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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