TOURISM: Plains take refuge in Mirik from strife – Siliguri residents change hill destination – but do need the hills above, yet Bengal still aims to bifurcate Darjeeling District – why not leave for Shimla or Shillong ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, June 9: People in the plains wanting a a quick getaway to the tranquillity of nature nowadays prefer the mist-shrouded Mirik to other two hill towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which witness frequent law and order problems because of Gorkhaland agitation.
Not that Mirik was a less popular tourist haunt ever. But with its picturesque Sumendu Lake, and surrounded by thick coniferous forests, Mirik is just a 90-minute drive from Siliguri, making it convenient for visitors to return home at the slightest murmurs of trouble up in Darjeeling or Kalimpong.
“It takes three hours to get to Darjeeling and two-and-a-half hours to reach Kalimpong. Moreover, after the recent incidents of violence in these places, the situation is quite unpredictable. Mirik is a short drive from here and is quite peaceful, making it fit for family outings and picnics during weekends,” said Sudeshna Bhattacharya, who lives in Siliguri.
Residents of the plains also cited Mirik’s proximity to Siliguri.
“Just after one crosses the plains and enters Garidhura, 20km from Siliguri, a road on the left leads to Mirik. In case, there is a disturbance in the hills or an impromptu strike, we can easily manage to leave Mirik in time,” said Paritosh Chakraborty, another Siliguri resident. Mirik is 52km from Siliguri.
According to tourism stakeholders in Mirik, the peaceful ambience of the town and its cleanliness have scored over other hill destinations.
“Mirik has remained peaceful with no untoward incidents in the past year compared to other hill towns. Tourists in the plains have taken note of this and come here for picnics and weekend outings throughout the year. The tourism season is currently going on and the hotels here are doing brisk business as a lot of people from Mumbai and Gujarat are visiting Mirik,” said Chandramani Thapa, the manager of a Mirik hotel.
“Mirik is a small place and it is clean and the roads are wide in sharp contrast to the crowded and bustling towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. People come here to enjoy the quietness and serenity,” said Thapa.
A short trek through woody trails lead to the beautiful Bokar monastery, which is surrounded by tall pine trees and is quite popular among foreigners.
“Foreigners are fascinated by the monastery where they carry out research on Buddhism and monks’ way of life. They come in large numbers and stay at the monastery for months,” said Shivangini Limbu, a resident of the town.
The Sumendu Lake with boating facilities in the heart of the town is equivalent to Chowrasta (famous promenade) in Darjeeling.
“What Chowrasta is to Darjeeling, the lake is to Mirik. Tourists and local people alike converge around the lake in the evenings to take boat or pony rides. Some feed the fish, while others just hang out,” said Limbu.
The Thurbo Tea Estate and Ramitey Dara viewpoint, which give a bird’s eye view of the town below, are other tourist spots in Mirik. Magnificent scenery of the plains nestled between two hillocks can be viewed from the Ramitey Dara on one side and the towering hills of Kurseong on the other.