Showing posts with label Sikkim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sikkim. Show all posts

2013-09-19

West Sikkim - Hee Bermiok

We initially planned to visit Bhutan during summer vacation of ’13. Somehow during the planning phase we found it was overshooting our budget. And moreover, was advised against it during late April & Early May as there is a high chances of rain during that time. So we had no plan and no places to visit while we are going to be in Siliguri for 10/12 days.

We called one travel agent in Calcutta from train and told him about our requirement and he said he would be able to put an itinerary of 6 nights ( 2nights Sikkim, 2 Kursuang and 2 in Darjeeling). We had no clue on the suggested itinerary as we were too preoccupied with our trip to Gaya.


Day-1



The d-day before of our trip cab driver called and informed us he is coming down to pick us. He suggested it would be a good idea to start from Siliguri as early as possible. We started around 7 from home to Bermiok (West Sikkim) via Sevoke road. The road along Assam riffles was just magnificent straight road without any potholes(a miracle in India) and trees lined on the both side. Soon we were climbing the twisted roads and crossed Coronation Bridge over the Teesta river ( few days later the bridge become news when “An Indian Guinness World Record holder who attempted to cross a river suspended from a zip wire attached to his ponytail has died during the stunt”. We continued on the Siliguri-Gantogk(NH31A) road and took a turn at Melli for Jorethang and continued on Melli-NayaBazar Road. After Jorthang the road became more steeper and narrow you really need to know how to manage those hills and steep incline and hairpin bends with zero visibility. Only relief was there were not many cars on the road. We reached Bermiok after passing by Nayabazar, Rinchenpong, Kaluk. The road was more or less well maintained but many places would be quick target of rains and land-slide is common which would cause major havoc for commuters.

The Hotel( Kanchan Hotel) was pre-booked and we were the only one to stay there. Surprisingly, the last visitor to this place was two months back. The rooms were nothing great but as they are on the hill you could see Kanchenjunga Range from your room. Suddenly, we realized we are feeling cold as this place is 5650 ft above MSL. But the caretaker gave us the first surprise mentioning we need to spend 2500 on Taxi for sight seeing. It was a shock but we did not have a choice. In the meantime, the sky was getting cloudy which is very common post noon in hills. We had a simple Bengali lunch Dal, some veggies and fish.

Post lunch we started with Tagore Smriti , a nice park dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore. Personally, doubt did Tagore ever visited this part of Sikkim as there is no solid proof for the same but the local tour guides thinks he did. From there we went to Rinchenpong monastery. There were small monks inside the monastery for their afternoon classes so we did not went in. This is a very old monastery built in 1717 with wood. The driver/guide told us there is another monastery ( Resum Monastery) if we are willing to walk up-hill. We wanted to explore so continued it was long walk up-hill with many steps. My mother stopped climbing in the middle and we three continued. It was a price-less walk reminding Master-card Advertisement as it was complete silence and the soundings are too green and pristine. Once we reached the top there was not much to see honestly. There is a old monastery which seems now part of dispute between different sect or family and there are few families staying as caretaker. Photograph of the monastery was not allowed so we took some pictures outside and headed back.

Now we headed towards to the British “Dak-Bunglow”( Now Government Guest House) , we crossed Poison lake on the way. The story of poison lake goes like this “when the British attacked Sikim(1860). They reached up to Rinchenpong when Lepchas (the original inhabitants of Sikkim) poisoned the water of the pond, the only source of water in Rinchenpong. In the process killing almost half of the British troops and forcing them to retreat.”

Well it became dark by 4:30 PM and we headed back to hotel and enjoyed hot tea with pakodas. Sitting at the rooftop restaurant we enjoyed clear sky and innumerable number of stars glittering on the sky, the lights of Pelling and Gayzing was illuminating like diamonds. Cold was getting unbearable so after an early dinner we retreated to the room quickly.


Day-2


Wow! what a sun-rise with rain washed blue sky we got a clear view of Kanchenjunga Range. It was simply magnificent. We clicked many shots and special thanks to Pamela for being up so early. Post breakfast we left for other local destinations. We started with Chayataal a picnic spot. This a Government resort on a remote hill top. The road is really bad there was no tar and with previous night rain it was really muddy. We found it bit strange and could not understand why government of Sikkim is allowing guest house/hotel/Govt- Bunglow like mushrooms. If it continues for another couple of years this remote part will become like Uttarakhand tsunami one day.The USP for this western Sikkim is remoteness, being closer to nature with plenty of trees if that is gone it will be a real shame.

From Chayataal as headed down we stopped at Rock Garden; another park/picnic spot. It is located next to a stream and it was walking up and down taking pictures. The place is really nice to enjoy yourself with nature and not being bothered as there was no other tourist around.

Now we traversed the hills towards Pelling(Major town of West Sikkim) and crossed the beautiful valley of Dentam, stopped at Cheese Factory and bought some cheese for ourselves,. We took the road going towards Uttarey and visited the famous suspension bridge ‘Sinshore bridge.’ From Sinshore Bridge we took an U-turn came down to Dentum and drove towards Changey falls. Now we are on the complete opposite hill range and could see the road that we came in the morning. The Changey falls was OK but as we were end of summer there was not much water but good enough.

On the way back to Dantum we asked the driver to stop Kalej Khola, this is near Dantum Bridge. We went to the stream to soak our feet the water was cold but it was really relaxing. We were hungry and headed back to our hotel for lunch. Post lunch we went for a stroll on the same road for couple of kilometers.

2006-05-21

Sikkim - Gangtok

My current home in India is Siliguri, north of West Bengal may not be the most alluring for tourist destinations. But it is the most important city in the entire Eastern Himalayas due to its geographical location. As city is unabashedly an industrial centre and gateway to seven sisters of North-East along with Sikkim & eastern part of Nepal. My parents moved here ten years back and by that time I had just started my career; never had ample holidays to explore any thing around. Always I used to be too tired to get out of home and end up with novels and old music. But this was for the first time I did take days out to visit Gangtok.

Though journey was not very memorable or different than that of those I had while growing up in North-East region except that Pamela was with me this time. Traveling by Jeep through those narrow winding roads is an experience in itself where our co-passengers thought that we are going for honeymoon trip. The drive was very scenic with Teesta River flowing all the way. The forested hills are still green but truly there is continuous deforestation going on for either cultivation or smuggling woods.


We reached Gangtok after midday and the Taxi Stand was the most active part of the city like any other small or hill town in North-East. There are too many touts to rob you. If you travel light and are able to carry your luggage yourself you can avoid them. We stayed in a ITDC hotel near to M.G.Marg where we had our lunch at its expensive restaurant. Then we went out for booking our trips for sightseeing & daytrip for next 2 days. Being a tourist place it seems everyone wants to rob so you need to have good negotiating skill & make sure what you need you get the same. After bargaining we were able to book our trips for next 2 days. Then from there we went to the Government Institute of Cottage Industries (also called the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom) which promotes and teaches the ancient crafts of Sikkim (like painting, mask making, weaving, wood carving) to keep them alive. It is located at zero point, few km uphill from the main Gangtok town.


Day II, we had Allu paratha as breakfast early morning near to Bus stop at Agarwal restaurant & got the same packed for the route also. Then we headed towards our agency. Indians are famous for their IST so our co-passengers. After waiting a while for them to join we started our trip to Tsomgo Lake.
Tsomgo Lake is situated at an altitude of 12,310 ft on Gangtok-Nathula highway. Just few kilometers away from Indo-China border. This road also continues to Lasa, Tibet. Drive to that region is again very different with snow capped mountains & this whole belt is undertaken by Indian military. Salute to our Indian army who are taking pain to guard those borders to make our life easy & peaceful. Really I wonder sometimes how they are struggling there to earn their meal in those extreme cold regions far from there near one.
On reaching Tsomgo lake (pronounced as Changu Lake which means source of lake) we hired snow boots as all the travel agents take their customers to respective brothers stall for hiring jackets, snow boots and water-proof boots. Because of the high altitude heavy woolens are required which we already had.
From there we went immediately to Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial which lies between Nathula-Jelepla pass which is at still more higher altitude of around 13,450ft. Actually, it is built in memory of a sepoy of 23rd Punjab regiment. It seems after few days of his missing he appeared in the dreams of his fellow comrades & expressed a desire that monument be built in his memory. Now it has acquired a statue of a pilgrimage, being Sunday there was langar (free meals served after Sikh services) offered by Indian Army. After one hour stay we came down to Changu Lake.

Weather was getting worse. Tea, snacks & film rolls are available at the dozen of temporary stalls near the lake. But there is no facility of accommodation or proper toilet for the tourist. Rides on yaks and mules are also offered which was worthless to enjoy for Pamela at that temperature.
In the evening, we walked on the main street of M.G.Marg which is normally closed for all vehicles from 5 to 9 PM. Looked for budget restaurant for our dinner; we found one and also found a long queue waiting for their turn. The wait was delightful.


Day III started for us early morning as we wanted to return to Siliguri ASAP. We started our sightseeing activity from Rumtek monastery (largest monastery of Sikkim) and ended with exotic orchid show along with Enchey monastery, Do-drul stupa.
Gangtok is a blend of the traditional and modern, where modern concrete multi-storied structures clings to the hillside along with stupas and monasteries; buddhist prayer flags flutter with the mountain breeze; young college girls in trendy dresses while elderly matrons clad in traditional 'bakus' and lamas in colorful maroon.

Now, looking forward to travel to North Sikkim some day which we heard is more beautiful with valley of flowers and lakes to explore.

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...