Trip to Sikkim – Unwind ME

Previously in this story

We quickly checked in to the hotel as it had already been a long day. We made hotel bookings of entire trip through MakeMyTrip using their feature “Book Now, Pay Later“. This gave us the flexibility of confirmed booking without paying anything and cancelling it anytime up to 2 days before the check in date. Our decision of bringing in ample cash was right. In the nation gripped with the wave of demonetisation, everyone was grabbing every opportunity to get hand on the paper currency.  We were asked to pay for the room tariff in cash. We were happy as we had already anticipated this situation and were prepared for it. Upon enquiring about the North Sikkim tour transportation, hotel staff at the reception desk told they’ll connect us to the local tour operator.

First look at the room and it was nicee… Check out the room pics here.

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I always check the washroom first at any hotel/guest house. That way I ensure if the place has been cleaned properly before check in, it was super clean here. I grabbed the in-house restaurant menu and there came another pleasant surprise. The menu was full of vegetarian dishes whereas I was expecting that there may be just handful of them.  We quickly ordered for room service. Meanwhile our probable tour operator came in to meet us. Our idea of this holiday was not to rush anywhere.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to relax – Mark Black

We wanted to see whatever was feasible by spending as much time as we want at a particular place of interest. We had a chat with the operator and decided that we’ll take private cab for our first leg of journey as North Sikkim terrain was extremely rough and in the next 3 days we’ll see the second highest lake in India, Yumthang valley and Zero point the last outpost of civilisation.

Cost and tour operator details

I called up my parents to inform that I’ve reached Gangtok and as usual they said “Enjoy”. I stood by the window for a while to feel the air. Although it was cold but it was pure. There was something beside the hotel which I could not figure out what it is as it was dense dark outside. But far away Gangtok city was glistening in lights. I allowed this cool breeze to fall on me till the time dinner came in. Surprisingly, I was not interested in watching television or browsing internet on my mobile although WiFi connection was available. Something magical had already started to happen. 🙂 After having yummy dinner, quickly went off to sleep wrapping myself in a cosy blanket with wind passing in from time to time. Yes, that’s how winters are in North and East India. No matter how thick your blanket is but the cold air will find their way into your rooms.

Sun rises from the east, it was an early morning for me next day. I could hear some voices outside the window. I got up to see what I couldn’t the previous night. It was a football stadium and a group of boys were enjoying themselves in a match, game extremely popular in East India. All of sudden it clicked that I was in home state of Baichung Bhutia ,God’s gift to Indian Football.

And what a place to build the stadium, under the shelter of mighty Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world.

sdr

I turned back all happy and went downstairs to the reception to hand over the documents needed for permits. As we were to leave for Lachen by 9.30 AM; a town which acts as night halt for tourist intending to visit Gurudongmar lake, we got ready and had delectable complimentary breakfast at the hotel. By the time we were done with it, our cab had reached the hotel and driver had the required permits. Talking about the cab, since next 3 days would take fitness, stamina, endurance test of not only us but also the vehicle, so we had Mahindra Xylo, a beast at our service.

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Rainbow among pure air

We checked out, loaded luggage in the CUV(crossover utility vehicle) and embarked towards Lachen.

To be continued in next blog…

 

Attachment with the detachment

Previously in this story

In today’s world we can literally see any place without being there. The endless number of IP addresses listing the itineraries, photographs, video, forums and but of course social media has covered every corner of the planet where human reach is possible. Amidst this I thought to keep this holiday simple. Since I left the planning on Priyanka, I decided that I won’t browse through internet for any photograph or video of places that we were going to visit. I wanted my imaginary painting to turn into reality only through what my eyes were about to witness.

We were about to take this trip at the time of demonetisation.  Oh yes, it was a game changing scenario in India. Big currency notes were marked as illegal in the first week of November 2016 and there was shortage of cash across the country. ATM were going dry minutes after they were being refilled and banks had massive queue in front of them. Government was insisting on the usage of plastic currency and digital transactions but both of us were not sure that how useful cards will be in one of the remote corners of the country. We decided that we’ll withdraw cash from banks and carry at least 30K in currency notes.

I told my parents about my plan just couple of days before I were to leave. First words from them were Achha hain, ghoomo and enjoy karo“. “It’s good, travel and have fun. Yes, my parents are super cool especially when it comes to travel. Also these words of encouragement were so much-needed as this was going to be a trip taken by only 2 girls. That’s a big thing in India. I’m also very lucky considering the fact that my roommate was also supportive. Days passed by and 1 night prior to leaving, I started packing. My heart was thumping with excitement and the child within me was grinning like anything 😀

To know what all I packed please visit here

I left from Pune on 16-Dec and reached Bagdogra on the same day by tea time. As travel time between Bagdogra and Gangtok is 4 hours, had heavy meal at the airport restaurant. We hired a private taxi to Gangtok from the airport, now I was eager to have the first look of the state. Bagdogra falls under the jurisdiction of West Bengal. In about  half an hour, hill ranges began on both sides of the road. We had taken the aux cable from the cab driver and were playing Bollywood tracks. Here came an interesting turn,  the driver seemed native of Sikkim and he had not utter a single word till now. All of sudden he picked up the lyrics of the song and started singing, we were taken by surprise. I asked him what all language do native people speak and he replied “Hindi, English, Bengali and Nepali“. It was a stunner as being at the far-flung corner I was expecting a local language.

I heard water gushing somewhere near and for the first time saw emerald blue colour water. I asked the driver and he told that it’s Teesta river. It’s source is Gurudongmar lake and the river flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before merging into Bay of Bengal. At around 4.45 PM IST, it was near dusk and by 5 PM it became dense dark. We were still around 3 hours away from Gangtok and the magic is strongest between dusk and midnight at these detached zones. I had heard about unusually short days in European countries but haven’t seen any till now. At that point I knew that next few days will definitely be treat to eyes and I was glad at not browsing through the web for visuals of this place.

Let Magic Happen

We entered Gangtok by 8.30 PM and  it took us another 1 hour to locate and reach to our pre-booked hotel. Why? GPS is not very effective in Sikkim; even in the capital city due to proximity with international borders. On our way to the hotel, passed by the famous Sikkim-Manipal university. In the darkness of the night, surrounded by hills and on the banks of Teesta river, the entire university was gleaming with the lights. First look of the campus and I thought “How lucky the students are who get the chance to become part of here?“.  In spite of narrow, curvy and arched roads, Gangtok has footpaths across the city and the locals judiciously use them. Oh yes another thing that I noticed was that local people no matter what may be the age were fit and trendy.

To be continued in next blog….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CN Tower – the shimmering gem in the crown of Canada

Canada – planet’s second biggest country has endless landscapes. It has mountains, glaciers, ocean size water bodies popularly known as Great Lakes, secluded beaches, rain forests which lead to in numerous trails. To add to it are the glitzy skyscrapers, cafes along the road, night markets and what not. Two places which are the shimmering jewel in this natural resources abundant nation are Canadian National(CN) Tower and Niagara falls.

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View from Rogers Centre

Canadian National or popularly known as CN tower is located at heart of Downtown Toronto in the province of Ontario. It was the tallest standing structure in the planet till Burj Khalifa(UAE) took over the position in 2007. Today it holds the title of “World’s highest Wine Cellar” and “World’s highest outdoor walk on a building”.

How to reach CN Tower?

  1. If using subway, get down at either of Union or St’ Andrew’s station. From either of them, the tower is at the walking distance of max 750m or 3 blocks.
  2. If using GO train or bus, get down at Union station.
  3. If using TTC bus, get down at Bremner Boulevard.
  4. Private car or taxi

How to reach CN Tower in winter?

We all know that Canadian winter can be quite harsh. To save yourself from the freezing wind, you can reach UNION station then opt for sky-walk. Sky-walk is the covered pathway connecting Union station and Metro Toronto Convention Centre. CN tower is located just adjacent to the convention centre.

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Night view

What to do in CN Tower?

  1. Observation desks known as “Look Out”, “Glass Floor” and “Sky Pod”
  2. 360 degree revolving restaurant
  3. Edge walk

Eating joints around CN Tower

If you do not wish to spend big bucks in one of the highest located restaurant, there are lot of options available just outside the tower.

  1. If you’re looking for quick bite, coffee shops are available inside Union station
  2. Around 100m from the tower you can find food truck(s), Tim-Hortons, Pizza-pizza, SubWay etc.
  3. There are lot of restaurants and cafe available in downtown or you can go to Younge-Dundas square. After all you’re in heart of Toronto city.
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CN tower as seen from waterfront trail at a distance of 24 Kms

Happy hopping!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for happy holidays in Dubai

  1. Dubai-metro is a cost effective way of travelling within the city. Eating inside the metro is not allowed.
  2. Do carry travel insurance although it’s not mandatory while applying for visa. This will also help you in the event of unforeseen sickness as medical services in UAE is extremely expensive.
  3. Do Not litter at any public place. This can result in heavy fine, imprisonment or combination of both.
  4. UAE has very strict policy against the drugs. Do visit the below site for more awareness.Link for UAE drug policy

    Carry prescription of medicines for personal use and the quantity should not exceed for a period of 30 days of treatment

  5. Poppy seeds are banned in UAE so avoid accidentally carrying bakery or any product that might contain such seeds.
  6. Each attraction in UAE offers number of things to do on the basis of which entry ticket fee varies. Do your homework before planning the visit else you may end up spending more money and time than you intended.
  7.  Tips to have budget holiday in Dubai
  8. Do carry a good pair of sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, comfortable walking shoes and either of a hat/cap/stole.
  9. Always carry cash when riding in a taxi. Most of the cab drivers do not accept cards.
  10. Always bargain while opting for quad biking and other add on services during desert safari. The prices are never fixed and there is always scope for reducing the cost.
  11. Once you’ve reached your destination via taxi/cab, open the cab-door only when the driver has given the signal to off board. Not doing so may result in fine charged to the driver for opening the door in moving vehicle.

What most guides won’t tell you about Sikkim, India

Sikkim, one of the most beautiful destinations to be at in India. Here are some very specific tips which most guides wont tell you about Sikkim, India.

Buy everything needed for this trip

EatingNSleeping

HealthHygiene

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tripPlanning

transportation

Phone&Technology

SightSeeingNActivities