Saturday, November 24, 2018

Gangtok Tour Plan

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Gangtok, the gateway to the heavenly North East India and the capital of Sikkim, offers a plethora of wonders for tourist. From tranquil monasteries and exotic mountains to exciting adventure parks, Gangtok has it all. On an average, sightseeing in and around Gangtok would take two days. The taxi union has fixed the rates of sightseeing, saving you the hassles of negotiation.


Taxi Rate List as of October 2018

The cabbies swear by the rate list and do not deviate. However, what they don’t mention is the fact that all the places in the itinerary cannot be covered in one day. They might give you a list of 7-10 places but it is next to impossible to cover them all in a day because of following reasons:

1. Most of the time the narrow roads of Gangtok are packed with traffic. On unusual days, the waiting time is long as two hours.

2. Places like Rumtek or Hanuman Tok are quite far and the roads are extremely rough causing cars to slow down. Ask your driver to take you to Rumtek first which is 22 km from Gangtok. By the time you’d return, it would be dark and several sight points would shut by then.

3. If your itinerary includes the rope-way ride, you would lose three hours straight. Even if you get a place in the never ending queue, make sure you make it to the ticket counter before 12:30 pm as they break for lunch. Since the cable car ferries only 20 people at once and returns from the ride in 15 minutes, the waiting time is painfully long. It’s wise to skip rope-way from the itinerary and do it separately.

4. Chorten Gumpa and Tibetology Center are next to each other. The Tibetology Center is recommended only if Tibetan Culture excites you or the idea of a museum/school sounds interesting, lest you should spend a considerable amount of time here and miss out on the major sight-seeing points.

Husband and I had planned the day with 6 view points while we skipped Tibetology Institute, Flower Show and Rope-way Ride (which we had done in advance). Here is a virtual tour of Gangtok of what we covered one odd day.



1. Chorten Gumpa

Do Drul Chorten

Do-drul Chorten is a stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa lie a complete set of Dorjee Phurba (dagger spike), Kangyur relics (holy books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 prayer wheels which when rotated in the direction mentioned while reciting the prayer brings good luck. We also met a cat peacefully sleeping behind the prayer bell. The main prayer hall is also open for visitors with prior permission. The stupa site is next to the Tibetology Centre.





Chorten Gumpa has a free entry and you can spend 30 to 45 minutes here. (We were stuck in traffic for one hour before reaching Banjhakri Waterfall)





2. Banjhakhri Waterfall




This is a recreation centre and tourist attraction near Gangtok spread over 2 acres of land. The park is based on a theme of shamanic traditions of the people of Sikkim. (Traditional shamanic healer who worships spirits living in caves around the falls). The park has a waterfall, an artificial lake with a dragon in the centre; gazebos; statues of jhākri and ancestors, sculptures of forest dwellers, Burma Bridge and adventure activities. The paved paths and footbridges wind through the beautiful garden decorated with ornamental trees and flowers.




Entry Fee: Rs. 50, Camera fee: Rs. 10. You will find lot of eating joints in and around the place. (We stayed here for about one and a half hours and reached Rumtek by 2pm)


3. Rumtek Monastery


22 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 4900 feet, Rumtek is the largest and one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery has a controversial history dating back to 1994. The multi-layered buildings with tiers of white, yellow and oxblood has the throne of Karmapa in a grand assembly hall, where ornate wooden casements hold 1,000 Buddha statuettes and several ancient manuscripts. Home to several monks and the Nalanda University for Buddhism studies, Rumtek also houses the golden stupa with relics of 16th Karmapa. The place is tranquil and full of positive vibes, where you can spend some time meditating.



The ornamental entrance to the main assembly hall


This place is huge and takes about 1.5- 2 hours to explore. The roads to reach Rumtek are in bad condition and takes lot of time to reach. Entry is free. Carry your ID proof with you which is checked at the monastery main gate by ITBP. Weapons, sharp objects, pepper spray or objectionable items are not allowed beyond the second gate. Rather leave them in your taxi. Photography inside the monastery is prohibited. (We left at 5 pm and it had started turning dark)



4. Hanuman Tok




Hanuman Tok is known as the place where Lord Hanuman rested for a while during his search of Sanjeevani Booti. The roads pass through the curvy path of the forest area. Maintained by the Indian Army, the temple on the hill top treats you with a magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. A visit to this place is a spiritual sojourn.

As you ascend the stairs, a distant prayer or bell greets your ears, filling you with positive vibes.



Entry is free. The roads have no streetlight and are frequented by wild animals. Avoid visiting after dark. (We reached the temple around 6pm and headed to Ganesh Tok)




5. Ganesh Tok



A small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh offers a bird’s eye view of the town below. Built in 1952-53 by Shri Appa B. Pant, the former Political Officer of Sikkim, the site has been beautified to provide superb view of the town and distant rolling hills and snowy peaks. This is a humble temple place with no extravagant carvings or designs yet feels beautiful, especially during evening. The temple is not wheelchair friendly and requires a flight of stairs to mount.





6. Tashi View Point  
Tashi View point- Courtesy TourmyIndia

It was pitch dark by the time we reached Tashi View Point. It is an elevated place to view the city dotted by colourful greens and bright hues. Had we reached on time, we could have enjoyed sunset view. But we made the best out of the opportunity and captured the twinkling city view at night. Personally, I think Tashi View Point isn’t that great. I am sure there are several other elevated places to watch the city.

Apart from the above, Gangtok sight seeing also includes Lingdam Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Saat Kanya Jharna and Saramsa Garden, which we had to skip owing to shortage of time. In case your itinerary has Rumtek Monastery, it is recommended to go there in daylight. The roads would be riskier and worse in evening and you may not want to run into any trouble on the streets without lights.



P.S: This trip of mine was in Oct 2018.



Thursday, November 15, 2018

Start healthy with morning detox



In the wake of rising pollution and health hazards, we all are trying to protect ourselves from the drastic effects.  My focus has always been on healthy living and changing lifestyle. Post festivals and with the onset of winters, when our immunity is worst affected, here are easy ways to detox and build immunity against diseases. Read through my 7-day infused water consumption that I do each morning-   

Day 1- Zesty Mint and Lemon Water





Make three-four thin slices of a lemon and soak in a jug of water with 9-10 mint leaves. Let it sit overnight. Strain and drink the infused water in the morning. Make sure you de-seed the lemon slices lest the water should turn bitter.

Known as the ultimate summer refresher, mint and lemon together are a great detox. Rich in antioxidants, lemon helps to cleanse and alkalize body and mint stimulates digestion. Use the lemon slices in your dishes later. Chew mint leaves to kill bad breath or improve digestion. The same mint leaves can be used for second infusion the following night. Too much of this water might lead to frequent urination, headache and fatigue. Also, overuse of mint is harmful to gastro-oesophagal patients.


Day 2- Calming Tulsi Infusion


Pic credit:Fit Quint


Pluck a handful of tulsi or holy basil. Wash them thoroughly and soak in water. Strain and consume early morning on empty stomach. You can use the leaves later in brewing tea or simply chew them.

Tusli is extremely beneficial in relieving cough and cold, inflammation, bronchitis, anxiety, upset stomach and insomnia, besides many other benefits.  Do check for allergies or medical conditions like diabetes, pregnancy or thyroid before intake of tulsi leaves.


Day 3- Make it work with Methi

Soak a tablespoon of methi or fenugreek seeds in a glass of water. Strain and consume on empty stomach every morning. Use the soaked seeds in your salad, poha, upma or vegetable tadka (tempering). You can also consume a spoonful with some honey. The greenish-yellow infused water tastes slightly bitter.

Methi promotes good kidney function, weight loss, shiny hair, digestion, aids in controlling insulin and regulates menstrual problems However excess of everything is bad. Do not over-consume. Doing so may have side effects.


Day 4- A Punch with Ginger




Wash, peel and slice a few pieces of ginger and put in a water jug. Put the jug in the fridge letting it sit overnight. Strain the water, heat it till lukewarm (not hot), squeeze half a lemon in it and consume empty stomach in the morning. You can use the ginger pieces in tea or tempering dishes. The colour of the infused water would look a little dirty/light brown and the taste has a tinge of spice. Rest, it would feel like consuming plain water.

Laden with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, ginger balances blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and hydrates body. Ginger also cures cough and sore throat. However, since ginger causes burning sensation in mouth, gas and heartburn, do not over consume ginger.

Day 5- Win it with Ajwain Infusion 



Just soak two spoons of carom seeds in a cup of water. Stir and strain to have it on empty stomach. Alternatively, you can also boil, strain and cool the water pre-consumption. The taste would be a little pungent and the colour orangish-yellow.

Ajwain or carom seeds are a storehouse of benefits from digestion to relieving toothache. They also relieve acidity, cold and cough, treat pain due to kidney disorders and promote weight loss. Over-consumption may cause heartburn, dizziness, stomach ulcer and nausea. Hence do not over consume ajwain.

Day 6- The Under-Rated Fennel Seeds Water



Soak fennel seeds (saunf) in water overnight. Heat the water with seeds for a minute or two. (Do not boil). Strain and consume it on empty stomach. You can also have this twice a day. The light yellow infused water cools your stomach and tastes refreshing.

Fennel seeds are known for improving digestion, irregular periods, boosts immunity, improves digestion and flushes out toxins from the body. The time especially post festivals is when your digestion goes for a toss. Fennel seeds water combats acidity, bloating, stomach cramps and improves kidney function. Avoid excess of it as it may lead to allergic reactions and may not suit those prone to blood clotting.

Day 7- Detox tea from Organic India





I have been a regular consumer of Organic India Green Tea. During festival shopping, I came across their store at one of the malls in NCR and thought of trying something new. Tulsi Ginger Turmeric Tea instantly got my attention. Ginger and turmeric are good to cure throat infection, cold, improve immunity and allergies. Similarly, Tulsi Cleanse Tea is a great detox, immunity booster and supports liver & kidney function. Warm Tulsi Ginger Turmeric and Tulsi Cleanse tea are my go-to detox infusions these days.
Dip the tea bags in warm water for about a minute or two and sip while it is warm.

These stress relieving, caffeine-free tea can be consumed at any time of the day. P.S- These are not green tea.

P.S- This post made it to the top on Indiblogger home page.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Adrenaline Rush - Zero Point, Sikkim



Sikkim is an incredibly beautiful state and every place in this state exudes an enigmatic grandeur. One among them is Zero Point. Husband and I were fascinated to visit this place as we were intrigued to know how it feels at the last outpost of civilization in knee deep snow.  My late father-in-law had served in NEFA valley. Hence husband wanted to see a similar place where his dad was posted. Zero Point undoubtedly topped the list. A big salute to Indian Army which operates in harsh conditions, guarding the Indo-China border 24*7.




A day before your visit to Zero Point or Yumesamdong, your driver/travel agent would have submitted your documents in advance, which are checked on the day of visit. Zero Point is usually not included in North Sikkim itinerary and travel agents charge Rs 3000 extra for this trip, clubbing Yumthang Valley with it. Your homestay would provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter/jam) since you would have to leave early morning.

The distance from Lachung to Zero Point is 51 km and roughly 30 km from Yumthang Valley.
(We first went to Zero Point and stopped at Yumthang Valley on returning from Zero.)



Hilly topography, harsh weather and proximity to China perhaps made it impossible to build roads. You would experience sharp turns and jerks throughout the road journey. Nonetheless the beautiful untouched nature around makes up for painful ride. The breath-taking sight leaves you mesmerized. After all its the journey that matters.




As you ascend higher, vegetation starts diminishing and rocky terrain becomes more prominent. The roads tend to get very slippery and extremely dangerous during snowfall. Ask your driver to drive slowly and very carefully on this route even when not snowing. Rash driving is not an option here. Give way to Army trucks whenever you see. Army personnel wave at passing vehicles as a gesture of wishing happy journey and making you feel good. Waving back to them is a nice gesture.

On the way, don’t forget to stop at ‘Jalebi Point’ for yummy snacks which are made by Indian Army personnel. Their motto is to bring a smile to faces and not let anyone go hungry.
P.S- Food items at Zero Point are expensive and the hygiene is not really trustworthy.  Advisable to refuel yourself at this stop. Hot samosas and jalebis felt absolutely amazing as we famished. (Remember our breakfast was just bread butter?)  

The super bouncy ride comes to an end at the Zero Point Parking. At 15000 feet above sea level, the place is covered in snow most of the year. When it hasn’t snowed, it would be biting cold.


We were at loss of words with the exhilarating beauty of the place. The Sun hid behind the greyish clouds and the chilled winds kissed our skin. Wood-fire at a nearby tea stall made us feel colder and we pulled our jackets tighter. The white blanket of snow seemed to beckon us as our body tried to adjust in the sub-zero temperature. Thankfully we did not feel uneasy because oxygen level isn’t low here unlike Gurudongmar Lake. While we felt ecstatic being surrounded by snow wondering what was China doing behind those gigantic mountains, our heart went out to Indian Army that braves these challenges everyday just to keep us safe. A heart-felt thanks and grand salute to them.


Enjoy hot snacks at the little shacks here, play with snow, enjoy nature at its "whitest most" and take home good memories. A usual protocol is to leave within an hour lest the parking should be full or  weather conditions worsen. Avoid Zero Point during rainy season.

Overall the place has nothing except for being an important landmark before China. However the exotic beauty of this place keeps you charmed.

Travelling to such places often changes your perspective about life and lot of things. The distance between life and death could be a thing as small as a wrong step on the hills or slipping on the rocks. We could somehow re-live the conditions what dad had endured during his service in NEFA. Our trip to Zero Point was also in his commemoration.  

P.S- This trip of mine was in Oct 2018. In case you have queries on planning your trip to North Sikkim or Zero point, feel free to reach out at shilp3005@gmail.com or leave your query in comments below. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Himalayas Calling - Here's the perfect itinerary for North Sikkim





Sikkim, the jewel of North East, is a small state yet has so much to offer. Explore more about North Sikkim and the best plan for a North Sikkim Trip. 

Things you need to know before planning North Sikkim trip- 

-A non resident of the state cannot travel to the northern part of Sikkim. To enter the borders of North Sikkim, you need a permit, which would be obtained by your travel agent or driver.
-In case you are a biker, you have to arrange for your permits through an authorized travel agency.
-Carrying plastic water bottles in North Sikkim is not allowed. Hence carry your own sipper or water bottles. A surprise check may lead to a penalty of Rs. 5000. 
-Being close to China, security threats are high and being in a rough terrain, chances of mis-happenings too are high.
(See the rough broken roads that look scary)



Cost of travelling to North Sikkim:
-In case you are traveling solo in a group package, the cost would be between 3-4k. (May go higher in peak season.) This cost includes food, accommodation and site seeing for 3 days, 2 nights.
-In case you are travelling as a group/couple, the package cost would range from 19-25k for 3days 2 nights (May vary depending on the number of days and season).
-Travelling solo booking a full car to yourself would be a costly affair. (Might cost 20-25k)


 Places that are usually included in North Sikkim itinerary-

Lachen- Gurodongmar Lake- Chopta Valley- Thangu- Kaala Pathhar
Lachung- Yumthang Valley- Hot Water Springs- Zero Point

For your convenience, have a look at the map of Sikkim to understand the location and Geography.



The itinerary for North Sikkim 

Usually visitors are picked from Gangtok. However if you have booked your stay in some other place, do let your travel agent know about it (the cost of package may vary thereafter) 

Day 1- Gangtok to Lachen (Overnight stay in Lachen)

This is a 7-8 hours of journey by road. Narrow curvy roads with potholes and landslides in between may slow you down at times. Nevertheless the journey to a green paradise is absolutely sunning.

On the way you would get to see Seven Sisters Waterfall (The waterfall that falls through seven steps), Singhik Village for the view of enormous Kanchendzonga range and the gorgeous Chungthang confluence.



Seven Sisters Waterfall



Lachen Accomodation- Lachen speaks of many homes stays and small budget hotels. Your travel agent would have made your booking in advance. My stay was a nightmare, so I would skip talking about it. Ask your agent the name of your accommodation and search for reviews online.   If you find your stay to be pathetic, call your agent and protest.  

Day 2- Lachen to Gurudongmar, Chopta, Thangu Kala Pathhar, back to Lachen (Stay overnight)



An early morning drive from Lachen will take you to Gurudongmar Lake, a breathtaking fresh-water lake at an altitude of 17375Ft / 5225M.

Your hotel/home stay will provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter jam) or make a pit stop at check post in the village where you can enjoy maggi, thupka and tea.

The first check post opens at 7:00 am where your documents would be checked and approved for entry. The next stop is fifteen kilometers further where the final checking is done. Since washroom facilities are limited, advisable to get relieved wherever you stop. Same goes for eating joints.
Pit stop for breakfast in Lachen


The entire journey from Lachen to Gurodongmar is bumpy and quite rugged. Only the last few kilometers before Gurodongmar is smooth. Nevertheless all the pains taken would seem worth when you look at the sparkling blue water of the beautiful lake. As the legend goes, the lake in the 15th century was blessed by the Sikh leader Guru Nanak and stopped a part of the lake from freezing in order to provide drinking water to villagers in Winters.






P.S- Do not run or do strenuous activity since lack of oxygen would make you feel breathless, nausea,  tired, weak.

While returning from the Lake, visit Chopta Valley or Kala Pathhar for the beautiful mountains. In Feb-March Chopta Valley blooms with colorful flowers and feels like paradise. Thangu Village is the name of the settlement across the Chopta Valley. Further Kala Pathhar (the black mountain) awaits you with lush green landscape and snow in season. An early morning departure and a super-bumpy ride would leave you exhausted as you return to your hotel in Lachen for Lunch. Get some rest and depart for Lachung. (2-3 hours journey). Spend the day at leisure exploring the local culture or just letting the wind caress your face.

Day 3- Lachen to Zero point, Yumthang Valley, Hot Spring and back to Gangtok. 

Wake up early to catch the morning beauty. Leave from your hotel with your packed breakfast around 6:30 am and head to Yumthang Valley. (A 25 km stretch). The serene river flowing through the green pasture land with the snow capped mountains in the background is a view to die for. No kidding!  Further, the drive through Yumthang Valley seems straight out of a postcard.
Yumthang Valley
The Himalayan lifeline through Yumthang

Throughout the beautiful journey on the curvy roads dotted with vibrant tree tops, do wave back to the army personnel and make a pit stop at the Army canteen named "Jalebi Point", for hot jalebis and samosas. Zero Point, the last outpost before China Border offers you an out-of-the-world feeling and if lucky you might experience snowfall. It just feels amazing how you made it to the last border post of India with China on the other side. 


Zero Point

Return to Lachung for lunch. Soon after drive to Gangtok and end your memorable road trip as you check in to your hotel in Gangtok. 
Lachung Accommodation- There are several homstays in Lachung. Dont expect royal hotels in this remote part of Sikkim. Homestays are cosy, neat and beautiful. We recommend Kalden Residency, run by two friendly sisters. They rooms are bright and pretty, the view from the tiny balcony opens to infinite lines of sky touching the touching the  mountains and rivers. Its one amazing place to stay in.
https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/kalden_residency_i-details-lachung.html

While booking your trip, do keep in mind- 
-Your package cost must include food, lodging and permissions. At any point in time should the driver ask you to pay for anything, deny.
-Usually Zero Point and Kaala Pathar are not included in the itinerary and they charge Rs 3000 extra for each point.
-Negotiate well and they might include it in your travel plan. It is advisable to skip Chopta Valley and Thangu. (They are just view points and included in the itinerary for the sake of it)
-Your package cost will not include anything extra. Not even a bottle of water. Carry your own sipper.

Be prepared for the following in North Sikkim- 
-Shops sell products at high price (as they have to get things from Gangtok). Stock up with popcorn, dark chocolates and light snacks to beat nausea and hunger pangs.
-Even in the month of May or June, the weather remains cold.
-Always carry your original documents and a copy with you all the time. You might be asked to prove your identity by Army. 
-Do not take pictures of Army cantonments or artillery. Failing to adhere to these might get your phone/camera confiscated. 

Feel free to get in touch in case you have queries for North Sikkim. Would be more than happy to help. 

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018 . Also, the post made it to the top post of the day on Indiblogger homepage. 

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