Showing posts with label Gangtok. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gangtok. Show all posts

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sikkim and Darjeeling Trip

As summer vacations are here, we decided to visit the hills of Sikkim. It is currently not possible to take self driven vehicles to Sikkim, we decided to rent vehicles and go around Sikkim.
The plan was to reach Gangtok and then continue our road trip in Sikkim finally terminating it in Darjeeling. Following was the itinerary that we decided to follow.

  1. 05-April-2014 Reach Gangtok, rest for the day -- Day #1
  2. 06-April-2014 Local sightseeing Gangtok -- Day #2
  3. 07-April-2014 Leave for the Lachen, Arrive in Lachen -- Day #3
  4. 08-April-2014 Trip to Gurudongmar Lake, Lunch and leave for Lachung -- Day #4
  5. 09-April-2014 Trip to Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Lunch and Leave for Gangtok -- Day #5
  6. 10-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Gangtok, Natu La, Baba ka Mandir, Tsomgo Lake -- Day #6
  7. 11-April-2014 Leave for Pelling vial Namchi -- Day #7
  8. 12-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Pelling and leave for Darjeeling -- Day #8
  9. 13-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Darjeeling -- Day #9

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 5 of 9, Road Trip to Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Back to Gangtok

Lachung is the base to visit Yumthang valley and Zero point. Our plan for the day was to visit both Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and travel back to Sikkim.
8:00 AM We leave towards Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. The quality of roads is again mixture of good road and bad roads. But roads here are definitely better than Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake section. One very quickly notices that Lachung region has more flat surfaces compared to lachen area.
9:00 AM We reach Yumthang valley. This is where one needs to rent snow shoes and can have some refreshment if needed. The climb after this place is again very steep and very quickly one gains altitude.
Unlike Gurudongmar Lake, this area seems more crowded with many vehicles parked on the side of the road as one reaches the Zero Point.

10:10 AM We reach Zero Point. This place is full of people. This is also at an altitude of almost 15,000 ft. so one needs to be careful not to over-exert himself. We stay at this place for around 45 minutes and leave.

11:55 AM We reach back to Yumthang Valley. We return the rented snow gear and have a tea/coffee. Normally one could spend some time here because this also known as Valley of Flowers, but to our disappointment, we realize that flowers have not started blooming yet.
We wait here for 10 minutes and leave for the hotel.
1:00 PM We reach the hotel, have a quick dinner and checkout from the hotel. We have a long journey ahead of us. Our night stay is planned at Gangtok.
2:00 PM We leave the hotel and start our journey back to Gangtok. Chungtang is the last place where one sees cellular connectivity when one drives towards north sikkim.
3:20 PM We cross Chungtang.
4:35 PM We cross Manul
5:35 PM We cross Mangan, We stop for a tea and car needs refueling here.
We had booked different hotels in Gangtok on our return trip, hence we needed to go to our old hotel to pick up luggage that we had left there. In hindsight, it is just more convenient if one has same hotel in both the journeys.
7:30 PM We reach our hotel and check-in. This time we had planned on staying in Hotel Tamarind. My review of the hotel is here.

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 3 of 9, Road Trip to Lachen

The road segment of the trip started on day 3. The first stop was Lachen. Lachen is the point where people take a night off enroute to Gurudongmar Lake. Since It is a steep climb, from around 3000 ft to 17000 ft, the night halt in Lachen does help in acclimatization.
It is important to leave early, since even though the distances are not very large, the drive is treacherous. Unfortunately, for us, the permits got delayed and we were not able to start from Gangtok till 11:30 AM.
It is also a good idea to leave some luggage at the hotel in Gangtok since in all likelihood one would be traveling back via Gangtok and it is not a very good idea to carry all the luggage in the hills. The typical vehicles (Xylo, Tavera, Innova) are not powerful enough to carry a car full of passengers and luggage up the hills.
1:30 PM We get on to Singtam-Dikchu road that goes just adjacent to Teesta River. The road is narrow, good at times and not so good at times.
2:15 PM We cross Mangan. The supply of fuel after this place gets difficult so most drivers fill up here.
3:20 PM Crossed Kajor
3:50 PM Crossed Manul
5:30 PM We crossed Chungthang. This seems to be last civilization that one sees before one reaches Lachen. After this place, the road is narrow, going through hills and the altitude increases quickly.
7:15 PM We reached Lachen and Hotel Apple Orchard. This is the only decent hotel that we could locate in this area. Here is my review of the hotel. The views are breathtaking from this place. Lachen is almost 9000 ft from sea level.

In the month April the place was pretty cold. In the night one feels the need for thermals and layers of clothing. Since it is a remote area, the power is erratic and one can't depend on room heater provided by the resort to survive. When we were there, the power went off for whole night and it was difficult.
Another point to note is that one needs to leave really early (3:30AM) next day to Gurudongmar Lake. In our case, we found that there was no power when we got up and we had to get ready in absolute dark. The lesson learnt was, carry a torch when visiting remote places.

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 2 of 9, Gangtok Local Sightseeing

This day was planned for local sightseeing in Gangtok. 
11:30 AM Reached Rumtek Monastery. It is the largest monastery in Sikkim and was built by 16th Karmapa. It is around 25 kilometers away from Gangtok and takes around 45 minutes to reach.

The place is nice to spend couple of hours in peace. We left the place around 1:15 PM.
1:30 PM The next stop was Ropeway. The the ropeway ride is a good ride to get a birds eye view of the city. When we reached, there were few VIPs who shows up and we were pushed in the queue. We decided to first have lunch and then take the ride.We were done with the ropeway ride by 3:45 PM.
Once we were done with the ropeway, we decided to visit Do Drul Chorten Stupa. This place is very close to the ropeway.
4:00 PM Reached Do Drul Chorten Stupa. This place has largest collection of prayer wheels that I saw in Sikkim.

4:45 PM Reached M. G. Marg. This place is the downtown of the Gangtok. The good thing that I liked about this place is that for a significant stretch of the road, there is no vehicles allowed. There are large number of benches to sit and decent landscaping around the road.

There are lots of shops around the MG Marg. Even Sikkim Tourism office is at the end of MG Marg.

One can not, but be impressed, with the way M G Road is maintained as a litter free zone. Lots of trash cans around and people who are using them. Finally it was the time to call it a day. Left for the hotel. Tomorrow was a big day.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 1 of 9

We flew into Kolkata and then took a connecting flight to Bagdogra. We had arranged our travels through Yak and Yeti Travels and they had sent us vehicles at Bagdogra Airport to pick us up.
10:10AM We landed in Kolkata Airport. The new improved terminal is much better compared to earlier terminal that I visited few years back. Here is a photosphere that I did in the terminal.

12:30PM Landed at the Bagdogra Airport. Yak and Yeti Travels had sent their vehicles to pick us up and we were on our way to Gangtok.
Bagdogra Airport Parking

We stopped for lunch at a small road side eatery called Tirupati Citi Dhaba. Not very hygienic and great but the food was good enough. The place is approximately 10 minutes away from the airport.
2:35 PM Crossed Sevoke.
3:45 PM Crossed Kalimpong
4:25 PM Crossed Rongpo, crossed check post at around 5 PM. Stopped there for a while because the passengers in cars were feeling dizzy. Had a cup of coffee and discovered a new brand of coffee.

7:00 PM Reached Hotel Suhim Portico and checked in. My review of the hotel is here. It was pretty cold when we reached, the best idea seemed to have dinner and call it a day.