Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice
Bijanbari, Darjeeling District, India: Karmi Farm
Nominated By: Shelley Seale, Austin, Texas, USA, December '10
Price Range: US$35 (all meals included) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes
What makes the Karmi Farm so Darn Good? A stay at Karmi Farm is far from your typical homestay. Here, guests can go trekking or bird-watching in the magnificent mountains, participate in one of the art retreats or yoga clinics held at the farm throughout the year, or volunteer at the farm's own medical clinic which offers free and low-cost treatments to villagers, many of whom walk hours for care.
Vibe: Arriving at Karmi Farm, you realize this family home is very much a part of the surrounding villages and has been so for decades. Andrew Pulger-Frame currently runs the farm with the help of his mother, other family members, and their warm and accommodating staff. Andrew's knowledge of the area is impressive, as is his commitment to the community. He has many a great story to tell about his family and the history of the region.
Location: Karmi Farm is in the northern part of the Darjeeling District of India, tucked away between Nepal and Bhutan in the Himalayan foothills. Getting to the Farm takes real dedication; after flying into Bagdodgra airport or taking a train to New Jalpaiguri station, you must take a five hour car ride along steep, winding, bumpy mountain roads to the Bijanbari area where Karmi Farm lies. Once here, you feel quite apart from the rest of India, as the language, food, and customs are all more Nepalese than Indian.
Rooms: The farm has guestrooms in the main house as well as in separate thatched-roof cottages, each one simple and comfortable with two twin beds and tables with low chairs. While rooms are fairly rustic and lack heating or air conditioning, they do have electricity and bathrooms with hot water (though some bathrooms in the main house are shared). For groups or travelers on even more of a budget, Karmi Farm has recently added a dorm-style room that can accommodate six people. The main house has two living salons where guests can relax while reading books, playing games, watching movies, or listening to music. Both salons have a fireplace, which is delightful to sit by on chilly nights.
Food: Meals (organic, vegetarian, plentiful, and delicious!) are taken either in the kitchen or on the lovely thatch-covered deck overlooking the Himalayas. Dishes are a combination of Nepali, Chinese, and Indian cooking and include curries, paneer, and noodle soups. The farm also has an honor bar where guests can grab their own wine, beer, or liquor. Given the remote setting, almost all of your meals will be had at the farm, and in this informal setting guests quickly get to know each other, as well as the staff, many of whom have been with the farm for years.
Keep in Mind: Given the farm's stunning and secluded location, be prepared to relax (bring books!) and get back to nature (bring good walking shoes!). Also bring cash.