Ghonday Village Resort
When we reached Kaluk it seemed heaven was melting. We came down the car and hurriedly made our way to the reception of the resort for checking in. We had seen travellers giving a 5/5 rating to the resort on www.tripadvisor.com but were really not expecting such a wonderful resort at such a remote location as this. Mr. Chaman Gurung at the reception greeted us with a hearty smile.
The resort is strategically located so as to provide a clear view of the Kanchendzonga from all the rooms and cottages. However, June being monsoon there were least chances of getting its view. The rooms are thoughtfully decorated with a balance of tradition and modernism.
Monsoon in the mountains is aesthetically pleasing. It can turn even the most prosaic person into a philosopher.
My favourite activity when I am on a holiday is to do nothing. Our suite at Ghonday Resort was an ideal place for this purpose. All one needs to do is to surrender his/her five senses to nature.
For some time we explored every corner of our suite where we would be spending the next 3days and 2 nights and knew at once that we had made the right choice. The best part was the huge glass door that opened into the balcony. Expecting the sun to set any time, we decided to spend our time in the balcony till then. As far as my eyes could see I could see nothing but never-ending ranges of mountains.
It had stopped raining then. Clouds were hovering over the mountain ranges giving a surreal feeling to the ambiance. The silence touched my soul. I had already fallen love with Kaluk. No wonder why Rabindranath Tagore had chosen to reside in the nearby Richenpong village for quite some time to write down some of his famous verses.
A knock on the door broke my reverie. It was the young boy ‘Krishna’ who had reached us to our cottage. He won our hearts at once with his benign smile.
Dusk was setting in. Chirping of crickets could be heard aggravating. The amplified sounds of thousands or maybe millions of hilly insects created a reverb all around. I shut the windows tight lest any insects come in. My panic of insects started at a trip to Lava in North Bengal in 2012. I shall share it with you sometime.
My first tryst with Kanchendzonga
It had rained incessantly the previous night. When my eyes opened the next morning, the clock showed 5.50 a.m. I went to the balcony to breathe in some fresh oxygen but instead stood there holding back my breath in awe. It surely must have been heaven. It was my first tryst with Kanchendzonga, the third highest peak of the world. All I said to myself was, ‘this can only be The Almighty’s creation’.
I quickly woke Kaushik up. We stood there for quite some time transfixed by the hypnotising beauty. The scale of magnificence made me feel so small. Now when I sit to write this travelogue, I fail to find appropriate words to appreciate it. A still photograph captured by a digital camera does little justice to the incredulous beauty.
The first rays of the sun, bathed the peaks of Kanchenjungha in a numinous golden light. The sunlight made the bizarre vision stark and vivid. I kept staring at it and a sense of reverence surged within me.
Slowly and silently amorphous clouds sheathed the Kanchenjungha range. Later we came to know that the range had come to sight after quite a long time and we were fortunate to have witnessed it. For the rest of the day my thoughts were consumed by the Kanchenjungha.
Post breakfast we set off for a short tour. In the morning Tara had called us up to inform that he was ill and that his friend Vikram will be taking us around Kaluk. Vikram was an equally cheerful guy with a constant smile affixed on his face. We headed for Pelling from where we would be visiting three places, the first one on our list being Pemyantse Monastery. Built in the 1705 this is one of the oldest and premier monasteries of Sikkim. ‘Pemyangtse’ means ‘Perfect Sublime Lotus’.
It has colourful doors and walls with Tibetan paintings. The monastery was built for ‘pure monks’ meaning monks of pure Tibetan lineage and without any physical abnormality. This practice still prevails. Pemyangtse Monastery is a part of the Buddhist Circuit starting with Dubdi Monastery at Yuksom, followed by Norbugan Chorten, Tashiding Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins, Sanga Choeling Monastery and the Khecheopalri Lake.
The monastery is located on a hilltop
The main prayer hall has the statue of Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche who revived Buddhism in Tibet). Being unknown to their form of religious belief, I could hardly identify the idols inside the monastery. There were about half a dozen idols of deities painted with a riot of colours.
Few candles were burning in front of the idols with a Sikkimese prayer song playing in the background. The walls were filled with paintings depicting Sikkimese forms of art. The prayer room on the ground floor is lined with series of decorated wooden stools with embroidered silk cushions of vibrant colours placed on them.
These stools I suppose are used to sit for prayer. The room was dimly lit with silk tapestries hanging from the ceiling. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the monastery so I am unable to share with you the same. I observed that Tibetans offer their Lord biscuits, cookies, whole fruits, mazaa (fruit juice) and the like for worship. That was quite different with what we offer to our Lord.
That is the beauty of religious belief. One Almighty, in so many forms, worshipped in so many different ways. Only if the world understood the true spirit of religion, it would have been a much better place to live in.
Just when these thoughts were wiggling though my mind, I saw Kaushik gesturing from the other end of the monastery to see something he had found. I went there, and man! Was I surprised? I was delirious with joy to see the panoramic view of the ruins of the ancient capital of Sikkim, Rabdentse, our next destination on list.
The cold wind exhilarated me. I could no longer restrain myself.
If you are an aficionado of history, then Rabdentse is a place not to be missed if you are on a trip to West Sikkim. Located on a ridge near Upper Pelling, Rabdentse was the ancient capital of the kingdom of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814. It was destroyed by the Gurkha invasion and now only the ruins of the palace remain. The remains of the palace have been declared as of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. The ruins offer panoramic views of Mt. Kanchendzonga.
Vikram dropped us at the point from where we were to trek about 1.5 km through forest to reach the ruins. A huge decorated gate leads to the trekking path. We started our journey through a stone-cobbled path through the forest. The path was narrow and dark. The forest was deep. There was not a person to be seen anywhere. It was super-thrilling!!
To keep the traveller’s spirits high, there are these boards at intervals along the track.
Our spirits being on the higher side, we reached our destination in about 20 minutes and it was worth the walk. To me, this place seemed like a time machine which took me some 300 or more years back. I could literally touch history. Every wall and every stone seemed to tell so many unheard stories.
Ruins of an ancient palace at the top of a hill was something to marvel at. There is quite a long story to the history of Rabdentse, which was carved on a stone sheet at the entrance and we took time to read it. Later I found that Wikipedia provides all such information as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabdentse . Nevertheless, once you are at the place, knowing or not knowing the history will matter very little.
Below you can see the three Buddhist Chortens/Stupas where the king and his family once used to meditate and offer prayers.
The place exuded spirituality from every corner. It seemed a perfect place to spend the afternoon. The serenity and tranquillity of the place caught on us at once. I silently applauded the then king who had chosen this place to build the palace. I could almost hear the chorus of trumpets and the echoing boom of drums reverberating around the ruins.
Hunger pangs alarmed us that it was time to leave for our next destination, one of the many eateries in Pelling. We left that choice to Vikram and we did not make a mistake by doing it. The place he took seemed to be popular among young folks of Pelling. A group of college boys and girls I suppose were enjoying themselves and it was noticeable that they were high on fashion quotient.
By the time our food arrived it had started raining. We dug into some piping hot chicken pakoras and warm soup which perhaps best complemented the damp weather. After lunch we got back on our car once again. I was worried that the rain might prove a spoilsport to our visit to the Singshore Bridge. But mountains bring surprises every moment. At Singshore Bridge we were floating in the sky.
Some information about Singshore Bridge
With a span of 198 metres and 220 metres in depth, Singshore Bridge near Pelling in West Sikkim is considered to be the second highest suspension bridge in Asia. It connects two Himalayan mountains. It is said that a coin if dropped from the bridge takes approximately 10 seconds to touch the ground. A chill down your spine is ensured when you look down from this architectural marvel.
That is how it looks like on a clear day. We were not lucky enough to be able to feel its height. However, foggy weather at Singshore Bridge is equally exciting. Standing in the middle of a hanging bridge, at 200 metres height, sheathed in cloud cover – The very thought of it gives me an adrenaline rush even now, sitting at home in Kolkata.
As cars passed through the bridge one at a time we could feel the bridge vibrating and swinging. It was scary, as visibility was not more than a foot, two feet at most and we were unable to see the cars approaching. There were only a handful of people apart from us on the bridge. I spread my ear and could hear the river flowing beneath.
A few toddlers who made their way to home from school ran hither and thither on the bridge. Everything around was white except for the hundreds of colourful flags which seemed trying hard to hold on to the thick metal ropes of the bridge lest the strong wind blows them away.
It was almost 4p.m. We started off for our resort. Later in the evening, as we sipped into the warm cup of coffee dusk started falling slowly. Watching the sun hide behind the mountains silently is something I love watching. It creates an ambiance that is a complete bliss. The chirping of the crickets grew stronger. It was our last night at Kaluk and like every trip I wished that we could spend another day at this wonderful place.
Information about the Kaluk accommodation:-
There are three resorts in Kaluk:-
(1)Mandarin Village Resort
(2)Ghonday Village Resort
(3)Richenpong Village Resort
Among them I found Ghonday to be at the highest level and with a clear view of the Kanchenjungha. Information about the resort can be found at www.ghondayresort.com
My take-homes from this trip:-
1. The train delay and the road blocks taught me to be more patient.
2. Krishna, our room boy taught me how a smile can win you the world.
3. The toughest roads lead to the most beautiful destinations.
4. Should take out more time to travel.