A guide to falling in love with Darjeeling

The majestic Kangchenjunga in the backdrop of a bustling small town, the echoing sound of the old steam engine train running through its streets, the captivating smell of momos and warm tea. Welcome to Darjeeling. 

People who grew up listening to Anjan Dutt and reading Satyajit Ray have an irresistible fascination for Darjeeling. Even if you’re not into any of those, the appeal of a small town lifestyle in the backdrop of the mighty mountains, the Tibetan culture, the sound of prayer bells and the colourful prayer flags is sure to call you back to Darjeeling over and over again.

Does this not want to make you go to Darjeeling right away?

Also, a trip to Darjeeling would probably cost you less than your usual trip to Cox’s Bazar. Did I get you hooked yet?

Is winter in Darjeeling a good idea?

Some people have an extremely low tolerance to cold. So, if you sleep with heavy blankets in 25 degrees, you probably should not go to Darjeeling in December. But winter in Darjeeling is beautiful. The temperature usually stays between 12 to 13 degrees, so with enough warm clothes, you will be set. Don’t forget to take multiple pairs of socks, gloves, and winter caps. Load up on moisturizers and dry shampoos. Also, make sure your hotel has a constant supply of warm water and a proper heating system. Checking on these before your trip will help you get the full winter experience in Darjeeling.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime
A bustling city at the foothill of the Himalayas

Bon Voyage!

The route to Darjeeling is fairly simple. Want to go by road? Take a train to Panchagarh. The border is about an hour away from the rail station. Cross it and you will be able to enter through the Phulbari port. Make sure you apply for Phulbari while applying for the Visa. The immigration will not be too hectic, and you can reach Shiliguri in about another hour. From there, it is a two hour drive to your destination.

Another way to go to Darjeeling is by air. You will be dropped off at Bagdogra airport, and from there it will take a little more than an hour to Darjeeling. Pay attention to the fare, though. Everything in Darjeeling is a rip off if you are not careful.

Everything that Darjeeling has to offer

As tempted as I am to recommend that in Darjeeling, the best thing to do is just find higher ground and keep staring at the majestic Kangchenjunga, there are a lot of other things to see in Darjeeling.

A bustling city at the foothill of the Himalayas
An unworldly view from Tiger hill

When going to Darjeeling, take the long way through Mirik, and you will be amazed how organized and colourful everything is. It almost feels like someone handcrafted this entire place, and the creator put a lot of thought into the design.

You’ll see colourful little cottages decorated with flowerpots. You will see a billion types of flower bushes. The air will make you feel as if you haven’t breathed in years. The spiral roads, the echoes of the toy train, the colourful temples, the valley with a million tiny lights, and people with the friendliest smiles- everything about Darjeeling is heartwarming and perfect. Once you get there, hire a car with a package. The car will take you to all the tourist spots in Darjeeling. You can go paragliding/river rafting in Kalimpong too- so there will be plenty of food for your adventurous soul! But these sports are not always open. Ask around before you head out to Kalimpong.

Beauty and culture

Darjeeling has a beautiful Tibetan culture to show off. You’ll see colourful prayer flags hanging around from almost every other establishment in Darjeeling. Contrary to popular belief, the Tibetan prayer flags do not carry actual prayers or mantras to particular deities or Gods.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 40

It is believed in the Tibetan culture that the mountain wind will carry the messages of peace, compassion and wisdom that’s written on the flags and bring peace to the world.

And the best part? On every turn you take in the mountainous roads of Darjeeling, Kangchenjunga will peek out and welcome you. And that is a sight unforgettable.

Pro tip- Do not miss out sunrise on Tiger hill, as the first ray of the sun touch the peak of Kangchenjunga before dawn breaks upon the city. Visit Ghoom Monastery, Mahakal Temple, Rock Garden, and the zoological park. If you are into history, check out the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Museum. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because there will be a lot of uphill walking.

Eat like there’s no tomorrow

Darjeeling is a heaven for food lovers. From fancy English breakfast to street style Maggie- you will have way too many options and not enough space in your stomach.

Start your day with mouthwatering breakfast from Sonam’s Kitchen, a small cafe run by a lovely couple who’ll fire up a conversation with you. Treat yourself with momos, pakoras and other street food at Batasia Loop. Warm your stone-cold heart with a bowl of steaming Thukpa at Kunga restaurant. Lose yourself in the live music at Glenary’s while munching on delicious food and enjoy a scenic mountain view from their wooden deck. For such a small place, Darjeeling has a lot to offer. It’s your job to take full advantage of it.

Shopping in Darjeeling?

Darjeeling has a lot of souvenir shops and old Tibetan art shops. You can buy beautiful winter clothes, breathtaking silver jewelry, and simple trinkets as gifts. Go to mall road and take your pick. If you want branded stuff, go to Big Bazaar. But if you’re shopping from the streets, make sure to bargain. Otherwise, you will be ripped off, and you won’t even realize it until it’s too late.

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The night life!

Darjeeling at night is exquisite. But unfortunately, everything usually closes down by 9 because of the cold. This is the reason why, you will not get to dance your night away at clubs. However, you can still enjoy your evenings at a number of cafes, pubs and restaurants.

But that’s not it. You’ll experience an unworldly sight at night if you’re looking out of your hotel window, balcony or rooftop. You’ll see a sky full of a billion stars. And the entire Darjeeling city on the hills with its flickering white and yellow lights in the dark offer an illusion that the stars have come down on the dark hills.

In the distant, the white snowy peak of the Kangchenjunga will still be visible in the dark.

And you’ll hear distant sounds of prayer bells and hymns from temples. Words fall short in describing this ecstatic and unworldly experience.

Is it safe to roam around alone?

The thing I loved about Darjeeling was how safe it was. The people are helpful, and they will be kind to you as you are a tourist. As a result, travelling alone is not gonna be as hard as you might think. But even if you are alone, chances are that a kind stranger will help you find your way. Again, it’s India. It doesn’t hurt to stay on your guard.

Go easy on the ol’ wallet

Last but not the least, do not worry much about the money. As long as you have around 15,000 BDT in your hand, you can have a comfortable, three day tour (minus the shopping, of course).

What are you waiting for? Go explore this piece of heaven on Earth! And don’t forget to let us know about your experience!

5 Reasons why you should volunteer

Volunteering is about more than the impact one makes in the lives of those who are less fortunate. Volunteering can play a pivotal role in making a person more tolerant and more empathetic. It can be a practice in selflessness or can be motivated by advancing career goals. No matter what, volunteering improves and inspires individuals and communities.

Here are 5 reasons why you should volunteer, at least once.

Community involvement:

Volunteerism is one of the easiest ways to get involved with something that is bigger than yourself. It leads to many other opportunities. Besides, it’s easy to start with! You can start regardless of your academic score. If you are enthusiastic and have a will to make a difference by being an active part of the community, you already have everything that a volunteer needs to be.

“I was just a first-year college student with no prior experience when I first volunteered. The feeling that I am a part of a greater community working for a cause is so inspiring!”

Nawar, a volunteer at It’s Humanity Foundation (IHF), a non-profit organization based in Bangladesh, told us,
5 Reasons why you should volunteer

Career booster:

Volunteerism is an excellent way to boost your career prospects.
Recruiters and future bosses appreciate the skills, especially in leadership that you build by volunteering. It helps you make a positive impression. You are enriched by a wide range of useful skills. While you become a better version of yourself, your CV look more attractive and creative to prospective employers.

“I was so anxious when I was applying; I have heard how hard it is to get a job these days. To my surprise, my CV almost never got rejected and I always noticed how the employers were so keen to know about my volunteering experience,”

Said Adiba who has been an Executive at IHF where she started as a volunteer.

Learning new skills:

This is exactly why employers love a volunteer’s CV. Volunteering enables you to work in the field and gain a wide range of soft skills in the process.

“Facing problems on a daily basis, having to deal with a mix of personalities, all while adjusting to life outside of my comfort zone. All of that added up and helped me improve my teamwork, problem-solving and people skills,”

Said Nusrat, a seasoned volunteer at JAAGO Foundation and other organisations.
5 Reasons why you should volunteer

Building a network:

You meet people from all walks of life when you volunteer. You meet fellow volunteers who may be like-minded, but outside your current social circle. A conversation over this shared interest can have a lasting impact on your life. As you come across volunteers with different skills in different organisations, your professional circle expands.

“I got to surround myself with charismatic people through volunteerism and that changed my life!”

Maisha, who started as a volunteer at IHF and currently leads a women empowerment Project Protibha as the CEO told us,

Making a difference:

Volunteerism gives you a chance to contribute to your community on a daily basis. You can build towards the world you want to live in. You get to use your skills and civic responsibility for the greater good.

“How awesome it is being a part of an impact and actually getting to witness it? I would have never known if I hadn’t volunteered!”

Shams, who had previously volunteered at several organizations like Mastul Foundation and other local schools for underprivileged rural children.
Organizations you can donate your unused warm clothes to 3

Get started today!

If you aren’t currently volunteering, or have never volunteered before, it’s something you should try at least once in your life. Most organizations seeking volunteers often post online so a little bit of researching can help you find an opportunity. Even committing as little as an hour per week can have a profound benefit on your own life, and the organizations that rely on volunteers will be able to thrive. You can also reach out directly to an organization that you support and ask them what you can do to help. Just try doing something for a community that needs help and you will get back more than you can ever imagine.

Cheers!

An ode to deshi winters

Other countries get snow and all the wonders that come along with the soft white stuff, but having a mild, temperate winter means we Bangladeshis get a very different kind of experience. We have our own ways of celebrating and staying warm; our own culture and heritage define a lot of what we do in these months.

The fashion

Dust off the kombol suitcases and bring down the woolen sweaters tucked away in the back of the closet. You can spend away on faux leather jackets and Kashmiri shawls, how more often than not, winter clothing is strictly a fashion statement rather than being absolute necessities. It just doesn’t get that cold. Bangladesh’s mild winters mean the thermal underwear that you’d typically need to not die in the barren, frozen wastes of Canada is not needed. There is plenty of room to mix and match your winter style. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 4 Anything goes—from the traditional shawl wrapped over a suitably ethnic Panjabi, to hoodies emblazoned with the logos of your favorite English Premier League football team. Winter is a chance for already expressive Bangladeshis to show more of their style with each additional layer of clothing. The cold can still get to you (2018 saw the lowest temperatures in nearly 50 years), especially at night. It’s a good idea to cover up and take extra protection in the form of mufflers. 

The weddings

Summer weddings in Bangladesh are a terrible idea. Who wants to see the typical local aunty’s face-paint melting in the sweltering heat? How do you get around that? You shift the wedding plans to the end of the year and minimize the heat. Everyone has the same idea, and as a result, come December, you’re flooded with wedding invites and calls for holud dance rehearsals. It can get chaotic, but the serial wedding invites make winter a festive, happening time. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 2 It’s also prime relationship forging time. The single and ready to mingle crowd emerges. Winter weddings are a fortuitously romantic time to pine after well-dressed people you’ll never meet again.  We almost relish the hundreds of hours of ridicule from friends and family as you repeatedly claim that that the good-looking boy/girl totally smiled at you when you looked at them.

The winter sports

The Bangladeshi version of the Winter Olympics consists of hundreds of hours of badminton and some more badminton. People all over Bangladesh take to the streets and the fields, draw up badminton courts and pull out tattered nets, racquets and corks to jump, run and keep their bodies warm. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 3 Like everything else we Bengalis do, access to the court is determined through seniority and how well connected you are with the local boro bhais. If you’re just a young thug trying to make it big in the world of badassminton politics, you’ll probably be banished to a side court with no net and no lights. You’ll be lucky to get your hands on a racquet. Count your stars that you actually get to play some form of badminton each winter. Nonetheless, badminton is more of a community sport than anything else, and the strong sense of Bengali togetherness comes out in full force in winter.

The food

Does anything attain a special corner in Bengali hearts without some mention of food? Winter is no different. Winter means weddings. Weddings mean steaming plates of kacchi biriyani with a mouth-watering aloo on top. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 1 If that doesn’t make your mouth water, how about the plethora of different kinds of pitha? Cooked in oil, dipped in pungent shutki or wrapped in a sickly sweet coating of heaven, these diverse delicacies are something to look forward to all year. The melting mouthful of gur conjures up images of a simpler time and fill you with an incredible warmth in the winter chill. 

The empathy

Winters in Bangladesh may be mild compared to much of the rest of the world, but it does induce a lot of suffering in the less fortunate. While charity is far from the best method of alleviating that, it does play its part in bringing together people. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 5 Every blanket and donated clothing counts. It might just be the line between someone staying warm or suffering needlessly. So stack up and donate as much as you can, because that’s what we try to do—look out for one another.

Organizations you can donate your unused warm clothes to

Winter has finally arrived. The perfect season to rock that favourite red sweater again and the time to finally execute the trips you have been planning for all year. Some of us just like to curl up in a blanket with a warm cup of coffee and a nice book. Maybe even binge-watch something on Netflix. While we’re all so excited, the scenario isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, for a massive proportion of the population, the season means enduring a series of hardships and miseries. Yet, there are many who cannot afford even a day’s meal properly, let alone buy warm clothes for winter.

So, how about instead of stacking up those extra blankets and sweaters that don’t fit you anymore, you give them away to a needy family? Even your smallest contribution can bring a smile to someone’s face who probably is in dire need of it somewhere right now.

While we all want to help out people in need, we often struggle with finding out a proper medium to do so. We just don’t know where to go

Here is a list of organizations where you can donate your warm clothes to:

1. Warmth for Winter by It’s Humanity Foundation (IHF):

IHF has been organizing winter fundraising campaigns for the last 5 years for the unfortunate underprivileged suffering from the harsh realities of the extreme cold in Northern Bangladesh. This year, they have organized “Warmth for Winter 2018”, a campaign through which you can donate your warm clothes like sweaters, shawls, socks, blankets etc. and they will get your precious gifts of warmth to the distressed in the northern part of the country where the cold gets so unbearable, people have reportedly died of extreme cold in the past years. After collecting your donations, the team along with their volunteers will set out for the distribution by the beginning of January 2019.

Contact: https://www.facebook.com/itshumanityfoundation/

Website: www.itshumanity.org

Phone: 01879800800

2. Smile 18: An initiative by Studio Green:

Organizations you can donate your unused warm clothes to

Smile is an annual initiative by Studio Green to reach out to the underprivileged of the society and provide as much support to them as possible to make their lives easier. Although they mostly focus on providing assistance to the aged underprivileged, children on the streets and kids at orphanages. They will be collecting donations till the month of January 2019 and will be accepting donations in the form of warm clothes which are in usable condition. Donating warm clothes instead of cash is encouraged. After collecting the donations, they will be distributing the clothes and blankets to the underprivileged community living in the Northern Part of Bangladesh by the beginning of February 2019.

Contact: https://www.facebook.com/events/210302723201878/

Phone number: +880 1672-704823, +880 1824-850938

3. APON Foundation:

There are numerous child-care centres across Bangladesh. However, APON foundation has already distributed a huge quantity of blankets and clothing to its young beneficiaries over the last 10 years. They will be accepting unused warm clothes for children aged between 4 to 10 years and they will be receiving donations throughout the month of December 2018. The distribution will be carried out by the end of December 2018.

Contact: [email protected]

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aponfoundation

Phone: 01711054701

4. Winter Drive 2018-19 by Project Kombol:

This year Project Kombol has organized “Project Kombol Winter Drive 2018-19”. Through which, you can donate your unused blankets and warm clothes in good condition. Moreover, by only making a meagre contribution of Tk. 300, you can ensure a blanket for someone in need. Distributions will be carried out in certain remote areas of Bangladesh by the end of January 2019.

Contact: www.facebook.com/projectkombol

Website: www.projectkombol.com

Phone: 01819230486

It really takes nothing but kindness to make the world a better place. Moreover, your donation, no matter how big or small, can create a huge impact on someone’s life. Share the love of warmth this winter and make someone smile. Cheers!

Winter wear roundup for the year

The fan is on and the blanket is out. As is that mixed feeling of winter arriving. With each year (and more Instagram bloggers), the winter trends get more creative (and extensive). Its the season of fashion, badminton, barbeques and of course, weddings.

Here is how you can merge western and local fashion, be comfortable while making a statement:

1. Shawls: Versatile and lots of choices

Shawls are the most comfortable piece of winter clothing which you can never go wrong with. It is also as easy to pair with a shirt and denim, as with a Panjabi or a  long tunic.

Our pick: Aarong, Deshi Dosh, Shada Kaalo’s winter collection includes a good range of both plain shawls and shawls with embroidery.

2. Turtlenecks: Warm and goes well with a hat

Winter wear roundup

For the inner 90s in all of us, a turtleneck or a sweater with a colorful barrette is the way to go. It is warm, cute and of course, makes you stand out from the crowd. Try fun color combinations.

Our pick: The unpretentious and affordable sweaters and hats at Nurjahan Market and New Market.

3. Sweatshirts

Winter wear roundup

Sweatshirts bring out a real winter vibe, hide the occasional kacchi belly bump and can have fun brands or logos plastered on them. Experiment with colorful ones; beige, baby pink or blue go with denim and black sweatshirts for the less adventurous ones.

Our pick: Lussotica, Gorur Ghash, Yellow and Artisan have a collection of sweatshirts for your choosing.

4. Leather Jacket: Let out the inner rebel

Winter wear roundup

Black leather jackets never disappoint– durable, warm and elegant. Also, with the weather of Dhaka city, winter is the really the only season one can indulge in the badass-ary.

Our pick: Wear with a wrapped shawl around your neck and faded jeans. Wear the jacket with formal clothing to make a bold statement.

5. Bomber jacket: Still trending

Winter wear roundup

Let us face the fact that bomber jackets haven’t fizzled out yet, unlike the high school sweatshirts which were pretty 2016. Bomber jackets are known for the flattering shoulder and neck fit. Originally designed to keep the pilots warm during the war, the bomber jacket has found its way to both mainstream and punk wardrobes. A black or mud-green bomber jacket could be a good addition to your winter look!

Our pick: Keep an eye out for the jackets at the winter sales at Sailor, Cats Eye, Westecs. The website “Shop Hobe” gives easy access and good service to many collections in different online stores.

6. Good Ol’ denim: Still swiping right

Winter wear roundup

When everything fails, you know what doesn’t? Denim. It has been decades and denim is here to stay. It can also be a perfect piece of clothing for a desi fusion with Kurtis and Panjabis. A faded blue denim jacket might be a perfect match for you this winter.

Our pick: Look for denim in different online stores. And of course, Nurjahan Market will not disappoint you!

Enjoy the cold breeze, hazy mornings, hot cuppa all wrapped up in your trendy winter attire. So here’s to winter and ending 2018 with grace and fashion!