A Solo Sojourn - Gangtok

Tripoto
28th Sep 2016
Photo of by Devraj Jee
Day 1

I was always apprehensive about doing solo trips. It was one of the things I knew I wanted to do but somehow always found reasons not to. However, with a week free in the middle of classes and with most of my friends in Europe on student exchange, I knew that this was the best shot I had. And so I stuffed my backpack and took off on my first visit to the Northeast. 

Day 1 was familiar turf, my train pulled into Calcutta in the wee hours of the morning and after a delightful cab ride I was at Flury's feasting on some delightful tuna sandwiches and Darjeeling tea. I then took a long walk all the way to Victoria Memorial where I spent most of the morning sitting in the lawn by the lake and exploring the museum exhibits. Another long walk back, I visited F Bloc, the geek-paradise that's tucked away in a basement on a lane close to Park Street and after spending an inappropriate amount of money, I found a nondescript dive bar where I  befriended a middle-aged man with alcohol issues over a bottle of Budweiser.

Arriving at Bagdoghra airport and booking a prepaid cab, I set off on the long drive to Gangtok. A treat in itself, the fresh mountain air was a welcome change after the months spent in Jamshedpur. It was dark by the time we hit the mountain roads but the driver knew the route like the back of his hand and expertly navigated them while I sat in the back drinking beer out of cans, with the sound of crickets and and the Teesta to give me company.

Arriving at my hotel which I had booked online I got the staff to cook me some food and I crashed soon after.

Photo of Kolkata, West Bengal 700001, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kolkata, West Bengal 700001, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Kolkata, West Bengal 700001, India by Devraj Jee
Day 2

The first view in the morning was a treat. I had the full view of the entire valley from my room and was told I could see the Kanchenjunga too if the clouds obliged. I was aware of how pedestrjan-friendly the town is and so took off on foot to seek out the one place I knew I needed to visit.

Cafe Fiction/Rachna Bookstore is a bibliophile's paradise. With a cafe on the ground floor, a bookstore on the 1st and a BnB above that, it made me regret my hotel choice instantly. The books were all serious literature and there were enough couches to sit around and explore them too. So that's what I set to do, accompanied by an incessant flow of tea, sandwiches and jazz music. As I was about to leave, I got talking to some locals who had also been in the bookstore all afternoon and as it turned out, their friends were in a band that was performing that night. And that's how I found a date for the evening.

Cafe Live 'n Loud is a few minutes walk from MG Marg. The band sang some really popular songs while I got roaring drunk with my new friends and later with the members of the band. They say you judge a place by its people and these people who I had met a few hours back dropped an inebriated-me back at my hotel safe and sound, and thus I was sold.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Day 3

Got up late, hungover and proceeded to Taste of Tibet for lunch, something that had been recommended by any local I had asked. After plenty of momos and a bowl of Thukpa, I was wandering around when I found a place with good rock 'n roll and beer served on the rooftop overlooking MG Marg. I sat there reading all afternoon after which I proceeded to the post office to send a few postcards.

Strolled over to Live 'n Loud to catch the same band playing the same songs and then was walking back along an empty and deserted MG Marg late at night where I literally stumbled into a basement bar where another band was performing called MGM. Drunken euphoria was thus attained.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Day 4

Another typical day that started with lunch and beer at The Golden Dragon followed by a tour with a cab driver/guide who showed me some local sights like the Emchey Monastery and Hanuman Tok from where I finally saw the Kanchenjunga. After a few waterfalls and another monastery he dropped me back at MG Marg where I had dinner at Baker's Cafe and then spent the night listening to another band performing at MGM, with some new friends one of whom was a policeman off-duty and another was a backpacker from Israel.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Day 5

Last day in Gangtok and I started early for Nathula Pass on the Indo-China border. It was the single-best road trip I have ever made as we navigated through treacherous roads that, literally had us driving through the clouds. The driver was a pleasant guy who drove carefully and slowly, while regaling me with local folklore and stories of his own life. We arrived at Nathula at 14000 feet in about 3 hours. Temperatures were close to 0 degrees and oxygen was scarce which left me huffing and panting while regretting the fact that I never thought to bring actual warm clothes. Since this was the first time I had visited a border, the whole experience of standing just a foot away from China was surreal. On the other side one can see the towering snow-clad peaks of Tibet pockmarked by Chinese observation posts. But unlike the Indian side which was teeming with tourists there was hardly any movement on that side. Having collected my visitation certificate and paid my respects to the war memorial, we visited the Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, dedicated to an army man who was martyred in the border skirmish. Set beside a glacial lake which, in one of the best images of the trip, had clouds caressing the surface, the temple is maintained by the army who believe the spirit of the Baba keeps them safe and protects them. We also stopped at the Changu Lake on our way back which was a very scenic lake with yaks in beautifully colored garb. I was back in Gangtok by 4 pm, having started at 7 am and bid adieu to the place the next morning.

Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
Photo of Nathula, Sikkim, India by Devraj Jee
1 Comment(s)
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Devraj, Great trip to Gangtok.. Happy drinking../.
Mon 10 17 16, 03:05 · Reply (1) · Report
I forgot to mention, erstwhile Bollywood bad man Danny Danzongpa stays in Gangtok and brews this beer which is available throughout the state - Dansberg. Highly recommended
Mon 10 17 16, 20:39 · Report