Kolkata went through a heatwave, and the schools declared an early summer vacation. With the mercury rising, the hills were calling. After Darjeeling, if there is any hill station I can think of, it is Kalimpong. My last visit to Kalimpong was during the autumn of 2019. I always wanted to stay at the Morgan House, Kalimpong and be the testifier of monsoon magic at the hill station. Oh! What luck, I got four nights available. The next call was to my trusted travel agency to book train tickets for New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station.
Our train 02307 – New Jalpaiguri Special departed from Howrah at 11:35 pm but arrived at NJP at least two hours late the following day! From NJP station for local transfer and vehicle, due to increment of cab fare and the outskirt setting of our hotel, a self-driven car was a reasonable alternative. Due to my miserable prior experience with Zoomcar, I opted for a self-drive car rental from Let’s Drive. For reserving, call Amit: 97340 00411. I rented a hatchback and did not experience landslides or traffic jams on the road toward Kalimpong. As the train was late, we skipped breakfast planned at Chaasum.
History of Morgan House, Kalimpong
The Morgan House was constructed in the 1930s by Mr George Morgan, a jute tycoon. In this house, Mr Morgan celebrated his wedding with a lady who was an indigo plantation landlord. After the marriage, Mr and Mrs Morgan occupied the British colonial mansion; it was their summer home for a long time. The Morgan House is a testament to the architectural grandeur of the colonial era – the stone Victorian mansion with a gabled roof, glass windows and towering chimneys.
A trust took ownership of the house after its abandonment. After India attained Independence, the government took control of the property. West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (WBTDCL) currently runs the house as a boutique hotel.
Haunted stories about Morgan House, Kalimpong
Mr and Mrs Morgan chose Morgan House as a perfect place to start a new life post-marriage. But, the happiness did not last long as Mrs Morgan died prematurely, and Mr Morgan left the house soon after.
About the mystery behind Mrs Morgan’s sudden demise, locals believed that her husband tortured her before she died; hence, her unhappy soul still haunts the house. Although there were never sightings of ghosts, people and boarders have heard the tapping of high-heeled footwear in the corridors of the lodge. People say that Lady Morgan’s ghost haunts the house to date. The claims are to listen to someone walking in high heels in the wooden corridors.
Popularity of Morgan House, Kalimpong
Many towns or hill stations have mysterious houses that people avoid after nightfall. These are the places that stimulate generations of spooky tales. Even though it is not sure whether the lady ghost plagues the house, it has indeed been in demand by yesteryear’s Bollywood performers. As a testimony, appreciations are framed and hung on one of the walls in the lounge area. It is still tough to book the Morgan House at Kalimpong.
Location of Morgan House, Kalimpong
The Morgan House nestles in the luxuriant green hilly estate stretching across 16 acres of land on the Durpin Dara Hill and facing the majestic Kanchenjunga mountain range.
The Kalimpong cantonment area surrounds the estate. The hotel is 4 km away from Kalimpong town. I shall later talk about a couple of recently built nearby eateries aside from in-house eating options.
Tariff & Room options of Morgan House, Kalimpong
In the digital era, the WBTDCL website has simplified the booking of the Morgan House. The booking window opens 30 days ahead. The room tariff varies from INR 1800 to INR 3500 per night with extra GST.
Room numbers 101 and 104 are the most popular rooms in the main building. Room 101 was Mr and Mrs Morgan’s bedroom and the most talked-about room. The room is the biggest in the house, with two sides open and a view of the Kanchenjunga range. The tariff per night is INR 3500. Room 104 is the second biggest room, with an attached balcony and an enormous bathroom. The tariff per night is INR 2800. GST extra paid directly at the reception.
Day 1: Check-in Morgan House, Kalimpong | Cloud 9
We reached the Morgan House in the afternoon. The first impression, we couldn’t move our eyes away from the ivy-draped villa’s beauty. Morgan House is set amidst undulating hillocks and a sprawling lawn. But, outside guests are not allowed. One needs to stay back there to discover the place’s mysterious nature!
The check-in process was smooth – we produced our online booking slip and photo identification proof. We stayed in the controversial room, number 101. The front desk was shocked to learn that we would stay for five days. Yes, we were lucky to get so many days of availability at the property. In contrast, many complain that the hotel always remains sold-out. For late lunch, we pre-booked our table at the nearby Nepali restaurant.
Cloud 9 Restaurant
After a long drive, the time was to enjoy some local delicacies. Cloud 9 is a perfect destination for you to explore authentic Nepali cuisine, located 2 km away from the Morgan House. The picturesque background and open-air seating aggravated the appetite.
We started with an appetizer, Chicken Momocha. Minced chicken dumpling mixed with Nepalese masala and dunked in a jhol, paste of roasted sesame and soya seeds mixed with tomato gravy and spiked with onion, garlic and ginger. The momo skin could have been thinner otherwise, and a new kind of jhol momo taste experience.
Nepali Pork Thali was the main attraction, with corn rice, daal, ghee, veggies, dahi and dalle pickle. Veggies were deep-fried bitter gourd, chola mattar, radish with churpi, aloo dum, ningro, pumpkin and fermented mustard greens. The pork trotters cooked in Himalayan spices have a soft and chewy texture. The pork curry flavour was subtle, but traces of crushed bone in the gravy were a bit disappointing. We had an add-on of slow-cooked mutton curry in aromatic spices with the thali. What a lovely taste of the mutton gravy, but the meat was a bit tough to my preference. Time to return to our nest and laze around on the green carpet.
Day 2: Bidyang Valley | The Warehouse
The morning started with the first ray of sunlight falling on our faces, and chirpy birds added music to our ears. We had a sound and comfortable sleep. Today we planned to drive to Bidyang Valley. Bidyang Valley is at an elevation of 3000 feet and around 15 km away from Morgan House. Do not refer to online maps for direction but pin Don Bosco Technical School at the 14th mile as the landmark.
Further ahead, on the right side, a narrow winding road goes through the thickly wooded forest to the riverside. The 4 km narrow, zigzag, broken, the treacherous road needs skilled hands to take control of the wheels. If you are not that comfortable behind wheels, take a local cab for peace of mind. At one point, the road ended, and we parked our vehicle and trekked for a few minutes to reach the side.
The Relli river is almost non-existent, with a thin stream flowing through rocks and tourists dumping garbage to pollute the environment further. The wooden hanging footbridge on the river is magnificent. But to our surprise, the locals use the bridge to sun-dry clothes and pickles. We continued our trek to find out the hidden waterfall of Bidyang. There is no designated road to find the waterfall; only locals know it. With their high-level direction and common sense, we walked towards the source of the river till we heard a gushing sound of water coming through the riverside forest. The thin waterfall and the surrounding area still have their natural aura with crystal clear water, colourful stones and butterflies flying around. Sounds like a fairytale? I was happier that our twin kids learnt the trick of trekking at such tender age.
On our way back to the hotel, we drove via Kalimpong town. The intention was to relax somewhere on lunch post a tiring drive. The Warehouse is a rooftop restaurant at the heart of the hill station. Though parking is challenging throughout Kalimpong (like Darjeeling), the hotel was kind enough to arrange free private parking. The Warehouse got an excellent view of the valley from the rooftop with a refreshing mountain breeze. One can get similar views from the adjoining restaurants like Za Khang and Art Cafe – details in my last blog visit.
Betel Leaf Wrap tried for the first time. Minced chicken wrapped in betel leaf and pan-grilled – a refreshing aftertaste of betel leaf. However, it is an acquired taste. Crispy Fried Pork were thin pork slices dipped in batter and deep-fried until golden and crispy. I had never tried pork in this way; a revelation! Both of these food items are a must-try!
Crispy Thread Chicken is marinated chicken strips wrapped in the thin thread of wonton sheets. I had it the first time in Tangra, Kolkata. Finally, Jhol Pork Momo had minced pork momo dunked in sesame and tomato soup (jhol). I prefer the jhol momo variant tried at Cloud 9 on the previous day.
Day 3: Inside Morgan House | Green Gale Cafe
Inside Morgan House
It rained the entire night, and the weather was not looking good for the rest of the day. We instead decided to stay indoors and soak in the atmosphere. Mystical mornings were magical as mist passed through the room from both sides of open windows in room number 101. The view was so tranquil, with no sound other than birds singing. We called room service for tea and coffee while the kids were busy discovering the nook and cranny of the vast property. The property did not have a manicured green lawn but was clean enough to sit and roll on it. I spent hours soaking in the atmosphere and enjoyed board games with my family.
I feel the guest service is a breeze in the Morgan House, but the kitchen is the weakest link. The complimentary breakfast of either Poori Sabji or Bread Butter is skippable. We also had Chicken Bharta and Roti during lunch, but the ingredients and taste were forgettable. The hotel will charge 10% additional service in case of eating inside rooms or on the outside lawn.
Green Gale Cafe
Instead, Green Gale Cafe outside the main hotel gate will be my recommendation to try South Indian breakfast or lunch. The Indian Army from the adjoining military cantonment runs the cafe. Enjoy the view of the impressive golf course while having food.
Day 4: Delo Park | Cafe Kalimpong
No rain this morning, but we refrained from long-distance driving due to slippery roads after overnight rain and poor visibility due to mystic conditions. We covered all the exciting places near Kalimpong during our past visits. However, the kids were impatient; hence we drove down to Delo Park without much eagerness. Delo Park or Delo Hill is the highest point of Kalimpong town at 5590 feet. The park is a popular picnic spot for tourists as well as locals. Delo provides a panoramic 360-degree view of Kalimpong town, Mt. Kanchenjungha and the Teesta river on a clear day. But being a tourist place, the park was bustling with tourists and hawkers.
We spent a couple of hours at the park and watching kids playing on the green turf. The mist came in, and the weather deteriorated. Hence the local drivers warned me to drive back safely.
We drove down to Cafe Kalimpong for lunch – a couple of kilometres ahead of the Morgan House. It was my second visit after my previous Kalimpong trip. The cafe boasts an excellent valley view and provides the best local cuisine fostered with farm-fresh ingredients. Last time we missed exploring local flavours; hence the order was Ting Momo and Sel Roti.
Ting Momo or Tingmo or T-momo is steamed bread in Tibetan cuisine. The distinguishing feature of the Tingmo is its layered appearance. Once properly steamed, all the layers of the bun seem to open up like a flower. It does not contain any filling but is brushed with butter to form a soft, airy bread roll. T-momo goes exceptionally well with succulent Smoked Pork. Smoked pork was decent-sized cubes glazed in fat and sauce – accompanied by a wafting and an irresistible smoky aroma.
Sel Roti is made with a sweet rice flour batter mixed with sugar and ghee and flavoured with cardamom. Sel roti is a fried doughnut which is crisp, chewy, yet soft at the same time. The freshly made sel roti formed an irresistible pair with the Nepali-style Aloo Dum. Aloo Dum is a rustic potato preparation of red chilli and garlic – no other spices. The accompaniment of churpi (ricotta cheese) pickle was finger-licking good!
Day 5: Return to Siliguri | Upper Fagu | The Blue Poppy
Today was a busy morning, running around to complete packing and close check-out formalities by 11 am. Our return train was 13150 – Kanchankanya Express from Siliguri junction at 7.40 pm. There was enough time for us to reach Siliguri; hence on the way detoured to Upper Fagu.
Gorubathan Picnic Spot
Gorubathan Picnic Spot is situated along the Chel river banks. The location is famous as a picnic spot for the locals. On the way to Upper Fagu, one may view some of the most beautiful tea gardens of Dooars, including Ranichera, Rangamati, and Sylee. The unique landscape, where the plain merges with the daunting hill of Gorubathan, have mesmerized and captivated our heart.
The Blue Poppy, Siliguri
We entered Siliguri town by 4 pm, the perfect time to have a late lunch at The Blue Poppy, close to the Siliguri Junction. The blue-coloured door and ambience are simple, yet one wall with colourful paintings makes it stand apart. We are a big fan of the Kolkata outlet, and to me, no none makes better momo than Doma Wang. So alongside momo, we had Chilli Pork and Pork Sapta with Tingmo.
Pork Kothay Momo is crescent-shaped and stuffed with mildly spiced minced pork. Kothay is a half-fried and half-steamed momo. The momo frying leaves the outer skin slightly charred and crispy, which gives kothey an exciting texture. One must not miss trying these with condiment chilli sauce. The sauce is a paste of dalle chilli, garlic, and salt. Dip the momo slightly in the chilli sauce and put it inside your mouth – the burst of pork juice and flavour with a punch of chilli and garlic, bliss! Word of caution, the sauce is so hot that you will breathe fire like a dragon.
Chilli Pork was juicy, stir-fried pork belly slices with sauces and green chillies. Double cooked chilli pork – meat is first boiled until tender and then stir-fried on high flame. The chilli pork was so addictive I missed trying it with Tingmo. The Blue Poppy prepares one of the best chilli porks. Pork Shapta is a thick gravy preparation. Pork slices were stir-fried with chilli and ginger, soy sauce, tomatoes, capsicum, ginger and spring onion. We wiped off the plate with T-momo. Here, the T-momo was distorted-shape, not an ideal flower-shaped. But it was fresh and fluffy.
Is Morgan House haunted?
So many rumours and folklore about the property made it a tourist attraction too. However, our no uneasy experience rubbishes these rumours. The indoor and outdoor stays illuminated the whole night. The guests’ age ranges from kids to senior citizens, and no one complained about anything uneasy feeling during our stay. Our five days of experience till now were one of the most memorable trips. Still, in the end, we were not feeling like coming back.
How To Reach Kalimpong?
- By Air – Bagdogra (IXB) airport is 79 km from Kalimpong. Numerous options to hire a chauffeur-driven car or self-drive using Zoomcar
- By Rail – New Jalpaiguri (NJP) railway station is 77 km from Kalimpong. Again, hire a chauffeur-driven car from the station or pick up a self-driven Zoomcar
- By road – Kalimpong is well-connected to other cities of India via road. One can self-drive either in a private car or Zoomcar. Buses ply regularly from Siliguri or connected main cities
- In our previous Kalimpong blog, we covered the following places
- Durpin Monastery
- Triveni Beach
- Also, among eateries, we visited the following joints
- Cafe Kalimpong
- Za Khang
- Art Cafe
- Gompu’s Hotel
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