Roadtrip #3: Sikkim

Presentation1After last year’s road trips to Kochi and Goa I was really looking forward to a more relaxed and luxurious vacation this year. However, T had different plans for us. We had discussed Bhutan as a destination but without proper permission on his end it didn’t seem possible this time so the next best thing was Sikkim, according to him. I actually thought a getaway at the nearest Novotel Hotel would be great too but that, I guess, was so ‘normal’!

As days progressed, I found T hunched up on his various electronic gadgets (the phone, tab, laptop, mapmyindia) and even paper maps at some of time. I went on with my daily stuff blissful in my utter ignorance in what was to come. When T presented me with the excel sheet of our ‘Journey’ details, I finally knew there was no turning back and I would just have to suck it up and do what I do the best – organize!

It took me a whole day to detail out and pack up all that we would require on the trip – from heavy woolens to the water heater and cup noodles. We packed up the car and on 8th of June before Mr. Sun made his appearance on our horizon, we were up and ready to roll. Pickle, thankfully, is a very morning person like us (he literally turns cranky beyond his bedtime) and was super excited for whatever was to come. As we took off on our epic journey, my only preparation was to empty my bladder and pray like hell that we find proper toilets on the way.

We stopped at Kolkata after 14 hours, T will say it was 13 hours and 15 minutes (like it’s some kinda achievement) and spent a day there meeting relatives. The next day’s trip, from Kolkata to Siliguri, was by far the worst we have ever been on (the return journey on that road was the same). After spending the night at the Skyview Lodge in Siliguri and eating a weird breakfast (we hoped for a continental spread and got puri sabji) we headed towards Darjeeling.

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Sikkim RoadTrip Jume 2016 @Sinetheta

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As the hills approached, the weather became pleasant and we started driving with our windows down. The climb was scary. T being an experienced hill driver managed fine and at one point proudly declared that you need just need to do two things to climb the hill, put the car in first gear and manage the clutch. Personally I felt the two things were, close your eyes and pray to all the gods in the universe.

We stopped at a roadside restaurant just short of Darjeeling to eat an amazing lunch that consisted of steamed momos and Chicken Chowmein. That’s when our vacation really began.

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The next part was again a little dicey and not because of the roads. T was confident that we would reach our hotel in another half an hour or so. Believing his calculation, I happily drank all the water in the world and then went through a tortuous time as Pickle made my bladder his private trampoline. We probably drove around the whole Darjeeling with no luck in finding our hotel just ‘cause T thought asking for directions, when you have so many gadgets, was pedestrian!

After I fumed and gave him like 30 million dirty looks in the rearview mirror, he finally started asking for directions. We reached the hotel just in time for Pickle’s dinner and didn’t have much time for anything else. Our stay in Darjeeling was really great as we ate (of course), drank (was there a doubt) and made merry amidst the hills in a beautiful weather.

From Darjeeling we headed towards Gangtok. The drive was beautiful the first half of it was literally on the banks of the River Teesta. A slight drizzle, the gurgling noises from the river and hot cups of Chai made it perfect. Though I am not a tea drinker, I figured when in Rome and all that. However, the chai from the roadside tapris were so much better than the ones poured out in our hotels.

Anyway, we managed to reached our hotel in Gangtok sometime after lunch and had enough time to unwind. We spent the remaining day/evening sorting out the paperwork for our Journey to Nathula and then hogged brilliant bacon-chicken burgers and bacon platters at a café on the MG Marg. The next day was spend in the Nathula trip which surely was the trip of a lifetime. Evening was hogging time again, along with some souvenir shopping. The last day in Gangtok was a bonus since we had planned to go up to Lachung but had to cancel at the last moment due to bad weather and landslides. So we shifted hotels ( to a much more luxurious one – T’s compromise for dragging me on the trip) and spent the day like regular tourists, doing touristy thing.

On our journey back we went to Lava which is a Forest resort in West Bengal and spent two whole days decompressing and relaxing in total isolation before our trip back home. It took us two more days to finally get home and though I had started the trip with a truck load of apprehensions and even subjected T to a full blown tantrum in the very beginning of it, I was so very happy that he actually decided to do the trip by road.

We spent the next whole week unpacking, retelling incidents, reminiscing and gloating over our loot of Sikkim Rum and Musk Brandy. Though it was hectic, it was definitely the trip of a lifetime and the mother of all road trips… yet!

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Darling Darjeeling

Of course the title is cheesy but isn’t Darjeeling like THE honeymoon destination in India? And I totally get it. The mist, the hills, fresh air and winding roads make for some really cozy moments. Add to it the hotel rooms with no fan or AC and just 322 blankets and you have to perfect excuse to laze around and just be cozy in a cocoon.

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We stayed in a hotel called The Traveler’s Inn. Of course it wasn’t the Mayfair but it had a clean room, clean blankets, room service and a view to die for.

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I was actually miffed for a while since there were no fans in the room (yes I am the types who loves to sleep with the fan on, no matter what the season). However, as night fell and temperatures sank I was suddenly grateful that there weren’t any fans. Out came the woolen socks, the heavy sweatshirts and stayed on till the break of dawn which was pleasantly around 4 am. I am so gonna live on the eastern hills… day begins around 4 and is done by 6 in the evening – how perfect!

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Since we didn’t have any time the day (evening) we checked in (thanks to T’s stubborn refusal to ask for directions), we had a hot dinner and tucked in. The dinner was weird. It looked great, smelled great and even had proper masalas but I couldn’t find any taste in it. It was really disappointing. The next day we left immediately after a pathetic breakfast of idli (seriously??? I traveled all this distance to eat the same old IDLI??? The one above does have a sense of irony).

We drove to the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) which also housed the Zoo. Though there were not many (or any) animals to look at, Pickle had a ball of a time running around. After the customary snaps, souvenirs and gobbling of snacks we decided to head back. the one mistake we did was take our own car… There are loads of one ways and turns and so when T tried to get the car back to the entrance to pick us he got stuck. We whiled away our time observing crazy people around (not crazy-crazy, just the touristy kind) and eating hot pakoras and home made buns. We reunited after nearly an hour and headed towards a parking lot. we had learnt our lesson and figured we rather park our car and carry on without it.

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Strolling through the mall road was so much fun. I gave away more of our money to buy useless crap and then luckily found ourselves in front of Glenary’s. This restaurant or bakery is a heritage landmark in Darjeeling. Of course we didn’t know it till we walked in and read about it. Our rumbling tummies led us well. We finally tucked in and started our vacation properly with Chinese Chopseuy, Beef chilly and a smoking chicken steak, Pickle had to be content with rice and Dal makhani. I discovered the lip smacking delicacies of the bakery downstairs along with beef and pork pickles, yum yum!!!

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After over eating and also packing up stuff we finally walked out and strolled aimlessly for a while before remembering that there were more things to look at. We hired a cab and visited the Peace Pagoda and the Japanese temple (the only ones on my list of to-see). It really was the ‘peace’ pagoda. The climate helped, with the mist floating around the temple and the pagoda seemed heavenly.

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After our short sightseeing we headed back to the hotel. Though we wanted to dine at the famous Revolver hotel, they weren’t taking any walk ins due to a busy season. We quickly turned to trip advisor and discovered this adorable café called – Gaty’s café. Now it is so hidden that you won’t trip on it during your strolls. You will really need to look for it to find it. The entrance is a little dark and dingy but once inside it you will soon warm up. It is like being in the soul of a true roadster. The décor along with the food/wine menu felt absolutely perfect. We toasted with the Old monk and waited for our food to arrive. Pickle loved his Pita and hummus as we dug into the platter of super spicy wings!

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The two day stay was too short but just enough for us to get addicted to this beautiful place. We missed the tea garden tours but our goose hunt around the hill station the day before made us feel like we had seen it all!