Sikkim Diary - Part 2

Getting up at 3:30 in the morning never felt so good before. We wanted to go to Tiger Hill and watch the sunrise from there and really hoped to get a glimpse of Mt. Everest as well. Tiger Hill, at 8,500 ft, is the highest hill in the Darjeeling area and is famous for the spectacular sunrise show over the Himalayas. It is 11 km from the town and jeep service is available from the city. We reached the hill on time and found at least another 100 people there, eagerly waiting for the sun. Locals were selling tea, refreshments, photographs, maps and history books and the place was so lively at 5 in the morning! Finally after quite a wait the sun did come up, but the scene was not really spectacular, thanks to the lingering mist and clouds! You can see Mt. Everest from here if you are extremely lucky and happen to be there on one of those clear, windy days. But we proved to be far less lucky for the treat.

Though Tiger Hills was kind of a disappointment, we had a toy train ride to look forward to in the morning. On the way back to the station we stopped over at the monastery at Ghoom. The small but beautiful monastery was full of tourists who were on their way back from Tiger hills. So after a peep inside the sanctum sanctorum, we spent most of the time outside, talking to the playful young monks there. Being the closest monastery to the town it is always crowded, unless you go at noon or late in the evening. We also visited Batista loop and the war memorial. Batista loop is a double loop of railway track, which is an engineering marvel. Here the train turns in a very short turning radius before entering Darjeeling town.

After spending some time at the garden around the war memorial, we reached the train station on time. But our luck just picked up from where it left off at Tiger Hills and all train services were canceled for the day due to some railway employees strike! We went to the travel agency to collect our ticket money, which he promptly returned, and also got news that the strike is not going to end anytime soon. So having no other option, we decided to chuck the toy train plan and go to Ganktok instead, a day ahead of plans. Having booked tickets to Gangtok for the afternoon Jeep service, we had half a day in our hand. We spent the next four hours sitting in a coffee shop by the chowrastha, sipping tea, reading books and taking pictures of people. It was indeed a nice thing to do on a Monday morning. The place is always active with the street vendors, tourists, horses and the mist.

Darjeeling to Gangtok is a five hour jeep ride, which fortunately got extended to 6 hours as our driver wanted us to taste different flavors of tea every hour or so. So accordingly he stopped at every tea shop by the road. Finally we reached Gagtok by 7 in the evening. As we were walking out of the jeep station to find some transport to the city center, we met Mr. R Gurung, an elderly cab driver. He was an ex-military, ex-Archeological Survey of India employee, who knew the history and facts of Sikkim pretty well. He was enthusiastic in sharing the same with us as well. During the short journey from the jeep stand to MG Road, he agreed to take us the following day for a Gangtok tour. With the next day's program arranged we checked into a motel (Norphel guest house) on MG road itself. The MG road at Gangtok is quite well maintained and devoid of vehicles with benches on either side. We wanted to taste some North Eastern cuisine and had a sumptuous, tasty but expensive dinner at 'The Square' on MG road.

Click here for more..
Sikkim Diary: Part 1
Sikkim Diary: Part 2
Sikkim Diary: Part 3
Sikkim Diary: Part 4

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