10 Day Road-Trip: Siliguri - Darjeeling - Gangtok - Namchi - Pelling 

Tripoto
24th Feb 2018
Photo of 10 Day Road-Trip: Siliguri - Darjeeling - Gangtok - Namchi - Pelling by Suraj Pisharody

This was a thrilling and life altering experience, starting from conquering our fears to interacting with the locals and respecting the local culture and cuisines.

Make sure to interact and connect with the locals as they'll help you find many hidden jewels of the place which you'd miss otherwise. Also never fail to try the local cuisines.

It all started on the New Year’s Eve when 4 of us, in an intoxicated state, decided to take a trip together. With not much planning, we booked our tickets within a week. We had decided to rendezvous at our friend’s place in Siliguri.

As we were done with our academic year, we all booked our tickets from our respective hometowns. So I ended up taking a hilariously lengthy train journey from Mumbai to New Jalpaiguri, lasting 46 hours, cooped up in a pressurised metal container; while two of my friends reached from Pune and Jaipur respectively.

Day 1

We regrouped at our friend’s place in Siiguri on a Monday Morning and decided to try the local cuisines including Momos and Thupka among other delicacies. We planned on taking a road trip to Koerseng, Darjeeling and Sikkim. We left for Kurseong that afternoon. The drive was for an hour and a half and it had something spectacular to offer. Now, this is my first trip to anywhere in the North India and I was fascinated by the beauty that I witnessed. Colourful mountain side houses on one side and a valley on the other, the drive was an exhilarating one. The mountain ranges were so breath-taking, I wanted to capture that moment and live in it forever. The weather was a little cloudy and too windy and it was cold enough to wear a jacket (or two). We arrived at Margaret’s Deck and had some tea and sandwich at Margaret’s Deck. This place is located on a cliff and has an amazing view of the mountain ranges and colourful mountain houses. We stayed there for around 2 hours as we were out of fuel and there were no petrol pumps nearby. So we waited for help to arrive. The wait seemed short because of the coolness in the wind and the extravagant scenery kept us hooked. We then left for home, back to Siliguri. After Dinner, we packed our bags for the next morning.

Margaret

Photo of Kurseong, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody
Day 2

We crossed the border in the evening and experienced one of the coldest evenings. Played a few games which helped us cope with the climate and eventually we dozed off.

The next morning we left for Pasupathi Nagar in Nepal. We stayed there that night and left the next morning to Darjeeling.

Indo - Nepal Border

Photo of Pashupatinagar, Nepal by Suraj Pisharody
Day 3

Once there, we arrived at the Batasia Loop where we had our breakfast and visited the memorial of the Gorkha soldiers who fought in the India’s war for Independence. . Then, we drove to Ghum Railway station which is the starting point for the Toy train that runs around the town, between the mountains, houses and roads. This was a new experience for all of us, because from where we come, we have never seen a railway track crossing right through the middle of the road or trains running so close to houses, you can literally touch their windows. The train spiralled its way through the loop, which is a lush green pathway and holds one of the most picturesque view ever. You can see vendors setting up their make shift stalls on the railway tracks itself and once they realise the arrival of the train along the track, they wrap their stalls with great speed steadfastness. Batasia Loop is known to have an amazing view of the nearby mountains and valleys but that morning it was a little too foggy and we weren’t fortunate enough to view that spectacle. The train twists and turns from the top of the mountain into the lushly depth and this makes it an enchanting experience. Later that day, we visited Mount Hermon School, which is one of the oldest schools in the country. Then we made our first Rope way trip from Singamari, which is at an altitude of 7000 ft, to 800 ft. We did the to and fro trip in just INR 200 which is very affordable. The view from the cable car covers lush green tea gardens, waterfalls and forests surrounded by mountain ranges.

Got each of us a bed, at Hotel Sunflower, which was close to the chowrasta – the social centre of Darjeeling, connects 4 different roads. One of the roads is called the mall road. It offers an open view of the snow clad mountain ranges with pine trees all around. The intersection has a huge flat land that is known to host various musical concerts and other gigs. The closeness of our hotel to the local market allowed us to explore it in much detail. We woke up at 4 am the next morning, and headed to TIger Hill to witness the beautiful sunrise beyond the Kangchenjunga mountain ranges, but we weren't fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of that beautiful moment because of the fog.

Day 4

view from Mall Road, Darjeeling which connects to the Chowrasta

Photo of Mall Road, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody
Day 5

We reached Gangtok and checked into Hotel Sikkim intercontinental. That afternoon, our first stop was Rumtek monastery where we spent quality time lighting the small lamps and learning about some of the Buddhist teachings. Next, we reached Banjhakri falls, which wasn’t much of an exciting place to visit. This place is beautiful and sere with places to sit around the falls. You can skip it from your itinerary if you wish. We were also lucky enough to paraglide at 1500 ft. Overlooking vast forests, mountain ranges and the entire city of Gangtok. This particular act of valor was filled us with adrenaline rush and the experience was exhilarating.

The whole experience was worth it for ₹3000 including ₹500 for GoPro services.

In the evening, we went to Ganesh Tok where we glimpsed a bird’s eye view of the entire city. Late that evening, we found our way on to MG road, which is the shopping hub of the state capital. Entry of any vehicle is prohibited here and you can find people from different parts of the country as well as the world, exploring the street filled with food marts and other shopping destinations. We did some souvenir shopping and later that evening, found ourselves an invite to a private party in one of the cramped up places. The night instantly turned young.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Suraj Pisharody

Rumtek Monastery

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Suraj Pisharody
Day 6

The next morning, we were awoken by the ringing of our room telephone, and we were informed that our ride Nathu La Pass has arrived. The only way to reach here is to drive from Gangtok. Nathula pass is one of the Himalayan passes in the country and it connects Sikkim with China. It was the connecting point of India and Tibet, and currently hosts the Indo-China Border. Because of security reasons, only the tourists of Indian nationality are allowed visit. Also, you can see the Indian Army Camps, all along the alpine ranges. Nathu La pass is 52 km from Gangtok and all the tourists and also the vehicles require permits for visiting, we were required to book our rides a day prior to our intended visit. The road leading to the pass are steep and slippery but well maintained. The drivers here are extremely cautious of the treacherous route. The tough terrain and innumerable sharp cliffs took us to Tsomgo Lake, approximately 25 kms from the city, which is located at an altitude of more than 12000 feet. Here we too k yak rides along the lake side and also went on to a nearby mountain slope, to drown ourselves in the captivating view of the lake and the alpines. After steering a few more kilometres upward, we stopped at a house which served as a small restaurant for tourists. Here we had some tea and wai-wai before making our way to the checkpoint where army personnel verify the identity documents before allowing to head towards the pass. Our hotel- driver dropped 5 of us (4 friends and our original driver from Siliguri). We walked along the steep unpaved roads towards a staircase which takes you to the Indo-China border. After climbing a few more steep steps, we were there! At 14,140 feet, enjoying the stunning view of the border and snow clad Himalayan ranges. We were shivering from head to toe. As we moved towards the higher altitude, we could feel the air pressure drop. We were breathing heavily as the air became thin. As we shivered in the cold, we witnessed the Chinese army personnel doing their regular rounds across the border. The border was so close, we could literally touch the Chinese army building across the border. With a patriotic essence in our minds, we started our descent and went back to the place we waited for a cigarette and tea, on our way up. The owners of the hotel, a couple, were very friendly and served us with rice, dal and Roasted Chicken which was one of the many delicious lunches we had. Then, we came back to our hotel. Later that evening we once again roamed around MG road and ended up at a place called ‘Café Live and Loud”. We fell in love with the place instantly because of the ambience as well as the price. The band that performed rocked our evenings. I suggest every tourist to visit this place if they are in or around Gangtok. We came to our hotel at around 12.30 am, with music in our hearts and alcohol in our bellies.

At an altitude of 14,140 ft.

Photo of Nathula, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Suraj Pisharody
Day 7

We woke up the next morning and started driving to West Sikkim at around 9 am. As we moved to the interiors, the temperature dropped further. On our way, we took our first halt of the day at Singtam to grab some tea and snacks. We headed to Sandruptshe hill which is at a height of 2134 metres. The hill hosts a giant statue of Buddhist Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Sikkim. The local monks offer prayers on a daily basis to prevent the dormant volcano from erupting. The hill also offers a scenic view of mountains with beautiful green forests touching the blue sky. After immersing ourselves in the beauty, we started tracing our route towards Namchi, the culture capital of Sikkim. Here, we visited Char Dham, mainly to see one of the biggest Statue of Lord Shiva, but we once again, weren’t fortunate enough to see the idol as the accumulated fog blocked our view completely. Disheartened, we headed towards Pellling and lodged ourselves at ‘Hotel Green leaf’ which boasts of a stunning view of the Kangchenjunga mountain ranges. In the evening, we went in search of Tongba, a millet based local alcoholic drink and found ourselves in a small hut of a local family, sipping hot Tongba, talking about their lives in the mountain ranges and tasting some local cuisines. This was a very life altering experience for all of us.

We woke up the next day to an alluring view of the sun rising behind these snow clad mountain ranges. In that moment, standing in the balcony, witnessing the view of a lifetime, we were overcome by this incredible feeling of peace. Something about being in a trance, tripping on the natural high that this place emitted. Later that morning, we left to see the Singshore Bridge which is the second highest bridge in all of Asia. The view here is amazing. Then we found ourselves heading to Kangchenjunga falls which is a hidden gem in Pelling. It is not visible unless you find your way inwards. We headed back to our hotel after having lunch at Cherry resort. This place offers a very good home stay options for all wanting to visit at cheap rates. Pelling doesn’t have much of a banking facility and most of the hotels don’t accept card or any other mode of payment. So it is preferable to carry sufficient cash with you on your way here.

Pelling

Photo of Pelling, Sikkim, India by Suraj Pisharody

Tongba

Photo of Pelling, Sikkim, India by Suraj Pisharody
Day 9

The next morning, we headed back to Siliguri, with memories of a lifetime. The whole trip was an experience of utter calmness combined with exciting and adventure. Boarded the train the next morning from NJP (New Jalpaiguri) back home.

Tea garden

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody

View from our hotel room in Pelling

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody

Singshore Suspension Bridge

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody

Sunrise along the Kanchenjunga range

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Suraj Pisharody
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