If I tell you that this time as well I was able to get a inexpensive ticket, probably you would look at me as some kind of budget-air-ticket-freak :), but yes that’s what the truth is, of course with its own share of twists and turns. Read a related story on ‘ bitten by a air deccan reservation system bug’ in your spare time. Even though I had to spend lot of money to book a fresh ticket, But Captain has agreed to refund some part of it and the expense would be around 22K odd for a pack of 6 people + a kid.
We started in the morning, took a flight to Baghdogra, landed by 12ish and by 1 PM we were slowly moving out of Baghdogra and the Siliguri. Baghdogra has nothing much except this Air force airport (which is enough, I will tell you in another story), Siliguri is more of a trader’s town and there are not many good reason to stay there. In couple of hours, we were at West Bengal – Sikkim border. Couple of more hours and we were close to Gangtok. Its about 124 Km away and its a hilly drive and usually it takes about 5 hours to finish this journey. The drive is pretty nice as you go along Teesta, green and calm, there isn’t too much of traffic either.
Day 1 , June 7, 2007
Reached Gangtok at about 5’0 clock. Its not a very big city and after checking-in in Hotel Delamere (pretty decent hotel), we spent most of our evening looking at stuff on M. G. Road. This road is no different then the usual Mall Road at various hill stations, the good thing is that its closed for vehicular traffic in the evening, so you can stroll easily and it makes life easier.
On first evening, we (at least some of us) were fascinated by those fancy liquor bottles. Probably you wont see these things unless you to to Diu or may be Goa. These are normal bottles but are in those special shapes, like Khukri, Old Monk bottle actually looks like an Old Monk, then there is this set of miniature bottles which you can buy and possibly gift someone.
To reach M. G. road, you take a right from the main city road. Right at that joint, look for a liquor shop on your left. Its proprietor is S. N. Gupta (or something similar) and is run by a boy called ‘Guddu’. Its a level below the road, people who are familiar with hill architecure would understand this better, so you climb down a few steps. If you enter the shop and tell him that his name is on Ghumakkar,he might give you some little discount.
So after general timepass, we came back to hotel and after couple of rounds of much needed liquid, we all crashed.
Day 2, June 8, 2007
We took two maruti vans since you can’t hire a bigger vehicle for city trip and headed for lingdum monastery. It was about 24 KMs away and the drive is worth it. One the way we stopped at some water-falls which is being converted into a tourist spot. we could not go close to the fall because some construction work was going on there. To support tourists better, government is spending (investing) some money on infrastructure things.
Lingdum is one hell of a building in no where. Just like all the monasteries there is a large central atrium with some flag-post in the centre. There are lot of monks around, who I guess stay there as students. Its very calm and soothing and if you are in good weather then its really worthwhile to spend few hours there. There is a very small canteen to get you chips and cola and sheer natural beauty. Inside it, there is a very large figure of Gharwand Rimpoche. I forgot all the other details which our drive painstakingly told us but its very beautiful.
From there we moved to Rumtek which is by far the most talked about and most visited Monastery. Unless you are old or sick or injured, you would need to climb a highly steep short pathway amid lots of other folks. The main big difference between Lingdum and Rumtek is the no of people who visit these places. Almost every tourist who visits Gangtok goes there once. The high point of Rumtek is the gold-deity, he god’s statue is done in gold and its one of the very few (or only) where this can be seen. There are shops where you can have jhaal-murhi or maanch-bhat or even a shot of whisky.
Just before Rumtek, there is a botanical garden. Not too big to too great to write home about but if you have an interest in plants and can appreciated different kinds, pay a visit. As you climb down, there is a point from where you can get good views. We were pretty tired by now so we headed back to hotel.
Evening was spent paying visit to M G Road and buying other small things and getting a feel of the town.
Day 3, June 9 2007
I have a small baby and I was not too sure on whether we should venture towards Tsongo Lake and Nathula so we skipped. My brother and sis-in-law did go there and I will request them to share their experience.
Rest of us decided to explore more of city, so we first headed towards the crafts shop which is run by the government. Not at all impressive but possibly one of the better shops to buy that traditional women dress, the one which is more like a full skirt + sleeveless top. There is some ok furniture and if you are interested you can see artisans doing the stuff but overall more hyped then what the value is.
To reach here, you go past the Institute of Tibetology and then after crossing the massive mansion called Raj Bhawan (CMs residence), you climb quite a way up and find this small and lovely monastery. We saw lot of young monks (5 years old to 10 years old) and we actually waded through clouds. Its an old building with the usual setup. We had some good time in weather and then started towards Zoo.
All the while it was raining and if you love rains then you would love being on hills because most of the times its not really pouring cats and dogs but it rains all the time. The zoological park or Zoo is very interesting in Gangtok. Actually its more of a captive national park. It was raining very heavily by then so we could not do lot but we did see Snow Leopard and probably this is the only place where you can see Red Panda. Leopard was in custody :) but for Beers you would have to be lucky enough since they are in wild open. Its spread in a large area and seemed like a very apt refuge for lovebirds, even in that rain, we could spot a couple who climbed all the way up to get a good view sitting on a bench overlooking jungle and sky.
So far so good, came back to MG Road, had lunch, more shopping.
As you enter MG Road, keep going straight and just at the far end, look on your right, you will see stairs going down and alongside stairs there is a market. Its called Lal Market and this is one of the real inside markets of Gangtok. You would see the standard stuff of T-Shirts, Umbrellas, Cheap chinese toys, cassettes but amid this you can also find a decent inexpensive cofee bar which serves cofee and liquor. We also bought a pair of tea-mugs, the ones which have a lid. I also got to see a 24 hour clock, was aware that it exists but have seen it for the first time. By then our folks from tsongo were back as well.
we celebrated Pihu’s birthday in the evening and closed the day with aching legs, it was still raining outside.
Day 4, June 10 2007
The day was clear. We started at around 9, had to take a whole long by-pass route since after 10, they dont allow taxis to one side or some shit like that. On the way, we encountered a truck which has gone turtle, no one was hurt. It took a while to clear that. Teesta was still flowing majestically.
If you have time, you can possibly plan a rafting trip on the way back. I forget the name but its somewhere midway between Baghdogra and Gangtok.
We reached airport in time, had beer at the airport which is very relaxing and flew back home.
Delhi was at 47 degree celsius at the port and when captain informed us about this, there was a flutter within the aircraft, a few heavy hot hits of air and we realized that we were back.
I was settling few other things so it took me a while to write this and I forgot lot of things so I am requesting other folks to complement or write a new one.
look at http://picasaweb.google.com/adi02.c/Gangtok for more pics.