Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trip to Gangtok, Nathula & Chhangu Lake

"These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me..."
- Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits

That is exactly how I felt last weekend on my trip to eastern Sikkim. Usually bad weather never fails to accompany me when I go on vacation, and this time it was no different. The mountains were shrouded in mist and were soaked by occasional spells of rain. I missed out on the a sight that is worth dying for - a view of the majestic Kangchenzongha. Added to the trouble caused by the rain gods was further trouble in Siliguri (the major rail head for North Bengal & Sikkim) when we landed from Kolkata.

But in spite of the hiccups and the irritants, overall the trip turned out to be fantastic in the end. Most of all I was glad that finally I had got a jinx out of the way. Though Soumyajit and I been friends since we were 3 year olds, somehow this is the first real long distance trip that I had made with him. We had planned & persevered many times before but never failed to match our schedules.

We had pre-booked the ride to Nathula Pass & Tsomgo (Chhangu) Lake from Kolkata itself. Foreign nationals are not allowed at Nathula and even Indian nationals need to get a permit to go there. It is a good idea to pre-book as the number of visitors the Army allows in each day is limited. One cannot be sure of getting a permit at short notice, especially during peak season.

The experience of travelling through stunning mountain landscapes and reaching Nathula Pass at 14,000 feet was awe inspiring. There was a sense of history as we travelled through the famed Silk Route of yore. It was touching to talk to the Indian soldiers posted in these heights. Equally moving was to be able to trade handshakes with their Chinese counterparts across the barbed wire. The album below contains photos from the Nathula & Tsomgo (Chhangu) Lake daytrip.

Nathula & Tsomgo
(Chhangu) Lake

We utilized the only other full day we had at our disposal to do some local sightseeing in Gangtok. Of course, the bad weather robbed us of the chance to get good views - but Tashi View Point, Ganesh Tok & Hanuman Tok are all nearby and offer excellent views on clear days. Rumtek Monastery is the headquarters of the Kagyu sect of Mahayan Buddism and is about an hours drive from Gangtok. I would also recommend a trip to the Himalayan Zoological Park - it is extremely unlike a typical Indian zoo. It offers unrushed and upclose views of Himalayan animals and ample scope for photography.

Gangtok Local Sightseeing

The album above contains photos from Gangtok as well as that from the resort (The Hidden Forest Retreat) where we had put up. We found the accommodation to be expensive but it was an extremely nice place to be in. The resort is family run. The food was fresh, cheap and great tasting. The staff were extremely polite & courteous. Most of all, the resort is far from the crowds & nestled in the hills. The forests that border the resort abound in orchids, rhododendrons & many varieties of birds.


Pijush said...

Wonderful post. Good Narration and nice photos. I checked both albums and most of the pictures are awesome (some of them are excellent); some of them are spoiled by low light and composition.

indicaspecies said...

Sikkim is a wonderful place. Good to know that through all the trouble, you had a fantastic trip with your friend.

I wanted to make a trip to NathuLa during my trip to Sikkim last October, but the trek took longer than expected and so couldn't make it.

Feel good to go through these superb pictures. Thank you for sharing.

Ananda Niyogi said...

@Pijush - Yes some of them were marred by the poor light around and some others by hasty snapshot technique on my part.

@Celine - Thanks for dropping by and viewing the photos. I am glad that you liked them. Yes, a trip to Nathula would be great - put it in your next itinerary :-)

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