Note: If you are traveling by train New Jalpaiguri is the closest railway station to Gangtok . If you are going by flight, nearest airport is the Bagdogra Airport.We went to the Pre paid taxi counter to book a cab to Gangtok but there were no cabs available then. So instead of talking to agents around us we preferred inquiring at the Information desk outside the NJP Station. The people there were very helpful and sweet, he asked about the number of people and accordingly arranged for an Innova for us. Good part the cabs outside said Rs 5000 for A/C cab whereas they arranged it for total of Rs. 4000/- till the hotel.
Day 4 did not go according to our plan. The actual Guwahati - NJP train was supposed to arrive at 10.30 p.m (i.e the night of day 3) and we were supposed to reach NJP at 6.30-7 a.m. But we didn't know that the train we booked was notorious for being late. Long story short, we boarded the train around 1 a.m and reached NJP at 3 p.m! You can connect the dots for what might have happened. So a small tip, check whether your train is on some kind of notorious list before booking the tickets.Now we had to go to Gangtok so that the next day we can start our North Sikkim trip.Two things to note about NJP:1. If you don't have a pre booked tour:  There are a lot of travel agencies from which you can choose. Things to consider before booking a package:• Route: Whether it covers the places you wanted to visit. We wanted to visit Gurudongmar lake, Kaala pathhar and Yamthung valley.• Pace: In how many days are they completing the route. There are basically two kinds, 'rush-rush' and comfortable. So decide according to your schedule, budget and health condition. (Because acclimatization to high altitudes requires time for some people. In that case, 'rush-rush' is a bad idea!)• Space in the vehicle: Whether there is enough space for you and your luggage. Do not try to cram yourself, it can get extremely uncomfortable for such a long journey.• Stay and food: This one is just to be on the safer side. Opt for a package which includes stay and food because Lachen and Lachung doesn't have many options for accommodation. 'We will cross that bridge when it comes' might not be the best approach here.2. If you have a pre booked tour (like we did): Don't go with ANY travel agents/drivers poaching around the station. They can be extremely mean and greedy. The actual cab fare from NJP to Gangtok is around Rs. 3000 (for a six seater). But these drivers were charging around Rs. 5000 because they have a union and no one will take you if you say no to even one of them. They will literally gang up against you.Also they have West Bengal registered vehicles so most of them can't even get you into Gangtok city as they don't allow non Sikkim registered vehicles inside their perimeter.In our case, we found a Sikkim registered vehicle who was dropping someone off from Gangtok to NJP and he was charging reasonably. But these 'union guys' threatened the poor fellow saying they will harm him physically and destroy his vehicle! We didn't want him to get into trouble for us. So we simply apologized and left.  A pro tip to avoid all this 'jhamela' would be to take an auto to the next nearby taxi stand around 15 mins away from NJP station and get a (Sikkim registered) vehicle from there. Finally when we reached Gangtok, it was past 10.30 p.m! Mind you, we were supposed to reach Gangtok before lunch so that we could take their ropeway tour or visit a monastery. Q.E.D : Day 4 DID NOT go according to our plan.
I had made it on time and walked right into the station to check which platform my train would be. The message on the board read - 15910 Avadh Assam Exp, delayed for 4 hours, expected arrival- 10.30.I had made it in time to read my delayed news but since in winter it gets dark by 5ish so I decided to wait it out in the station. 4 hours, how bad could it be.6-7PM: I called my cousin, informing her about my delayed train and spoke of her trip to northeast at the end of this month. Things she should get, warm clothes, etc. Then played with this baby who kept snatching the book I was reading for the next half an hour.7-8PM: Called another friend, started planning a trip to Goa for new years. Then I keep the phone and start reading my novel when an old lady comes up to me and asks about a train to the northeast. I reply I don't know and she just stands there and stares at me for the next 20 minutes until her train arrives.At around 8 the shopkeeper from a counter comes up to me and asks me to go sit on platform 1 or the waiting room as I was a girl sitting alone and that my train would be late. I left my seat (I was sitting on the floor)on platform 3 and headed towards platform 1.8-9PM: I took around 15 minutes to move my base from platform 3 to 1. I looked for a suitable place to set up my camp and finally right outside what is called the "upper class waiting area" I sit. I take a toilet break in the "lower class waiting area" and then headed back to reading my book9-10PM: Dear passengers, train no. 15910 is delayed by 8 hours and expected arrival is now 1.50 in the night. Inconvenience is regretted.Had another 4 hours on my hand now. Started staring at the ceiling. After I counted the number of rafters there were on the ceiling to support the roof I called another friend of mine. His words of encouragement included - oh once I was waiting in Delhi for my train which got delayed by 12 hours and then at the 13th hour then announced it has been cancelled. Of course, I cut the call soon after that and continued reading my novel.10-11PM: I notice a beggar trying to get into one of those plastic sheets as his sleeping bag. He was shivering. It was pretty cold. He then put his legs into the plastic tarp and pulls a dustbin down rummaging it for food I suppose. He doesn't find much. He then takes off the plastic from his legs and uses it as a pillow to try and sleep. His bare feet are exposed to the cold.Right in front of him is another poor guy, he is just sitting and shivering. Not doing anything but just sitting there. I take out my sketchbook and sketch this scene out. To remember.To not complain about not having this or that when these people are suffering so much in the cold, living day by day not knowing if they will have something to eat or wear the next day.
Paro to New Jalpaiguri (350 kilometers)We thanked the hotel owner for helping us with a place to stay and started the final stretch of the ride with mixed feelings. We would have loved to spend more time in Bhutan but our goof up of reaching Phuntsholing on a Friday made our stay a rather brief one. The long ride to Siliguri mainly comprised of reminiscing the memories of the last 15 days. Getting a mileage of 15 kmpl, the mustard fields of Bhalukhpong, the tough ride to Bomdilla, the skid on the black ice at Jaswantgarh, the beautiful sunset at Tawang, the trek to double decker living root bridge, the jump in the pool at rainbow falls, the boatride at Dawki, the Christmas Eve in Gangtok, meeting Biru out of nowhere, the fight for permits at Phuntsholing, the night stay in the cold roof attic, the trek to the tiger’s nest and now the ride back home, it was all coming back to us! We reached New Jalpaiguri station with 30 minutes left for our train to depart, gave back our motorcycle and boarded the train. Thus ending a honeymoon across the North East, a honeymoon of more than 3500 kilometers, a honeymoon of riding on hills, plains, off roads, ice, etc, a honeymoon of a million memories, a honeymoon unlike any other. :-)
Trip starts from NJP(train) or Bagdogda(flight). It was a 4-5 hour journey to Gangtok. The roads are really nice. I am sure you will enjoy your ride through the Sevok road which is a long stretch of road with teak plantations on both sides. After that starts the winding roads as you climb up alongside river Tista. On your right you will see the huge Coronation bridge which stands as a huge arch over the river valley. You will cross a checkpost at Rongpo which is the entry to Sikkim. In another hour from there you would reach Gangtok. Modes of transport: Book a car , Share jeep, Bus. (4-5 hours journey)You can rest on that day and roam about on MG road. Do some shopping at Lal market and enjoy steaming momos.