Sikkim & Darjeeling- My summer of 2016
Temperature soars up and heat rises up as we are profusely sweating with home-made Aam Pannas (drink made from raw mangoes), kokum (Garcinia Indica) sherbets, ice lollies and coolers to drink only to beat the red hot Indian summer.
While going through my computer for disk clean up as I was checking some of the files, I came across some beautiful pictures I had taken during my visit to Sikkim and Darjeeling two of the most scenic and ethereal places of India I had had the opportunity of visiting with my family. As we can’t go out due to the lockdown and praying for the situation to recover sooner we can take back a trip down memory lane meanwhile to remember those happier times 🙂 .
So, let me take you back with me to my summer of 2016 which I had spent travelling to Sikkim and Darjeeling one the most tranquil places in India.
I can still remember my 6-day visit to Sikkim and Darjeeling which started from Mumbai to Siliguri via Kolkata we spent 2 days in Darjeeling, 3 days in Sikkim and an overnight stay in Kolkata.
On day-1 when we landed at Bagdogra airport we were met with an in-flight announcement by cabin crew that no photography in the airport premises is allowed as it is a legal offense. With complete adherence and obliging to Government rules we proceeded from baggage claim towards the exit where our pre-booked cars managed by our tour operator were waiting to receive us.
As per our itinerary it was Sikkim where we were supposed to be reaching first but due to heavy rains and a landslide occurring on that afternoon were re-routed to Darjeeling first keeping our safety in mind.
From scorching heat of Mumbai to chilling, biting cold of Darjeeling it definitely felt like a huge change of geographical location.
After a couple of hours of road journey from airport we reached our hotel by around 7.pm when it was too dark by then. After checking in we had dinner and rested for the night waiting for the next day’s adventure.
While deep in sleep I woke up to some random yet loud noises coming out from my hotel room window. With my eyes half opened, I somehow managed to check the time on my mobile phone, planning to go back to sleep.
But, as I checked it were just 4 am and pretty much still night according to a sleep lover like me 😉 and when I gazed up to the window it was whole wide bright morning as the sun was up and working its magic of creating the day and so did the locals who were up and about their daily work and running errands.
The lazy I slept for another hour and was hell lot of tired from that entire overnight plane journey. Around 9.00 am all of us got ready after the breakfast excitedly to capture the breathtaking views of Darjeeling.
In Darjeeling we had the chance of first visiting Ghoom Monastery. Your mere presence here will calm you down and make you wonder about our rich, ancient heritage.
Next, we stopped at the Himalayan Tibet Museum to witness the cultured history. You will get to see local artisans doing skilled work such as block printing saris, painting, etc among others.
While coming back we stopped at a local street vendor for some Chai (Tea) and to taste the local delicacy momos. Here, we tried some steamed as well as deep fried vegetarian momos along with spicy hot red chilly chutney on the side which can literally put your mouth on fire but, even then you won’t stop eating it because it is irresistible due to being extremely flavorful.
On our second day in Darjeeling after having breakfast and while clicking multiple solo, family group photos and infinite selfies in the hotel lobby and at the front yard of the hotel entrance making sure each time that scenic view is captured as a backdrop for every picture clicked.
While waiting for our ride, we saw much to everyone’s joy unexpectedly a toy train pass by moving in its own charm and elegance, intact as it was from all those decades ago.
All the elders from our tour group started singing and humming to the tune of an old, melodious Hindi film song starring yesteryear superstar Rajesh Khanna and ever gorgeous Sharmila Tagore, “Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu….” (The queen of my dreams, when will you come…). From the 1969 movie Aradhana which was filmed in one of the toy trains of Darjeeling. We Indians and our Indian film connection, we live vicariously through our movies. Don’t we? How one song, one verse can bring back all the memories flooding back. Amazing, isn’t it? Reminiscing their entire childhood.
When in Darjeeling, one simply cannot miss going to the tea plantation and tasting tea made from several different varieties of tea leaves.
Moving stall to stall all of us became “tea connoisseurs” and tasted hot cups of warmth and love made by the local vendors who promised only to sell the best tea. As for the chai lovers like us it was a treat in heaven.
After buying a dozen boxes of tea powder made from finest Darjeeling tea leaves which conveniently lasted us for an almost about a year, we moved ahead to our next stop.
We arrived at the Rock garden to witness the natural beauty of a natural water fall known as Chunnu summer fall. The exquisite picnic spot seemed to be overcrowded due to the on-going film shooting for a promo of an Indian dance based reality show the day we happened to visit.
Rock garden of Darjeeling is a paradise and insanely beautiful which leaves you perplexed for a while making you unable to decide which view is more beautiful than other and which one should I use as a backdrop for clicking pictures. No matter where you look at and which view you choose all of those pictures will turn out equally beautiful because that place right where you are standing is where nature is working at its best.
Here, you will get to dress in traditional attires of Darjeeling, Dumpra for men and Dumdem for women along with all the accessories. You can get your pictures clicked by renting these outfits from the local vendors inside the garden. Well as they say, “Be Roman in Rome”.
Moving towards our next destination from our itinerary it was Scenic Sikkim .
A part of the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth, Sikkim’s capital and largest only in Gangtok.
While moving from one location to other you get to observe more matriarchal society in North-eastern culture which is extremely commendable and inspires us earnestly to take lessons from.
We got around Thangu valley for a moment of tranquility and to experience pure bliss.
Adventure sports lovers, here is your place to get that adrenaline rush by taking part in all activities like hiking, river rafting, etc. Tsomgo Lake also known as Changu Lake is a glacial lake in the east Sikkim district. Located at an elevation of 3753 meters, the lake remains frozen during the winters.
Next we arrived at Nathula Pass which is an Indo-China border. Hence, we were mandatorily asked a day before to submit photocopies of photo-id documents and passport size photographs.
If you ever plan to visit please keep these documents ready and handy in advance as visit over here requires special permit to be taken prior for security purposes.
Further proceeding towards our last sightseeing spot of the day in Nathula was Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple. A memorial and temple honoring an Indian Army Soldier, a folk hero and a saint.
What I found to be the most intrigued place and which stayed glued to my mind even after 4 years of my visit is the story and history behind this shrine.
This temple is an honor to our true hero who was martyred while in a war protecting his motherland when he was at a tender age of mere 22 years.
Many of the soldiers who are posted in and around the Sino-Indian (Tibet autonomous) border believe that ‘Baba’ (Saintly father) through his spirit protects every soldier in this uncivilised high altitude Himalayan terrain.
We were actually shivering with our teeth chattering even after wearing tons of layers in the biting cold.
Older people from our tour group were having difficulty in breathing as the temple is quite at a high altitude but, each one were mesmerized and filled with high spirits after learning about the true patriot Baba Harbhajan Singh.
With so many thoughts in our head and in complete awe of what we heard we came back to the hotel to finish off the day and pack our bags for our flight back to Kolkata the next day.
Our flight from Bagdogra airport to Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport was in the noon.
After checking in to the nearest hotel from airport as we had an early flight next day back to Mumbai. We got freshen up after a short nap, had some tea and left to make the most of our last evening of this unforgettable trip.
Oh! You Kolkata, the city of joy. You embraced me with your arms wide open and made me fall in love with you.
If anyone who has ever lived in a metropolitan city like Mumbai it is hard to please us Mumbai folks because we live in a mix and midst of all the cultures from different parts of the country. So, we get to experience everything from everywhere right here in Mumbai.
Thanks to our friends and extended family members who came into our lives from different states and cities of India to unite us all and to make us one.
Our pre-booked car driver for the evening who originally from Bengal but had lived for few years in Mumbai was an extremely hospitable, polite and a courteous person who shared this with us while driving through the city.
We didn’t had much time to wander the city but listening to his anecdotes about Kolkata’s charm- the old Tram, Howrah bridge and everything in between from political, sociological and his own experience about the drama behind reality shows had us completely hooked.
While sitting in the back seat as I looked out from the glass window and as watching people in and around the market, food carts (that yummy, delicious shawarma, I will be back to gorge on you!) you just feel you are in a city who you can call ‘home’.
Looking at the streets made me feel like I am walking on those Mumbai’s heart – Dadar, Shivaji Park roads or greater Mumbai’s Thane, Naupada side-walks.
This instills your beliefs more into the saying “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (meaning: this entire world is our family).
While still driving, he requested us not to step out of the car due to the buzzing traffic as it was one of those peak hours of the evening, we had the chance of catching a glimpse of the magnificent Howrah Bridge who is a story in itself to tell.
Lit in those lights that were beautifying its architecture like decorated with jewels on, were enhancing its elegance and grace every passing second.
Somehow, being stunned by its beauty I managed to click few pictures from the moving car.
Pretty smug with myself as I kept the phone inside my handbag I knew I had tons of memories to take back with me as my vacation week has come to an end.
You know, that is the thing with memories you just can’t leave them there, back in your past locked up in some cabinet or a file with a label of some year and a date stamped on it.
The more we think about them, the more they feel real and get recreated because we re-live them over and over in our mind as if they happened just a few days ago, without making them a faded distant memory.
How many such memories you have? Over a holiday or a trip, is it solo? with family? or with friends? I want to know all about it. Tell me in the comments section below and I will feature those with your name on my next blog. Let’s celebrate our journeys by sharing them with each other which will bring all of us together in this time of need.
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Till then keep reminiscing and take care.
Curly Girl <3