Thursday, 31 January 2019

Tsomgo Lake + Tips on Stay & Restaurants! (Part 3)

Day 3 was the most anticipated of the entire Sikkim tour. We had planned to go to Nathu La Pass, Tsomgo Lake & Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. These, you can say, are in North East Sikkim.
Now, we had such a tremendous luck so far, you know? First, rainfall. Second, rude drivers. Third, heavy snowfall in the north. Yes, there was snowfall because of which tourists were not permitted to visit Nathu La Pass as well as Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. I can still make my peace with the rainfall which ruined my outfit, but this? It sucked. I mean, people who haven’t been to Sikkim also know about Nathu La Pass & we were there & couldn’t go.  But, thankfully, we at least got to visit Tsomgo Lake. It is also known as Changu Lake.

It was almost entirely frozen. The view of the lake was very pleasing. It was, of course, crowded with people & yaks. The premises of the lake & outside was quite big. There are so many things you can do there. You can go for a yak ride which looked like a lot of fun. You can play in the snow. You can take pictures from 360 degree angles, because it's just so beautiful at whichever point you are standing. I'm sure it must be amazing when the lake is not frozen, but the view we had was purely amazing too! Don't miss this spot if you're in Sikkim!

Time Taken to Explore: 45 to 60 minutes.

On the way to Nathu La Pass.

So, I was finally able to sum up all the wonderful places in these three posts. I sincerely hope that you loved the posts, enjoyed the photographs & that the info was helpful. And, now, as promised, I will write a bit about the hotel I stayed at & some must-visit restaurants in Sikkim!

We stayed at Hotel Mayur which is near M.G. Market. We had booked through RCI. We did so on our earlier trips as well and it is which usually quite decent. But, this hotel was quite an exception. The only amazing things were the view from the room which was so stunning. You get up in the morning & see such a view & then your whole mood is set for the day to explore! Apart from the view, the location was great! It was the most ideal as it was from walking distance to M.G. Road. So, these two points were key.
But, as for the actual room, the horror story starts now. Most of the furniture was broken. The bed was creaky & the sofa was actually broken. The elevator was not functional. The heater which was provided to us wasn't too good either. So, we didn't exactly have a good night's sleep. But, since our stay was only a few days, we managed. We are complete suckers for a good view, so we had to manage somehow.

This is going to be my favourite part because we are all foodies, right? I went to 3 restaurants on M.G. Road. Here goes the review!

Baker’s Café:
We visited Baker’s Café on Day 1 for snacks/dinner. It is a cute little café on M.G. Road. It is rated at 3.3/5 on Zomato but that doesn’t really do justice for its merry decorations on Christmas, pleasant ambiance, delicious food, tasty drinks & also good music!
We sure ordered a lot of food & drinks & completely enjoyed the experience.

OSM Restro & Lounge:
Please don’t go by the name-form of the restaurant, it really is awesome. It’s located on the first floor somewhere on the M.G. Road. We went here for lunch on Day 3 after our visit to Tsomgo Lake. If you’re looking for a sophisticated meal, this is the place. It is a proper restaurant, like in cities. So, you will feel at home. It is rated at 3.4/5.
The food & service here is impeccable. There are really cool paintings hung on the walls while going upstairs. Like a quote from Harry Potter & HIMYM. It’s always fun to look at something you are passionate about.

Food Court:
Food Court is your simplistic food court the kind you have in malls. There is a lot of variety of food available here. It’s rated at 3.2/5. While the food is not of excellent quality, it does taste good. We had soup, South Indian food, some chaat & Sandwiches.
The only problem was cleanliness. Since it was a busy place, it was a bit compressed with sounds coming from the kitchen. The plates & silverware were not very clean, so please check on that part.

Taste of Tibet:
This is another restaurant towards the end of the Road to try out local delicacies. We didn’t have the time to go there, but it is quite famous & rated at 3.3/5.

When I was doing my research, I found this amazing little place by the name of ‘Central Park’ in Namchi. It’s basically the market area, crowded with lots of shops & people. There are also many restaurants there. I was very keen on visiting Crumbs N Whips. It was rated 4.5/5 & all of its aspects were appealing, from the variety of food to the ambiance. But, unfortunately our timings & routes got mixed up. We also had the driver who didn’t want to take that route & we were too hungry to argue for more than 10 minutes. So, we ended up eating at a random restaurant at Char Dham. And of course, that food upset our stomachs. Anyway, below is a list of good restaurants you can eat at!

These are some of the best ones: 
·        Crumbs N Whips Café
·        Hotel Orchid
·        Adonai
·        Taste of Namchi

I'm sure you must have enjoyed reading about Sikkim & watching all the stunning photos! I hope some of the info about timings etc can be helpful.
You can check out first post & second posts as well! And, in the next 2 posts, I will write about my Darjeeling adventure! Stay tuned!!

Until next time,

Saturday, 26 January 2019

South Sikkim Journals! (Part 2)

We visited Namchi in South Sikkim on Day 2 of our Sikkim & Darjeeling tour. We could only get 4 days’ booking at Gangtok which is why we couldn’t do the North Sikkim tour which includes Lachung, Yumthang Valley, Zero Point & Gurudongmar Lake. Now, I must tell you, these points are worth visiting! They are very far from Gangtok & it takes 3-4 days to cover all of them. Even if we would have included these, the chances of visiting them were slim because of heavy snowfall in the North. So, instead we went South. Going to King’s Landing to evade the White Walkers’ Army in the North!

On the left, you can check out the beautiful view we woke up to!

Namchi is 3-4 hours from Gangtok. We took a different route while going there. The condition of roads was terrible & it took 4 hours to reach. I originally had about 6 to 7 places to visit in Namchi. But, because the drivers there are extremely rigid & rude, we could only go to 4 places & we didn’t even get to go to the restaurants I had shortlisted. But, rants about drivers will be in the later posts. So, we basically went to 4 places, 3 of which were temples. Nothing scenic or extraordinary, so it wasn’t worth travelling for so many hours to & back. But, here we go!

The popular Temi Tea Gardens were on our way to Namchi. We stopped there for a while. It was good to get out of the car & stand in the sun. The view was amazing with the snow-clad mountains above & tea plantations beneath. It felt really satisfying to look at the view.

Time Taken to Explore: 20-30 minutes.
Timings: 24 hours. Preferable: 7 AM to 1 PM.

After a few hours, we stopped at Samdruptse. It’s a 45 meter tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Sikkim. It is at 7000 feet offering the magnificent view of Kangchenjunga on one side & the statue on the other side. We were able to see the Samdruptse statue when we were on the opposite mountain on our way to Char Dham. So, you can imagine how big it is & how incredibly it shines because of the golden colour.
From the 1st level, you can see the entire statue. And once you go around it to go upstairs, there you can find 2 huge praying wheels. They were twice my height & so gorgeous. They lead us to the stairs & up to the 2nd level from where we could see the status a bit closer.

Time Taken to Explore: 20-30 minutes.
Timings: 9 AM to 7 PM.

Char Dham is basically a complex of temples spread around 29 hectares on the Solophok Hill in Namchi. It is also known as Siddheswar Dham. It’s a huge space with many temples devoted to many deities.
There is a huge statue of Lord Shiva at the topmost point which can be seen from all the temples within the premises. It is about 87-ft tall & the main Shiva temple is 108-ft in height. I think you can view it from far away as well, just like Samdruptse. The inside of the Shiva temple is incredibly detailed with articulate architecture. On all 4 sides, there are huge marble carvings on which are various highlights from Lord Shiva’s life. And the ceiling is amazingly detailed as well. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited inside any of the temple so I couldn’t capture it.
Other than the Shiva temple, Sai Baba’s temple was another beautiful sight from inside & out. There were also 12 Jyotirlingas. Some of the most colourful temples were Badrinath Dham & Rameshwaram Dham.

Entry fee: Rs. 50 per adult. Parking fee: Rs. 30 per car.  
Time Taken to Explore: 1.5-2 hours.
Timings: 9 AM to 9 PM

Sai Baba temple is very close to Char Dham. It is yet another huge temple with white & golden colors. There is a marble statue of Sai Baba and paintings of Lord Vishnu inside.

Time Taken to Explore: 15-20 minutes
Timings: 6 AM to 8 PM

Ngadak Monastery:
Ngadak monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim which is why I wanted to visit. But after the disappointment at Rumtek Monastery & the lack of time, we decided to skip it.

Namchi Ropeway & Rock Garden:
Once you exit Samdruptse, you will find a Ropeway booth ahead of the parking lot & also small restaurants. I had read about it. The Namchi Ropeway connects Samdruptse & Rock Garden. We didn’t do this because there was no one doing it so we didn’t take the risk.

Tendong Hill Top:
Tendong Hilltop is about 30-50 minutes away from Namchi, towards Gangtok. It is very highly spoken of when it comes to stunning views & sunsets. We couldn’t cover this because it didn’t fit in the driver’s mindset. But, do visit it!

You can check the first post about Gangtok Journals here. I will come up with the third day in Sikkim soon!
Until next time,

Monday, 21 January 2019

Gangtok Journals! (Part 1)

I was just listening to this soulful song with some lyrics about clear blue skies & it took me back to my trip to Sikkim & Darjeeling. Since it has been over a month now, I thought it was about time that I write about this adventurous, exciting & long tour!
I had been planning my Sikkim & Darjeeling trip for more months than I will admit. So, when the time actually came to fly to these places, it would be an understatement that I was elated! It was a family trip & we were going for EIGHT DAYS! So, our joy knew no bounds! Hope you enjoy the tour!

We had planned a stay in Gangtok in Sikkim for 4 days & after that an AirBnB stay in Darjeeling for 3 days.
Since train travelling was not an option because of additional days of leave at work, we decided to go by air. We took a flight from Mumbai & landed at Bagdogra Airport around 2 PM. It was a 5+ hours drive from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok.

You have 2 options here. You can go by road which takes a lot of time. The roads in Siliguri are not well maintained. It’s a one way lane which causes a lot of traffic. The more time-efficient but cost-sensitive way is by a helicopter ride. It reduces the time to 35 minutes but costs Rs. 3500. The timings can be a bit of an issue as these rides go only once a day, I think. You can get details here. ( Our flight timings exactly matched the helicopter rides, but because my dad preferred road to air, we had to travel for 5 hours.

So, our first day went by entirely in travelling. When we finally reached the hotel & got out of our car, we were freezing. It was about 15 degrees. I know, you must think that’s not too cold. But, for someone who thinks Mumbai winter is actual winter, we felt quite cold. So, if you make the mistake of visiting these places in the winter months, especially late December, carry a lot of warm clothes!

Our day started with a stunning view of the mountains from our hotel room. After staring outside for a while, I finally got up to have my morning coffee by the window. And, guess what? It was raining. Not drizzling. Properly raining like it does in monsoons! My mood took a turn for the worst right then. Our first day in this beautiful city & who decided to greet us? RAIN! It was already cold, but the rains made the temperature drop even more.
After making a lot of fuss, I went ahead because we couldn’t cancel touring because we were in Gangtok only for 4 days! And besides, everything was planned so there was no scope of covering the 10 points we did that day on any other day.

It was a 10-sights tour in & around Gangtok. Of those, we visited 7 places which was also an achievement for us.

This was a stupa kind of a structure. The most appealing thing was that it was surrounded from all 4 sides with praying wheels which added an amazing touch to the structure.
There was also a museum close to the Stupa. Photography was prohibited inside. It mainly consisted of scriptures, paintings, face mask art, silver & so on.

Entry Fee: Free entry at the Stupa & Rs. 10 at the museum.
Time Taken to Explore: It takes about 10 minutes to walk around the Stupa & about 20-30 minutes in the museum if you are really into it.
Timings: 8 AM to 6 PM.

Initially, I had put the Ropeway in the things to do, but I was not sure if it would be open or closed. Luckily, it was open. So, yes, it was raining, fog everywhere, more cold than we can handle & yes, we decided to go on the Ropeway! And, of course, we thoroughly enjoyed it! The cable car was closed from all sides with just two open windows on separate sides. I did not move away from the window. I let the fog & rain wash all over me & I just enjoyed the foggy scenery! After one point, we were not able to see anything AT ALL!

Cost of Tickets: Rs. 110 per adult & Rs. 70 per child.
Time Taken to Explore: 20 minutes for a round trip.
Timings: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Rumtek Monastery is one of the most famous monasteries in Gangtok. It’s about one hour away (23 kms) from the main city. It is also known as Dharma Chakra Centre. I had seen some of its photos earlier & was anticipating the visit here because of its beautiful colors & architecture. Unfortunately, what we saw was a blurry 480P monastery surrounded by fog. The monastery is at about 5000-ft altitude. So, there was a lot of fog that settled in because of the rains which made a whole blurry & hazy view. I did get a few shots from the entrance of the monastery which portrays some of its colourful patterns.
To be honest, it was a long drive up to the monastery. You have to leave the vehicle at one point & walk an uphill climb to reach there. So, it won’t be the worst thing in the world to miss this spot.

Entry Fee: Rs. 10 per person.
Time Taken to Explore: 30 minutes or less.
Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM.

We reached Banjhakri Waterfalls by 3 PM, by when we were starving! We had food first from one of the many stalls outside the Park. I must say, the aloo parathas that we had there were the best I had outside of home. It felt good to not eat Maggi & Momos, for a change. After eating a gazillion parathas & many cups of coffee, we were finally physically & mentally ready for the rest of the tour.

Banjhakri Waterfalls is a Must-Visit! There is this beautiful Park leading up to the Waterfall which has so many amazing spots for clicking photos & getting a feel of nature. It felt very fresh to take that walk around the muddied road & steps. When we reached the waterfall, we were thrilled! Its sound alone was so impactful & loud with such force of water. It was huge!! I loved it the second I laid my eyes on it! You can also give a try at some water/adventure sports within the Park.

Entry Fee: Rs. 50 per person + camera charges.
Time Taken to Explore: 1-2 hours.
Timings: 8 AM to 6 PM.

Ganesh Tok was on my list to visit & I must say, I know how to plan wonderfully. That place was so mesmerizing giving a bird’s eye view of the city. The fog followed us here too. But, with some luck, the sun came to greet us as well which is why we got some stunning views.
There is also a Ganesha temple at the place which was an added pleasure. We took our blessings & went up to see the blessed view. I think we stayed there for a long time. Many people came & went but we waited for the fog to go & magic to set in.

Entry Fee: None.
Time Taken to Explore: Takes about 30-40 minutes depending on the photographer’s interests.
Timings: 6 AM to 7 AM.

This was another fascinating point on my list. We reached here around 4:30 PM or so. It was at a height but by that time it was 100% foggy. So, we weren’t able to see the view. But, on a clear day, it must be a delight to be there. Don’t miss it out.

Entry Fee: None.
Time Taken to Explore: 20-30 minutes.

We were very tired by the end & were glad that we covered most of the sights. We went to our hotel by 5:30 PM by when it was already dark out. We rested for a while & then went out at 6 PM or so for M.G. Market. It was at a walk-able distance from our hotel. We were quite hungry as it was quite a tiring day. So, we decided to go early.

M.G. Market is the most homely places in all of Gangtok. It’s just a street with restaurants, souvenir shops etc. The best part is there are no vehicles allowed on this street so you can just waltz around. We went to M.G. Road on 2 days, once for dinner & once for lunch. We also did our souvenir shopping from one of the tiny shops there.

Entry Fee: None.
Time Taken to Explore: 30 minutes or less.
Timings: 10 AM to 9 PM. 

It was quite a busy yet fun first day. We were happy to go to so many places that had so much to offer; stunning views remains a common factor for all! We ended the day by watching a movie & then sleeping early awaiting next day's adventure! Stay tuned, folks! Next up will be our South Sikkim tour!!

Check out Day 2 travel in Sikkim here.
Until next time,

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