Kalimpong is a hill station that is nestled in the eastern Himalayas and is part of the Darjeeling district in the state of West Bengal. It’s one of the many hill stations in north India and a scenic spot with evergreen pine forests as well as temperate deciduous forests with oak, birch, maple and alder trees.
Until the mid – 19th century, the area around Kalimpong was ruled by the kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan, whichever happened to be the conquering nation of the day.
Kalimpong’s proximity to the Nathula and Jelepla passes – offshoots of the ancient Silk Route – turned it into a busy trading outpost for fur, wool and grain between India and Tibet.
When the British occupied India, they discovered Kalimpong’s charms and, in order to escape the summer heat, began to develop it as an alternative hill station to Darjeeling.
After India achieved independence in 1947, Kalimpong became part of the state of West Bengal.
We wind our way down the hill towards the town centre, past a sign indicating directions to Dr Graham’s Home, an orphanage that was started by Scottish missionaries.
The town is located on a ridge high up in the clouds at 1,704 metres and 1372m above sea level.
My guide, Mickey, is under strict instructions from his wife to bring home a fine piece of dress material for Kalimpong is recognised as the best place in the region to purchase well-priced quality fabric.
We enter the first material shop and the proprietor leads us down a narrow set of stairs to a room packed to the rafters with bales of colourful fabric.
At the first shop, there’s lots of arm-waving and gesticulating.
Then Mickey motions us to leave, as he decides that this merchant doesn’t have the exact type of material he’s looking for.
Further down the street, at the next shop, the shopkeeper unrolls swaths of shimmering silk and lays them out on a carpeted platform until Mickey finds one he likes.
He chooses a flowing lemon-coloured material that would make an elegant women’s Salwar Kameez outfit.
Our next stop is a food shop where Mickey purchases several packets of dry noodles to bring home to Darjeeling as presents for his extended family.
I was fortunate enough to have a guide whom I befriended. One of the most cost effective ways to make friends in India is to go backpacking. The daily budget for backpacking India is very affordable and if you manage your money carefully it will last for a long time.
Buddhist Culture in India
We walk pass a number of shops selling thangkas (wall hangings), ornamental caps and other Buddhist artefacts.
The number of Buddhist shops here is not surprising. When China annexed Tibet, many Buddhist monks escaped to the area.
There are several Buddhist monasteries worth visiting, including Kalimpong’s largest monastery, Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa.
The monastery sits on top of Durpin Hill and is a photographer’s delight. Inside the monastery are wall paintings, ceiling paintings and three-dimensional mandalas.
Did you know that Kolkata is a city for all the family? There are lots of things to see for families with kids as well as places to vsiit in kolkata for couples too.