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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 7

Today is the day.. today we’ll find out whether we will go to Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir, Nathu La.

I wake up with great hopes – hoping we have got the permits, and also a major headache. The sinus that had started acting up last evening has now become a full blown attack.

At breakfast we get a call that we have the permits for Tsomgo Lake, and Baba mandir. No permit for Nathu La. Hmm.. slight disappointment there. But at least we have permits for the lake.

Tsomgo Lake (also called Changu lake) is a glacial lake situated some 40km from Gangtok, and it is at an altitude of 12315 feet. Since this lake is located in a restricted area you need special permits to visit it.

We started immediately after breakfast – though Tsomgo Lake is just 40 km from Gangtok – the roads leading to it are too steep. Plus there are some restrictions at these places – one has to return by 2 pm.

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Critters against Litter – on the way to Tsomgo Lake

I clicked this pic while we were waiting at the police checkpost getting our permits verified.

So finally at Tsomgo Lake — and it’s so cold. I’m wearing 3 layers, plus a jacket, gloves and a beanie and still I’m cold ๐Ÿ˜€

If you open your mouth to speak it looks like you’re smoking – it’s that cold.

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The beautiful Tsomgo (Changu) Lake – calm, serene

I saw plenty of yaks at the lake .. You can go on a yak ride (costs around 300 Rs I think). I didn’t go on a yak ride – walked around clicking pictures of the lake, the clouds, yaks, the mountains .. I had to keep walking – it was freezing. ๐Ÿ˜€

The legend of Baba Harbhajan Singh is very well known. Baba Mandir is a very popular tourist destination – way too crowded here. There was a souvenir shop, but it was so crowded that I stepped out in just 5 minutes. Soldiers come here to pay their respects.

Since we did not have permits to go to Nathu La, we started our journey towards Gangtok. But there was a military museum/hall of fame on the way and we stopped there for some time.

On the way back we encountered a massive road block – don’t know the reason for that. Long line of vehicles – all patiently waiting for the road to clear. No honking, no abusing.

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Tsomgo Lake

We reached Gangtok around 3 pm and since everyone was hungry we decided to have lunch at the market. Strolled around old market, and M.G Road looking for a place to eat.

We found this place called “Taste of Tibet” on M.G. Road and decided to eat there. It was around 3:30 and that place was crowded. Too crowded – we had to wait for a while to get a table. It seems that place is popular with the locals as well. It’s a good thing – crowds, and being popular among locals. The food was good too. If you’re too particular about hygiene, then I don’t think this place is for you. This place reminded me of Udipi joints in Mumbai – always busy, eat and move on, sit wherever you find place – if you’re eating alone, or there’s place atย  your table someone can/will come sit next to you. The food is good and cheap as well. So if you’re looking for a quick bite, this is a good option in Gangtok.

The sinus was still troubling me so I walked back to the home stay after lunch.. didn’t go shopping or anywhere. At the market stopped to buy a jacket for my nephew – that was it. Needed some sleep.

The rest of the gang visited a place called Live and Loud Cafe in the evening. The band there covered a lot of good songs – Missed a lovely evening ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Our last evening in Sikkim.

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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 Tathฤgatha 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.ย  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 pointย  – a cliff overlooking the Gangtok valley, is at a short distance away from the registration office. So off we went in a rickety van ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.