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Sikkim Diaries – day 8

What a way to welcome your last day in Sikkim. Woke up to rain, and thunder and lightning!! Such awesome weather. The weather gods were unhappy that we’re leaving Sikkim, and that showed 😉

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Rain, thunder and lightning – waking up to this view

My flight back home is tomorrow, but the plan was to leave from Gangtok today and reach Siliguri by evening. The distance between Gangtok and Bagdogra is ~130 km, but sometimes mountain roads get blocked. Didn’t want to be in the mad race from Gangtok to airport on a Sunday morning.

Yeah, obviously we didn’t set off from Gangtok directly towards Siliguri. There were a few pit stops along the way.

Bags loaded into the cars, and we were off. Bye bye Sikkim 😦

First stop along the way – Do drul Chorten in Gangtok. There are 108 prayer wheels around the stupa. The rain hadn’t stopped yet – it was drizzling. Didn’t stay here for a long time.. just walked around clicking pics. There was a glass enclosure full of oil lamps. Don’t know what it’s called, or why the lamps were lit. But it looked so beautiful.

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do drul Chorten – this is quite a climb!

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oil lamps

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Prayer wheels

The next pit stop was the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, also in Gangtok. It was not a part of the itinerary, but whoa .. what a place. Glad we visited it. This museum is very close to the do drul Chorten. It’s a nice place to visit if you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism. Small, but an impressive collection of artifacts. Neatly labelled too. We spent a lot of time here looking at the artifacts. One thing that bugged me here was the noise, and the crowds – since it is listed as one of the “must visit” locations the place was full of tourists. Not that it is a bad thing but at least keep the chatter down to a minimum – it’s a museum. :/

Anyway – nice place. And yeah, a “must visit” too. There’s a small souvenir shop too. I bought some postcards from this place as well (had bought postcards from other places too)

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Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok

With that we started our journey towards Siliguri. It was a pleasant drive – the rain had brought down the temperature.

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Pleasant climate along the way – Gangtok to Siliguri

Oh, there was one more stop before we reached Siliguri – RAFTING!! We stopped at a rafting site – along the Teesta river.

 

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Rafting – Start point

So Rafting, and then a quick chai break and we were on our way. No certificates for rafting .. Paragliding was good 😉

So after a long, long drive – we finally reached Siliguri. This was our last stop before we all left for our respective destinations the next day.

The drive to Siliguri was pretty long – but the awesome company and the great music in the car didn’t make it boring.

So Siliguri at last – checked in (yeah, check in – this was not a homestay like everywhere in Sikkim), refreshed and a chai/snack break done. The group decided to head out and explore a place called Hong Kong market in Siliguri. I decided to give it a miss – hopefully didn’t miss much.

I did join the rest of the group for dinner – after they returned from the hong kong market. Last evening together – a bit sad, but happy, and glad that I made this trip – met 7 amazing people, and was going back home with great memories.

 

 

 

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Sikkim Diaries – day 6

Good Morning, Kewzing! Woke up to a lovely view of the sunrise … Wanted to get a sunrise pic so picked the mobile and started clicking. Think I should have clicked a few with my camera as well.. Ah, anyway.

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Good Morning, Kewzing.

Technically not a “sunrise” picture .. I was too mesmerized by the view to think of taking a picture 😀 I had initially planned to capture the sun just peeking from behind the mountain.. but you can see the sun has already crossed the peeking point.

We had planned to start immediately after breakfast and proceed towards Gangtok – our base for the next 2 days. We had to start as early as possible because we wanted to go paragliding at Gangtok (weather permitting ;)). Plus there was another reason for reaching Gangtok early – the permits for Tsomgo lake, Baba mandir, and Nathu La. The permit office closes at 6pm, so we had to reach Gangtok before that.

So goodbyes said to our lovely hosts (the kitties included), and we set off for Gangtok .. There’s a Buddha Park at Rabong (Ravangla) just a short distance from Kewzing and we wanted to explore that too. Rabong means wet goat in the local language (Ra-goat, bong-wet) This place (also called Tathāgatha Tsal) was consecrated in 2013 by the Dalai Lama and it has a 130 foot statue of Buddha. We reached way too early – the ticket window was closed and we had about 30-40 minutes to kill. So we decided to walk around and explore the place. Not before clicking the Buddha statue, and the prayer wheels from the outside.

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Tathagatha Tsal, Rabong

And sure enough we came to a monastery gate – Mani Choekerling complex, Rabong. The monastery was closed for some restoration/repairs work but we spent some time outside – taking pictures.

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the monastery – closed for restoration work

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Prayer wheels at the monastery

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The plaque at the monastery entrance

I think we spent an hour at the monastery.. but soon it was time to go and visit the Buddha Park. The ticket window was open, so we purchased our tickets (Rs 50) and went inside.

 

Lot of people inside the park, but it wasn’t overcrowded or noisy. Saw a lot of people praying.  The statue is on top of a shrine like place – plenty of wall murals on the life of Buddha inside this place. Saw some people meditating.

Next stop – Gangtok. But first PARAGLIDING!! We reached this paragliding place – Adventure Zone and found out that we have to wait for a while – 1. because all the pilots (paragliding instructors) were already out, and 2. the wind. You need a fair bit of wind for your flight. So there was nothing we could do but wait for the pilots to be free, and also the wind to pick up some speed. We registered ourselves – weigh in done, and signed a form, and had a quick lunch (chow mein, maggi, wai wai noodles).

Soon the wind picked up, and it was time to fly. The paragliding start point  – a cliff overlooking the Gangtok valley, is at a short distance away from the registration office. So off we went in a rickety van 😀

While we were getting ready for the flight – setting up the parachute, harnesses etc, my heart was pounding – so loud that I thought the others could hear it. So all set and I was asked to run towards the edge of the cliff for the take off. So.. THIS IS IT! With a pounding heart, the rush of adrenaline I run towards the cliff, and the next thing I know I’m flying. Whooo!! What a feeling. That rush. I AM FLYING.

The paragliding people give you a small camera that can be attached to your gear, so that you can take video of you flying. But I didn’t take it. I just wanted to fly and enjoy the view. Once air borne I spread my arms – Titanic King of the World pose 😉 I didn’t have to control the parachute, so why not! The landing was as smooth as the take off. I was asked to keep my legs straight slightly above ground level to avoid any injury. With smooth action we landed – it was a military sports ground. Wow. Wow. What an experience that was! I flew. Nothing can beat that.

Back to the registration office – some had opted to carry the camera, so they had to get their videos transferred on their phones. Oh, and we were also presented with certificates. So there’s your proof 😉

With that awesome memory we proceeded towards Gangtok, and our home stay for the next 2 days. We had the evening free to walk around the city, explore the markets, and the cafes. So after a short break, we set out for M.G Road – probably one of the most famous destinations in Gangtok.

I didn’t find M.G. Road thaat great – it’s just like any other shopping street, but the old market just after M.G Road looked like a good place to shop. Another experience of how early the city shuts down when we entered a coffee shop and found they were taking the last orders for the day. The place shuts down at 8 pm, and it was 7:45 when we entered. They did take our orders – and while we were waiting, and also when we got our food and were eating we saw the coffee shop staff winding up.. shutting down counters etc. Haha! Can’t imagine this scene in Mumbai.. 8 pm is when most of the places are just coming alive.

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Of course it does!

So ‘dinner’ done, and we walked back to the home stay – a good nights sleep. Fingers crossed cos tomorrow is a big day. We’ll be going to Tsomgo Lake, Baba mandir, Nathu La – if we get the permits.

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pretty flowers, Gangtok

While we were roaming on M.G Road .. my sinus started acting up. Bad sign. Bad bad sign. Really want to be fully charged, fully fit for the trip tomorrow. Plus those places are at a higher altitude so needed a sound sleep too.

Went to sleep hoping to get the permits to these places, and also for my sinus to behave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sikkim Diaries – day 4

Woke up at 5 am again .. It has become a routine now – early to bed, and very early to rise. Might get used to it 😉

Long day ahead of us .. but first breakfast!

After a hearty breakfast we set off .. the first stop was Khecheopalri Lake. This lake is in the shape of a foot, and is considered to be a wish granting lake, and hence a sacred place. It is said that the birds in that area help in keeping the lake clean – they pick up any leaves that fall into the lake. We did not see any leaves or branches floating in the water – must be true 🙂

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The path leading to the lake was full of prayer flags – such a common sight all over Sikkim. Saw some people praying. Spent some time at the lake – so peaceful. so calm. Bought some postcards here, and then proceeded towards Kanchenjunga waterfalls. No idea why it’s called Kanchenjunga waterfall – no views of the mountain from here. The waterfall was .. well, a waterfall 😀 Nothing spectacular. Lots of people to see the falls though. I didn’t go right to the base of the falls but took the opportunity to click some slow shutter waterfall pics (they’re not that great though)

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slow shutter experiments 😀

Next up was Pemayangtse Monastery and we wanted to reach there around 3-3:30 pm – because that’s the daily prayers time. Reached the monsatery and were clicking pics when we heard sounds of chanting from one of the upper rooms – the prayer room probably. We followed the sound and went upstairs… There was a prayer room and we saw lot of monks praying – chanting, beating the drums. Trance music! We sat there – mesmerized by the praying. Sat there till the end of prayers. While the prayers were on, the monks were being served tea and samosas. Not one stopped midway to have tea or eat. Will power!

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Pemayangtse Monastery – prayer wheel at the entrance

From the monastery we could see the Rabdentse ruins – that was supposed to be our next (and probably the last) stop for the day. It was almost sunset when we reached Rabdentse. It’s a short (~30 min), uphill hike to the ruins.. and we reached when the sun was just setting. What a wonderful sight – ruins of the ancient palace and the golden hour light.

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Rabdentse ruins

It’s a beautiful place – all ruins are in some way beautiful. Quiet place to sit and think – about all the things you’re not going to do once you’re back in Mumbai 😉 (like uploading photos immediately)

The ASI has put up signs encouraging people to not give up and carry on trekking till they reach the ruins.

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Don’t Give Up!

On the way back to the homestay we stopped at a cute bakery and had some yummy pastries and meh! coffee. The coffee was a disappointment – it was the machine coffee. The brown syrup that I have at office everyday.

Back at the homestay, and I found they had managed to get a tv screen for the karaoke – aargh!. Throughout dinner time my brain was working overtime – thinking of all the excuses I could make to get out of this singing thing. Come on.. I didn’t want to scare anyone … my singing gives people nightmares 😉

The monastery and Rabdentse was definitely the highlight of the day – specially the ruins, that some of us decided to visit again the next morning before we left for Kewzing.

 

 

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REBOOT

Reboot? You mean the good ol’ Windows Ctrl+Alt+Del?

Yes, you guessed that right. This blog has been stagnant for so long, it needs a reboot. So, why am I doing this? Resurrecting the blog. I mean, I was perfectly happy with the way things were going .. One post every year! No one complained. No one missed the posts. So why change things? If it ain’t broken and all that …

Here’s why.

Just seen this 30 day Challenge on WordPress Daily Post. And I thought : Why not? I’m always up for a challenge. Plus this will give me a push to restart blogging again. Not a new year’s resolution, but it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while now.

The challenge is pretty simple. Every day they post a new assignment. And you blog about it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

So here’s my blog. REBOOTED.

Alright. Assignment #1.

INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Yikes!!

Two words that bring back school memories when you had to stand and introduce yourself to the class. Awkward. Way too awkward for me.

So, here’s a few things about me. The easiest way to introduce myself is … I’m the Queen of Procrastinators. Take a look around. This blog has been in existence since .. maybe the 1950’s. 😉 and I’ve been putting off updating it.
What I love – FOOTBALL (Soccer). I support the Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur, and also have a soft spot for the current BundesLiga champions, FC Bayern Munich. I love arguing/discussions about football, specially Spurs and FC Bayern.

Football is a passion, but I’m equally interested in all kinds of sports .. erm, maybe not Golf.  (no offense)

Some other things that keep me busy – Reading, Travel, Photography and Food.

I have no favourite genre or author .. I read. Just read. Recommend a book, and I’ll read it. Haven’t blogged about the books I’ve read. This seems like a good time to start.

I’m an outdoors person. I love hiking. Probably that’s what kick started my love of photography. You go out, see some amazing stuff  and you want to capture it. I’ve been maintaining a 52 weeks photo project blog for the past 2 years. It’s been one awesome journey.

Absolutely passionate about food. I think I picked up the cooking trait from my Grandmothers. Both amazing women, excellent cooks.

Ha! And now I’m running out of ideas .. Have so much inside my head that I want to write about. But.

Maybe that’s the reason this blog has suffered so much. I can’t get the stuff inside my head out on the blog. Is this what they call the writers block? Nah.

Ah. I haven’t mentioned where I’m from.

So here’s me.. from India. Born and raised in this beautiful city of Mumbai. True blue .. dyed in the wool Mumbai girl.

I guess that it. End of challenge 1. Looking forward to #2.

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13 weeks and counting

I have just entered week 13 of my 52 week photo challenge, and I’m gonna brag about it here.

I started this project in mid 2010. Actually, it started as a 365 photos challenge at the start of the year. I clicked the first photo of this project on January 1, 2010 and continued clicking one photo per day till mid March. Then I had to abandon this project, mainly due to lack of time, work pressure! And, there was no serious effort on my part to revive the project later when things slowed down at work. Then one rainy Saturday afternoon in July I decided to start all over again.

I had been reading some articles on Digital Photography School website, and saw an interesting article about ways to keep you motivated. So, the abandoned 365 project was out of the deep freeze. Since it was very difficult to keep up with the ‘one photo per day’ schedule, I decided to tweak the project slightly. Time was a major factor that influenced the scrapping of the 365 project. So, this time I decided to go with a safer option. Thus, the 52 weekends project was kick started in July. I created a blog for this project.

This is where I upload the weekly experiments, http://50twophotos.wordpress.com.

I had always shot on weekends. No matter how busy or stressed out my work week was. Weekend was my time to unwind, experiment with the camera. The 52 photos project seemed doable, and on July 18, 2010 I shot my first picture of the new project. And I haven’t looked back.

This week should have been week 15, but I missed 2 weeks due to many reasons. I’m determined to make up for it. Maybe do a 2 photos per week sometime, and get back on track. 13 weeks, and counting! I have covered one fourth of the journey, and I still have a long way to go.

What I’ve been doing been doing? In these 13 weeks, I have learned a lot about my camera, stuff I didn’t know, and about photography in general. I bought my camera (Canon 1000D) in March 2009, but I have yet to figure out all the knobs and controls on that beast. I attended two photo-walks, but didn’t quite enjoy the experience. Street photography isn’t my cup of tea. More on street photography later.  I also started reading about the various PP software, specifically about GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). And after 13 weeks, I think I’ve improved a lot. My photos are better that they were at the start of the year. I’m still learning, still a long way to go. And, as they say “Well begun is half done”. Quarter done, in my case.

That’s my quarterly progress report. A little pat on my back for the effort. Till the next quarter, keep visiting the 52 photos project blog.

See you on week 26.