Sikkim tour

Here is a comprehensive Sikkim tour guide. Sikkim is land of glaciers, alpine pastures, rhododendron, monastery, snow, tea gardens, herbs. It is extremely tourist friendly state of India. Because it is close to international border hence Indians need permit.  Tourism and Civil aviation department issue permit to visit certain attractions. While all foreign nationals need Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit any part of the state.

Day wise break up of 8 day trip

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Itinerary of 8 day Sikkim tour

Indians need permit for below attractions in Sikkim tour:

  1. Gurudongmar lake
  2. Yumthang valley
  3. Zero point
  4. Tsomgo lake
  5. Baba mandir
  6. Nathula pass

Foreign nationals get permit only for below listed attractions: 

  1. Gurudongmar lake
  2. Yumthang valley
  3. Zero point
  4. Tsomgo lake

Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Nigeria nationals do not get any permit.

Most noteworthy, only Indians can visit Baba mandir and Nathula Pass.

Documents needed for permit in Sikkim tour 

  1. Passport (mandatory for foreign nationals)
  2. Indian nationals need IDs containing address like voter ID etc.
  3.  Passport size photograph (3 pics are required)

Permits are issued only through local tour operators. Hence I chose Sikkim Tours and travels for permit.

Click here especially for Travel tips

Why is Sikkim an ideal holiday spot?

  • Endless landscapes exhibiting natural beauty
  • extremely safe destination
  • humble, helpful and trendy locals
  • If you wish to explore a remote corner

How to book hotel in Sikkim?

I used MakeMyTrip to book hotel using “Book Now Pay Later” feature. As a result I did pay for hotel booking in advance.

Budget: 1200-1500 INR/hotel

Day 1: Reach Gangtok and check in to hotel

How to reach Gangtok, Sikkim

By Air: Siliguri (IXB) or Bagdogra (IXB) is the nearest airport.

From airport prepaid taxi are available to Gangtok. The price of prepaid taxi is fixed hence I paid 2200 (Indian rupee) for a private taxi in December 2016.

Travelling time between Gangtok and Bagdogra is 4.5 hours.

To be continued in next blog…

 

North Sikkim tour

Visit to North Sikkim need minimum 3 days. My trip included visit to Gurudongmar lake, Yumthang valley and Zero point. Click here for Sikkim tour – Part I

Interesting facts about Sikkim:

a)Vehicles of other Indian states are not allowed in Sikkim for sightseeing . Vehicles of other states can enter the state only to drop off the passengers at their hotel/home. Drivers should very well know the local routes and respect army restrictions which is otherwise a punishable offence.

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Facts about Sikkim

 

Day 2: Beginning North Sikkim tour by reaching Lachen (base village for Gurudongmar lake)

By road is the only available mode. Private or shared cabs can be hired from Gangtok. I chose for private cab from Sikkim Tours and Travels. Travel time between Gangtok and Lachen is 7 hours covering distance of 95 KM.

Why special visit to a lake:

i. It is one of the highest lakes in the world located at an altitude of 17,800ft

ii. It’s proximity to Chinese border

iii. It’s sacred nature due to the legends associated with Guru Padmasambhava and Gurunanak.

We were riding on SUV owing to the difficult terrain that was waiting to be conquered. Sikkim has mountainous terrain with lush greenery and waterfalls all over.

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Stopover for lunch en route to North Sikkim

Gangtok was windy at 19°C while in Lachen mercury had dipped to 11°C. Our body had to acclimatise both to mountain sickness and the temperature. We had early dinner in Delight hotels Royal Lachen and marked it end of day.

Day 3: Our ascent to Gurudongmar

We began our journey at 4 in the morning when temperature was negative and we were shivering. It took 4 hours of treacherous ride through snow clad peaks to reach the lake.

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Food available on way to Gurudongmar:

Since oxygen level and temperature is low around the lake, it’s essential that one should not have empty stomach.

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Food available on the way to Gurudongmar lake

The locals will let you buy the least quantity of liquor which will make you feel at ease with the temperature.

I was admiring the locals for hospitality, adherence to rough surroundings, hard-working nature, zeal to stay at native place and still make a beautiful today and better tomorrow.

15 Km before the lake is Indian army base camp.

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Snow covered mountain on the way to Gurudongmar
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North Sikkim tour

I bought handful of coffee mugs as a small token of saying THANK YOU.

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Gurudongmar lake

An interesting fact about this lake is that a part of it never freezes and devotees carry sacred water in containers.

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It is advisable to return to Gurudongmar lake army base camp max by 12 noon as the oxygen level dips further. We stayed at the lake for about 45 mins and began our descent to Lachen. During descent we saw alpine pastures covered with rhododendron tree all over. This state has maintained its raw form and is still flourishing.On reaching the hotel in Lachen, had lunch and left for next stop, Lachung.

To be continued in next blog

On the road again – to Memory EXPRESSWAY

The real voyage of discovery consists not only in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

A very famous saying indeed and true as well. One fine evening while sitting at our flat in Pune, Ruchi (my roommate) came up with the idea that on weekend we’ll go to Mumbai for shopping. We had been there before but this time we thought to drive. When you begin to love driving, all of sudden you want to go to every place by yourself.

No matter what happens in your life, nothing beats a good drive

Although I agreed but could feel cold vibes. Both of us had driven to nearby hill stations before but it was going to be the first time in a metropolitan which is notorious for space crunch and where we had always travelled by public transport. Unlike me, Ruchi had all smiles and was looking forward to do this.

Then a thought crossed my mind, “If not now, when?”, and my fear went away. Our day’s outing program was something like this; hit the road via Pune-Mumbai expressway – a 6 lane high-speed road of length 98 KM connecting the city of Bengaluru, Pune and Mumbai. We’ll have a short stopover at Haji-Ali Dargah and Siddhivinayak temple followed by Linking road – destination for street shopping.

All set, we were on the road again and started for Mumbai on a lazy Sunday morning. My roommate was driving  onward. After fuel refill and tyre air check at the gas station, we embarked upon our journey. It was maiden drive for Ruchi on this route. I had driven previously till Matheran. Her enthusiasm and frenzy was something to watch out for. As soon as we entered the expressway, she was clocking the speed of 110 KM/h. Today I had the seat with a view and was the DJ for this ride.

We crossed the high-speed road, tolls, kilometre long tunnels and Ghats section which falls between Lonavala and Khandala. I kept on checking in between if she needs a break or want to switch. She was so 🙂 and full of energy that we didn’t stop even once for the refreshments.

Just in 2 hours we were at Sion, entry point of Mumbai city. From there we started using navigation as our first halt was Palladium mall, where we were to park our car and go to Siddhivinayak temple.

Google maps in Mumbai city can freak you out if you’re in there on your own for the first time. A person definitely need to use their direction sense to determine which way is map pointing to. We drove to the mall using Eastern freeway which allowed us to escape the traffic. Now as per the map we had reached our destination but mall was nowhere to be seen. We asked a passerby and he was not aware of this mall’s existence, then a kid came running by and told us that Palladium is the second name of Phoenix mall and showed us directions.

I was so proud of Ruchi, it had been just 6 months when she began driving regularly and today she brought us till centre of glamour city. After we were done with the parking, came inside the mall to freshen up and have lunch. But the first store we saw was ZARA with SALE displayed on the entrance. We didn’t resist and entered the store, browsed the collection, tried few and picked them to buy. We were so glad that although sale was on, there was hardly any rush and clothes were all piled up neatly in their respective racks which is rare in Pune. As we were about to go for billing, realised that we left our cards in the car and were having just few hundred bucks in hand as the initial plan was to have quick lunch and go to the temple by public transport. 🙂

Quickly went back to the parking, picked the cards, billed and rushed outside Zara as by now both of us were craving. We grabbed quick bites at Burger King. As it was a road trip, there had to be a change in plan. 🙂 We decided that we’ll drive first to Haji-Ali dargah, now I was at the steering wheel. We’ll park wherever we can find space and visit it. Both of us were surely in love with our goggles and car’s air conditioner as it was extremely sunny and humid outside. Using the navigation we reached at the Dargah’s entrance, a thing I noticed by this time was that in Mumbai you cannot take a U-turn at every signal. Also If you intend to park your vehicle in open; thumb rule is that you’ve to be awfully quick. A second’s lapse and your space is gone. I realised this when second time today we spotted a space and it was taken away by someone else. Also most of the open spaces will have no parking sign boards but you can still park after paying in advance to the on duty traffic police. 🙂 I decided the other way round and stayed in the car while Ruchi went to visit the dargah. We followed the same strategy for Siddhivinayak temple as well.

By the time we were done with Dargah and temple, afternoon had set in and we had tons of thing left in out list. We gave street shopping a miss and drove through Bandra-Worli sea link. Cruising on top of sea through the cable stayed bridge at a speed of over 80 KM/H at dusk with amazing songs playing in the backdrop, Aha what a feeling…. 

Check out the video to see what I felt

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Visit to Mumbai is incomplete without going to Marine Drive.  So we went to Nariman Point in evening when the city was glistening with lights. This place is special to me. I always feel that just like those few people on whom you can always bank upon, so exists such places. Places where you’ll always find comfort and solace. With sea waves hitting the tetra pots and cool breezy air, I can end up sitting there all night.

Best way to look at a place is with the eyes of a local

A friend who was a localite came in there and the above saying turned out to be true. We were talking about Bade Miya, a very famous food joint to which I had never been before on the pretext that they do not serve vegetarian food. It was this friend who told that they do serve vegetarians as well. That became our venue for dinner and another iconic place covered.

Then there was this legendary place which I didn’t know about, Bachelorr’s – nearly a century old eatery. Although I could not eat anything here as I was already too full, but Ruchi had strawberry cream and she liked it more than what eateries in Pune has to offer 🙂

It was time to say good bye to the city and chota bachha’s turn to relax on the co-driver’s seat 🙂 We used navigation to reach Panvel from where expressway started. The below quote best describes my feeling.

Loved driving a car at night. You never see further than your head lights, but you can make the whole trip that way. 🙂

It has been a long transition right from the monsoon of 2010 when my bus to Mumbai didn’t arrive on time and I missed my flight to spring of 2018 when I drove back to Pune all the way without worrying about anything.

This blog is dedicated to my partner in crime here, let’s raise a toast to chota bachha (Ruchi) 🙂 Thank you for being with me at co driver’s seat right from my early days of driving, for bearing every sudden break, sharp turn, stopping abruptly at slopes and what not. Looking forward for many more memories with you.