"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."
The year,2015, has turned out promising so far. In these last 6 months, I have travelled and explored more than that I had in last 3 years;- a couple of trips to Mumbai, a weekend trip to Vizag-Araku Valley, a weeklong trek to Har ki Dun and a short international tour. Then I got another opportunity to quench my thirst for travel: a ten-day long trip to Gangtok. Life is good.????
We, a group of 11 friends, set out on a journey that will be cherished for the rest of our life. The only twist in the plot is that I was jobless by the time we started the journey. I had resigned from the job to pursue higher studies. So this trip was on a tight budget. But the best thing was that I had all the time in the world.
We embarked on the train Puri-KYK Express. This was a direct train to NJP(New Jalpaiguri) via Howrah. I boarded the train at Puri and the rest joined me at Bhubaneswar.
Train No- 15643: Departure from Puri- 10:15 PM - Arrival at NJP- 6:55 PM (Duration- 20:40 Hour)
It was a looong journey ! The worst part was that we had booked in SL class in those scorching heat. And we had to pay for that. We have felt the heat each second of that journey. It seemed like a never ending journey. Finally we reached NJP railway station at around 8 PM. It isn't feasible to go to gangtok during night. So we stayed at a near-by hotel and finalized the next day itinerary and pricing after consulting two-three tour operators. Most of the tour operator won't include zero point in the itinerary and they will say to pay a lump-sum to the driver directly. Actually, it is an income source for the driver. They normally take INR 200-300 per person to include Zero point, but then only it is the sole discretion of the driver. We finalized with a tour operator and told him to include zero point to the itenary. After a little hesitation, he agreed finally. The itinerary of the first phase was like this...
Day-1: NJP to Gangtok drop - 2 Boleros, 3 Rooms
Day-2: Gangtok to Lachen; Nightstay at Lachen - 2 Boleros, 3 Rooms with Food
Day-3: Lachen-Gurudongmar Valley-Lachen-Lachung; Nightstay at Lachung - 2 Boleros, 3 Rooms with Food
Day-4: Visit to Yumthang valley and Zero Point and Gangtok Drop; Nightstay at Gangtok - 2 Boleros, 3 Rooms with Food
Day-5: Visit to Baba Mandir and Nathula pass and Gangtok Drop
Total People- 11
Budget Per Head- ₹ 8000
Reference- Siddhi Vinayak Tour & Travels , http://www.siddhivinayaktout.com, M-9932418236, 9746848714
(Good Service, but keeps high margin ! Need some bargaining power while booking. If you don't have any contact, then you can go for this. The office is just in front of NJP Railway station.)
Another good option is to cotact the drivers directly or to go for shared service. This will save your few bucks without any doubt.!
After finalizing the itinerary we went to the hotel(Hotel Tirupati) and had our dinner. Due to the long train journey, everybody was so tired that within seconds everybody fell asleep.
As instructed, two boleros reached in front of the hotel at 5 AM. The journey started at around 5:45 AM. After passing through the NJP area, we passed through a long stretch of lush green sanctuary area. Excellent road elongated like a straight line, tall trees at both sides with different shades of greeery and the local music inside the bolero: a nice start I'd say.
After sometime we got the glimpse of River Teesta- flowing like a furious rebeller, a companion that was with us throughtout the journey. Whereever we went, it followed us.
The road was getting rough with so many ups and downs and curvatures with the pass of time. In those turtuous roads, our driver was driving at 60-80KM !! I was sitting at the front seat. It was totally like a roller-coaster ride for me. At some points, I did feel that we were gonna bumped onto some vehicle or gonna shoot from some U-turn like curves. We stopped at Mirik for breakfast. Hotel Anand is a good option there. Then we resumed the journey. On the way, we came across a few landslide points.
The road was getting narrower. At one point we got stuck so badly that one had to literally get out of the bolero and to stop the vehicles coming from the other side.
Then we entered Sikkim. The security personnel checked our ID Proofs and let us in.
The road started getting congested and crowded. The bolero droped us at the Taxi-stop and from there we caught a taxi to the hotel. The taxi dropped us just in front of the hotel. We checked-in at the hotel Sunshine and had some rest. The view from the room was awesome.
We submitted the Xerox copy of our ID Proof and 4 passport size photographs to the hotel manager who was looking after our passes for Nathula, Gurudongar and Zero point. Most of the areas are military base. So to visit one must have the entry pass.
Sightseeing at Gangtok:
We had our lunch at a nearby hotel and thought of exploring Gangtok. We booked three sightseeing taxis(Alto) for seven point Sightseeing. The cost was ₹ 800 per taxi.
This was the first point in the route. Not so happening spot, but can be travelled once. There was also rope-way facility available. There was a small Bakthang garden in the front, a good place to click some photos.
There are hundreds of monasteries in Sikkim. We went to Gonjang Monatsery. The environment was totally peaceful. One can also see a bird's eye view of the town from here. A lot of other important monasteries are also nearby Lingdum Monastery, Rumtek Monastery etc.
Nothing exceptional here. The view is good and can be visited once.
By the time we reached there, it was cloud all-over the place. A statue of Lord Ganesh is worshiped here. The environment is soothing and peaceful here.
5. Flower Exhibition Center:
A nice place to click some photos and spend some time.
There was another waterfall and botanical garden on that route. We weren't interested in those. Then we went to MG Road. This is a very important area in Gangtok. Most of the market place can be found here only. There is also a Lal market nearby. We explored the MG market area, tried some local delicacies.
A few antique pieces from the market
The atmosphere was pleasing and it was drizzling continuously. At around 9PM, we returned back to our hotel and called it a day.
I'll share my experience of Gurudongmar valley in my next post. Due to shortage of time, I'm posting this trip in five parts. Stay tuned !!