Friday, April 24, 2015

Mountains Calling- Gangtok

The beauty of North Eastern states has it's own charm and we had our hearts set on visiting them. This dream finally turned into reality with Gangtok. Bidding adieu to the toy train and the beautiful home-stay in Darjeeling, we hit the open road again heading to Sikkim only to catch better views of Kanchenjunga.

The route to Gangtok from Darjeeling via Kalimpong is beautiful but be mindful of the very steep roads until you connect NH 31 A, that runs from Siliguri to Gangtok. The highway is fantastic to ride on offering views of deep gorges, alpine forests. snow clad mountains and river beds. From Kalimpong, BRO came to our rescue and offered spectacular roads until Gangtok. Since it is a hilly terrain, we recommend caution while riding on these roads as they are prone to landslides.

On the way to Kalimpong, we stumbled upon the beautiful village of Lamahatta, The pine forests on one side of the road and the mesmerizing views of the white mountains on the other side guarantee peace and tranquility. The best way to explore this village is to take a hike to a nearby lake surrounded by pine trees or a trek to the monastery that is more than a hundred years old. If you want to unwind, visit the garden and catch up on reading your book with the breeze helping you turn those pages. The perfect place for you to reconnect with Nature and get lost in your surroundings. This village with a population of less than a hundred is one of the few places that had not yet seen commercialization, virgin beauty at its best!

We reached the capital of Sikkim, Gangtok and we must admit it was pretty impressive. In our opinion, Gangtok is well planned and the infrastructure is better compared to Darjeeling. The city is very clean and litter free with a pleasant climate. A traveler can keep Gangtok as base and do a few tours- Gurudongmar lake, Yumthang Valley/Zero point, Nathu La Pass, Zuluk valley, Rumtek Monastery.

Like all monasteries, Rumtek Monastery too is perched really high on a hill with breathtaking views of the city. Also known as the Dharma Chakra Centre, this enchanting monastery has an institute for Monks within the premises and houses a Golden Stupa (Lhabab Chodten) that contains the precious relics and holy remains of the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. This monastery is heavily guarded by the Indian Army and you are required to provide an identification proof at the entrance so make sure you carry one with you.

It is a grave sin if you do not visit MG Marg while you are in Gangtok. An evening stroll is bliss here, vehicles are banned on this lane making it a walker's paradise and the entire Marg has brilliant watering holes. One can see the entire city unwind, mingle and relax here post sunset. We highly recommend Baker's Cafe as they serve exceptionally good food. Their pizzas and ginger black tea are perfect for the winter weather. And of course their heavenly ginger cookies and sinful waffles would make you visit their cafe everyday during the entire duration of your trip. No trip to a North Eastern state is complete without gorging on piping hot momos and thukpa and MG Marg provides a lot of options for those to choose from.

We checked into Park Residency, a very basic and budget accommodation with clean rooms and bath. They provide 24 hours running hot water and their location is brilliant. The service is exceptionally good, Mr. Gupta takes hospitality to new heights and is always available to help you plan your trip.

Next stop Gurudongmar Lake