Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Sun is Also a Star. (Mindscape Reviews #7)

Hello Readers!
It's been a while since I have read a book. Since I have decided to read at least 19 books this year, I had to begin sometime. Compared to my earlier records, 19 is nothing. But, I'm sure, once I get into it, I'll be just as hardcore a booknerd as I was before.
And, I have made a good start by reading this wonderful book in a day. And, so it begins!


'The Sun is Also a Star' is a Young Adult novel written by Nicola Yoon. I had read her book named 'Everything Everything' earlier & I had enjoyed reading that. So, I was keen on reading this one.

The story is not much different that most of the romantic YA fiction, but the thing that stands apart is that the entire book is the story of just one day. How much changes in a day & how real coincidences can be. Another thing is that the author has expanded her horizons by showing diverse main characters.

The female lead is Natasha Kingsley. She was born in Jamaica & came to America with her family when she was 8 years old. She's a science geek who loves facts, reality & practicality. She is very passionate about not being passionate. And, like this quality is a must, she doesn't believe in love.
She & her family are being deported on the very same day & she's trying her best to keep them in the country. And in the middle of all this mess, she finds some calmness, stability, passion & handful of dreams when she meets Daniel.

Daniel Jae Ho Bae is the male lead in the story. His family is originally from Korea, but he is born & brought up in America. Like every story goes, he is the total opposite of Natasha. He is the kind of dreamy guy who believes in dreams & that we have been put on Earth for some reason & that we need to find it & follow that passion. Not that that was not enough, he is also a poet. He is in over his head & he doesn't really care about speaking the daring truth. 

Natasha's family includes her mom, dad & younger brother. Her relationship with her father is not good, after all he was the reason they were caught as undocumented immigrants & were now getting deported. Hers is a poor family living in a very small apartment.
On the other hand, Daniel's family includes his mom, dad & elder brother. His relationship is okay with his parents, but there is a mutual hatred between the brothers.

Coming from different races & nationalities, you can still see a similarity between both sets of parents, which mainly involves how racist they are, how difficult their lives have been living in the US & how easily they can embarrass their children.

Natasha's family is getting deported & there's only so much that she can do. While she's hassling from one lawyer appointment to another, she comes across Daniel. They meet randomly & when he saves her from getting hit by a car, she finally decides to go have coffee with him.

The first half of the book is the lovely lovely unusual love story between Natasha & Daniel. You will get butterflies & you'll be extremely happy reading it. But, as it progresses, they get into a fight & separate their ways.

Will they ever find their way back to each other?
How many more coincidences will there be?
Will her deportation be postponed?
Will they live happily ever after?
I'm not giving any spoilers, but it is pretty predictable & you should read the book for it!

I had bought this book months ago & had given up reading it at least twice. But, when I knew there was going to be a movie adaptation of this book starring Charles Melton & Yara Shahidi, I knew I had to read it before the movie comes out. And, this time, I read it in one go.

The story is simple yet complicated. The characters have their own charm & you can see them changing under the influence of the other. But, they bring out the best in each other too. Even though the story line apart from the love story is something new (deportation), the story is quite simple and yet it will leave you wanting for more. Even though you know what will happen, you will actually feel the feelings when it actually happens. I have rated this novel at 3.5/5 stars on Goodreads!

Let me know your thoughts on the book & please read the book before you watch the movie!!

Until next time,

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Sunrise at Tiger Hill + Tips on Stay & Restaurants! (Part 5)

We were in Darjeeling for 4 days, 2 of which went in reaching Darjeeling & leaving Darjeeling. That left us with 2 days for sight-seeing, of which we only went out on one day. As of the second day, we found our courage somehow to go to Tiger Hill to see the sunrise. And, that’s that. After that, we skipped many of the best places. I regret that, but given how sick, tired, sleepy & cold we were, I suppose I can allow that.

We got up early around 3:30 AM. Got ready by 4:00 AM. It was 6 degrees in the morning before dawn which is why I wore 4 t-shirts plus sweater plus jacket. And additionally, a beanie, scarf, gloves & 2 pairs of socks! Wow, so much & I was still cold!
We left as soon as we prepared ourselves, physically & mentally. It was a long ride till Tiger Hill. I was already unwell. We all were sleepy, cold & tired & yet excited & hopeful. Those are definitely some weird combinations to feel for one person, so no wonder I felt sick to my stomach.
So, anyway, after the long ride, in which I mostly slept, we reached there by 5 AM. We had to stop way earlier & walk an uphill climb. I was practically walking with my eyes half-open, struggling to walk. After a while I was tired & out of breath. When I opened my mouth to breathe, all the cold went in, giving a sore & itchy throat. All in all, it sucked! We finally survived & reached the top. It was crowded & all the best seats were already gone. People were just standing in a semi-circle.
So, at Tiger Hill, you see the sunrise at one end & on the other end, you see the rays of sun hit the snow-clad Kanchenjunga making it goldenish red & that effect is stunning! We must have waited at least 45 to 50 minutes when we could finally see the sunrise & Kanchenjunga! It was a sight to behold!

When you watch something like that live, it changes you.
Time stops & people stop & it’s just the beautiful & wondrous view.
It’s magic!

Most of the guides have a preset places to cover. So, after covering Tiger Hill, they usually go for Batasia Loop & Ghoom Monastery. But, it took a lot of time for us to get back to the City from Tiger Hill because of all the traffic of tourist cars who were there for the same. So, we ended up just going home.

I honestly wanted to cover most of these places, so if you are in Darjeeling, do go to these!
Batasia Loop:
Batasia Loop is a must-visit in Darjeeling. It has a war memorial in the center & also a garden. It’s quite close to Darjeeling city. You can go here after your visit at Tiger Hill.
Ghoom & Dali Monastery:
These two are the most famous monasteries in Darjeeling. You can make some time to visit them.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:
I was excited to ride in a toy train, but we ended up skipping it. The ride is from an authentic original steam engine train. But, we couldn’t find that. And, secondly, they are quite expensive with Rs. 800 to Rs. 1000 rate for a 2-hour round trip.

We stayed at Pradhan Cottage near Convent High School. We had booked it on AirBnB. While we loved the interiors & the entire cottage experience, we weren’t so happy with the location. It was a bit out of the City & not even on the main road. You have to go 3-4 levels down to reach the place.
Apart from the location, everything else was perfect. So, I’ll surely recommend it. Check it out here.

Just like we dropped going to a few sights, we also dropped going to a few restaurants that were on my list. Most of the times, we ate at the cottage. Only twice did we go out.
Frank Ross Café:
This Cafe was a must-visit for my Darjeeling Restaurant Bucket List & so was keen to have the food here but was quite disappointed. This café is known for its English breakfast, South Indian food & hot beverages. Of these, we only liked the Darjeeling Tea. South Indian food & sandwiches were not good. Despite amazing reviews, it was a complete disappointment.

This is the place where you can go for breakfast, lunch & dinner on the same day & won’t be disappointed. Its décor & ambiance is amazing. Service is really good. Food is absolutely delicious. It has 2 floors. On the ground floor, is a lovely bakery which is just out of a Disney fairytale. On the first floor is the restaurant with little balconies that have a stunning view! If you’re planning to visit, go around 4 PM so you can enjoy it at its best!
We visited during Christmas-time, so it was wonderfully lit & beautifully decorated. Check it out!

Some other good restaurants are Sonam’s Kitchen, Keventers & Kunga restaurant.

We went on an 8-day long trip after years! I had way too many expectations from it & compared to that, it turned out to be quite okay. The cold was really unbearable, so I think it should’ve been better to visit such places in summer. I also came to the realization that I prefer beaches to mountains. With all the mountains’ twists & turns, the whole thing just made me sick, so I hated the internal travelling part.

I guess Sikkim went quite well, because I enjoyed the Ropeway, Banjhakri waterfalls & Ganesh Tok. I also loved M.G. Market quite a lot! I didn’t enjoy South Sikkim much because of the travelling, so well that was okay-ish. And lastly, Tsomngo Lake was quite beautiful matching my expectations. So, all in all, it was good. About 6.5/10, I’d say.

As for Darjeeling, well, that’s complicated. We all wanted to visit this place since a long time & what we got was just unbearable cold. We didn’t go to many places either. But, the best point was the gorgeous sunrise at Tiger Hill! So, just for that, I’d day 8/10 for Darjeeling!

I'll be back again in a couple of weeks as I'm travelling to Pondicherry this week! So, stay tuned!! In the mean time, you can check out all my Sikkim & Darjeeling posts.

Until next time,

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Darjeeling Journals! (Part 4)

On our 5th day of the tour, we left from Gangtok for Darjeeling. It was about a 3 hour journey. Thankfully, the roads were really good for the duration of this journey so it didn’t feel like 3 hours. In Darjeeling, we had booked an AirBnB cottage named Pradhan Home Stay. More details about the cottage in the next post!

It was colder in Darjeeling that it was in Gangtok. At nights, the temperature went down till 6 degrees! Undoubtedly, we were hopelessly cold & to be honest, I just wanted to go back home. We decided to postpone the plan of watching sunrise at Tiger Hill the next day. Because, for that, you need to get up at 3 AM & reach there by 5 AM. Since we couldn’t even imagine how cold it would be at 3 AM, we postponed the Tiger Hill plan.

We reached around 1 PM in Darjeeling. We decided to enjoy the cottage stay for a few hours. Since the sun sets early, we only visited Darjeeling Mall or popularly known as Chowrasta on the first day. It was similar to M. G. Road but I liked the former one better. M. G. Road was a single straight road whereas Chowrasta was a bit of an uphill walk. It felt more crowded too because it was quite a narrow road. There were many souvenir shops & restaurants there. So, obviously we did a bit of shopping for ourselves & for others. There is this one shop Habib Malik & Sons. It’s been there since the British rule. It has the most amazing silver jewelry & a variety of other items too. You must visit it!
Well, it got dark soon & we got tired, so we decided to head back & have dinner at the cottage itself.

On the next day, we covered many places in Darjeeling & it felt like we were literally walking all day. Here we go!

Our first destination for the day was Japanese temple & the famous Japanese Peace Pagoda. While the temple was a small one, we got to see how people there conduct their prayers. They sit in the Vajrasana position & make sounds with a plate & drumstick at every few beats. And along with that they say their prayers. It’s extremely silent so you can concentrate on the prayers. It feels quite peaceful & you should try it, even for a few minutes.
While the temple is just at the beginning, the Peace Pagoda is up some stairs. It portrays all four avatars of Buddha. It stands tall at 28.5 meters with a diameter of 23 meters. This statue is also visible from quite a distance. The Pagoda is white shaped like an upside-down bell. There are gold statues & wooden carvings on all of its sides. So, you can walk in a circle viewing all of it. All these art pieces are phenomenal & just too beautiful. You can also view the mountains, so it’s another great place to click picturesque photos! Don’t miss this spot!

Entry fee: None.
Time Taken to Explore: 45-50 minutes
Timings: Temple – 4:30 AM to 7 PM


Our second stop was the most interesting one. It’s among one of the most famous tourist attractions in Darjeeling – Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park & Himalayan Mountaineering Institute! Both these places are in the same premises. While the Zoological Park is almost 90% of it, the HMI makes up for 10%. Along with these 2 places, there is another museum inside dedicated to Tenzing & all the hikers & mountaineers. You should really visit this place & when you do, prepare yourselves for a lot of walking while exploring these places.

The Park is divided in 2 sides. As you enter, you will find animals like snow leopard, wolf, tiger, black bear, herbivores etc on the left side ahead & on the right side, there are pheasants, carnivores, reptiles & red pandas! The Park is very well maintained. Since it’s so huge, it has got these arrows to tell you how to start your expedition. There are directions everywhere so you get to cover everything without missing out anything.

In the Park, the animals are kept in huge spaces, which is a good thing for them. But, because it’s a huge space, you may or may not actually see the animals. Some of them might be in a corner or too down below. We got to see some animals. Check them out-
Himalayan Wolf, Monkey & Black Bear.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is at the end of the place. It has a rock climbing arena where you can go and try rock climbing! My brother tried it. And given the kind of hiker he is, he easily climbed up to the top. It’s quite a fun activity! Give it a try if you visit.

The BNH Museum is kind of like an extension of the Institute. It is dedicated to Tenzing Nirgay, who was the first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953. The museum showcases all the mountaineering history, has models of mountains & mountaineering gear & just a lot of things! Photography was not allowed in the museum, so you have to visit it to witness all the beauty & history.

Entry fee: Rs. 30 per person & Rs. 10 for camera
Time Taken to Explore: 2-3 hours
Zoological Park: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
HMI: 9 AM to 5 PM

We were exhausted after walking for hours at the Park, so we just stopped at the remaining places just for the sake of it. Tea Gardens was the next stop. Luckily, it was in close proximity from the main road, so it did not involve much walking. We went there, clicked a few photos & headed for the next point.

This Rock was not far from the Tea Gardens. And, also, it was right there next to the road. So, we just clicked a photo from the car itself & headed ahead.

This place is divided into 3-4 quarters. We got to see only 2, the shop & the museum with photographs. The closed ones are actually the most interesting. At those place, they actually work, where weaving, threading, and sorting of cotton etc takes place.
After covering so many places, we were very very very tired. And yet, the highlight of the day was pending, which was DINNER AT GLENARY’S! More about Glenary’s in the next post! After having delicious food there, we headed back to the cottage. We had to get up super early to see the sunrise from Tiger Hill, so we slept early.

Stay tuned for some stunning sunrise photos plus info on best restaurants & luxurious cottage stay!

You can catch up with the earlier posts here, here & here!
Until next time,

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