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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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Biotique Bio Wheat Germ Youthful Nourishing Night Cream





Hello beautiful people. I am back with another product review, of another night cream from Biotique. So far its products have never disappointed me. Having tried the Biotique Neem Purifying Face Wash and Spot Correcting Anti Acne Pack, I randomly picked up the Bio Wheat Germ Youthful Nourishing Night Cream since I was hunting for one.



What does the brand claims 
This rich-feeling, firming cream is blended with pure Wheat Germ, Sunflower and Almond oils, vitamins A, B, C, D, E and extracts of Carrot and Galangal to moisturize and strengthen skin for a more vital, resilient, younger appearance.

Wheat Germ is one of the most sensitive oils in the botanical world, a natural antioxidant with vitamins A, D, more vitamin E than any other natural oil, plus lecithin. Its pampering properties also protect skin from dryness and environmental stress.



The magic of ingredients:

Having read a lot about the benefits of wheat germ, almond, and sunflower oil, I was inclined to try this nourishing cream. With its anti aging properties, wheatgerm also brightens complexion and reduces wrinkles. Almond oil helps to retain moisture and promotes flawless skin. Antioxidant rich sunflower oil effectively moisturizes, prevents skin damage and pre-mature aging.



My experience with the cream:
The cream with off white color has a smooth texture. The fragrance is soothing and does not irritate (Thank God!) It moisturizes and nourishes leaving skin soft and hydrated. You would actually feel your skin bouncing with good health after the first application. The cream comes in a plastic container with a green lid and label that claims Ayurvedic Recipe with 100% botanical extracts.  The 50 g cream is priced at Rs 230 (May be even lesser online).





Over a period of time, your skin would start feeling good and hydrated. This does not claim to remove scars or oily texture but nourishes skin well. Though it may not work on dark spots or fine lines, a daily massage can keep tour skin healthy. I mix a little cream on my palm with two drops of Avon Miracle Glow Facial Oil and massage at night. My skin feels soft and supple in the morning!

Read here about the best day cream experience of mine from Lotus.

What I liked
- Has a mild fragrance
-Skin feels nourished and healthy after first use
-Very little is required to apply on skin
-Gets absorbed onto skin when massaged gently
-The  plastic jar packaging is light weight, compact and easy to carry even in your travel kit.
-Reasonably priced
-Would work as magic in winters for dry/chapped skin as well as cracked heels.

What I did not like
-I did not like the plastic jar. Somehow I feel plastic does not keep the product fresh and it reacts with chemicals in some or the other way. Additionally, plastic is also not good for the environment either.
-The cream is not lightweight. Skin feels weighed down.
-This cream would not suit people with oily, combination or acne prone skin. This is meant for dry to normal skin only.
-Not recommended for humid weather

My overall rating - 3 on 5
A repeat purchase? I don't think so.

   

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

MeToo - Isnt the onus on us?



In the wake of the #metoo movement and the shocking incidents of digging out past sexual harassment cases, I felt the urge to share something. All ladies have had their "me too" incidents. The reason why girls don't speak about it is that they were never encouraged to, since childhood. Voicing their opinion or naming the culprit was never a part of the Indian culture. It might bring shame to the girl's family. Correct me if I am wrong?



A man who might have made sexual advancement towards you and did what he was not supposed to, got away with the crime because he knew about the loopholes of the "cultured" society we live in. Young girls are the easiest target for sexual predators. Reasons- One, the fear of not speaking up or the tender age when sexual abuse is beyond her understanding; and two, families/schools hush up the cases fearing defamation and three- law is a perhaps a joke. (Readhttps://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/startling-details-of-dehradun-school-covering-up-girls-rape/articleshow/65864937.cms )

The offender is not be blamed, but the crippled mindset of our very own society.

Our country has Khajuraho temple with statues of Kamasutra on display, but shies away from imparting sex education, at home or school alike. People use free internet to feed on porn, but wont use the same internet for sex education. (Workplaces are no different when a girl under pressure chooses to remain silent on such disturbing incidents. They choose to avoid such people, gatherings or switch jobs. And the cost of speaking up or resisting a sexual attack? Defamation of family, her job or even life.


Courtesy- https://www.army.mil

I thank my stars for protecting me from such creeps atleast in my corporate journey. The owner of a company (my first job) was always full of encouragement for ladies. He was totally against sexual harassment and trained us to be vocal about it. I still remember his words asking the female sales staff to be bold enough to walk away or slap a client if he asks for sexual favors in return for business. For him a woman's safety and self respect were more important than client business. Bosses like these are hard to find, especially in field of sales.

Here is another incident that made an impact on me. I remember, it was one warm afternoon, before lunch. I was in a conversation with my reporting manager (female) with my back towards the door and he (a senior colleague ex Army personnel)  had just entered office after a meeting. While passing by, he tickled me on my waist. It was barely for few seconds but I turned numb. The sudden movement of his fingers pinching my waist was least expected. Perhaps it was a jovial, fun gesture I thought, because he was smiling and he went to his workstation like usual. It wan't sexual harassment but clearly unwelcome and shocking. In a state of shock, I sunk onto my chair, feeling disgusted and angry. Since this happened in front of my reporting manager, she immediately reported to boss (the owner). Boss summoned the gentleman and blasted at him to everyone's surprise. Later he individually counselled me and encouraged me to stand up for my own dignity. "If something feels wrong, fight back, because there wont be a good human being everywhere to protect me", he said. My respect grew for him by many folds that day and since then I have been bold enough to fight sexual harassment. I refused to be touched inappropriately and ended up kicking or hitting guys on several occasions. I refused to be ogled at and ended up looking straight into the eyes of the ogler and asking him to back off. I refused to be sexually exploited and ended up fighting men in crowded buses, public places or parties.


Narrating one of these incidents to my mom once, she got scared of me behaving “boldly” and advised me not to react or speak on such instances. It was not mom speaking, but a person brainwashed by the society who feared for her daughter’s safety. After all our culture does not allow women to speak up or report while guys get all the liberty. That is exactly why a sex criminal walks off fearlessly whereas the victim lives in constant fear with her self-respect, career and life at stake. 

The struggle continues for many till date. Why wait for another "MeToo" to start? Ladies, you need to be the change yourself. Unlearn what was taught to you, because its high time. Speak up, fight back, report but do not let men use you. 


P.S- This post was selected for IndiBlogger's Featured Posts (Special Independence Week Edition), and was displayed on the homepage of IndiBlogger.

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Inside Rangji Temple, Vrindavan






The holy town of Vrindavan, is home to ancient history dating centuries ago. The karamabhoomi of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan hustles with people all year, irrespective the weather. Among several temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, I found a temple from the South Indian origin, the Rangji Temple. Driven by curiosity, husband and I could not stop ourselves from visiting this beautiful temple, much different from others in Vrindavan. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Rangji Temple is a beautiful concoction of the north and south Indian architecture.






Rangji Temple History- Build in 1851, this is the largest temple of Vrindavan that houses Lord Vishnu, Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshman, Lord Venugopala and Lord Ramanujacarya. The main priests are South Indian Brahmins. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple, and non-Indians are given access to the first two gateways only. With the outer walls towering at a height of 773 feet and width of 440 feet, you can imagine the vastness of the space enclosed within.

Here is my photo blog on the beautiful Rangji Temple- 


One of the gateways










Priests in the main prayer hall


Smaller temple inside the premises
 

Gold plated pillar towering at 50 feet, this is called the Dhwaja Stambha


 A kund in the temple premises




The dwelling spaces of the priests and elderly


Walkway of the ashram


How to reach- Vrindavan has a major monkey menace. Hence exploring the place on foot is not advisable. Hire a rickshaw or shared auto to reach Rangji Temple which is close to Gandhi Chowk.

Timings:
Summers- 5:30 to 10:30 am and 4 pm to 9 pm
Winters- 6-11 am, 3:30-8:30 pm


P.S: This trip of mine was in Jan 2018
Also this post made it as the top post on Indiblogger home page. 

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Lotus Herbals Nutranite Skin Renewal Nutritive Night Cream




Lotus Herbals has a great product portfolio and is quite convincing when it comes to the product benefits. As I was super impressed with Lotus Herbals Day Cream's performance, I was looking for an anti aging, nourishing night cream and ended up buying Nutranite Skin Renewal Nutritive Night Cream.



What the brand says:

This is a luxurious nutrient-rich night cream that helps renew the skin while you sleep. It repairs the damages caused by dehydration and exposures during the day to give a supple and renewed skin. It boots skin's resiliency, strengthens natural defenses while restoring firmness and smoothing imperfections.

The 50 g pack comes in a sturdy glass jar.

Why should you go for a night cream?

We often wonder if night creams are useful at all. Little we realize that your skin that has gone through so much wear & tear during the day (UV rays, pollution, stress) and needs a repair formula at night. Night creams hydrate, moisturize and replenish renewed skins replacing the dead and worn out cells. 

Active ingredients: 





The benefits that Lotus claims: 
  • Consists of natural oxidants that make the cream highly antiseptic and astringent
  • Repairs skin cells by removing dirt and impurities
  • Helps in strengthening the skin's natural defense
  • Consists of nutrients that restores skin's firmness and resilience
  • Adds a gorgeous golden glow


Good things I experienced:  



  • The texture is quite silky
  • The density of the cream feels rich and smooth
  • A very little is required to apply on face and neck 
  • Moisturizes very well

Cons that I found  - I felt cheated. OOPS! 
  • The sales rep sold this Lotus Herbals night cream to me calling it anti aging cream, which is not one. (I read the same in reviews later). This is just a nutritive night cream that vitalizes, hydrates and adds glow to your skin. It does not tighten skin nor works on fine fines.
  • Secondly, this is too heavy as a night cream. The cream leaves my skin oily and sticky. It might suit those with dry skin type, but definitely not the combination or oily skin type. I am scared of using it as it may cause acne or breakouts. The cream is lying unused in my closet. (Sigh!)
  • Though the fragrance is mild, it is not pleasing. To me it smells of too much chemicals.
  • The jar is not travel friendly.
Price- MRP: Rs 455. You can get it a discounted price online. 

My rating- 2.5 on 5. Lotus Herbals can do a better job I am sure. This disappointed me.  

(If you are looking for nourishing creams, why spend so much on Lotus Herbals? If you are looking for anti aging benefits with night repair formula , there are way better products in the market in the same price.)

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

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Delhi Heritage: Mehrauli Archaeological Park



Close to the glorious Qutub Minar, lies a huge historical space in neglect. This is Mehrauli Archaeological Park . Spread over a vast expanse, these beautiful monuments and artifacts barring a few, stare into nothingness, unkempt and not-maintained. The walled city authorities too did not find it worth to protect or care for these. A free entry to the walking trail and dark, dusty moments in bad condition are a proof of the same.

The small entrance through which I entered lead me to the beautiful sight of rose garden, with the Qutub Minar towering in the backdrop.



Rose garden


The sign board (rather sign stones) gave some direction of the monuments that lied ahead.


Crossing the rose garden, a lovely green zone is a welcoming sight with green plantation on both ends. (Thank God atleast a green cover was provided by the authorities).






 As you take left towards the Jamali Kamali Mosque, on has to pass by a lush green grassland. The elevated section of the land has Metcalfe's Folly. It is indeed sad to see names scribbled all over, including the dome structure. Wondering how did they get up there? It is not an architectural masterpiece but offers a panoramic view of the park and surrounding area.




Keep walking further till the walls of Jamal Kamali Mosque appear on right. This is was the only place I could explore properly.




















It was nearly the closing time and hence I  could not enter other tombs or step wells. Had to take pictures from outside the gate. Read more the baolis here .

Rajon ki Baoli (Rajon stepwell)
Rajon ki Baoli is is the largest and most ornamented of all the three baolis in Mehrauli
.




How to reach Mehrauli Archaeological Park - 
There is a story behind this as well.
Its an easy to reach place but not really noticed, because its not highlighted or advertised anywhere. I have stayed close to this place for four years but never came to know abut this hidden gem. Having read so much about it recently, I convinced husband to explore this less known place. Little did we know that the place would not be an easy one to find.

We passed two entrances twice but did not realize those were the entry gates. (Not even the gates mention that it is the archaeological park). One of the entrances is 1 km away from Qutub Minar metro station. A narrow kuccha road through wilderness leads to the archaeological park. We chose not to tread on this path since these kind of secluded paths are unsafe, full of uncertainties.


The second entrance gate is near the Qutub Minar roundabout. Google also led us to Mehrauli Bus terminal. However, I am not sure if there's any entrance to the park or not at the bus terminal.

Entry fees- None

Parking- The park has a parking space inside. But I still do not have an idea where to drive through. (I had hopped into an auto from Qutub Minar metro to the gate near roundabout that costed me Rs.50). Bikes are cars were parked outside this small gate near the main road. Heavens save your vehicle from being towed or damaged since it seemed to be an unauthorized and unorganized parking space.

Wheelchair friendly- Not at all

Pet friendly- Though the notice boards warn against bringing in your pets, I still saw visitors bringing in their pet dogs for a walk. (Sigh!) Lot of strays roam inside the premises, harmless, lazing around.

Though poor maintenance and garbage menace were major turn off for me, I still wish to cover this place in detail in future. Will come back in winters to witness the neglected glory of  history which needs to be told. 







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