Well of course NOT REALLY. Though I could probably write a whole book about the places and the manner in which one could pee while on a road trip, the banks of the river Teesta didn’t make the cut. The title was just too awesome to let go.
From Darjeeling we took off around 8 towards Gangtok. The drive was beautiful with the Teesta keeping us company most of the way. We bypassed Kalimpong since there wasn’t much to do and we really wanted to reach Gangtok by lunch. Once we entered Sikkim, except for the winding roads and high altitude, it was like any other city, bustling with energy.
This time around, to save himself from the wrath of my fury, T asked around and we managed to find our Hotel in time. We stayed at the Sikkim Delight- by Mango and weren’t that impressed. Though a very good budget hotel with good basic amenities, the food was plain horrible and after that one lunch we decided not to eat in ever. After a light snooze we headed towards the MG Marg, the most happening place in town and weren’t disappointed. The first order of business was to figure out our passage to Nathula and the folks at the Tourist Information Office were very helpful. Under their direction we headed towards the Army Cantt to figure out passes for us and our vehicle. Though we had to wait for a while, it was worth it.
Armed with passes and giddy about the fact that we could travel to Nathula on a Tuesday without the civilian crowd, we hunted for a nice place for our meal. Guides online suggested The Baker’s café and we were thoroughly impressed. Pickle enjoyed a veggie pasta in white sauce while T dived into the mouth watering pork platter. Though I had to wait a while for my big chicken and bacon burger, it was worth it. What was surprising that they took their last order at 7:15, we were literally the last people to enter. In fact, T had gone ahead to check out the place and while I was still climbing the stairs, the staff was putting the ‘Closed’ sign on the door.
The next day we started around 6:45 am and had to wait a while for our vehicle pass. Then we started towards Nathula. The journey took us around 4 hours and was as breathtaking as it was scary. The roads, contrary to popular belief, were perfectly maintained, thanks to the Army folks stationed there. We had absolutely no trouble reaching the Pass by 10 am. It was a surreal experience up there. With our Defence background, we did get a few privileges not offered to the general public.
The steaming glass of tea, the slight drizzle, Pickle exclaiming “Too cold mumma too cold” and the warmth of the soldiers there made that one visit the most memorable one. On our way back we stopped for the customary roadside chowmein and cuppa tea. Also visited the Baba mandir and the Tsomgo Lake.
The rain did dampen our clothes and shoes but not our spirits. We made it back to our hotel in good time and went gallivanting once more on the MG Marg.
After a lot… and I mean a LOT of souvenir shopping (during which I sifted through 100s of fridge magnets and selected one, only to discover that it was one of “Bhutan” instead of Sikkim), we went to The Square for Dinner and loved it. They made a killer Cuba Libre and the little sausages wrapped in bacon were simply blissful.
The next day we visited the Rumtek Monastery and shifted to another hotel nearby, The Suhim Portico. This hotel definitely made up for all the crappy ones on the way, not that there were any but you know what I mean.
That night we managed to buy our hoard of Sikkim Rum and musk brandy. We also dined at this little place called “The Taste of Tibet” courtesy TripAdvisor.
The next day we started off towards Lava. Though short, our stay in Gangtok has definitely left us wanting for more. If you guys ever plan on visiting Sikkim, please do not miss Nathula Pass. We didn’t manage to go to Lachung due to bad weather but it wasn’t all that bad. The fact that Pickle got to say Hello… and Salute… to the Chinese Guard at the border totally made up for it.