Hello friends, I would like to share my holiday experience to the North East last summer.
North East is like heaven for people who love nature in its full glory, particularly mountains. It is famous for its picturesque monasteries and waterfalls in the backdrop of the massive Kanchenjunga mountain range.
If you are going towards Sikkim, where I was headed, the nearest airport is Bagdogra in Siliguri. You can get taxis from Bagdogra that take you to Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital. However, our first stop was Kalimpong, a sleepy hill station in West Bengal, but very close to the Sikkim border. It offers many homestay options. We were hosted in a beautiful bunglow, Windsor and the peaceful place plus wonderful food made this a perfect stay. Kalimpong is made famous by the colourful pretty flowers that you see growing almost everywhere. Locals make it a point to almost always have a small flower garden outside their house. Good places to visit are – Cactus nursery, Durpin Dara monastery, 4500 ft high golf course, Deolo Hill and Dr.Graham’s home (a boarding school). For me the highlight was Kalimpong Science Centre where you can see the miracles of science, stand out exhibits being on optical illusion. One can easily spend an hour in The Dinosaur Park located in the science centre.
Gangtok is about a 3 hours drive from Kalimpong and the massive Kanchenjunga range starts welcoming you as you approach the hill capital. Gangtok is the gateway for many further travels, be it the Nathu La pass or the mountainous region of Lachung, Lachen. We skipped the adventurous part of the journey (maybe we will go later) and opted to visit Nathu La Pass instead. This is the India China border and was used as a trade route for many years. The journey to Nathu La is along a narrow muddy road and can be an adventure in itself. It is not for the faint hearted. Check out the most beautiful Tsongolake on your way , where you can take Yak rides. Believe me, these animals look ferocious, but are trained and are very friendly. As you play in the snow and are close to shivering, enjoy some sips of the most wonderful hot tea and samosas served by the Army canteen, and believe it or not, at 12000 feet above sea level. Shoppers will have a good time at the MG Road, as for me, I just loved to take a stroll on this road enjoying hot momos with szechuan sauce and cool breeze blowing all over.
Our next stop was Pelling, about 6 hours from Gangtok. This was the most scenic drive I’ve ever seen. So much so, I wished we continued driving forever. Pelling is a pretty little town in West Sikkim, offering magnificent views of the Kanchenjunga range. It’s many waterfalls are a must visit, the best part being most of these are very accessible. Do not miss the thrill of getting drenched wet in the cold waters of the majestic Kanchenjunga Falls. Those with a religious bend of mind should visit the Khecheoparli lake, a wishing lake revered by locals and the Pemayangtse Gompa monastery. Thrill seekers will love driving their vehicles through The Singshore Bridge as it swivels just a bit to send pulses racing. It is Asia’s second highest suspended bridge overlooking a deep valley.
After spending 8 days of calm and soaking in all the wonderful sights of nature, we returned to Mumbai via Bagdogra.
So, do plan your next holiday in the North East? It is one of the most beautiful parts of India untouched by urbanism. Sikkim was voted as The Lonely Planet travel destination in 2014, and that’s fully justified. The best time to visit is during our summer break since winter is harsh for us Mumbaites, besides many tourist spots are closed during snowfall and monsoon. Do remember to pack your woolens even in summers and don’t plan a hasty trip. This is nature in full bloom and you will need lots of time to really do justice to it.
By Nihar Bharwada