The last few days of the trip

Now that most of the sightseeing and traveling is over, i would refrain on writing posts after posts about our return journey. Lachen was again unbearably cold the next day and We were anxious to get back to the hot plains. We headed back to Gangtok that day after another 5 hour drive down the mountains. Teesta River kept us company all along and both of us finished our last bits of brownie and muruku to distract ourselves from the ever "rocking" journey. We bid farewell to our heroic driver at Gangtok and took rest in the same hotel and in the same room (Wonder if they kept it empty for us).
Next morning our ride arrived at around 11 am. We visited the Gangtok Handicrafts museum on the way back to pick up some souvenirs for the team back in Chennai. We were allowed to see the folks who actually work there and make this stuff; Very impressive. We finally settled on a bamboo stick base pen holder with golden dragons (for the guys) and orchids (for the gals) painted on it. The new driver was extremely fast and brought us back to New Jalpaiguri 4 hours before the train time!
We as usual started hunting a restaurant at the station and spotted the evergreen IRCTC cafeteria. (Remember him from Kolkata station don't u?). We had few dosas and omelettes (as usual) and I was so thankful they made some decent food. They were atrociously cheap (yes you saw it right, Cheap). Their food quality was not the best in town but decent enough to feed the hungry souls like us. Their quantity was far more than what HSB gives in a complete Rs.70 Meal! Hail IRCTC! Though you are not the best, you are not the worst either!
We bought more books and parked ourselves at the platform until our train arrived. I started writing important pointers for my blog (yes this blog) and made sure I don't forget those small but important facts about the trip. I was also on a reading spree and bought more books to while away my time.
The train dropped us back to Sealdah station and we chose not to go to Victoria Memorial again and headed towards the Airport! We bought more books at the airport and Vishnu caught up on the Current affairs from the local Newspaper. In a few hours we were back to Pavilion and Appa (My father in Law) was eagerly waiting to receive us!

What a Trip! Surely the best so far and I hope I do more of these again! As I say good bye to this post, I would like to thank some people who really made this trip the best!

- My Travel Agent - Savion Travels. Especially Mr. Pankaj and Mr.Anand for arranging everything from NJP and back!
- Mr. Ram - Our very wise driver - Showed us the most beautiful sunrise and took us to some breath taking spots.
- The Hotels - Fortune Resort, Darjeeling. Royal Demazong, Gangtok. Fortuna Lodge, Lachen - They served us unconditionally and made us comfortable in the not-so-comfortable weather conditions.
- Mr. Kumar - Our driver from Gangtok to Guru-Dongmar and back. No matter how slow you were, you were surely courageous enough to drive through those paths for a living!
- IRCTC Cafeteria @ Kolkata and NJP - You fed us well and didn’t charge a fortune!
- The cook @ Lachen - You served us the best food ever!
- The book stalls at every station and airport - You are the source of a lot of time pass.
- Finally, Mother India - You are simply beautiful!

@ 17000 Feet

Well. Looks like my blog is hibernating in Lachen and it's high time we woke up!

We had numerous alarms waking us up from sleep. We didn’t hear most of the alarms, not cos of sleep, but we were drowned in multiple layers of blankets! The lodge didn’t provide us a heater in the room by default and at 4 am we were nearly close to freezing. The room was comparatively small and just about enough for both of us and 2 small boxes of luggage to fit in. Both Vishnu and I caught a cold (Actually allergy from one of the furry bed sheets) and were sneezing most of the time. We somehow managed to wake up and get ready. For the first time in the trip, I took out my thermal wear and wore it with no hesitation. My leather gloves somehow just didn’t generate enough heat and I just felt numb. The cook was very nice to us and woke up much before us to prepare some tea and pack some breakfast. Our skinny driver showed up sharp at 5 and we started our journey to Guru-Dongmar in the dark. You must be thinking why so much hype for this place where we are going. I actually felt the same way! Aisa toh kya hain yaar that we fought with cold and sleep to get there! I would prefer answering this a little later in the post :)

So, here we were, having a camel ride in our jeep. The rocks and stones on the road just grew bigger and it hurt us more. Most of the route had steep hair pin bends with no barricades built (Too much to expect). After few hours of climbing we landed in "Thungu" for breakfast. The first breakfast ever at the height of 14,000 ft above sea level! A local family received us and the lady heated up the bread, butter and jam (which the cook packed) and served us tea. We never found the smoky bread, ghee like butter and melted jam so tasty! All we wanted was something to warm us up!! The place had a fire place in the center of the room and all of us sat around it (imagine villagers sitting in front of a campfire). The snow capped mountains were much closer to us. We saw smoke coming out of our noses and mouths...hehe.. There was snowfall in Thungu and the roads were covered with frozen ice. The streams around were all frozen like a refrigerator’s freezer box!
After the quick breakfast we had a 2 hour drive and 3,000 feet more to climb! My back started to hurt and I could no more take to jerks and breaks. We were praying to get to this "God forbidden" Place soon. I had numerous questions running on my mind "Mein kaha hu? mein yaha kya kar rahi hu?..mein kyun yaha hu?" - Only questions with no answers. Vishnu's cold was getting worse and I was afraid he will come back with a non-functional nose! We spotted many military camps and training centers and finally halted at a check post 15,000 feet above sea level. The army personnel insisted us to stand in the open ground for a few minutes as the oxygen level was low and he wanted us to get used to it before we went higher. The check post was pretty small and it was right in the center of a huge ground. The landscape had changed too, No greenery, only brown rocks and white snow! As we approached the Guru-Dongmar Lake, we spotted a temple like construction and some more tourists too. Phew! we were not the only fools to make this trip (I thought). I was already growing disappointed by the approaching temple (Don’t tell me ye dekhne ke liye humne itni tapasya ki!), but wait! As the jeep was nearing, we discovered a BEAUTIFUL Lake! The place was too breezy and hindered us from opening our eyes. The Lake was awesome, glittering in the sunshine and shadows of the snow capped mountains falling on the water; Simply Adorable!! They say that it’s impossible to stay here after 12 in the afternoon as it gets too windy. We stood there for exactly 5 minutes and were ready to head back to Lachen! Trust me, It was worth the effort. The 5 hour drive for a 5 min look at a lake in between the gigantic snow capped mountains is surely worth it!
We had now started to dread our trip back; I am more scared of getting down the steep hair pin bends than climbing! What if the driver loses his balance and leaves the breaks! Went through the 5 hour torture all over again in the reverse order and reached the Lodge by late afternoon! It felt like "To the moon and back".. What a ride! We could smell nice food and couldn’t wait to hog! The lodge manager was nice to us and arranged a room heater (What a savior) and we hogged lunch in peace and warmth! We spent the rest of the day in the lodge doing almost nothing! Just kept drinking teas and eating hot rotis and sabzi and tried to make sure that the room heater worked. (Gosh cold weather made me hungry!)
The day had been extremely hectic and a relaxing evening helped both of us to take care of our “ever-running” noses! Lachen was freaking cold that day and we kept wrapping ourselves in as many layers as possible. (It reminded me of my NJ days where I would be bundled up all day!)

Road to Lachen

It’s so cozy and comfortable. My thick beautiful rose printed blanket covered me completely! I could hear him moving around the room, taking pictures, watching tv and just generally whiling away time as I refused to wake up! I finally felt bad for him and managed to unwind from my blanket. I must say this hotel was the best in the trip - but we spent the least time here! We were instructed to be ready by 10 for our trip to Lachen. I again got lost in the welcoming bathroom and took my own sweet time to get ready, I gave more than "own sweet time" for him as well! By 9 am we were ready and we already had rats playing bhangra in our stomachs a.k.a Hungry!
The restaurant at the hotel had the same name as the one in Darjeeling "The Orchid" - and it also happens to be my favorite flower too - It's just a coincidence damn it! (Sivaji aka Rajni). We hogged numerous omelets and toasted bread. We were the only ones in the restaurant and assumed the entire breakfast buffet as ours! The waiter(s) were very sweet to us while serving :-) and were probably thinking "Complementary breakfast ka fayda uthaving eh" – Never mind!
We spent some time walking around the premises of the hotel and taking some more "idea" photos as we were waiting for our ride to arrive. We could hear every vehicle passing by the main road (which was probably 100 meters from us), our big Mahindra jeep finally arrived and a thin, tiny, skinny driver appeared. I wondered if he could even drive the jeep properly. Trust me I thought wrong (you will discover it as we go on with the trip). Our jeep had the sticker "Praise the Lord" similar to the sticker I had on my previous Maruti - Again a coincidence damn it :)
On the way, we visited the "Seven sisters Waterfalls" - Apparently Seven waterfalls together one above the other. We could actually spot 5 and didn’t know where the other 2 sisters were - May be playing in the garden ;) lol. The water and the sun rays collided beautifully to create a mini rainbow; Lovely indeed.
I would avoid getting into too much of details (I would land up writing a novel otherwise) and would try to stick to the important things only :) The roads started to become non-existent as we proceeded. Every path we drove was either filled with stones/rocks/water. It was initially very exciting and looked very adventurous, but as we climbed higher it became too scary. The path was so narrow that I could not imagine 2 vehicles crossing at the same time. But guess what, a huge Army van and our car would pass each other with a centimeter gap. I was unfortunately sitting at the side where the vehicles would pass by! We had the "Teesta" river accompany us all along the trip. We spotted water from every height, width and angle. So many small streams and waterfalls contributed to Teesta. We crossed almost 15 waterfalls during the ride and we didn’t bother to click any pictures as we were having a camel ride (both in speed and feel) and we wouldn’t have got any stable photos! Our bums started to ache and we were growing impatient. The driver had a little mercy on us and halted for lunch at a nice and small restaurant. The good part about this place was - we didn’t have to pay for what we ate here, we don’t get to order either - Food just appears on the table. We had good lively music to keep us alive and rejuvenate ourselves from the painful ride.
No matter how painful it was, I must say the mountains were very attractive; Mysterious and gigantic. Hats-off to "BRO" (Border roads Organization) for taking the effort to create this route. In fact, they are in the process of laying roads on this route and am hoping it will be built before my kid is old enough to visit Sikkim ;-) BRO also painted messages like "Be gentle on my curves", "Please horn while you turn", "No hurry No worry" etc which kept us entertained during the journey :)
The drive from Gangtok to Lachen took us almost 6 hours. Teesta was enjoying every bit of water and we were far from enjoying as we held ourselves tight to avoid jumping and hitting our heads against the roof! I could already see Vishnu frowning to every bump/rock which approached us! It was 6 in the evening when we saw "Lachen". It was already pitch dark and we had no mood/inclination to go anywhere after that. It was pretty cold and we chose to spend the rest of the evening in the lodge. The lodge was a very basic place with absolutely nobody staying there. Thankfully there was a cook ;) He fed us with some yummy food and we hit the bed very early! But before that, the driver came and told us – “Kal subah 5 baje nikalna hain” and we were like - NO, Not again! The driver insisted on taking us to "Guru Dongmar lake" and finally convinced us to be ready by 4:30 am!
We wished "Good night" to Lachen by 8:00 pm and entered dream world in no time! What a day it was!

Darjeeling se Gangtok tak

We left Darjeeling and were heading towards Sikkim, on the way we spotted the very famous Teesta River. Entering Sikkim is a totally hyped process - you need a dozen permits and there are lots of check posts where the driver is required to go sign registers. The funny part is, those check posts sometimes would be deserted and our driver would just go and honestly sign the book. I must say the driver was pretty honest, according to him, people in the locality are honest and "No thefts" usually. Impressive! We stopped by to the beautiful view point called "Triveni view point". It offers a panoramic view of the ’sangam’. This is the point where the rivers Rangeet and Teesta meet. This junction divides the land in to Sikkim, West Bengal and the earstwhile portions of Bhutan. We spotted a couple of rafts from the top and were tempted to go for river rafting.

The guy who offered the rafts was atrociously priced, but u know what, he was the only one who provided this service and every tourist who passed by would not mind paying that amount because its "a onetime experience". We had a huge discussion whether to go for it or not. Random thoughts like "should we even bother to this?", "May be we should, because we may not come again to this place", "What the heck, just don’t bother about money", "Its freaking expensive and our overall expenses will shoot up", "No other better gift to give him on this day" blah blah blah. I wanted to make sure that Vishnu had a fabulous birthday, besides me not organizing a cake or bouquet of flowers! So, after all that brain storming, we decided to go rafting! Luckily, We found a friendly couple - Smitha & Rohit - to accompany us in this adventure and to share the burden of the cost!
The river was calm for the most part of the rafting except for some rapids which made us active and scream our lungs out when the water would rise as if its ready to gulp us all down! Vishnu took the brave work of rowing and I conveniently sat in the center to enjoy the ride. Whenever a rapid was nearing, the guide who came along with us would say "On your knees" - Smitha and I would obediently kneel down and throw ourselves in front of the raft. It was as if the waters were waiting for us to bow and it would immediately attack us! It was a once in a lifetime experience for sure and we enjoyed every bit of it! :)

Our driver, was impatient to take us to Gangtok and drove as fast as he could. (we were running 2 hours late). Vishnu and I were just too tired to even bother about the view outside! In fact we were hungry. We took out our Mothers love - Brownies and Pakodas - and filled our stomach to survive the ride. As we entered Gangtok we saw a prominent pedestrian built on both sides of the road. Found that unique as we don't really bother to build one for our city! Sikkim is beautiful (no wonder it attracts tourists and terrorists) and we seemed to like it so far. Gangtok was a total buzzing city. A fully fledged market with almost all brands available: Nike, Adidas, Louis Phillipe, Raymonds etc. We bid adieu to Ram bhaiya at the Gangtok taxi stand and a new car and driver took the responsibility of taking us around the city for the rest of the day.
We were actually not interested to do anymore sightseeing and were dying to eat and sleep! But the OH-SO-HONEST driver took us to "Bhanjakri Falls Energy Park" - It looked like a miniature of the Darjeeling rock garden, except that it had an entry fee and a restaurant to feed us! We spent more time eating than actually seeing the place and instructed the driver to take us to the hotel.
The day just seemed to long for us to handle, our hotel was 15 KMs away from the falls and we were again back to hurting our bums in the car! The road was worse than before and it was already dark by the time we saw the face of the hotel. Though the ride was extremely painful, the hotel was equally cozy! We reached "Royal Demazong" just in time for dinner! Our room was beautiful - Tea maker (Yes, I needed it badly), TV (I guess Vishnu needed it badly), huge bath tub, lovely curtains and bright cushions! (Some very pointless things to make it a cozy room, but the only things we cared about at that time!) A nice hot water bath, Strong tea, Tasty food and "So you think you can dance" on TV made it a nice evening. We hit the bed pretty soon (Too much of traveling for the day we thought). We were just unaware of the amount of traveling we would go through the next day! I felt as if I was back from a hard day’s work and was drowsy. I don’t remember saying "Good Night" to him either - I just slept!

Sayonara Darjeeling!

It was 7 am by the time we returned back to the Hotel after our early morning excursion to Tiger hills. We were preparing to check out from the hotel today. Our driver was dot on time to pick us up and take us for the last round of sightseeing in Darjeeling. As we settled bills we bumped into every person who, in some way, served us and helped us have a good stay. With a big smile on our faces and good experiences we said good bye to the hotel.
Today's agenda was no different from yesterdays - sightseeing! We dropped by at the Batasia Loop/Eco Garden, Dunggon Buddhist Monastery and headed towards "Triveni view point". Before I jump to Triveni there are few things about Darjeeling worth mentioning. I found the town to be extremely charming with very friendly people and beautiful sceneries. It is a typical hill station one would like to visit for taking a break from the usual schedules. Like I already mentioned in my previous posts, we found the people having the same sense of dressing. Young guys with spiked gelled hair, bright color mufflers and smart caps and to compete with them were the round-face, fringe-cut, small- eyed girls with heavy eye makeup and dark lip color contrasting their complexion. I am totally motivated in getting a fringe cut myself (Not yet done!). So, Bye Bye Darjeeling, It was nice to meet you :) Here we come Triveni!

Suraj ki pehli kiran..

Yaaaawnnnn! Its 3 am and I am sooooooo sleeeeefy! Vishnu woke up promptly and got ready and i was still feeling lazy. Woke up quarter to 4 and managed myself to look presentable. By the way, today Nov 3rd is pati dev's birthday too! What a way to celebrate hubby's birthday (I thought!). Our super punctual ram bhaiya was already waiting for us and I had no clue why we had to go to some place this early in the morning! It was pitch dark at that time and ram bhaiya was driving at 45% angle (climbing up). He showed his driving skills on extremely steep curves, where both Vishnu and I would almost say our last prayers and Ram bhaiya will zoom with ease..phew!
In 45 mins we were at "Tiger Hills" - There were lots of tigers here at one point (During British rule) and that’s why the name. It is the highest point in the Darjeeling area with a smashing height of 8000 ft above sea level. We were here to watch the "Sunrise". Being in Chennai I have always enjoyed sunrise sitting at the marina and was hoping an equivalent experience. We were the first enthu-patanis to get there and by 5 am the place was packed! The temperatures were at an all time low and the swift breeze made my teeth chatter!
Though it was cold, the sky was clear and grey. We had the Kanchenjunga on our left, a small tip of Mt. Everest behind, the China border in front of us and the sun on our right! We kept circling around the hall to capture the beauty of all of them. The silver moon was still glittering in the sky like a beautiful bindi and as the first sun rays showed their presence, the grey sky was turning into a golden yellow. The mountains were changing colors too. From grey, to orange to yellow to silver to bright white! The clouds above the sun had a "Golden lining" and were shimmering with pride as the sun finally showed his face to us! It was like a huge diamond ring popping out from far. A Picture perfect - Mountains, Sun, clouds and few birds chirping high above the sky. The most beautiful sun rise i had ever witnessed. The crowds cheered loudly as the sun rose and the noise had suddenly turned to a "wow" in chorus!
Waking up so early in the morning and going through the dangerous ride was simply worth it! What a start to this day!
We couldn’t capture the beauty into the camera (we didn't have the right lens) but captured it in our eyes :) ...This is just the beginning of the best birthday Vishnu could ever have. More fascinating things happened to us today and watch this space for more updates :)

Darjeeling still rocking

Its day 2 in Darjeeling. We woke up to see a beautiful view outside the hotel room. The weather was cooler than last night and I could find the need to grab a sweater :) Our driver - Ram bhaiya, was exceptionally punctual. He said he will be picking us up at 9:45 and he was there sharp! We ate a hearty breakfast and set out for our first day of sightseeing in Darjeeling.
Our first destination was the "Peace Pagoda". Let me mention to you that I am not a "History" person, so I personally did not try to find out the meaning of a Peace pagoda or the reason for its existence. But honestly, the pagoda was a masterpiece. It depicted the 4 main parts of Buddha's life and the sculpture was gold plated. Amazing indeed! We got into our usual photography mode, took loads of pictures :) and yes, the beautiful Kanchenjunga was more clear that day.
Our next destination was the famous "Rock garden". Very well built and a beautiful picnic spot. i have never ever been to a rock garden before and this was my first, so whatever I saw was bench marked as the best:) The entire place was filled with tourists but we had enough space for ourselves to strike some real funny poses :) We spent more than an hour there walking a complete big loop of stairs around the falls. With a kutti trek we completed our excursion to this refreshing place :) and then Ram bhaiya signaled to go for the next "tourist spot" of the day

We fought our way to a busy bazaar on the Darjeeling roads, apparently it was school disperse time and we were blocked by far too many school students. I should mention that he was busy watching the gals and I was busy watching the guys :) We did notice similarities in dressing sense amongst the crowd and were wondering if the schools had specific classes teaching the same :) After all the noise and traffic we landed at "Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park" and "Himalayan Mountaineering Institute". The zoo was very impressive. A well maintained, nicely organized zoo :) One place where both Vishnu and I became kids and jumped for every creature we spotted. Some of them we loved watching were the Snow leopards, Indian Tiger, Red Panda, Clouded leopards, Himalayan Wolf, Black Bear and pheasants. After this visit, we called every dog on the street - "Wolf", cat - "leopard" and monkeys - "langoors" hehe. Nevertheless, the place was worth seeing :-)
Inside the premises of the zoo is the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute). We visited the museum which had the list of legends that have ever climbed Mt. Everest! It was interesting to see the tools and the equipments the mountaineers use, pretty fascinating. The HMI canteen offered some good soup and fried rice for the poor starved souls (us) with live music. Yes, the cook was apparently a part time musician and he played the guitar! Some lovely Hindi songs (yes Hindi again!) and a nice short and sweet lunch just made the trip to HMI a memorable one.
As we came out of the HMI and zoo we were hoping that this was the last destination for the day, cos our legs had started to ache (remember the walk and trek in rock garden). Our bodies had gone through too much of exercise and wanted to just relax. Alas! The driver bhaiya didn’t feel the same and drove us to the famous tea gardens. As usual, the photographer and the model started their session and completed pretty quick with a piping hot tea :-)

We reached the hotel soon, and decided to attack the "mall road" a little earlier than yesterday (so that I can get some shopping done, of course!). The mission was successful. We shopped handbags, sofa covers, Buddha table piece..blah blah blah and Vishnu was already worried that the lugguage we got was not enough to fit in the new stuff;-) And yeah, he also kept reminding me that we had more places to go during the trip where I can shop and stopped me from buying more stuff! GRRR..We returned back to the hotel, had an early dinner and slept early as our driver bhaiya was gonna come at 4 am next day! Yes! 4 am!! (The only time I woke up at that time was to eat during Ramzan fasts and tomorrow will be an exception!) So, see u tomorrow @ 4am.. Good night!

Darjeeling ka jadoo

Our drive to Darjeeling was very smooth. Good roads, nice sceneries and frequent chai breaks made the drive easy on us. Most part of the route was adjacent to the “Himalayan Toy train” tracks and we kept singing the Rajesh khanna hit “Mere sapno ki raani…”. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any train on those tracks (the trains run early in the morning and we were on the roads post noon). Our driver had a huge collection of Hindi songs; I specially enjoyed it because most of them were peppy numbers and big time hits of Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and Shashi Kapoor :) (Don’t bother if you don’t know them, Google if curious)

After a while we started spotting hills which lead to little bigger mountains and to much more bigger mountains. Like a mystery, they were getting unfolded from the dark one by one. As we were approaching Darjeeling we spotted “Kanchenjunga” and we went “WOWWWWWWWW”. I had never seen such a gorgeous and spotless beauty! I had absolutely no words to describe this gigantic creation of nature. We kept sighting the mountain from every possible angle. Our camera just could not capture the white snow capped mountain as it matched with the sky color.
We finally reached our hotel and took our own sweet time to get ready and get set for a small walk in the town.

We are very used to being late :), we come from the concrete jungle where we come back from work late, and we sleep and also eat late. Habitually we got ready at 6:30pm (Which I think was very early for us). When the receptionist spotted us going out, he was taken aback and said “Madam, itne andhere mein kaha jaa rahe ho? Shops sab bandh ho chuke hain??”.. And I went “:-O” (Don’t imagine my face doing that, instead think of the yahoo emoticon version of this ;-)..)Later did we realize that the sun sets early here and people are early to home, early to bed and early to rise. We still took a chance and walked out in the dark.

The town was deserted, we felt as if it was midnight on the roads. A curfew to be precise! We did feel a little scared on the dark roads and felt out of breadth by just walking up a few galis (streets). We finally made our way to “The Chaurasta” - The place is little elevated and acts like a tourist spot as it provides a good view of the town. We could not do much of photos due to scarcity of light and headed back to the hotel pretty soon. Like hungry scavengers, we straight went into the restaurant for a delicious meal. And to add on to the flavor, we had pianist playing lovely all time favorite Hindi songs (Yes, Its Hindi again).. I felt so much at home and enjoyed my supper.

We were finally good to call it a day and were excited for another eventful day. A nice long day came to an end and so will this post :-)

Nepal mein Do pal

After our visit to the beautiful Merick Lake, our driver took us to the “Nepal Border”. We were initially surprised and thought we don’t have any visa prepared for Nepal and we cannot cross boundaries!. But the good part was, we were allowed to go inside Nepal with just any Identity proof. The Boundary police took down our names and they said, “aish karo” :). the funny part was he asked my name i said “Sakina”, he wrote the same spelling. He asked his name and he said “Vishnu”, the person at the counter wrote “Bishnu”…

Anyways, The way it works that Indians are allowed to go shopping in the Nepal market 1.5kms from the border. There were enough and more cab guys on the other side of the border to take us to the market and bring us back after an hour or so.

Hearing the word “Shopping” did bring a broad smile on my face and we set out to see what we could loot (the shop or his purse..;-)..). I tried to be nice and allowed Vishnu to shop for himself ;)…he tried to buy shoes but unfortunately none of the shops had sizes close to his feet! The shoes for guys were half the size of his huge feet. We finally gave up and went to shop for myself (Yippee!). My first purchase was a Purple pashmina for myself. We bought couple of more stuff from the market and again got back to clicking pics :)) sometime we were back to India and the driver anounced “Ab hum Darjeeling jayenge“…..and I said “Darjeeling Hum aa rahe hain!!

NJP Chhodo Merick Lake dekho

We arrived @ NJP next day morning (Nov 1st to be precise). Clueless on what to do next I call my travel agent asking if someone has come to pick us up. After half an hour of negotiation with the wrong agent, I finally received a call from the driver who was impatiently waiting at the station premises to pick us up and take us to our first sight-seeing spot - Merick Lake.

The lake was nice and calm. The water looked clean and did have some small fishes too. The place was well equipped to be called a “tourist attraction” with lots of shops and horse riding too. The lake was surrounded by a neatly maintained lawn and was divided by a bridge at the center.

Vishnu and I started our “photography” skills and took some good pics of the lake and us :). We spent a good half an hour at the lake and enjoyed the breeze and the music of the small ripples which were formed on the lake.

This was our first, but not the last beautiful spot of the trip!…

Chennai Se NJP tak

Vishnu and I had set out from Chennai on Oct 31st to explore North East India. Our journey was very long and involved different modes of transportation. One thing we knew was, no matter how far or how long it would take, it is gonna be worth it, and guess what, IT WAS!

From Chennai we took a Flight to Kolkata. Our flight experience was pretty weird. the airlines called us up 2 days prior to the journey informing us on the change of timings. We religiously followed their time table and reached the airport 2 hours in advance (the flight timings were advanced), the weird part is, the flight was delayed for 2 hours and we finally took off at the same time as before! Grr..

At Kolkata we had 4 hours before our train to NJP and we decided to check out the most wanted tourist spot in Kolkata - The Victoria memorial. The cab ride to this place was quiet an adventure as we did not know how on earth he fit his big ass cab in between 2 lorries and 3 bikes! The cab driver stopped at a strange dark quiet place telling us “Victoria Memorial aa gaya” - We turned 360 degrees to spot where the monument was, but couldn’t spot anything except bushes and trees. Our hearts sunk thinking that we have been cheated by the Cab and he has for some reason Kidnapped us! (hehe…we should have realised that we are no celebs). The cab driver had to “literally” convince us that he brought us to the right place and because of our strange reaction he quickly took his fare and drove away. Like aliens we walked towards the trees and then found the huge monument hiding in the DARK! To our surprise, the Victoria Memorial was not lit and we could not capture the beauty in the night! :-( the only good part was the surrounding garden. We simply witnessed the ‘Colourful Fountain Dance” at the gardens and headed to Sealdah Station…

At the station we took our dinner @ the “humble” IRCTC cafeteria. (I will explain the “humble” - ness in my forthcoming posts…). We ate some quarter dozen bread omelettes (only 3 duh!) and waited for our train to arrive. As the train arrived at the station, we saw a huge crowd of people very obediently getting into a queue at the platform. Trust me, I have never seen such a disciplined queue anywhere before! This queue was guarded by the Cops (of course, what do you think we Indians were born with discipline in the blood?)- This queue was to get into the “unreserved” bogie! Luckily we had confirmed tickets and did not get into this ever-growing queue. The overnight train to NJP (New Jalpaiguri) was comfortable and yes, well lit! (Thank God!) - NJP was our starting point to our 1 week long vacation and we wanted to get there as fast as we could (or rather as fast as the steam engine could).

The train started and so was our reading time..:) We read for a few hours until we heard our co-travellers complain about lights not turned off. We bid good-bye to our beloved books and the co-travellers and proceeded to see some beautiful dreams :)

Some photos and lots more stories coming up next »