I had been in Darjeeling for days and hadn’t seen any sign of the mountains surrounding the village. The next morning I was going to Tiger Hill to see the sunrise. I had been told I had a 20% chance of seeing Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world from the vantage point on the hill. I had to leave the hotel around 5:00 so I slept fitfully. When I finally fell asleep the wild dogs started having a territorial dispute nearby. The dogs were so loud, it may have well been in my bathroom. I drifted back off to sleep, afraid I would miss my alarm. At 4:30 the absurdly loud phone in the hotel started ringing. No one answered it. It would stop for a minute or two and then start again. There was no going back to sleep at this point. I padded upstairs and downstairs to see if I could find the staff. There was no one to be found, at least not without barging in to their private living quarters. I went back to my room and got ready for my excursion ignoring both the phone and the banging on the front door. By the time I was ready to go the night man at the hotel was shuffling around. He led me out through an auxiliary door that led through an alley barely big enough for me to walk through. My taxi driver, the source of the phone calls and insistent banging was ready to go.

We made our way to Tiger Hill. It was still pitch black when we arrived. He asked me which ticket I wanted. There was both "Deluxe" and "Super-Deluxe" to choose from as well as the no frill just park your car ticket. "Super-Deluxe" was the third story view of the sunrise, which meant you were higher than other guests and you had comfortable couches and heaters. At approximately $2 it seemed like a bargain to me. I climbed the icy stairs to "Super-Deluxe". It was disconcerting. I had never been in a room with 20+ saffron couches. It reminded me of a modern art exhibit. The room was cold, but it was out of the wind and there was an array of electric heaters on one end. I found a seat and waited for other to arrive. Other tourists started to shuffle in and each of them seems to bring a backpack full of complaints with them. "Why was it so cold." "The windows aren’t optically pure enough." "The couches are run down." After a few minutes of chatting with a couple and noticing someone had taken my couch for their own, I decided I was in the wrong place. If I went to the parking lot level the view was exactly the same and I probably wouldn’t have to listen to people complain.

Tiger Hill Scene

I went to the parking lot and I didn’t regret the choice. The people were friendlier, the view was the same and I didn’t have to listen to people complain about the heaters.

In life as well as on Tiger Hill, I have learned more about truth, beauty, sacrifice and hospitality from the people in the "parking lot" than I have from the people in "Super-Deluxe."

I came to the conclusion that my people are generally not in "Super Deluxe" — although thankfully some of us get to visit it once in a while.

Sunrise touching Kangchenjunga

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