A Travelogue by Kumar Motwani who has just returned from his trip to Darjeeling and Sikkim. He shares his experience below.
As we had heard a lot about Darjeeling and Sikkim from our colleagues, we were keen to visit these places. We three friends alongwith our families finally decided to go in the last week of March 2014 considering that there may be heavy rush of tourists in April and May and we may not get the required reservations. We booked our tickets 60 days in advance from Vadodara to New Delhi and from New Delhi to New Jalpaiguri and returned tickets also by the same route by Rajdhani Express in III AC. We had contacted Mr. Jigar Doshi owner of Tip Top Gujarati Guest House at Gangtok for the required package, as one of our colleague had been to Sikkim some three months back and had a package with him. The package finalized was for 6 persons in 3 double bed rooms for 7 nights 8 days, transportation including pickup/dropdown at New Jalpaiguri Railway station. The package included Breakfast, Tea morning/evening and Dinner as the Lunch is generally arranged by tourist themselves while on daily sightseeing. The total package was for Rs.75000/- for 6 persons.
We left Vadodara on 19-03-2014 at 21-00 hrs. reaching New Jalpaiguri Railway station on 21-03-2014 at 11-00 hrs. The Driver of the operator was there to receive us. We started our journey by Road and went to Darjeeling via Mirik. The route was good and after seeing the tea gardens, sight seeing at Mirik Lake and Pashupati Market (Nepal Border) we proceeded for Darjeeling. By the time we reached there it was already 20-00 hrs. We occupied our rooms on 3rd floor in Rudra Bhavan. The rooms were spacious and well furnished. The meals were served to us in Tip Top Guest House which was a five minute walk from our Hotel. On 22-03-2014 we left at 04-00 hrs. for Tiger hill for sunrise. A lot of tourist were there in early morning to witness the sunrise but unfortunately we could not get the glimpse of the same due to bad weather conditions. We came back to our Hotel after visiting Batasia Loop. After taking Breakfast and some rest we started again at 11—00 hrs. for local sight seeing of Darjeeling. The main attraction was Zoo and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. It started raining and after seeing other sight seeing points including Tea gardens we returned to Hotel. On 23-3-2014 we left for Gangtok at around 09-00 hrs. and reached there by 14-00 hrs. after halting at one place for snacks and tea at the border of West Bengal and Sikkim.
On arrival at Gangtok we were given 3 bed rooms on Ground floor of Tip Top Guest House, which we occupied. After taking lunch and taking some rest we moved towards Mahatma Gandhi Road, the main hub of Gangtok, for scrolling. It is the main attraction of Gangtok for evenings the days you are in Sikkim. The Gangtok is a clean and environmental friendly city with no traffic on M.G. road and is reserved only for tourist scrolling. A best place. On 24-03-2014 we started for local sight seeing of Gangtok which included Tashi view point, Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok, Institute of Tibetology, Handicrafts, Rope way and Flower show which was the best with different type of flowers in different colours at one place. Really charming place, we had some snaps over there. As the weather was not favorable we could not go in the Rope way, which is also a good attraction, overlooking the whole Gangtok. After spending evening on M.G. Road we returned to Hotel. On 25-03-2014 we had our Breakfast and left for our trip to North Sikkim for 2 days/1 night at 11-00 hrs. The management of the Hotel packed our food and water for our trip as enroute there are no hotels for the whole day. We started our journey after obtaining necessary permissions from the authorities for our Trip to North Sikkim which were arranged by our operator, for which we had deposited our ID proofs and photos of each individuals. Enroute we saw 3 waterfalls and finally reached Lachung at around 19-00 hrs. As electricity was not there it was complete darkness. Our stay was booked in a homestay with 3 bed rooms on first floor. The owner was a gentle lady who with her staff arranged everything for us. Immediately on our arrival we were served with Tea which was really the need of the hour after hectic journey. After 1 hour the electricity came. They prepared Dinner for us. The hospitality was superb. This is a place from where further journey to Yumthang valley and zero point is undertaken. On 26-03-2014 at around 06-30 hrs. we proceeded towards Yumthang valley, after taking weather coats and gumboots from the owner of the House at Rs.100 per person. They managed for early Breakfast and tea. We reached Yumthang valley around 9-00 hrs and as we had planned for Zero point also, we left immediately and did not waited there. After about 1 hour further journey we reached at Zero Point. The route was fantastic with every mountain and tree covered with snow even the roads leading to zero point were covered by snow. As the road to actual Zero point was fully covered with thick layers of snow the vehicles were stopped two Kms. ahead of the actual place. We alongwith other tourists landed at this point. There were only 2/3 outlets of Tea/Maggie. We took Channa and Tea from the vendor. This point is fantastic and mind blowing The view was superb, we played in the snow throwing balls at each other and took good No. of snaps. This is the real place of Sikkim worth seeing, as without this, the whole trip is half hearted. It is really heaven on earth. Luckily for us, the climate was also superb and lovely sunshine was there. After playing there for nearly 2 hrs. we started our downward journey. On return journey we took some snaps at Yumthang valley and took some snacks/tea in the homemade stalls. We reached Lachung around 14-00 hrs. and after taking Lunch at the homestay, started our journey for Gangtok. We reached Gangtok Hotel at 21-00 hrs and after taking Dinner went for sleep as we were very much tired.
The roads to North Sikkim are in bad shape though development work is going on. A tourist should be little bit choosy while selecting the vehicle and the driver who should be expert in his skills. Further, the trips to North Sikkim do not include Zero point and Drivers generally charge Rs.2500/Rs.3000 extra. Though our trip included Zero point, we did not paid anything extra but a tourist should be cautious while finalizing the things with tour operators. Though the journey is very tiring but one forgets all the odds when he reaches Zero point.
As the roads to Tsomgu lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula pass (China Border) were closed due to heavy landslide we could not get the required permission from the authorities from the day we reached Gangtok. Though planned earlier we could not go to these places, which is a fully day trip. As one day was left with us we decided to go to Namchi, for which the operator arranged the vehicle. On 27-03-2014 we left at around 09-00 hrs for Namchi. There were beautiful tea Gardens. We learnt that Temi tea is a top most quality tea produced in this area whose cost is around Rs.26000/- per Kg. and 90% of the tea produced in the area is exported. The tea gardens were large in area and superb, feel like staying there only. After that we went to Samdruptse a wish fulfilling hill where a large 135 ft. unique statue of Guru Padmasambhava is installed at the top. We visited Char Dham a beautiful place covering all the Dhams of India at one place including 12 Jyotirlings. A wonderful place, a must see for every tourist. We took lot of snaps here. We also visited big Sai Baba Mandir in two stories a superb place. After covering Namchi we left for Gangtok and reached there at 20-00 hrs. After taking dinner we were at rooms for packing. On 28-03-2014 we got up early and left Gangtok at 06-30 hrs. for New Jalpaiguri and after halting at one place for snack and tea we reached the station at around 11-00 hrs. The train came right time at 13-00 hrs. and we reached Vadodara on 30-03-2014 at 04-00 hrs. ending our Pleasure trip to Darjeeling/Sikkim -a Dream coming true.
We are thankful to Mr. Jigar Doshi owner of Tip Top Hotel who arranged for our trip including the transportation, sightseeing, stay and hot and delicious meals served to us.
My write-up will be incomplete if I do not include the name of Mr.Abhijit Gupta,basically a tourist, who has spared his valuable time and energy in guiding me every aspect of this trip. He is superb and very helpful guy in arranging the lovely trips of Sikkim.