Sikkim Diary I – Gangtok

This term break, being the last one and all, we decided to not go home. This was largely fuelled by the realisation that we have lived in East India for over one and a half years and have seen nothing of the east except for Calcutta (which by now you should have realised is utter crap). So off we went to Sikkim for a 6 day trip.

We first went to Calcutta by the 6am train and hung around there for the day. We had the famous Oly Pub beef steak for lunch before heading out to catch a movie at South City Mall. We saw the new Chronicles of Narnia movie.

At about 10pm we took the Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri aka NJP (beyond which trains do not travel). The train ride was more or less uneventful (all of us slept) and the train pulled in the customary one hour late at NJP. We had paranthas for breakfast at a rather shady place at the NJP station and then went looking for cars to take us to Gangtok. After much negotiation, a driver known only as ‘Anil Kapoor’ (total nutcase, to tell you the truth) agreed to take us to Gangtok. Anil Kapoor was wearing a bright yellow shirt and sported a, well, ‘Anil Kapoor’ moustache; and made mock kung fu actions while he drove. For the sake of our blood pressure, everyone decided to sleep in this journey. On the way to Gangtok, we stopped at a small joint called the Moktan Hotel for lunch. On finding that there was nothing on offer to eat here, we serendipitously made the discovery of the trip : Wy Wy – a Maggi type noodle which tastes a lot better if it is crushed raw and mixed with masala and eaten like chana chur. A couple of hours later we reached Gangtok and took a local taxi to the SNT bus stand. We checked into Hotel Kasturi – a small hotel with about 12 rooms which met our requirements of ‘clean bed, clean loo, cheap’ – at 3pm. We soon learned that the huge snow-capped mountain we saw from our windows was none other than the highest one in this area Mount  Kanchenjunga. After a meal of pork momos (chicken were not available, and I didn’t mind) we got down to some important unfinished business – that of having a bath.

That evening we headed out to MG road which looks like it’s been lifted out of Europe and dumped in India. Literally nothing about the road seems Indian (other than the shops on it of course). It had very well done, beautiful paved roads (on which no cars are allowed), benches to sit on, flowers and shrubs in the middle, old style hanging lamps for street lights and of course Bose speakers at regular intervals playing local music. The first few minutes were spent in just taking in the atmosphere. After a couple of hours of aimless wandering in the markets, we headed for dinner to Café Live and Loud which was recommended to us by several of our friends who have been to Sikkim before. The place was one of the best I have seen anywhere. It was very well done up and tastefully decorated. Posters of past performances at the café adorned the ceiling, paper lanterns of different colours gave a very nice feel to the place, and the posters and photographs on the wall (of rock and blues legends) added to the atmosphere. Here we tried Dansberg and HIT, two beers manufactured by Danny Denzongpa’s company. The food was excellent, as was the band Route 66 which played several instrumentals (by Joe Sat and the Doors) before regaling us with extremely nice covers of Bob Dylan and others.

The next morning , we left on our 2 night 3 days trip to North Sikkim. We met our driver, Tenzing at the taxi stand and got into our Mahindra Maxx to leave for Lachen. On the way, we kept crossing beautiful bridges and seeing breath-taking views as we climbed higher and higher. The Seven sisters waterfall was a bit of a disappointment but a nice thing to look at none the less. We stopped for tea at Chumthang (where we realised that everything would be very expensive here) and finally an hour later touched down at hotel Tso Lhamu in Lachen. We were served a nice warm dinner of  rice and dal following which we each had a few swigs of rum to help us against the cold (we were at 10,000ft above sea level after all) before going to sleep.

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