Thursday, March 30

Soccer-crazy Darjeeling switches to cricket mode

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With the ICC World Cup gaining momentum in the UK, Darjeeling, which is known for its love for football, seems to have switched loyalty to the gentleman’s game. And the tourists, who have swarmed the hill town this summer, are loving every bit of it.

At least three big restaurants have put up giant TVs while several hotels plan to set up big screens when Virat Kohli’s men clash with Australia and Pakistan on June 9 and 16, respectively. Flags of participating countries are fluttering along the roads leading to the mall, a familiar sight before the Fifa World Cup.

“This time, the enthusiasm is high probably due to India’s good performance in recent times and also since there is no major football event now. Though football is Darjeeling’s favourite sport, most tourists are cricket fans and they don’t want to miss the World Cup action. So, hotels and restaurants have geared up to help them enjoy the matches,” said Ashok Tamang, manager of Glenary’s, the iconic restaurant near Darjeeling mall that has put up a giant TV screen above its bar counter.

And tourists who have been swarming the restaurant for breakfast and meals are hanging on to enjoy the stadium-like feel. “This feels like watching cricket at the ground. I have never seen such craze for cricket in Darjeeling before,” said Rajat Mitra, a tourist from Kolkata. Scores jostled to watch India play its opening game against South Africa last Wednesday at Glenary’s. The Park, a popular Chinese-Thai restaurant, is beaming the matches on a giant screen as well.

Darjeeling has had a good tourist inflow this summer. Rajesh Rajak, general manager of a reputable hotel, said his rooms were occupied till June end. “Such is the rush of visitors that we are unable to provide rooms. The rush will continue if the heatwave continues in the plains,” he said.

Pradeep Lama, general secretary of the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, said tourist inflow this season has been very high. “The rush went down a little during elections. But it has picked up,” he said.

The popular passenger ropeway service at Singamari is finding it difficult to cope with the tourist rush and have been forced to temporarily close their counters for brief periods. “Our counter opens at 10am, but tourists are in line from 7am. In one hour, nearly 600 to 700 tickets are sold. If we don’t ration the ticket sale, we will be forced to continue giving service till late into the night,” said a source in the Darjeeling Passenger Ropeway Service.


Source: Times of India

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