic structure of this bungalow, just a little change here and there is all we have done to make this suitable for our guests”, informs Seema Tibberwal, the owner of Ging Tea Estate. “The uniqueness of this property is that each of the six suites/rooms is different from the other. Some are just for couples and the other are large enough to accommodate a family with kids. The beds, the rooms, the dining lobby and even a large green patch in front of the bungalow gives you the feeling of being at home.”
However, I beg to disagree! When do I ever see a verdant valley in front of my home in a chaotic capital? When is life’s pace so musical? When is the air so crisp? And where will you find the fragrance of fermented tea all around you in the middle of a city?
Highlights of this property
- Weather permitting, you get a view of Kanchendzonga, while sipping tea from the gazebo
- Drive to the tea factory and sip your perfect flavor
- Learn about the journey of tea leaves from shrub to cup
- A serene stay, away from the urban din
- The hosts’ company on this heritage property comes as a bonus, who will not make you feel out of place
Things to keep in mind
You can visit the place as per your personal choice of season. July-September are the best months if you love chasing rain drops, Oct-Nov and Feb-April are good if you prefer mild climate with clear skies. Dec-Jan are cold months.
Other points to remember
- Clothing – cotton in summer during daytime is fine, carry a light jacket/sweater in rain. However, winter requires heavy
- Vegetarian & non-vegetarian food options available.
- A small activity room and a tiny library is also set up in this property
- Airtel & BSNL networks work pretty well, however internet signal strength is weak.
- Take a joy ride on the toy train from Darjeeling to Ghum station (the highest station in India) and admire the engineering marvel while you go past Batista loop. Duration of the joy ride – one hour/one way
- Tickets – book in advance, especially in tourist season
Ideally suited for
- Jaded souls searching for a romantic getaway
- Tea lovers
Soak in the heritage and aroma of the freshest tea
Living in Ging Tea House has this unique advantage of living on a tea estate from where one can get a firsthand knowledge of tea making. Take a round of the estate’s tea factory which is almost a kilometer downhill. You can trek or ride the jeep to reach the factory premises. Drying, rolling and heating of tea leaves to tasting sessions – it’s one hell of an experience you will cherish for long.
The journey of the tea leaves from shrub to cup will mesmerize you, for sure.
Spend your evenings at the property, not in front of your screens but in the gazebo, wrapped cozily in light woollens in the rains and heavy woollens in winter, while sipping the magic drink called Darjeeling tea – doing nothing.
For Reservations, click here.