Amazing North East India
Neeraj Shinde Tuesday, March 22, 2005 Sikkim
It was a magnificent thought of spending a vacation in the north eastern paradises of India. The beauty of these serene lands were long heard and this time it was under no circumstances I was going to miss this opportunity. This time we had a schedule to visit Gangtok (Sikkim), Darjeeling (West Bengal) and Dimapur (Nagaland). All in all it was a plan for another 10 days.
Me and my family left the Mumbai airport with the early morning flight and soon reached Guwahati (Assam) from where we had a plan to board a train and reach New Jalpaigudi, famously known as NJP in West Bengal. NJP is the nearest railway station from Gangtok and Darjeeling. The nearest airport is Bagdogra but train travel is unavoidable. It was my first visit to Guwahati and I was pretty nervous cos' I heard the news that there were 2 bomb blasts on Guwahati airport last night. But there was nothing to worry as the security provisions were tightened then.
After an overnight train travel, we reached NJP the next day. From there we boarded a cab to Gangtok. I must be very thankful to BRO (Border Roads Organisation) for their skillful work of building such beautiful roads across the border. Transportation in the border areas seems to be impossible without the roads built by the BRO. Those steep curves and deep valleys almost trippled the adrenaline flow in my body. The gutts of the cab drivers should also be appreciated cos' it is nearly impossible to move on such roads without keeping so cool.
In the afternoon, we reached the Gangtok city. Totally new surroundings, new faces and new climate were things that fascinated me. It almost felt like a dream city.
Located deep in the heart of the Gangtok market, our destination was Hotel Pine Ridge where we had a booking for 3 days and I was pretty sure that we were going to have a momentous stay over there.The climate of Gangtok was such cold that it compelled us to pull out the sweaters from our bags. I was never expecting such a cold climate when the climate in Mumbai had crossed 30 degrees.And thats what makes this place unique. For the first days we were busy in the local site seeing which covered the famous Ganesh Tok that gave the majestic view of the Gangtok city, the rope way, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology etc.
Gangtok has several buddhist temples and the culture seems to be deeply influenced by the Tibet.
Mr. Sinha who was the manager of Hotel Pine Ridge gave us a good information about the places that were worth-visiting at Gangtok. One of them was the Tsomgo Lake (Indians call it the Changu Lake), some 37 kms. from Gangtok. In the beginning, I wasn't knowing the seriousness of this lake. I mean I just took it for granted as a common lake. But the next day when we visited the lake, our blood was almost frozen with cold. It was a mountain ranges completely filled with snow and in the center was the mindblowing Tsomgo lake which was also completely frozen. It was for the first time in my life I saw so much of ice! Ice Ice baby..... and soon we started throwing snow balls on our fellow-tourists.
It was 1:30 pm by then when suddenly hailstones started banging our heads. The experience was like never before! It was the first snow fall I ever saw .... -6,-8,-10 the temperature was dropping steeply and soon it became very difficult to stay at Tsomgo. We had a schedule to proceed towards Baba Mandir which was supposed to be one of the mysterious places in Sikkim but unfortunately had to drop down the plan.
On the way back, driving on the snowy roads was again a big problem. A slightest error could lead us kilometers down in the valleys. But I am thankful to the skills of the chauffeur and the grace of the almighty without which I wouldn't be writing this post.
Our next destination was Darjeeling in West Bengal. It is a famous hill station all over the world. On the fourth day we hired another cab from Gangtok and after 3 hours of painful journey we reached Darjeeling. Searching our Hotel Valentino was not a big problem. It was a thai hotel with good but some what expensive food. Our hotel room gave a majestic view of the icy mountain ranges of the Kanchanjanga. For the next 3 days we enjoyed the pleasant climate of the place. The Nightangale Park was one which I would never forget. The park was well maintained with some entertainment for the visitors. At night the park authorities had arranged for some Nepali folk dances. I didn't understand the music but the dance was awesome. We also visited a Japenese temple and also participated in the worship of the lord Buddha. That gave me an unusual peace of mind. The soothing Tibetan meditation music was enchanting my body and soul. I was so intrigued by the music that I bought the music the very next day. It is a source of power and inspiration for me now and whenever I listen to that music I remain stunned!
I had learnt several things from Gangtok and Darjeeling. One of which was the importance of meditation in attaining peace of mind.
Our journey was making us weary day by day but we moved on. Next and finally we reached Dimapur(Nagaland) after another painful travel from Darjeeling to NJP then NJP to Guwahati and finally Guwahati to Dimapur by train. I had a beautiful glance of the Brahmaputra river at Guwahati. It was almost like a sea.
Dimapur as such is not a place of tourist attraction but we had to go there as we had our flight scheduled from Dimapur. I had a 2 day stay there and was really shocked by the culture there. It was difficult to believe that I was in India. The people seem to be deeply influenced by western culture and somewhat Chinese too. I was nearly about to faint when I saw dog meat, worms and what not being sold in the Naga markets. May be that was not my kinda food.
On the very last day we were invited for dinner by Mr. Pillai - one of our family friends staying at Dimapur. But it was the first time I visited them. The food was awesome and reminded me of a classic tamil yumee food.
Now it was time to come home. With the memories of all the beautiful moments of the North East we returned to Mumbai the next day weary and tired but contented. These 10 days would be evergreen till the last breath leaves my heart!