Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sikkim

Went on a weekend jaunt to Sikkim in Northern India, bordering China. Left on Friday (30.07.2010) from Chennai at 10:50 hrs. and made a transit stop at Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in West Bengal. Here are some snaps taken from the aircraft during its approach to Kolkata.
Just Clouds
Agricultural Fields
Water Bodies and Brick Kilns (The Red Portions)
People Waiting To Deplane (Chaos)
Arrived at Bagdogra, also in West Bengal, at 14:30 hrs. Sikkim being a mountainous State, does not have an airport. You have to deplane at Bagdogra and motor to Gangtok, Sikkim's capital. Some pictures taken from the aircraft on its approach to Bagdogra.
View Of A River
The Meandering Of A River
Gangtok is some 125 Km. away from Bagdogra Airport. Had lunch on the way at this place in Siliguri. This is a way side eatery specializing in fish food. Fish is considered to be vegetarian in West Bengal. Not knowing the language the fellows really took us for a ride and charged an exorbitant amount for just a handful of rice and a half inch thick slice of fish. But the taste was good.
Wayside Eatery
Wayside Fruit Stall
There were heavy rains and the roads were horrible. Roads in India become bad when it rains. They are laid in such a way that they become bad when it rains. This is so, that after the rains and just before the next rainy season starts expenditure can be made on the maintenance of these bad roads. Contractors have to make a living.

By the time we reached Gangtok it was around 20:45 hrs. and the journey was so tiresome that we just had dinner and turned in.

View From My Room At 05:30 hrs.
Same View At 07:15 hrs.

Started for Nathu La early the next morning at around 07:30 hrs. Nathu La is a pass connecting China and India ("La" means "Pass" in Tibetan) and lies on the old "Silk Route". Nathu La is situated at a height of some 14,140 ft. above sea level and it is at the border between India and China. The distance from Gangtok to Nathu La is only 50 Km. but it is all uphill all the way and the roads are extremely bad. This was due not only because of rains, but also because the ghat (mountain) roads were being widened by the Border Roads Organization. It was raining heavily also. Rain really spoilt the whole trip. There is an observation post out there from where you can look into China. You can get more information about Nathu La here.

There is a small water fall on the way to Nathu La known as the Kyongnosla Waterfalls. There is only a small stall there where you can get some snacks, coffee and tea.
Kyongnosla Falls
Arrived at Nathu La at around 11:30 hrs.
Entrance Arch To The Border Outpost

The Conference Hall and Observation Post At The Border
The Ramparts On The Border Between India And China (Indian Side)
 On the way back to Gangtok we went to see the "Samadhi" (memorial) of a soldier named Baba Harbajan Singh. He was an ordinary soldier who died in the line of duty in 1968. Later on it seems that he appeared in a fellow soldier's dream and wanted a memorial built for him. This was done and was originally frequented as a pilgrimage center by military personnel and is now also by civilians and is now a tourist attraction.
Small History Of Baba Harbajan Singh
Entrance To The Samadhi (Memorial)
Photo Of Baba Harbajan Singh
Another Photo Of Baba Harbajan Singh
Army Personnel At Baba's Memorial
There is also a souvenir shop located here where you can buy some odds and ends from China and from India. In case you are interested, a certificate that you have visited this pilgrimage spot can be printed out and given to you for a small fee.

You can also see a waterfall from this location but which cannot be accessed.

Further down you pass the Tsongo lake situated at a height of some 10,000 ft. There are "Yaks", hairy large cows, on which you can take a ride if you are so inclined.
Foldable Fan At The Souvenir Shop
Waterfall
The Yak At The Lake
The next day, Sunday, we spent by going to a local church and then were back on the road to Bagdogra to catch the 15:25 hrs. flight back home to Chennai.

The other places of interest in Gangtok are a Cable Car Ride and a Monastery which we did not visit as there was no time.

The best thing about going to Sikkim is the drive from Bagdogra to Gangtok were on your side you are accompanied by a fast flowing river. The air is pure and fresh and the scenery is quite breathtaking. So is the drive from Gangtok to Nathu La. Unfortunately, it was raining throughout the trip and so the scenery could not be enjoyed.
Roasted Corn Cobs Being Sold
The other places of interest near Gangtok are Kalimpong and Darjeeling, both hill stations.

 Incidentally, the world's highest Golf Course is the Yak Golf Course at 13,025' (3970 m.) in Kupup, East Sikkim as measured on 10 October 2006 and can be found in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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