Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My First Rendezvous with Northeast India – The Mighty Gangtok

"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls".

To most of India, Northeast is like an elusive hinterland with varied culture and exotic people. Having traveled to most part of India (thanks to my adventurous friends and family), Northeast has always being a more distant place, the thought of which doesn't come easy.

Living in the coastal region of India becomes “more than flesh and blood can stand” in the month of March. The weather makes us long for some surreal land of moist grass and shower of rain to sooth the tense senses. One such afternoon, when the Odisha heat became intolerable, I started searching for a place to elude from the respite of heat (after all with the summer holidays approaching). After ogling for some time, I got my sight on the travel package to Gangtok, Kalimpong and Darjeeling. I checked on google images (that is how I start usually) and spoke to my better half, and there I was booking travel tickets and hotels to stay. Hurry! Finally time to begin the thrilling journey to the Northeast.

As it was an impromptu journey, we packed some useful items like Umbrellas (it pours more than it shines), lot of pairs of socks (it gets too cold after pouring), jackets, mufflers, pair of joggers, medicines, money, more money etc etc.

We began our trip from Odisha to Bagdogra via Kolkata (no direct flight as of now). Bagdogra is a small village in West Bengal, surrounded by tea gardens. We took a private taxi for Gangtok which took us INR 1500/- after much bargaining. In Bagdogra, there are number of roadside shops with exquisite wooden furniture at reasonable prices. It took almost 4 hrs to reach Gangtok. Most of the way was circuitous, though weather was pleasant. Infact, it snowed on the way to Gangtok, which was quiet a welcome.

We had booked our hotel in advance, The Nettal & Fern Hotel. End of March to end of April is the tourist season, it is advisable to book hotel in advance. There was a low to medium tourist rush, as the season had just begun. Nettle & Fern is an itsy- bitsy and cosy hotel in the most calm and serene lanes of Gangtok, about 20 mins walk from the main MG square (most busy part of Gangtok).

Lounge - Nettle and Fern Hotel

Our room

We settled our bags in hotel room and did a change of clothes and began our expedition of the roads less traveled. "We look best when we are totally free, on holiday, walking in the pleasant weather, walking in the rain". Walking is one thing that i do only during holidays. We reached MG square in 20 mins, which is the central hub for shopping, eating, getting the information for sightseeing and hiring taxi service, etc. There is a Government travel office which remains opens till 17:00, and gives extensive information regarding travel packages in and around Gangtok. However, we were late, so we just walked around to get a bit of feel of surroundings. MG road/square is a shopping arcade, with shops selling local and Chinese artifacts on both sides of the central lane.

MG Marg, Gangtok

Lal Bazar

Tired from the trip and trek, I reached back to my hotel and dined there. Unlike the hotel, the restaurant was quiet chirpy and crammed. To our luck, the hotel restaurant was quiet on that day. We celebrated since that day was the karaoke night. We took a corner table and ordered pasta and banana smoothie (my two favourites). Amidst the merriment and cheerfulness, I noticed the out of ordinary warmness and geniality among people. 

Penne Pasta in white Sauce

There were a gang of oldies, sitting next to our table, who started chatting with us. Trust me, in an instant, we started feeling as part of the gang. They shared the addresses and we promised to visit them during our stay there. What a lovely bunch of people! Food took sometime, which I took no notice of, having occupied by celebration and lovely company. The food was unbeatable excellent and pasta was baked to perfection. After having a sumptuous meal, we bid goodbye to our new friends and promised to visit during next visit (because of busy schedule, only 3 days). I went to sleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

                                                                                                                                       ...to be continued