The "Toy Train" was the first to be built of its kind, and is still considered by UNESCO to be 'the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway' in the world.
Rather than taking the full bum-numbing eight hour journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, I recommend the half day "Joy Ride", a comfortable return journey from Darjeeling to Ghum. We were lucky to purchase a ticket for the same day, but if it's a busy time you may need to book in advance. The 83km journey costs 360rupees each and includes entry to the railway museum in Ghum.
The windows in the first class carriage were enormous, giving us close up views of the mountain on one side and the valley on the other.
We stopped at Batasia Loop, where we were suitably humbled by the memorial to the Gorkha soldier and stunned by the view of Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain (the third highest in the world).
When we arrived in Ghum it was swathed in a blanket of cloud, illustrating the reason for its nickname of “Gloom”.
We strolled through the small railway museum, and learned all about the history of the mountain railway system. When the driver was happy with the train's health we all piled back into the airy carriage and with another surge of steam, hoots, hisses and chug-a-lugs left Ghum, Ghoom or Gloom.
This cosy restaurant with a clear and varied menu serves up delicious Tibetan and Chinese food.
I went for the Thenthuk veg soup with flat noodles for 65 Rs (95p) and fried vegetable momos (Chinese dumplings), which were the nicest I'd had anywhere. The soup was warming and extremely satisfying - ideal if you're finding Darjeeling a little chilly.
Other options are Bhagthuk soup, which as far as I can tell is the same as Thenthuk but with round noodles, spring rolls, plus lots of other noodle dishes like chop suey and chow mein.
The fresh mango juice I had was mouth-wateringly tasty.
Kunga also does breakfasts, including Tibetan bread for 60 Rs (90p) which is made with eggs and fried, resulting in a texture a bit like doughnuts but less sweet.
One curious item on the menu was 'Tibetan tea (salt and butter)' - but since I didn't order it you'll have to discover it for yourselves!
51 Gandhi Road, Darjeeling
If you fancy a overnight trip from Darjeeling, you can get to Kurseong in 90 minutes by shared jeep (about 50 pence each way).
Kurseong has spectactular views of the Himalayan foothills and the plains of north-east India. However, one place not to be missed (even if only for the trip along the mountain ridge to get there) is the organic Makaibari Tea Estate (by shared jeep or taxi from Kurseong Train Station).
I was taken on a personal tour of the factory (and tea tasting session) with Mr SK Banerjee, the owner of the estate.
Mr Banarjee is extremely knowledgeable and entertaining on the subject of tea and believe me, after 90 minutes or so, you will never want to drink teabag tea ever again.
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