Last year, 2015, I was blessed to have visited North East (India), covering Gangtok – Pelling – Darjeeling over a span of around 9 days. It is a ‘must visit’ place for all of us who appreciate the simpler & finer things in life.
We were around 15 of us! & we decided to travel by train, since we happened to have a lot of time at our disposal and also because we wanted to keep the trip extremely economical. Since we were such a large group it was quite easy for us to sit through the 48 hours long journey! However, for people travelling in smaller groups & / or willing to spend on air tickets (which if booked in advance could come quite cheaper), flights are absolutely recommended. Siliguri is the closest railway junction & airport to Gangtok. We started our much awaited trip with Gangtok, which is a modern city with well laid out infrastructure, sorted public transportation & stylish market places. What instantly attracted me to the city was its cleanliness! Some of the main places to visit around Gangtok are - Tshangu Lake, Baba Mandir &Nathu La (Indo China border). Taxis / cabs are easily available to all these places (be ready to haggle). However, be ready for a long jolting drive dangerous enough to scare the shit out of you, unless you are an adventure freak like me! The roads connecting Gangtok to all these places are very narrow (at specific places), slippery (during rains) & also under construction (at least they were till a couple of months back). However, the drive was beautiful & not one to be missed. The downpour here will scare you & the city becomes spooky during late evenings. I would recommend every traveler to walk the roads of Gangtok post sunset; especially if as a teenager you have visualized yourself as part of ‘The Famous Five’ adventures. I lived the book here! This was one experience that will stay with me forever.
We spent 2 days in Gangtok & then headed to the next destination – Pelling.
Pelling is Nature’s paradise. It is a distinct, quaint and a ruggedly lovable town, nestled at an altitude of ~7200 Feet in the district of West Sikkim.
The town, divided into Upper, Middle & Lower Pelling, is hardly a few streets, dotted with cozy hotels & tiny eateries serving ‘momos’ (dimsums) & spicy ‘chai’ (tea)!
The town’s hillside is adorned with thick bamboo trees and pink lilies.
The drive from Gangtok to Pelling was enchanting & seemed endless; one of the prettiest drives I have ever been on! It was the beautiful! & you must count the number of waterfalls on the way, irrespective of the size, of course! You will be amazed. The waterfalls on the way to Pelling together can fill up an ocean! Pelling is a place for self-adventure. It is not as commercialized as Gangtok or Darjeeling. Tourists are far lesser & it is quiet & serene. It is one place where you can go anywhere & walk any road! I went on several self-treks with my husband, during the wee hours of the morning, which is the best time to get lost in the beauty of the place! During one such trek, we wandered into an enclosure of thick bamboo trees where we heard a bird singing or whistling actually. It was the most melodious whistle ever. I was so enchanted by it that I sat there (not sure for how long!) recording the bird’s whistle. I also attempted whistling back to the bird (stupid I know!). Every time I whistled the bird replied back with its unique whistle, or so I felt! It was my first conversation with a bird & hence I did not know what to make out of it! Nevertheless, it was the best conversation I have had with anyone so far! While the local site-seeing guys will tell you several places in & around Pelling worth visiting, ‘Rabdantse Ruins’ is one of the best places to go. You will have to walk up to this place (quite a long walk) but the ruins are worth it. From the top of the ruins look down at the thick trees & valleys & look up at the clouds & sky & you would feel you are hanging in the middle of both with no earth under your feet!
In all, Pelling is known for its breathtaking greenery, unbelievable landscapes & ice-cold waterfalls.
But it is most known for the stride-stopping, jaw-dropping view of the Khangchendzonga that the town offers at dawn!
Darjeeling was our last destination. The drive to Darjeeling was another one of ‘never-to-be-forgotten’ drive with ‘greener-than-green’ tea gardens! However, the condition of some part of the roads connecting both the places was quite pathetic. The first sight of the hill station was quite chaotic with narrow lanes full of people & taxis with shops on both sides. I hardly believed that it is a hill station! However, as I moved up leaving the bustling streets & shops behind me, I realized that it is indeed one of the most beautiful hill stations I have ever seen. That’s the beauty of Darjeeling. It’s not seen instantly. You have to work hard to see it. But it’s worth all the effort. I found my own secret corners in the streets of Darjeeling, from where I appreciated its beauty. From one such secret corner, I saw clouds moving towards me slowly covering the entire valley. I felt those clouds on my face & I also felt them getting converted into tiny droplets of water. I saw the creation of rain. It felt like talking to God. That moment was heaven for me, one which will stay with me forever. I would recommend to all travelers, go find your secret corner there; one that you would not have to share with anyone!
The tea estates are the main attractions of Darjeeling, which are found mostly on the way, other than that the Ghoom Monastry & Batasia Loop trip by Toy Train is another excitement. However, the toy trains are extremely slow. If you can beat that, it is a must-try! This trip of mine was more about the journey & less about the destinations. I think I did not even care much about where I was going! Because the journey was way too enchanting & beautiful! It is a ‘must-go’ place for every traveler who enjoys living the journey.