The last few days have been spent relaxing and exploring Darjeelijng. Travis and I went to the local zoo and saw some animals found in India. Some favorites included the Indian Tiger, Asiatic Bear (very furry), and the Red Panda. We also visited the Himalayan Mountain Institute and saw the gear used in many Everest expeditions. The sherpa who accompanied Hillary on the first summit of Everest, Tenzing Norgay, lived near Darjeeling and founded the HMI so much of his gear was in the museum - very cool! We also went to the Happy Valley Tea plantation, tried out some of "best quality" tea and took a tour of the factory where they dry and process the tea.
We have made a number of observations while wandering the town... Travis noticed that here, and even in the much busier cities, there are no to-go coffee cups or places to get them. Everyone may be rushing around in a hectic manner, but they always take the time to squat down with their friends and drink a cup of chai. A less quaint habit is that of the morning phlegm. Each morning you can hear everyone deeply clearing their throats and hacking up phlegm that is then spit at random all over the street and walkways. This is definitely an hazard to watch out for when walking to breakfast!
The book "Holy Cow" has made the rounds from Leslie to Travis to Sarah and we definitely recommend reading it! Anyone who wants to get an idea of India should read it. The author describes the life and culture vividly. Over our time in India we have experienced the first 100 or so pages first hand - crazy traffic, beggers everywhere, all manner of vehicles and animals in the road, the inability for locals to say "no," fantastic chai tea, the paradox of generosity and swindling foreigners out of money, and delicious spicy food.
If anyone knows of a similar book relating to Thailand, we'd love to know about it!