Of Royalty, Opulence , Luxury….A Stay at MAYFAIR , Kalimpong ( The History)

“Wherever you go, becomes a part of you somehow” – Anita Desai

We all are travellers and life is indeed a journey, but sometimes we yearn to leave the din and bustle behind and escape to solitary bliss.

Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort Kalimpong

My first solo trip took me to the lap of the hills. After spending some days in Gangtok , I set out for Kalimpong. I was really looking forward to my stay in the ‘Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort , Kalimpong’. It took me about three hours to reach Kalimpong from Gangtok ( cost during peak season ₹2500/- to ₹3000/- ).

Names of dignitaries and famous personalities who stayed in this iconic hotel

Located at Upper Cart Road Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort is a heritage property which more than a century old.

The Himalayan Hotel

The saga….

What is now the ‘Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort ‘ was previously the iconic ‘Himalayan Hotel’. It was established by David MacDonald , an ‘Anglo-Himalayan’ born to a Sikkimese mother and a Scottish father. During his long service as an interpreter and then a trade agent Mr MacDonald came in close contact with the 13th Dalai Lama. When His Holiness decided to escape Tibet to India it was David MacDonald who helped him.

David MacDonald, Vera MacDonald, Annie Perry , Captain Frank Perry

Later impressed with his service, Mr MacDonald was by the British Government a choice of either a title or European land parcel. David MacDonald asked for a particular plot of land in Kalimpong itself, next to his family home. Here , encouraged by his son-in-law , Frank Perry, he established the ‘Himalayan Hotel’s, the first hotel in the Darjeeling region. It was 1905 , and the town of Kalimpong was a vibrant and flourishing town, because of the trade between Tibet and India. For years to come Mr MacDonald managed the hotel with his 3daughters who were lovingly called ‘The three fat ladies of Kalimpong’.

The 13th Dalai Lama with David MacDonald

Meanwhile there was another development, Nepal was declared a Hindu state and they closed it’s borders to all who aspired to climb Mt Everest, as they considered it sacrilegious , thus Kalimpong was the only way to the ‘south column’ , thus Himalayan Hotel became the favourite rendezvous for mountaineers. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their final plans of scaling the summit while staying in ‘Himalayan Hotel’ !!

In 1953 during the political unrest and with tensions brewing in the Indo- Chinese border, Pandit Jawarlal Nehru visited Kalimpong and stayed in the iconic hotel.

Hollywood in Himalayan

Over the years many Hollywood stars had also stayed in the iconic hotel. The Hollywood diva Shirley MacLaine stayed at the ‘Himalayan’ before leaving for Bhutan. When asked to sum up her stay she quoted the famous lines of George Bernard Shaw ‘The great advantage of a hotel is that it’s a refuge from home life’. These words somehow the essence of ‘Himalayan’. In 1991 Hollywood heartthrob Richard Gere and supermodel Cindy Crawford stayed in ‘Himalayan’.

Bollywood Connection

Even the glitz and glamour of Bollywood was not far from patronising the ‘Himalayan’. In 1965, Sunil Dutt, Nargis Dutt along with Sanjay Dutt ( then just 6years old) stayed at ‘Himalayan’. In 1974 Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman stayed in the hotel along with Shabana Azmi .

Now after 117 years and a rich legacy the MacDonald family has decided to hand over the hotel to ‘Mayfair’ group. Now the ‘ Himalayan Hotel’ is ‘Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort’. According to Mr Dilip Ray , the Chairman and Managing Director of Mayfair group , the essence of the hotel is still the same.

Mr Dilip Ray , The chairman and managing director of Mayfair group of hotels

I set out on my first solo trip and after spending two days in Gangtok , I reached Mayfair…….

(Most of my information is from the coffee table book called ‘ The Lure of Legacy’ by Ravi R. Mohapatra, the book is a gift from Mr Dilip Ray)

( To be continued..)


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