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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Solitude

nature, solitude, alone, greenery, lachung, sikkim

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

~ Paul Tillich

I feel lonely when I am in the crowd. I enjoy being alone amidst the nature.

We were driving to Lachung from Gangtok. On our way, I saw this woman sitting alone under the trees. It looked like she was contemplating, fully absorbed in the nature and greenery all around. And this is exactly what “solitude” means to me.

Well, I know it could have been a much better, clearer picture, but I took this shot from a running car. Hence, not a very clean shot. Hope you don’t mind that! 🙂

greenery, solitude, nature, sikkim, mountains, woods

Published in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Solitude.

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Sikkim Diaries: Getting Around in Gangtok

gangtok, hills, mountains, morning view

Gangtok is the capital of the state of Sikkim in north-eastern India. But for me, it is a city of flowers. Everywhere I looked around I saw flowers blossoming along the roadside, boulevards, and fences and balconies along the houses. Colorful flowers, green hills and people in fashionable clothes make quite a view to enjoy in Gangtok.

gangtok, sikkim

I was there during the second week of May, 2016. With pleasant weather and abundance of hotels and transport, Gangtok serves as a perfect base for exploring various scenic places in North and West Sikkim. For more information, travel photos and itinerary, check out:

We returned to Gangtok after Gurudongmar trip and stayed there for one night and two days. Gangtok sightseeing comes in packages such as 3-point, 7-point, or 10-point tours for half-day or full day. We booked a 7-point tour package, which covered the following places:

  • Rumtek Monastery
  • Shanti View Point (There is nothing much to see here. However, we enjoyed Momo sold here at reasonable price – Rs 40 for a plate)
  • Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
  • Do-Drul Chorten
  • Suicide Point (Don’t be afraid! This is just another view point. 😉   :D)
  • Flower Exhibition
  • Handicrafts & Handloom Center (You’ll find a variety of Tibetan handicrafts including mask, clothing accessories, carpets, wall rugs, bags, and many more at authentic price.)

It was a half-day tour. We started at around 9:30 in the morning and completed by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The post-lunch session was meant for a ropeway ride and shopping at the main market at MG Marg.

Rumtek Monastery

More than an hour drive from Gangtok, Rumtek Monastery is a must see. The monastery is a center of Tibetan Buddhism offers beautiful and quiet surroundings where you would love to spend some time watching the rituals by the little monks, listening to their chanting, and praising the colorful architecture of the monastery.

Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim

Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, architecture, tibetan architecture

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, stairs, blue flowers

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim

rumtek monastery, gangtok, tibetan art, murals, painting

monks, rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, buddhist, rituals

Oh yes! Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by this handicraft shop once. You may find something interesting to buy.

souvenir shop, rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim

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Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

If you want to delve deeper into the Tibetan culture this is a place to be.  The institute conducts different programs to promote research Tibetan history, religion, art and culture. Exquisite silver accessories and beautiful thangkas caught my eyes as soon as I enter the museum.

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Do-Drul Chorten

A Tibetan Buddhist shrine and a peaceful place for prayer Do-Drul Chorten is situated right beside the Institute of Tibetology. The snow white stupa is surrounded with prayer wheels.  I peeped through the window of the prayer hall to find that young priests were chanting and learning their part.

do-drul chorten, tibetan buddhist, shrine, gangtok sightseeing, gangtok

Suicide Point

I don’t know why this beautiful place has a terrible name like this! But I loved walking along the canopied trail that took me to the spot from where I could see green slopes all around and a winding river stream deep down the gorge.

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stairs, prayer flags, suicide point, gangtok, sikkim,

hills, mountains, view point, suicide point, gangtok, gangtok sightseeing

Flower Exhibition

This is a must-see in Gangtok. A variety of flowers with their scientific names and descriptions are displayed in a greenhouse-like place.

flower exhibition, gangtok, gangtok sightseeing, things to do Gangtok

Ropeway

After the day-trip we came back to hotel for lunch. I could see the ropeway cable cars moving up and down sitting right at our hotel’s dining room. By 3:30 pm we set out again for a ropeway ride and walked to the station near Butterfly Bridge.

gangtok, streets in gangtok, sikkim

However, we had to wait for nearly two hours at the ticket counter as there were only two cable cars with a capacity of 24 people each. By the time we boarded the cable car the sun was about to set beyond the hills. 😦

gangtok from ropeway, ropeway ride, gangtok things to do

However, it’s a short 15 minute ride which offers colorful panoramas of the city, Gangtok.

gangtok, ropeway

gangtok, rooftop, ropeway ride, sikkim, things to do gangtok

MG Marg

With a lively atmosphere, numerous shops and restaurants, MG Marg is the pulsating heart of Gangtok. Sikkim government’s Tourist Information Center is also located here. From beautiful accessories to delicate handicrafts to fancy umbrellas there are many things you can buy as souvenirs.

mg marg, market, gangtok, sikkim

Well, if you don’t like wasting money in shopping, just sit on a bench at the plaza and watch people and activities around you. People-watching is a nice time pass, isn’t it? 😉   😀  mg marg, market, gangtok, main market, gangtok shopping

See you soon… 🙂
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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Relax

waterfalls, north sikkim, lachung, himalayas

Imagine, you are riding through rugged mountain roads. It’s almost noon and you are tired of a long, bumpy ride.  As you take a U-turn, you see a waterfall and discover a small pool at the bottom. With warm sun above the head, taking a plunge in the cool water would be the best way to relax and rejuvenate yourself. Do you agree? 🙂

In North Sikkim, you will find plenty of such waterfalls with naturally formed pools. Although I didn’t get a chance to take the splash, the sight of local boys playing in the water was pretty relaxing, too.

north sikkim, lachung, waterfall, pool, water, swim. relax

relax, swim, north sikkim, lachung, waterfalls, pool

Published in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Relax.
Indian Bloggers

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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Fun at Zero Point

zero point, sikkim, himalayas

The sight of snow covered lands, playing with snow, throwing snowballs to each other – all of these are so much fun!

Well, if you are from the colder countries, you may not understand the zeal and excitement, as it is a common thing you see in every winter. However, people like me, who belong to India, a tropical country, don’t get to see snow unless we travel to the Himalayan region in the north.

These pictures are from my trip to Zero Point, North Sikkim, (14000 ft above the sea level) where snow reigns throughout the year. You see… kids and adults, both were having great fun in the snow. 🙂

zero point, yumthung, sikkim, snow

zero point, sikkim, himalayas, snow

Published in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Fun.
Indian Bloggers

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Sikkim Diaries: Waterfall-breaks on the Way to Lachung

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

This is the second part of my North Sikkim tour photo series. If you have missed the first part, click here to view the photo-essay on my journey to Lake Gurudongmar.

We reached Gangtok in the afternoon, on May 7, 2016, and headed for Lachung the very next morning. The shared taxis/rental cars for Lachung are available at Vajra taxi stand, just outside the city. Unfortunately, a technical fault was detected in our car right after we started from Vajra. It took some time to get it repaired. Therefore, it was a delayed start from Gangtok at around 12 pm.

mountain roard, sikkim, lachung

The weather was fine and the views were great. The rows of white and colored prayer ‪‎flags, with the sublime mountains in the background, added a pristine charm to the ‪‎landscapes.

prayer flags, gangtok, lachung, sikkimblue prayer flags, Gangtok, Sikkim

Unfortunately, the road condition is extremely bad in North Sikkim. It was a rough ride throughout on the broken mountain roads, but the torturous journey was compensated with breaks like these… 🙂

waterfall, lachung, north sikkim

Our first stop was at Seven Sisters’ Waterfall.

seven sisters waterfalls, lachung, sikkimseven sisters waterfalls, lachung, sikkim

There was a natural pool at the bottom of the falls.

natural pool, waterfalls, lachung, north sikkim

And we could see big boys were having fun in the water.

waterfall, natural pool, lachung, sikkim

swimming, waterfall, natural pool, Lachung, North Sikkim

This part of the Himalayas is green and verdant year-round as it receives sufficient rainfall to boost the streams and waterfalls. We stopped as many times as we could to take in the beauty of the hills and rivers on our way.

mountain road, road trip, hills, river, sikkimhills, mountains, sikkim, himalayas

And took pleasure in small things as well…

blue berry, berries, fruits, hills, sikkimThere were quite a few waterfalls on the way up to Chungthung, a small town, after which the road bifurcates. One goes to Lachung and the other leads to Lachen, the gateway to Gurudongmar, the iconic lake in North Sikkim.

waterfall, mountain road, sikkim, lachung

However, the last and most notable was ‘Bachchan Falls’, which is popularly called so because of its appearance, tall and lean like Big B. 😀   Well, I don’t know if this waterfall is really called so by the locals. I didn’t see any signboard there, indicating the name of this waterfall.

bachchan falls, waterfall, lachung, sikkim

My Sikkim diary will continue. Please don’t forget to share your thoughts on this journey if you like it.

Before I stop for now, here are a few more beautiful moments captured on the way…

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

hills, river, mountains, lachung, sikkim, landscapegreenery, woods, hills, lachung, sikkim

bridge, mountain road, sikkim

waterfalls, mountain road, lachung, sikkimwaterfalls, lachung, sikkim

river, stream, lachen, lachung, sikkimriver, stream, lachung, lachen, sikkim

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

And a selfie is the way to go when there is no one to click your pics. 😉

selfie at waterfallTake care. See you soon.

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Spare

road, north sikkim, travel

I am just back from a refreshing trip to the Himalayan mountains in North Sikkim. There I saw how the environment is being polluted everyday by smokey tourist vehicles. Even the landscapes at above 17,800 feet are not spared from grasp of so-called “tourism”. Tourism in hilly areas like Sikkim, is definitely a means of economic development. But I doubt if it is always good for the nature and environment around us! What do you say?

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lake gurudongmar, sikkim, india

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Published in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Spare.

PS: These photos are from my photo essay to a photogenic journey to Lake Gurudongmar in Sikkim, India. Do drop by if you like it. 🙂  

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Sikkim Diaries: Visiting a Piece of Heaven Called Gurudongmar

lake, Gurudongmar, Lachen, North Sikkim

Gurudongmar was on my bucket-list since 2011 when I planned with my friends for North Sikkim travel for the first time. Unfortunately, due to a devastating earthquake in Sikkim in the same year, we had to cancel our trip. Nevertheless, visiting Lake Gurudongmar was my destiny. I finally made it after 5 long years. 🙂

Selfie, Lumia 540, Gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, at approx. 17,800 feet above the sea level, the holy lake is about 3.5-hour drive from Lachen, a small village where tourist can halt for the night.

We started early, at 4 am. It was a terribly bumpy ride on the rough mountain roads till the army check post after Thangu, which was our only halt during this hectic journey.

mountain roads, north sikkim

north sikkim, mountain, desert, road

26641876673_f105988cca_hThe road gets better from here, offering a smooth ride, which is a rarity in North Sikkim. 😛   😀  mountain, road, desert, north sikkim

North sikkim, lachen, gurudongmar, landscape, mountains

As we were nearing the lake the landscapes changed drastically without any trace of trees and plants. It looked more like a desert with dune-like formations visible at the horizon. Exalted and overwhelmed, one of our group members commented that the landscapes reminded him of Ladakh. 🙂

road, gurudongmar, north sikkim

mountain, desert, north sikkim, gurudongmar

Whatever it might look like, the mountain desert looked outlandish and fascinating to me. I was spellbound with the sights of such exotic landscapes.

way to gurudongmar, north sikkim, himalayas

mountains, himalayas, north sikkim

snow, mountains, north sikkim

We saw herds of yaks grazing on the fields, totally indifferent about the tourist vehicles that were running past them.

yaks, north sikkim, mountain desert, himalayas

27150318012_3e53ac0ac2_hFinally, we reached our destination, Lake Gurudongmar, at 7:30 am. That’s how the holy lake looked like in the morning light – still, calm, and unspoiled.

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim, reflection

The first few moments were speechless in silent admiration to such divine beauty.

gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

There is a temple on the bank. I didn’t find time to enter as I was too busy in absorbing the beauty of nature all around.

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, himalayas

prayer flags, colors, north sikkim, gurudongmar

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim

Gurudongmar, north sikkim, landscape

And of course, posing for the camera with the lake on the backdrop. 😉

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, nature

However, amid this clean and clear environment, the taxis/rental cars were the direct agent of air pollution. These rental cars are so poorly maintained in Sikkim. I wonder why the local administration is so indifferent about them while it is so strict about keeping Gangtok clean.

environmental pollution, north sikkim, gurudongmar, mountains

In addition, there are the “litterbugs” who never forget to throw off their disposable belongings anytime, anywhere. If you zoom into the picture (below) you’ll see the discarded water bottles. Is it not the responsibility of the visitors, too, to keep the environment clean?

mountains, gurudongmar, environmental pollution, north sikkim

Our Tour Plan

We were lucky to have the weather in our favor during our tour from May 7 to 12, 2016. Our North Sikkim tour included 2-night 3-day Lachung-Lachen package. We stayed at Hotel Meylong in Gangtok and booked the Lachung-Lachen tour package through our hotel. You can check out my review of Hotel Meylong on TripAdvisor for more information.

Our North Sikkim tour plan was like this –

Day 1: NJP (New Jalpaiguri) to Gangtok (We reached NJP from Kolkata at around 9am by Padatik Express)

Day 2: Gangtok to Lachung (Night stay at Lachung)

Day 3: Visit Yumthung Valley and Zero Point – Back to hotel at Lachung for lunch – drive to Lachen (Night stay at Lachen)

Day 4: Visit Lake Gurudongmar and drive back to hotel for lunch – return to Gangtok by evening

Day 5: Gangtok sightseeing

Day 6: Visit Changu (Tsomgo Lake), Baba Mandir and Nathu La pass and return to Gangtok

Day 7: Start for NJP after lunch and reach there by 7:30 pm and board the train to Kolkata

Some Important Info

Please note that if you are an Indian citizen, you should carry your Voter ID card/PAN card/driving license as photo identity proof along with 4-5 photocopies of the same document and an equal number of passport size photographs for Lachung-Lachen tour. You may need to submit these documents to get the travel permit. However, you cannot rent cars on your own and arrange the tour directly. You have to go via a local tour operator or your hotel’s travel desk. They will arrange everything for you.

Finally, don’t forget to pack an umbrella if you are visiting in the May-June season. You may need it anytime. 🙂

To be continued…

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