GANGTOK : A Heaven in North East India

GANGTOK : A Heaven in North East India

Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim. It is situated in lower Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1650m. Mount Kanchenjunga at 8,598 m which is the world’s third highest peak is visible from west of the city.

Travelling

 

The nearest airport is Bagdogra, in West Bengal and the nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. We can take private taxi or share taxi. Private taxi would charge you ₹3000 and share taxi would charge you ₹200. It’s 5 hour drive from airport To Gangtok City.

Accommodation 

As Gangtok has become tourist hub of India. Its hard to find Hotels in cheaper rates than other tourist places though rates differ from seasons to seasons. Rates increase in peak time you won’t get hotels under ₹ 1500  in peak time. But if you go off season you may find hotels under ₹ 700. If you go for booking hotels online  you can find in  much cheaper rates. And there are many Lodges in Gangtok which offers you rooms in cheaper costs under ₹ 500 for double bedrooms.

I would recommend Hotel Gangtok drift

EXPLORING GANGTOK 

Day 1 : Arrival In Gangtok

We arrived in Gangtok after a five hour drive from Bagdogra. We had taken private taxi from the airport. We had fun as we passed along Teesta river and mountains on the way to Gangtok. As the drive had left us a bit tired, we took nap in the hotel till 7 in evening and then we  went to M.G Road. M.G Road is best place to shop or party in Gangtok. M.G Road is traffic and plastic free place. It is a famous hotspot for tourists and locals to hangout. It has a wide array of Hotels, Pubs, Outlets, Restaurants and I do recommend chocolate lovers and party lovers to visit once.

Do visit THE COFFEE SHOP and try Hazelnut latte.

Day 2 : Sightseeing In Gangtok

Ranka Monastery

It took us almost 45 mins to reach Ranka Monastery as the condition of road is not that good, but believe me its totally worth to visit there. Ranka Monastery is one of the most wonderful monasteries in East Sikkim. The Monastery is spread out in a vast area with great scenic views. Since it is relatively a new Monastery and does not have much historical or strategic significance like Rumtek Monastery, It is not much talked about. You have almost free access to almost all parts of monastery. Well if you are hungry after a long drive then no need to worry as they are also numerous restaurants and a souvenir shop too. Photography is also free, as many monasteries don’t even have permission to click photo inside the monastery

Rumtek Monastery

It is 1 hour drive from Ranka Monastery and about 23 Kms from Gangtok city. The Rumtek monastery is in the opposite mountain from Gangtok. So if you visit Rumtek Monastery, there are many spots from where you get an amazing view of the whole Gangtok town on the opposite mountain. However from the gate of the monastery, it requires an uphill walk of about half a km to reach up to the main monastery and you may have good workout during the walk. As you reach main monastery you notice that Rumtek Monastery is one of the largest Monastery in Sikkim and belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists which originated in the 12th century in Tibet. The architecture of the monastery is one of the finest in the world and resembles the original one in Tsurphu, Tibet. It a is three storeyed building and the main monastery has large prayer hall. The hall include large hand paintings, silk paintings and statues. Though you won’t  be allowed to do photography.

The Old Monastery was once completely burnt by fire and 
had to rebuilt again!

Bakthang Falls

Bakthang Waterfall is a 20 minutes drive from Gangtok. Bakthang Waterfall is a wonderful waterfall located on the North Sikkim highway towards Tashi View Point. While visiting Tashi View point or returning, it’s worth stopping at this roadside waterfall for sometime. While the height of the fall isn’t much, it’s the width of the fall that makes it so beautiful. The source of the water is at Ratey Chu. The flowing water falls over a canopy of green creepers. Which look awesome and relaxing.

Day 3 : Visit to Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass

We need to take permit to visit Nathula Pass, We can take permit from any tour agency Or by online. We need Govt ID proof and 2 passport size photographs In order to Issue permit. We can hire local taxi  for Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass, They would charge 4000 to 5000 depending upon the conditions. It is advised to leave Gangtok early by 8 Am as it takes almost 2 hours to reach And It would take a full day to explore Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass

Tsomgo Lake

Tsomgo Lake, A glacial Lake in Sikkim which is located at an altitude of 12,310 feet. The name Tsomgo means ‘Source of water’. This is one of the few and awesome high altitude lakes in India. The lake becomes doubly attractive with the reflections of the surrounding hills on the water.
The fact, that the elevation of the lake rises from 5000 ft to 10,000 ft in a span of 15 km, makes it one of the most exciting rides ever.

Yak Safari

Tsomgo lake  are the popular areas where Yak riding in Sikkim is popular and  many tourists who visit Tsomgo Lake go for Yak ride as it is fun and amazing experience . Yaks  are domesticated animals in Sikkim but from the past many years, they offer memorable safari experiences.

Baba Mandir

This is memorial dedicated to Captain Baba Harbhajan Singh who is also called as hero of Nathula Pass. He died in 1968. But it is believed that his soul is serving border of India and China from many years and many soldiers posted to Nathula Pass have experienced.

Nathula Pass

 

Before reaching Nathula Pass we need to wear warm Jackets and Boots, We can also rents warm cloths at the entry of Nathula Pass. At an altitude of 4300 m, NathuLa Pass acts as one of the 3 links between India and China. The place also has historical relevance because it was the place through which the ancient silk route used to operate till 1962. You can also catch a glimpse of the fenced Indo-China border few meters away and you can spot both Indian and Chinese soldiers guarding the border. It requires a full day trip from Gangtok to visit Nathula.

 

 

Along the Marine drive of Odisha!

The East coast of India starts from Odisha of which the Mahanadi delta constitutes a major geographical feature in India.It is known as the Emerging coast and receives more rainfall ,is more wider and fertile than the Western coast of India.Besides the geographical features it also hold some famous tourist places in this country of which Puri is one of the most important pilgrimage centre for the Indians.

Puri is a 6 hour drive from my residential township in Odisha so I frequently visit to this holy pace time and again.This time in the monsoon I decided to explore the coastal marine drive from Konark to Puri and reach to some distant rural beaches of Odisha along the marine drive.I kept in mind the spiritual connection that this state always offers to me along with the vast coastline to enjoy the sea breeze.

I started from Puri after breakfast at 10:00 in the morning and soon reached to a holy temple ,a 45 minutes drive from Puri. A sea beach with an unique landscape accompanied with a holy shrine is very much common in Odisha. Ramchandi beach lying on the Marine drive to Puri is one such example. While in the first picture you can see a clear difference of the two colours of water which determines the conjunction of Kushabhadra river into the mighty Bay of Bengal. The still water in front of us creates a sand island where we can see the distant waves marks the significant nature of the landscape in Ramchandi beach.

Apart from it’s scenic beauty the beach is famous among the tourists for the Ramchandi temple where Goddess Ramchandi is worshipped as a primary deity ,while others believe the temple belongs to Mayadevi,wife of the Sun God.Right at the entrance of the temple a huge banyan tree stands garlanded with numerous red prayer cloths .The branches of the tree looks majestic in red while the white colour temple welcomes us to the place of worship. The pandas inside the temple offers beautiful decorated venerations made with different varieties of colourful flowers for puja. The incense sticks, glowing candles ,worship bells and the Sanskrit chants from the pujaris create a spiritual experience ,that enhances a different sort of experience along with the sound of the waves from the nature. Surely a must visit place in this Marine drive route, which provides a subtle philosophical experience for a traveller coming to Puri or Konark.

Welcome to the Grand Marine drive of Odisha. This is a must drive for all road trippers in this country to get the feeling of driving closest to the sea. The road is smooth providing numerous food joints along the highway. The road stretches from the famous Sun temple in Konark till the farthest beach of Puri. One can have the best view of this highway along the 5 km stretch from Chandrabhaga towards Puri. There are numerous unexplored beaches of the Eastern coast that lies along this highway, which perhaps most of the visitors do neglect owing to the major tourism attached with Puri.

This picture was taken near Chandrabhaga sea beach which offers a panoramic view of a clean yellow sand beach along with the casuarina forest along the highway. In between the highway and the beach an elevated portion of landmass of yellow sand runs parallel to the sea from where one can get such mesmerizing views of a perfect road trip.

India is a vast country with thousands of sea beaches owing to its huge coastline bordering the Bay of Bengal in the East and the Arabian sea in the west ,both then converging to the Indian Ocean in the south. So despite the huge population of this versatile country along the coastline, a road tripper can still find a number of lonely beaches where the unpolluted sea water looks much more blue, capitalizing the effect of a changing sky. Marine drive from Konark to Puri provides similar experiences for a traveller along the mighty Bay of Bengal. The sand here is devoid of any plastics and the waves are wild ,crushing on the numerous lonely sea shores that provides a majestic view of a landscape devoid of any crowd.

At the end of the shore of Chandrabhaga beach we reach the sea mouth where the two rivers Chandra and Kushabhadra river meet in the Bay of Bengal. There are numerous motor boats which will charge rs 800 and take the tourists to a nearby island where one can stand in between the confluence of the river and the sea.

After a delicious typical Odiya lunch in Konark I proceeded towards further north along the coastline expecting to reach with zero crowd!

It is always rare to find a completely lonely beach around Puri. But thanks to the Google maps and with a little help from the localites I did find an  unpopulated beach ,67 kms from Puri.

Astaranga beach is a major site for the Olive Ridley turtles and so the beach is always guarded by a forest government office. The backwater from the sea create numerous ponds in the localities which help the local fishermen to breed lobsters and fishes in the monsoon lakes. The drive through the rural villages and then stopping in front of a park surrounded by casuarina trees gives us an exhilarating experience of a countryside beach which still remains unexplored even to people of Odisha.

On the way to Astaranga sea beach:- Backwarters with fishing nets on one side and rice plantation on the other side

Although I found out few people travelling in big “Travellers” into this place and doing picnic inside the park of casuarina trees on the beach. Now government should take necessary steps to keep the area clean as such frequent gatherings in the form of picnics do makes this clean beach into a pile of plastics. Till now the beach looks very clean and the waves are much wild owing to the strong winds blowing in this part of Odisha. In the western part of India such lonely beaches provide a calm sea to us but owing to the violent wind speeds in Bay of Bengal the waves are more unsafe on such beaches in the eastern coast of India. So any tourists trying to visit this beach must be careful while taking bath, as the sea shore is also much deeper. The beach is also associated with a famous Sufi shrine built in 15th century A.D situated at the entry to the beach. The rich history and myth associated with the shrine is famous among tourists visiting Astaranga beach.

As we returned by the same route we visited the famous Maa Mangala Devi temple in Kakatpur. The temple was built in 15 th century and is a cultural heritage of the ancient Kalinga Dynasty.While the mythical history associated with this temple dates back to the Ramayana era.The temple is richly associated with the Lord jagannath temple in Puri. When Nabakalabera arrives (“time to change the wood of the three dieties Lord Jagannath,Balabhadra and Subhadra“),the priests come here to pray to Maa Mangala to find the direction to find the tree from which the three primary idols of Lord Jagannath temple in Puri will be constructed. Maa mangala devi is idiolized in Odisha in the form of SHAKTI or manifestations of Goddess Durga. Inside the main temple complex, photography is not allowed but the numerous magnificent architecture of the shrines and the statue of the other dieties will keep any eager tourist engaged in a fruitful spiritual time.

In the above picture we can see the chariot of the Sun God.

Besides these majestic places there is the famous Sun temple in Konark which is a UNESCO world heritage site in India.But I opted to visit such offbeat places along the Puri Konark Marine drive and I do believe there are more unexplored places that the East coast of Odisha can offer to us.A note of advice to all the readers to go through the rich historical facts associated with the sea beaches and temples and then visit these places to get connected with the spiritual significance of this road trip.