Completing the sacred route of West Sikkim-Yuksom

Completing the sacred route of West Sikkim-Yuksom

Apart from Pellining being the main city of Western Sikkim ,there are many other important destinations from where a traveller can explore even more ancient monasteries and the versatile geography of western Sikkim. YUKSOM is one of  such village in the north most fringe of West Sikkim which not only forms an important base point for the famous Goechala trek but also has a rich historical background of ancient Sikkim when it was closely attached with Tibetan Buddhism. Yuksom was the first capital of the Sikkimese ruler in the 17 th century which was later shifted to Rabdentse near Pelling. Yuksom has the oldest monastery of West Sikkim called the Dubdi monastery situated deep within the forests. But before reaching Yuksom which is 35 kms away from Pelling ,the route has some important destinations with some exquisite landscapes which are must visit tourist spots for every traveller travelling to Sikkim.

As we started our road trip through the meandering roads towards Yuksom we crossed the village Darap which has recently become famous as an eco friendly village,with numerous homestays offering stunning views of Mt. Kanchenjunga peak.After that we proceeded to one of the most famous destination in West Sikkim known as Khecheopalri lake. Khecheopalri lake is situated in the village with the same name at an altitude of 1700 metres above sea level and is a sacred lake for the sikkimese people. The lake forms the pilgrimage site of the most important pilgrimage tour for the sikkimese people which consists of Yuksom,Dubdi monastery,Pemayangtse monastery,Rabdentse ruins ,the Sanga Choeling monastery and Tashiding. The local name of the lake refers to “Oh lady sit here” which refers to the footprints of Goddess Tara blessed by Guru Padsambhava. Hence due to the sacred history of the lake it is also known as wish fulfilling lake.

View of Khecheopalri lake as we enter the jetty.

There is a white stupa on the walking trail to the lake and a grey stupa just in front of the lake. Along with the symbols and prayers marked on the walls on the way to the lake it symbolises the religious sacredness of the place for both the Buddhist and the Hindus. The vicinity of the lake is marked with numerous prayer flags of various colours which adorns the beautiful natural scenery in a splendid way.

White stupa at the start of the trail leading to Khecheopalri lake.

A hike at the top of a mountain will take us to a view point from where we get to see the entire periphery of the lake which looks like the footprint of the local God Tara. Hindus also believe it to be the footprint of Lord Shiva who meditated in one of the caves of the nearby sacred hill. Now a jetty has been built marked by prayer wheels to lead us to the front of the lake where tourists may offer incense sticks and worship the sacred goddess of the lake.

Ancient Stupa just at the front of Khechopalri lake.

The lake is believed to be free from any leaves of trees as it is believed that the birds in the vicinity pick up the leaves which fall into the lake. The lake contains numerous fishes that thrive which can be easily seen from the jetty. The road to the lake is through dense Himalayan forests and one has to take a 10 min walk through the dense forests from the monastery at the starting of the village ,after which no vehicles are allowed. Shoes are not allowed in the jetty and tourists are requested to maintain silence which is a common ethic in each and every tourist spot maintained by the Sikkimese people.

Place of worship at Khecheopalri lake which can be reached through the jetty.

Numerous prayer flags in the premises of the lake signifying the sacredness of the lake to the Sikkimese people.

The native people living here are mostly of Lepcha origin whose main source of income is farming and shops for tourists. The influx of the tourists is huge in this sacred lake due to its sacredness and tourist travelling to Sikkim must visit this destination in priority to complete the religious circuit of West sikkim. Capturing the beautiful mountains and the pristine water of the lake in a frame is a must do activity for any tourist travelling to north east India and tourists must also include the adjoining stupas,prayer flags and the natural scenery in their frame as a memorable experience to remember.
Our next destination was Kanchendzonga waterfall which is situated at an hour drive before Yuksom just beside the Pelling Yuksom highway. The first stream of waterfall is a narrow one from where the local people has set up zip line adventure sports that is an added attraction for the tourists.As we walk further inside through the rocks we come across the main waterfall which is of much greater volume but lesser in height than other waterfalls in the rest of Sikkim. But the huge volume of water gushing down to the gorge below the highway is a magnificent attraction which allures every tourist visiting Pelling in West Sikkim.

Kanchenjunga waterfall

One advantage that we got was that the waterfall volume increased due to the previous day rainfall for which we were able to capture a more beautiful gushing free flow of water in the vicinity of the mountains. The waterfall is perennial in nature so tourist can visit the waterfall in anytime of the year which proves the permanent importance of this tourist spot in West Sikkim.

As we proceeded towards Yuksom ,we crossed numerous iron bridges which are frequent here in the highways across north east of India. People of Sikkim adorn them with prayer flags which makes them look more beautiful with the background of the Himalayan mountains.We crossed the fast flowing Rathmong Chu river that later meets the Teesta river in the south of Sikkim and entered the quaint village of Yuksom through the meandering roads. The road quality is pretty good except some rough patches which is common due to the landslide zone of the Himalayas.

One of the many iron bridge over the mountain rivers. In this case the river was Rathmong Chu,just before Yuksom.

We checked into Hotel Red Palace which is situated 1 km uphill inside the pine forests of Yuksom bazaar. I must say this the best hotel in this small hill station that offers some out of this world views of the Himalayas from its premises. The hotel offers rooms starting from Rs 1600 which are wooden and spacious rooms ,each of them having wide angle views of the West Sikkim valley. Most surprisingly the Chenrezig statue of the skywalk in Pelling is visible from the hotel and the Mount Kabru peak of the Himalayas.

View from our room in Hotel Red palace.

The terrace of the hotel offering beautiful views of the mountains.

The hotel windows and the corridors are beautifully decorated having paintings of the tribal Sikkimese people on the white walls of the corridors. It has a cozy decorated sitting area in its reception and a library in the 1st floor. The restaurant offers delectable dishes which is situated in the basement. The most alluring part of the hotel is its open terrace that offers panoramic view of the Sikkim valley. The hotel is situated in a completely secluded place surrounded with pine forests and vast open grounds which are decorated with yellow prayer flags.

Hotel Red palace in Yuksom.

The terrace was an ideal place to have an early morning breakfast.

In the premises Stupas have been built where I think people come to offer prayers. The stupas are very common in this part of Sikkim perhaps due to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism since this entire circuit in West Sikkim has been derived from Guru Padmasambhava.

Stupas for worship inside the campus of the hotel.

The first tourist spot that we visited in Yuksom was the Norbugang coronation throne.The spot was previously a trekking route but now the spot is motorable through a cobbled road . The tourist spot has an adjacent monastery which has a huge statue of the Buddhist statue overlooking the Yuksom valley. One has to remove shoes to enter the sacred place of this monastery.

Monastery beside Norbugang coronation throne.

Views of the Yuksom valley from the monastery.

The coronation throne is more like a park which has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when Yuksom was the capital of the Sikkimese king. Here the king Lhatsen Chempo was coronated by three lamas and it was believed that when the king received the gifts from all the people of the area ,these were buried in the chortens that was build with woods and stones collected from all parts of Sikkim.The throne known as Norbugang is situated below a large pine tree which is now believed to be more than three hundred years old.The coronation throne which was built with stones is whitewashed now and decorated with numerous prayer flags all around. This sacred place is of high importance for all the Lepcha people residing in Sikkim and adjacent parts belonging to Tibetan Buddhism.

Holy park of Norbugang decorated with prayer flags 

The coronation Place of Norbugang Coronation place.

Adjacent to this holy park there is a lake called Karthok which also derives it’s significance from Buddhism practiced by the lamas living in the area. The sanctity of the lake can be understood by the numerous prayer flags that fits in with the pristine green grassland and the surrounding mountains in the vicinity of the lake. I was even surprised to see the colourful orange fishes inside the lake that thrive on the algae and organic plants on the lake. The lake can be reached through by a meagre 50 metres walking through a rough terrain of rocks and roots but this little effort will lead us to a wonderful location of utmost natural beauty in this part of Sikkim.

Karthok lake.

Next an half an hour drive in the direction of the helipad of Yuksom will lead us to the oldest monastery of Sikkim called Dubdi monastery.The road to the Dubdi monastery is extremely rough and patchy through dense forests. From the motorable road one has to trek uphill for 400 metres to reach this ancient monastery. The trek is through dense jungle and extremely steep so be careful to hold your breath and keep your time to reach your final destination. The monastery is situated in a completely isolated place and most of the tourists come here to spend their time in solitude.

Trail path to Dubdi monastery.

The monastery in local language meaning the retreat was established by the first king of Sikkim in the year 1701 .The monastery has a beautiful architecture which contains ancient manuscripts and the three statues of the lamas who established Yuksom as the first capital of Sikkim in the 17 th century.Relevant to it’s historical importance the monastery is situated inside deep forest providing astounding views of the Himalayas in the background. The monastery is a must visit place in West Sikkim to understand the significant life of the monks who still practice Tibetan buddhism and lead their exclusive life dedicated to Buddhism.

Dubdi Monastery.

After that we proceeded towards Siliguri and on the way we decided to visit Phamrong waterfalls as our last destination in this circuit. Phamrong waterfall is situated deep into the forests ,7 km from Yuksom on the highway towards Tashiding. This is the highest waterfall of Sikkim and the splendid view of the gushing waterfall flowing down from the Himalayas can be captured from a bridge just on the front of the waterfall ,adorned with prayer flags.

For travellers seeking to get a closer view of the waterfall one has to trek around 200 steps after which there is a view point.The trek is a little bit scary as the steps are almost damaged and one has to cross some precarious terrain of rocks and boulders.

Steps to main view point of Phamrong waterfall.

The pathway is through dense jungle but after some 15 minute of hard work one gets the delightful opportunity to spend some precious moments with the alluring scenery of the mighty waterfall. From here one gets to capture the waterfall in their photo frame from different angles and admire the greenery of the surrounding Himalayas.

After my short stay in West Sikkim I returned back through the same route via Jorethang to Siliguri taking back beautiful memories of the most religious circuit of Sikkim. I missed the Tashiding monastery which forms the last town in this heritage Buddhist circuit of the 17th century history of Sikkim as I was short of time. But I would advice every traveller to follow this route and spare an hour in Tashiding to complete the entire circuit. Tashiding monastery will fall on the same route so it will be quite easy to plan accordingly while completing the itinerary of West Sikkim. It is also advisable to stay for another day in Yuksom as after my numerous adventures in the Himalayas I found this quaint village as one of the most scenic and cleanest village in North East of India. The hill station provides some stunning views of the Himalayas and is also an important gateway to the enigmatic Kanchendzonga national park.

On my return journey to Siliguri as I crossed Tashiding I saw the Rathong Chu river meeting the Rangit river which then further flows down and meets the Teesta river into North Bengal. The iron hanging bridges with numerous prayer flags we’re common in these river crossings which reminded me of the ethnic mountain people living their life in these mountains. The view of the gorges from these bridges with the natural sound of the gushing waterflow of the river water through the rocks are always the best memories to cherish after a trip to the mighty Himalayas.

A hanging bridge just after legship built at the  confluence of Rathong chu river with Rangit river.

While returning one can have lunch in Jorethang which as mentioned earlier is one of the main city in Sikkim where backpackers can easily find shared taxi from the taxi stand to different parts of Sikkim as it is a major public communication hub.

With this I conclude my journey of West Sikkim but do keep following our blogs as West Sikkim doesn’t end here. West Sikkim has more hidden treasures in the further west which I will explore in my next trip to Okhrey and Uttarey ,surrounding the Varsey rhododendron sanctuary.

Gateway to the history of Sikkim-Pelling.

As the spring season starts in India the immense heatwave arrives in most of India and most of the schools starts to have their summer vacations.In order to get respite from this summer most of the travelers do travel to the hill stations to enjoy the cool weather and the natural beauty of the spring season in the mountains.The roads in the Himalayas starts to open in the month of April as the snow starts to melt in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Due to spring season the whole of the Himalayan valley’s blooms with colorful flowers which adds to the scenery of the landscape. So as the April month starts one should start to plan to visit to any of the hill stations in the Himalayas.


Sikkim is situated in the north Eastern part of India ,in the lap of the Himalayas having an international boundary with Tibet,Nepal and Bhutan. The only route to reach this mountainous state is through North Bengal from Siliguri. Though Sikkim is a very small state but it consists an immense versatile geography for which it is better to plan the routes of Sikkim accordingly depending on the duration of holidays. The state is mostly covered with mountains so travelling around the state is slow owing to the tough road conditions. There is no railway station in Sikkim so one has to depend on car for travelling around Sikkim.

This beautiful state is one of the cleanest state in India and provides some majestic views of Mountain Kanchenjunga from it’s western most part of the state. So I decided to explore the Western part of Sikkim which also has some important base point for high altitude mountain trekkers.As I started of from Jalpaiguri station the terrain started to change from the plain fertile land of the Mahananda river into a mountainous highway along the Teesta river. The road was along the Teesta river which is also an important hub for hydro power plants in India. So the journey till the arrival of Sikkim border was along this beautiful river . The river looked completely green as we passed one of the many gorges of the river and as we started to gain height the greenery started to increase. A little later we reached Melli which is the border town of Sikkim and West Bengal provides some wonderful views of the Teesta river . The whole of the bridge that separates the two states in Melli is covered with prayer flags which makes the bridge an ideal spot to capture memories.

View of Teesta River from Melli bridge.

Soon we crossed the police check post and after this the highway was pretty smooth till Kitam Bird sanctuary. After the bird sanctuary the road became terrible but the landscape kept us relieved from the stress of the journey. It took 5 hours for us to reach Pelling ,the most important hill station in West Sikkim. We checked in to Hotel Yangthang Dzimka resorts .

Just before entering Pelling city.

View from our resort ,birds sighting was an added splendor.

Pelling is situated at an elevation of 2100 meters above sea level and it offers one of the best views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Apart from that this city has ruins of an ancient civilization which is also an UNESCO world heritage site. Being on the western part of Sikkim it is the gateway to the two most important treks called Goechla and varsey rhododendron sanctuary. The town has India’s first skywalk in the state and monastries of 17 th century. The hotel is situated near the helipad at upper Pelling and the location was just at the perfect central point of the city from where we had an easy access to all the important tourist spots. The rooms of the hotel are pretty spacious and it’s restaurant offers only vegetarian food. On the very first day as one will reach Pelling on the way one can visit the Rabdentse ruins and the Pemayangtse monastery. Make sure to start early in the morning from Jalpaiguri to spend an useful amount of time in these two places.
Rabdentse ruins is a protected place by the Archaeological society of India and is located inside a jungle which is a small bird sanctuary in the middle of the hill station. Even one will get to see rare species of Himalayan birds in the zoo built inside the park ,on the way while going to this UNESCO heritage site. It will take approximately 20 minutes to walk and cover a steep road inside the dense forest in order to reach the site, which is of course tiring but the stress will be completely vanquished by the essence and the charisma that this historical place offers to a tourist.

Himalayan Bird zoo just at the beginning of the Rabdentse trail.

Jungle walk on the way to Rabdentse Ruins.

The three stone pillars known as chortens are the main attraction of Rabdentse Ruins where the king and his family members used to offer prayers to their deities. From this place where the chortens are located panoramic views of the entire Sikkim valley and Kanchenjunga is visible. Other than this there is a northern and southern wing of this palace. The northern wing used to be the residential place of the noble family members of the king and the southern wing used to be the assembly court where common people used to assemble in front of the king.

The three chortens in the prayer hall of Rabdentse ruins.

Panoramic view of Rabdentse site from the assembly court of the king. 

The Rabdentse site was the second capital of Sikkim in the 17th century which was later attacked by the Gurkhas of Nepal and reduced to ruins. This place with such extensive views of immense greenery and mountains not only offers a rich history of our cultural country ,but also offers a 360 degree views of the charming valley’s of western Sikkim.

On the way to Pemayangtse monastery.

After visiting Rabdentse ruins a 10 min drive will lead us to Pemayangtse monastery which is the second oldest monastery in Sikkim ,that was built after the ruler of Sikkim in 17th century shifted his capital to Rabdentse. This Buddhist monastery follows the Nyingma tradition which is the oldest tradition among the four Tibetan schools of knowledge. Nyingma simply means ancient because it was derived from the the early Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit.

The main monastery of Pemayangtse.

Colorful buildings inside the monastery.

This monastery controls every other monasteries in West Sikkim and contains monks of pure Tibetan lineage without physical abnormalities. The monastery has beautiful architectures and the main prayer hall is surrounded by the residential buildings of the monks. The main prayer hall contains the state of Guru Rinpoche in his various forms of incarnations who is considered to have revived Buddhism in Tibet. At the entrance of the monastery a red wall containing Buddhist prayers is a major attraction for all those travelers seeking to click their photos in a colorful background.

In the evening it is a perfect time to go to the skywalk which has been newly constructed by the Sikkim government and to the adjacent Sangachoeling monastery.The Pelling skywalk was opened on November 2018 and since then it has attracted numerous tourist from across the whole world. This is a first skywalk built in India and it is transparent made of glass that adds to the adventure to this spot.The main attraction of this skywalk is the Chenrezing statue which is 134 meters tall that adorns the skies of West Sikkim as it is situated on top a mountain which is visible from almost major parts of West Sikkim.

View of Chenrezig Buddha statue from the skywalk.

One needs to walk up numerous steps to reach the statue from where the entire skywalk and the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas are visible. In fact such large Buddhist guru statues is very common  in Sikkim which can be find in other parts of the states also,enhancing the influence of Tibetan Buddhist culture in the state. The entry ticket costs RS 50 which also includes the entry to the Sangachoeling monastery situated beside the skywalk. The skywalk opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 6 in the evening.The entire place is well decorated with numerous statues of Buddhist culture and prayer wheels that rotates to shower the Buddhist prayers in the wind.

Panoramic views of the Eastern Himalayas from the skywalk.

On either sides of the steps leading to the Chenrezing statue,they are decorated with yellow colored prayer wheels which adds to the beautiful design of architecture. The beautiful view of the statue can even be seen from the helipad ground of Pelling and Yuksom ,a small hill station further north which adds to the significance as if the Buddhist guru sits on top of the state protecting the people with his prayers .

View from the Helipad in Pelling. The mountain peak in the picture contains the Chenrezing Statue.

Sangachoeling monastery is an ancient historical archaeological site beside the skywalk which contains a main monastery and few remains of the stupas which has now been well preserved by the archaeological and tourism department of Sikkim.The stupas are made from grey colored bricks that overlooks the Pelling city when one stands in front of the platform on which the stupas are situated.It was built in the 17 th century and is known as the place of the secret spells.Like Pemayangtse monastery it belongs to the Nyngima sect and allows men monks only belonging to the this particular sect. This charming place with rich historical values is a place of heritage for the Sikkimese people and most of the tourist visiting here are requested to remain in silence and enjoy the scenic and mystic significance of the views offered from the magnificent location of this monastery.

Ancient chortens in Sangachoeling monastery.

The main monastery of Sangachoeling.

Due to the Chenrezing statue that sits on top of the skywalk and the monastery ,on visiting this place the relevant significance incurred due to Buddhist influences such as a monastery,prayer wheels and stupas has a deep impact on any religious traveler. After experiencing the mystic culture I understood that the skywalk is only an added measure undertaken to attract numerous tourists but the main significant attraction is the Chenrezing statue and the preserved Sangachoeling monastery.

View of the Chenrezig statue and the skywalk from Sangachoeling monastery entrance.

Our next destination next morning was to visit the Rimbi orange garden. As I left Pelling towards Rimbi Icame across an ancient tribal village called Darap which itself has now grown into a famous destination to explore the Himalayas. There are many home stays which have come up in this village providing an ideal peaceful retreat for the various tourist coming here to see the snow capped peaks of the north east Himalayas.

The intense greenery of the Himalayas and the pollution free environment gradually lead us to the next village called Rimbi. Rimbi is famous for it’s orange garden and the Rimbi river which provides a charismatic landscape for the tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Eastern Himalayas.

Just before the Rimbi orange garden I came across the Rimbi waterfall on the highway.The waterfall is not so huge but due to the surrounding scenery and the unique alluring nature of a free falling volume of water from the mountains this spot can be easily considered as an enchanting retreat for all the tourist who wants to capture the natural scene in their frame.

Rimbi waterfall.

Just after a  5 min drive from here we reached the Rimbi orange garden. Small shops near the highway will greet us through a small entrance with an entry fee of RS 10 will greet us to the orange garden which lies on the banks of the Rimbi river. The area is congested but has been suitably utilized for cultivating organic fruits and crops. The area is mainly marked with orange trees and cardamom plantations besides some few houses of the villagers residing here.The clean pathway covering the entire garden is concrete which is relatively well maintained by the residents inside the garden.

The numerous orange trees starts to bloom with oranges from the month of November so we were not so lucky to visit in the months of May .Still the organic farming surrounded by the Himalayas mesmerized our short time on the banks of the Rimbi river. The pathway leading down to the river banks is planted with numerous flower plants with rose being the primary flower tree.There are cozy seating places and small shops selling organic Himalayan tea and water bottles for the tourists.

Numerous Orange trees in Rimbi.

As I reached the banks of the Rimbi the sound of the rapids formed by the flowing of the river through the mountain rocks allured us to record the surrounding in our go pro camera to take back the memories of the natural ambiance. Unlike other places where such banks of the rivers has been transformed into picnic spots, the Sikkimese people has done an effective ethical work in maintaining the cleanliness of the place. In fact the state of Sikkim is the first state in India to have transformed into completely organic and may be considered as one of the cleanest state in India. The Rimbi orange garden not only provides a tranquil place amidst the organic farming but also helps us with some effective time with nature on the banks of the free flowing Rimbi river.

The road after Rimbi continues further north towards Khangchendzonga National park leading us to more fascinating destinations in West Sikkim which I shall explain in my next blog where I traveled further to the ancient capital of Sikkim called Yuksom. I must say such wonderful experience with both nature and history wouldn’t have been possible without the hospitality of the local people who gave us some relevant informations. I must also mention the delectable food that the hotel restaurant offered always concluded my day with a proper diet which is important in any trip. Keep following our website for my next blog on this entire trip across the most religious circuit in West Sikkim.

 

Trip to the only Buddhist settlement in Odisha

Buddhist monastery in Odisha

Gopalpur provides an ideal gateway to some magnificent offbeat destinations in this state. The second  largest coastal lagoon in the world,Lake Chilika is situated at an hour and half drive from this village. The famous Tara Tarini temple on the top of a mountain in Eastern Ghats is also situated within an hour drive. The only Buddhist settlement, Jiranga and the hot sulphur water spring Taptapani is also situated within 100 kms drive from this sea beach.

There are very few hotels in Gopalpur and for me the best economic hotel along with the best location is the OTDC PanthanivasThere is another option for accommodation in a hotel named Sea Pearl which is situated on the sea beach ,providing incomparable views of the sea. The morning sunrise is a delight to watch from the balcony of the hotel for which this hotel is a real gem in terms of location . Plan your routes to visit the nearby getaways while having a relax beach vacation in this lighthouse beach in the  Eastern coast of India. we decided to explore one such beach in Odisha where we can get the opportunity  to capture a picture perfect  sunrise. Aryapalli beach near Gopalpur in Odisha is one of a beach which is devoid of crowd ,offering a perfect sunrise to start a travelspirit day.

At the start of the road trip to Jiranga we will first encounter a Deer Park at first and then we will visit Taptapani,a natural hot spring, now worshipped as a temple by the religious Hindu people. In the last arrives the scenic Buddhist village of Jirang that provides sparkling images of the monasteries with the mountains in the background. One can also take a off road drive to a waterfall nearby the village. The road trip has some mesmerising tourist spots to count for ,so I strongly believe this part of Odisha as one of the richest geography to explore. People travelling to Taptapani take bath in a nearby pond which is being fed by the natural hot sulphur water owing to it’s great medicinal property. Travelling further towards Jiranga there is a diversion of 3kms which takes us to a waterfall known as Khasada waterfall. The place is famous among the locals as a picnic spot where several people gather in winters. Odisha is a land of wonders and only the person who has explored the state knows that better. The landscape along the road to Jiranga will fetch us some beautiful Instagram photos as the multiple colours of natural Odisha provide some magnificent moments in the road trip.

As we enter the beautiful village Jiranga,we will encounter the white pagodas and the colourful prayer flags which have been delicately set up in an elevated land on the mountains for which the tall pagodas and the fluttering flags can be seen from a distance as one approaches the town surrounded by hills. Just as we enter the village, the vast open valley welcomes us with these beautiful white structures that fit in for a perfect photogenic spot. Jiranga and Chandragiri together constitute a major and the only Buddhist settlement in Odisha. While Chandragiri consists of the main monastery where several monks reside peacefully in their Buddhist culture; Jiranga has a huge park where one can see several pagodas and prayer flags decorating the landscape amidst the Eastern Ghats. Only a 100 km from the main town of Brahmapur in southern Odisha ,it is well connected by smooth roads with the rest of the state of Odisha.

Next day while returning back to Bhubaneshwar we will vist a freshwater lake lying on the national highway near Chatrapur, known as Tampara Lake. There are motor jets and paddle boats available for the tourists as water sports activities. The place has been well maintained by the government that offers a serene and peaceful experience away from the outskirts of the city.

 

 

Journey to an island where the sea and a lake meets.

Signing of this marvelous year with an eco friendly tour to the largest brackish water lake in Asia i.e Chilika. Every season of the previous year i.e 2018 did force me to explore this marvelous state and I was even more happy on the last day of the year. I preferred to stay in a resort inside Chilika lake, belonging to Odisha Eco tourism. A three hour drive from Bhubaneshwar took me to Satpada,which is a small village situated near the Sea mouth Of Chilika. Then in one and a half hour boat drive,I reached a small island called Rajhans island where the Odisha tourism has built beautiful Swiss Tents for tourist accomodation. Eco tourism Odisha has arranged some excellent tourist facilities in some major destinations in the state , and Chilka being one of the primary of them.

As we proceeded towards the boating point in Satpada,we crossed the rural countryside of the village covered with rice plantations on both sides. Besides such greenery we saw marshy wetlands in the fields on either side of the road, perhaps created by the backwaters of the huge volume of water flowing back towards the village from the lagoon. Due to such phenomena these wetlands have also become a natural habitat for numerous species of birds which can easily be encountered while driving along the road to Satpada. Since it was late in the afternoon so I decided to explore this area on my return journey.

Odisha tourism has progressed a lot and thanks to the efforts put up by the Eco tourism department of the state.This initiative by the state government has become the primary attraction for all the nature lovers visiting the important cultural and geographical diverse area of the state.They have built Eco friendly cottages and tents in three destinations surrounding the Chilika lake ,and Rajhans Nature camp being one of them.

In Rajhans nature camp Eco toursism Odisha has built Swiss luxurious Tents perfectly located in this serene island just on the banks of the Chilika lake.Well if you book with Odisha ecotourism then they will manage everything from Satpada till they drop you off on the same place. On the way to the island enjoy the pristine water of the lake where the sightings of the Irrawady dolphins are also frequent. At the rear side of the resort one can take a 5 minute walk to the sea beach through the casuarina forests. Infront of the tents the large vacant space has been well equipped with volleyball and badminton courts,along with a small playground for the kids.The workers of the resort are also perfect guides to explore the island.

Worth to mention I enjoyed one of the best sea food in my life as the cooks provided some delicious fishes and lobsters from the lake.The kitchen offers delectable sea food for lunch ,dinner and breakfast which are included in the booking amount for one tent. The campus is perfect for any nature lover as one can watch the Irrawady dolphins which are frequently visible on the shores of the island.The package when booking a single day stay in the island also includes a boat cruise to the sea mouth of the lake in Bay of Bengal. Travelers seeking to watch the numerous migratory birds can take the the help of the local boatmen at an extra cost of Rs 1500 and sail for an extra 2 to 3 hours in the lake in early morning hours.

Don’t forget to watch a memorable sunset on the shores of the nature camp with the fishing nets and the wooden boats catalyzing the scenery. It was a perfect conclusion for the last day for this new year to provide me the same zeal to explore the world as a wanderer in the coming years. I am grateful to Odisha tourism for inspiring me to increase my urge in exploring the versatile landscape of this state. Sunset in Rajhans Island.

Just a 5 minute walk from the Eco camp site of Rajhans island in Chilka lake ,one may reach a pristine sea beach on the shores of Bay of Bengal. Owing to the tough accessibility to the beach due to it’s remote location in an island ,this beach remains lonely ,so travelers will find the golden sands very clean and devoid of any crowd. This is a perfect place to watch the sunrise and sunset ,providing an ideal moment for all photographers. The beach is controlled by the Forest rangers of Odisha ,so in order to visit them one has to take entry tickets by showing government identity cards from the offices in Satpada. Well if one is booking accommodation in Rajhans island from Odisha Eco tourism site then the entry ticket is already included.Sunset on the Sea Beach in Rajhans Island.

The beach mainly had casuarina forest trees where wild cats and foxes are frequent animals. A walk through the casuarina avenues on the way to the beach from the camp is must thing to do to enjoy a serene moment. Sunset in Chilka is no doubt scenic with the fishing nets and boats adding to the scenery. But here on this beach you only get the vast sea beach with the rhythmic waves in the background. So choose your spot perfectly ,while both can be visited at the same time as this place is a geographical wonder having the lake and sea beach in the same place.

What a delight it is to encounter such mesmerising experience with crystal blue water and numerous species of birds in the middle of the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Chilika is no doubt precisely documented by all the epic channels like Discovery and the National Geographic ,but I think this place holds its significance everytime in a new way for any bird watcher in any part of this planet. Though there are many experts in the field of bird watchers but none can replace the natural instincts of the local fishermen who also act as guides for the travelers coming here to see the birds. Common Shell Ducks in flocks.

The largest lagoon in Asia also holds the rare Irrawady dolphins which can easily be seen all throughout the year.But in order to see the numerous migratory birds flying thousands of kilometres into this place,winter is the only time to study them. I was lucky enough to spot different types of ducks like Common Shelduck,Indian spot-billed duck,Fulvous whistling duck,Lesser whistling duck and different types of Sea gulls and Cormorants. Black Headed Sea Gull

Indian Cormorant.

In my three hour cruise in the Chilka lake on my return to Satpada I mostly saw the birds in flocks near the marshy area of the lake where there were signs of grasslands. Indian Spot Billed Ducks in Flocks

Throughout the lake the fishermen has built local breeding place with the nets ,where the Indian cranes and sea gulls can be seen in flocks. Due to the shallow water of the Chilka near the small grasslands within the lake it is difficult for the person driving the motor boats to go near the birds so one needs a relevant zoom lens to capture the colourful birds in flocks.Indian Egret

 Indian Cormorants in Flocks Black headed Sea Gull in Flocks.

Also due to the poaching and hunting and birds in past ,the birds are afraid of the trawler boats ,so they mostly fly away as we come near to them.But after declaring Chilka lake as a major Ramsar site in India,the government of Odisha has taken an award winning step in shaping this wonderland into a paradise for birdwatchers.

Marbled Godwits in Flocks.

While I was returning I was gifted for my patience as I was able to capture photographs of some rare species of birds. Infact the sight was even more delightful for a birdwatcher as the flocks of birds were much near to me. Marbled Godwits,Black winged Stilt,Indian Egrets,Common Cormorants were the few species of birds that I was able to see in flocks in the marshy irrigation fields near SatpadaWhile in Chilika lake I had to be cautious as the sound of the boat made the birds to fly away,but here the birds were freely feeding on the fishes and the algae in the ponds spread across the acres of fertile fields.I stopped my car and captured the best moments of the playful birds dancing on the water and enjoying their natural habitat. Black winged Stilt in Flocks.

It was a true delight for any birdwatcher to encounter such
beautiful creatures at such a close distance. Satpada not only serves as the gateaway to the largest lagoon in India,but it is also a picturesque village and a natural habitat for the numerous migratory birds flying down and are able to find this village as their true home.

Following the rivers of Eastern Himalayas from Bhutan to India.

Murti river originates in the Neora valley national park in the Kalimpong district in West Bengal which further meets the Jaldhaka river coming down to the plains. The river is famous for providing some exceptional scenic destinations for adventure and camping activities for the tourists visiting North Bengal. So in this winter I decided to explore the quaint hill stations lying along the rivers of Murti and Jaldhaka in the Eastern Himalayas. New Mal junction is a railway station in north bengal that is the nearest base point from where we can get several cabs and visit the beautiful villages of Dooars. Owing to the fertile plains of these two rivers Dooars is gifted with stunning greenery and landscape that attracts tourists mainly in the winter season when the skies are clear.From New Mal junction we took the road towards Chalsa tea garden and our first destination was to stay in Rocky island,a tourist spot with homestay facilities on Murti river.One of the many tea gardens near Chalsa. 

Rocky island  is situated 2km from Samsing ,which is a tea estate town in North Bengal,and Rocky island is a river camp site on the rocky terrain of Murti river.This place is surrounded by dense forests all around that enhances the greenery of the surrounding. The river is narrow here so one can easily cross or walk down the river over the boulders to explore the natural scenery associated with the place. There are few homestays available just on the banks of this river in the Rocky island which provide delicious food but basic accommodation facilities. Various trekking routes are available from this spot into the adjoining forest in the surroundings.

Mostly Rocky island is famous among the tourists In West Bengal as picnic spot and a day tour excursion. But due to the development of the recent homestays close to the river bed of Murti in this spot ,now many tourists from different corners of our country spend here for bird watching in the surrounding forests and local trek routes in the nearby villages.The homestays provide perfect setups for the tourists to enjoy the serene location and explore the river bed ,while enjoying the local food delicacies.As the homestays are situated on the cliff overlooking the river,so the tourists can simply park their vehicles on the adjoining road in front of the cliffs and go down towards the river bed where arrangements are made to enjoy the food with amazing views.In the morning hours the open air set up of the restaurant with plastic tables and chairs with big umbrellas ,enhance the tranquility of the spot while a traveler can enjoy a delectable breakfast with the finest tea from the gardens of North Bengal.

Our next destination next day was to explore another beautiful village called Suntalekhola and then proceeding towards Bhutan borders to explore the hill stations along Jaldhaka river. Suntalekhola is a small picturesque village situated in Kalimpong district with altitude around 900 metres above sea level. The small village is famous for it serene forests and small streams of river Murti that flows through the dense forests adjacent to this village. There are variety of homestays with serene location which can provide a different experience in this Eco friendly village. But the best is the WBFDC(West Bengal Forest Development Corporation) resort situated inside the forests of Suntalekhola.

Above is the campus of WBFDC tourist resort.

Hanging bridge near the resort.

As shown in the picture the resort is surrounded by greenery and has a small stream with boulders, flowing through it’s campus. The colourful flowers and the grasslands altogether creates a delightful ambience for the tourists visiting this place. There is also a hanging bridge near this resort which is also a famous tourist spot for the travellers visiting this village. The village also forms the starting point of the trek to Neora valley National park which is situated adjacent to the forests of Suntalekhola.

The farthest mountain in the background of the above picture belongs to Neora valley National park.

The national park is home to Red pandas and various rare species of wild cats and birds. The village can be traced in just about 2 hours by hiring the local taxes which are available as we enter Suntalekhola from Samsing,which also a serene tourist spot situated 5 kilometres away. Tourist cabs are not allowed for sightseeing in Suntalekhola ,so one has to hire the local cabs which charge RS 300 for a complete sightseeing of the village. In Nepali language Suntaley means orange and khola means stream ,thus due to the abundant orange trees and the river stream that flows through this village ,the village got it’s name as Suntaley Khola.

We then proceeded towards the Doaars forest and our destination was Jhalong Bindu road along the jaldhaka river.In the route near Samsing we came at a view point called Lalaguri .Lalaguri is surrounded by tea plantations and provides a picture perfect view of the Murti river flowing down to the Dooars plain.Though the spot was overcrowded with tourists but the vast area surrounded by hills and tea gardens makes it an exquisite place to have a walk in the surroundings.

View from Lalaguri with Murti river in the background.

As we proceeded downwards towards the plains we came across a place with surreal beauty.The landform was dry with black rocks yet was perfectly decorated with vast acres of tea plantations.The unusual colour combination of this place was a perfect conclusion in exploring the Murti river as I crossed the river to explore another mountain river of the Eastern Himalayas.

As I entered the deep forests of the Dooars I came across a rubber plantation inside a government protected area.Perhaps this is the only rubber plantation in North Bengal that I visited in the Dooars forest. If one is travelling from Suntalekhola towards the border of Bhutan near Jhalong bindu road ,one will encounter this rubber and cinchona plantation in the forest of the Dooars. Naturally the place is very green owing to the dense forests on the foothills of the Himalayas.

The roads are pretty good and if one is lucky enough ,then encounter with wild elephants is possible due to the numerous elephant corridors in the Dooars. The Murti river flows around this area which later meets with Jhaldhaka river ,that comes from Bhutan.The plantation area is maintained by the government so tourists need to go through the check post before entering the rubber plantation forests.

The white plastic in the picture has a vessel below it where the rubber in the liquid form is collected from the bark of the trees. It was really worth to watch such a landscape as it reminded me of my school time chapters of geography. Travelling to some offbeat  places brings us some delightful new experiences with nature and I strongly believe our country has some numerous unexplored destinations which can prove a real treasure for any enthusiastic traveller.

After crossing the Murti river from Suntalekhola it takes an hour and a half drive to reach the Bindu barrage ,which marks the border of India and Bhutan. The river has a dam build over it in the further north of Bengal in the village called Bindu ,which has become a major tourist attraction all over Bengal.This tourist spot is famous as a famous picnic spot and a weekend gateaway for thenumerous travellers from North Bengal.

Jaldhaka river originates from the glacier of the Kupup lake in Sikkim and flows along the international boundaries of Bhutan and India before it meets the Dharla river in Bangladesh . The river provides fertile plains to the local residents of North Bengal which facilitates them to raise fruits and cultivate huge lands for tea in the Jalpaiguri district.

The place is a delight for all nature lovers as the pristine water of the river flows through the huge boulders creating waterfalls and rapids. The surrounding forests of the Eastern Himalayas adds to the serene landscape in the surroundings. The entrance to the barrage is strictly monitored by the BSF of Indian army ,so one needs permission for entering the premises of the barrage. The electricity production and maintenance of the barrage lies under WBSEDCL ,a power distribution company of West Bengal state government.Along the Jhalong Bindu road there are numerous shops in this tourist spot which sells chocolates from Bhutan,which must be bought to experience the local taste of the chocolates in the Himalayas.

As we were proceeding towards the Bindu barrage ,the mesmerising drive through the serene valley of the Eastern Himalayas fetched us some wonderful views of the forest . The splendid views of the river can also be experienced by tasting tea and snacks in the local shops situated in this tourist spot. Each shops has small balconies from where the enigmatic flavour of the Darjeeling tea can be sensed with the views of the barrage and the river rapids. Spending an hour or two in Bindu barrage is a must activity for all the travellers taking their vacation trip in exploring the Jhalong Bindu road.

Barrage in bindu over Jaldhaka river,marking the border between Bhutan and India.

Apart from Bindu ,the villages of Jhalong and Jaldhaka provide excellent homestay facilities close to the rocky bed of the river banks. I chose to stay in one of those homestays named R J restaurant. I was stunned by the scenic beauty around the hotel which is built over the cliff joining the main highway of the village. The hotel has steps in the form of a pathway adjacent to the rooms, that takes us close to the river as shown in the picture.

The morning sunrise with a cup of Darjeeling tea was my best experience on the rooftop restaurant of this hotel ,from where we can get a panoramic view of the river.The hotel provides marvelous local food cooked in Indian cuisine that adds to the comfortable stay in this part of North Bengal. A trip to North Bengal is always splendid due to the scenic landscape of the mountains rivers and accommodation in the cozy homestays. The dense forest facilitates the greenery surrounding the turquoise water of the fast flowing Jaldhaka river.

After the serene experience of the splendid Himalayas villages and the two mountain rivers, Murti and Jaldhaka ,we took a longer route for our return journey to Siliguri. To explore North Bengal tourists can either avail tourist cabs from New Jalpaiguri railway station ,or Bagdogra airport in Siliguri or New Mal junction railway station ,which is actually more nearer. We availed the longer route towards Siliguri to have a glimpse of the dense forests of Dooars .

Murti river after crossing Chapramari forest.

Infact I planned a separate trip of explore this mighty forest but coming in proximity with the dense forests of North Bengal I decided to just watch the greenery along the highway in a short road trip. As I crossed Chapramari forest I took the national highway through the dense forest of Gorumara National park. The Murti river can be seen with shallow water in the camping site of Dooars forest near Lataguri. West Bengal tourism has built excellent tent and accommodation facilities just on the shores of the river here which attracts tourists all the year around. If you are visiting North Bengal and Dooars, take a road trip to explore this beautiful river and get yourself pampered with the West Bengal tourism facilities.

Gorumara national park is famous for the population of Indian rhinoceros. As I came near the entry gate of this park I was astonished by it’s surreal greenery. It was an unique combination of grassland with tea plantations on one side and dense forests of tall trees on the other side. The tea plantation was most enticing among all the tea plantations that I encountered in this trip. In the entire trip ,the landscape was mostly of numeorus tea plantations but this tea estate had new tea leaves owing to which the green colour was most photogenic.

The Dooars forest lies in the fertile plains of  Murti and Jaldhaka river ,making it an important geographical landform in the fertile plains between India and Bhutan. The Dooars got it’s name from a Bengali word “Duar” means entry point. Since it is the nearest point for entering Bhutan from India ,hence these dense forests of North Bengal is known as Dooars. Lying in the foothills of the Himalayas ,Dooars not only is a well preserved sanctuary but also a fertile plain that adds to the scenic beauty of the enchanting greenery associated with it. The climate is very soothing but in monsoon it rains heavily. The best time to visit Dooars is during the winter months ,but yes the the number of tourist will be in plenty.

Trip to the only Buddhist settlement in Odisha….

Situated in the Eastern coast of India Gopalpur has been in news since 1999 every year due to frequent cyclones over Bay of Bengal. Despite the frequent devastations ,this sea side village has survived ,and the success lies on the contribution of the government of Odisha working together with the locals. Gopalpur provides an ideal gateway to some magnificent offbeat destinations in this state.

The second  largest coastal lagoon in the world,Lake Chilika is situated at an hour and half drive from this village. The famous Tara Tarini temple on the top of a mountain in Easter Ghats is also situated within an hour drive. The only Buddhist settlement, Jiranga and the hot sulphur water spring Taptapani is also situated within 100 kms drive from this sea beach .

Tourists travelling to Odisha mostly travel to Puri and few come to this wonderful less chaotic beach which provides an ideal coastal experience coupled with numerous choices of local sea food. There are very few hotels in Gopalpur and for me the best economic hotel along with the best location is the OTDC Panthanivas. The rooms can be booked through the online site of Odisha tourism Panthanivas. Well we stayed in a hotel named Sea Pearl which is situated on the sea beach ,providing incomparable views of the sea. The morning sunrise is a delight to watch from the balcony of the hotel for which this hotel is a real gem in terms of location ,but rooms are not clean. As options for accommodation are less so perhaps that is why the tourists visiting this sea beach are much less than other parts of Odisha. Still I think every traveller must make this village their base to visit the numerous places nearby to it. Plan your routes to visit the nearby getaways while having a relax beach vacation in this lighthouse beach in the  Eastern coast of India.

As I mentioned earlier the east coast of India suffers from devastating cyclones every year which heavily affects the states of Odisha and Seemandhra . May be because of the wild nature of the Bay of Bengal the east coast of India is still much unexplored than the West coast. But now due to the growing awareness among the tourists of India people are starting to explore the varied geography of the Eastern coast. Odisha has a vast coastline which offers some minblowing sunrise for every photogenic travellers. In this Diwali we decided to explore one such beach in Odisha where we can get the opportunity  to capture a picture perfect  sunrise. Aryapalli beach near Gopalpur in Odisha is one of a beach which is devoid of crowd ,offering a perfect sunrise to start a travelspirit day.

After Puri which is famous as a pilgrimage centre for Lord Jagannath, Gopalpur is emerging as a major tourist hub in Odisha. The sea beach of Gopalpur is mainly like a beach for relaxation for the travellers ,where people also get the opportunity to visit many nearby destinations ,Chilka lake being one of them. Aryapalli beach is situated at a 20 min drive from the Gopalpur beach towards further north. Due to sand mining the terrain of the beach is more downhill and the sea beach looks like a huge mountain of yellow sand forming a wall along the length of the beach.The beach is rocky with a small temples which adds to the scenic beauty of this place. Apart from few fishermen, the beach is lonely which offers a perfect panoramic view for a sparkling sunrise.

The road trip from Brahmapur to the farthest Buddhist settlement village of Odisha in Jiranga ,consists of many other attractive tourist spots that are worth to explore. This part of Odisha is well connected by road from Brahmapur which is a major district headquarter in Odisha. Thousands of tourist take this route as weekend trips from Bhubaneshwar not only for its religious and cultural significance but also due to the exquisite scenery and landscape that surrounds this area.

On the way to Jiranga.

As the road proceeded it lead us to some important tourist spots worth to mention.We encountered a deer Park at first and then we visited Taptapani,a natural hot spring, now worshipped as a religious Hindu people. In the last arrives the scenic Buddhist village of Jirang that provides sparkling images of the monasteries with the mountains in the background. One can also take a off road drive to a waterfall nearby the village. The road trip has some mesmerising tourist spots to count for ,so I strongly believe this part of Odisha as one of the richest geography to explore………

While travelling to Jiranga we first encountered a hot natural sulphur water known as Taptapani which is believed to have great medicinal properties.Local people here worship this place as a religious significance of God’s wonder due to the natural hot water spring which adds a divine quality to this tourist place.

 

The hot natural sulphur water coming from underground.

People travelling to Taptapani take bath in a nearby pond which is being fed by the natural hot sulphur water owing to it’s great medicinal property. Odisha government has built it’s own guest house known as Panthanivas Taptapani that offers a unique experience to stay amidst the dense flora and fauna of the Eastern Ghats.

Travelling further towards Jiranga there is a diversion of 3kms which takes us to a waterfall known as Khasada waterfall as shown in the two pictures below.The place is famous among the locals as picnic spot where several people gather in winters. The waterfall is more like a rapid stream for which it enables the tourists to take a bath in the natural refreshing water of the river.

Khasada waterfall

While road trips can be preplanned with a predefined route in mind ,but trust me any road trip in exploring the rural parts of Odisha can lead us to some natural wonders.In this case we knew about Taptapani but we never knew about a splendid waterfall nearby Jiranga. Perhaps that is why if we give sufficient time in a road trip ,the route will surely fetch us wonders.

Odisha is a land of wonders and only the person who has explored the state knows that better. The landscape along the road to Jiranga fetched me some beautiful Instagram photos as the multiple colours of natural Odisha provided some magnificent moments in the road trip. The Eastern Ghats and smooth highways always accompanied us. The fertile lands was rich in sweet corn cultivation that added another specific geography in the list of varied landscapes of Odisha. Though this time the forests were not so dense but the greenery is always worth to mention that makes this route soothing to the eyes of a traveller.

Scenic landscape on the way to Jiranga.

The white pagodas and the colourful prayer flags have been delicately set up in an elevated land on the mountains for which the tall pagodas and the fluttering flags can be seen from a distance as one approaches the town surrounded by hills. Just as we enter the village ,the vast open valley welcomes us with these beautiful white structures that fits in for a perfect photogenic spot.

Jiranga and Chandragiri together constitute a major and the only Buddhist settlement in Odisha. While Chandragiri consists the main monastery where several monks reside peacefully in their Buddhist culture; Jiranga has a huge park where one can see several pagodas and prayer flags decorating the landscape amidst the Eastern Ghats. Only a 100 km from the main town of Brahmapur in southern Odisha ,it is well connected by smooth roads with the rest of the state of Odisha. Though the place is more like a rural village with a beautiful picturesque setting ,but due to it’s close proximity with the main district headquarter of Brahmapur ,several buses ply to and from the Buddhist village of Odisha.

While in the main monastery on the Chandragiri hill,the officials looking after the place doesn’t allow any capture of photos or video clips inside the monastery ,but this vast organised park just as we enter Jiranga with flags and numerous white pagodas provide us a plenty of opportunity to capture photos of the beautiful structures belonging to ancient Buddhist architectural style. People living here are usually Buddhist people who have settled down here from many years and their chief source of income is farming. Odisha has again proved to be a treasure of culture and versatile geography that makes it the soul of Incredible India.

Main monastery in the Chandragiri hill.

Next day while returning back to Bhubaneshwar we visted a freshwater lake lying on the national highway near Chatrapur, known as Tampara Lake. There are motor jets and paddle boats available for the tourists as water sports activities.The place has been well maintained by the government that offers a serene and peaceful experience away from the outskirts of the city.The garden built just at the entrance of the lake provide cozy benches and one can take a stroll along the avenues of the numerous trees planted in the area.A visit to this lake on our return journey was a perfect conclusion to our trip and ends another chapter of my subtle experiences in road trips across Odisha.Tampara lake.

Udaipur-city of lakes

Written by: Instagram: @travelfashionandme Twitter : Travelfashion_m

Do you believe in love at first sight??
Well if it was for falling in love with fellow humans I would have my reservations but when it comes to places or things I am a firm believer of this concept , because if something catches my fancy then it is stuck with my memory for a long time

Being a native from Rajasthan I have travelled various parts of the state since my childhood. Udaipur has predominantly been a transit point for me where in I have either used a flight or bus or train to get back to my native place , so recently I took a long solo trip to Udaipur for 10days leaving my native place behind situated near kumbhalgarh fort..The city which was the pride of Rajputana culture and heritage is fast catching pace with the growing demands of the global traveller becoming a must visit tourist spot for Indian as well as foreign tourists.

The city has had it fair share of fame courtesy movie shoots for Hollywood projects like the James Bond starer Octopussy , along with that its extremely popular amongst the uber rich and HNI individuals to take their marriage vows at the grand City Palace or the picturesque Jag Mandir which is located between the lake , this has also put this small city on the global map for being a hot spot for Destination Weddings.

“YOU ARE NOT A TRAVELER UNTIL YOU’RE LOST”
The best part of traveling is the unexpectedness. Anybody can gain Bookish Knowledge but you wont feel until done practically. Lets get soak into culture,history,food,nature and spritiuality surrounded by the Aravalli mountain ranges and city of romantic lakes.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN UDAIPUR:1) BAGORE KI HAVELIBagore ki Haveli is situated in old city of Udaipur. Famous among foreigners for its cultural shows they run in evening.The splendid architecture of the haveli boosts the delicate carvings and excellent glass work. The show exactly started at the scheduled time-7pm in the terrace called the Neem Chowk.(try reaching early to prior 20min to get front seat ). The balconies in Neem Chowk are lit up in different colours and gives you a sense of beautiful evening in the middle of the chowk .An introduction to various types of Dances we were introduced to:
CHARI DANCE:where the dancers dance with ignited brass pots on head.2). THE TERHA TAAL DANCE:where the dancers play 13 different manjiras tied on their on their hands and legs.
3).THE GORBANDH DANCE:where the dancers wear ornaments that are used to adorn the camels and dance.
4).THE RAJASTHANI PUPPET SHOW:popular in rajasthan as the kathputli is a string attached over the puppeteers.
5).GHUMAR DANCE:famous among gujarati and rajasthani folk music where dancers dance in a rhythmic circle to accompany the music.6).THE BHAVAI DANCE:This is the most challenging dance.The dancers carry pots on their head while dancing.
TIMINGS AND TICKET DETAILS OF BAGORE KI HAVELI:1-EVENING SHOW 7PM TO 9PM90RS FOR INDIANS AND 150RS FOR NON INDIANSCAMERA: EXTRA CHARGES 150RS TO USE MOBILE/DSLR CAMERAS.HOW TO REACH:One can take autorickshaw or car to reach bagore ki haveli from old city udaipur. The rick driver takes 80-100rs and reaches within 20min..2) SAHELIYON KI BARISaheliyon ki bari is located on the banks of Fateh Sagar Lake,presenting a lush green retreat in the dry lands of Rajasthan. As heard from the locals,the garden was made by king himself for his Queen,as she was accompanied by 48maids in her marriage.To offer peace and calmness away from the political intrigues these patterned garden use to be relaxing spot for the royal ladies.In English known as “GARDEN OF MAIDS” is a major tourist attraction place often visited by visitors to explore crystalloid fountains,lotus pool,marbled elephants,sprinkling water,varities of flowers and lush green trees.
3) RANAKPUR TEMPLE (UNCOUNTABLE PILLARS)I personally recommend to visit this place for a day trip if you are in Udaipur, you can hire a Taxi for the entire day and the one way distance is about 100 kms“WHO CARES ABOUT THE DISTANCE TO SEE SOMETHING UNIQUE”
There is a story behind this temple.The most outstanding feature of this temple is infinite number of pillars.The temple is called a treasure house of pillar or a city of pillars.In whichever direction ones eyes meet, pillars look big,small,broad,narrow,ornate or plain.It is believed that there are 1444 pillars in the temple, yet uncountable.The pillars are all differently carved. No two pillars are the same. This temple is a scared one for people following Jainism and myself being a worshiper of Lord Mahavira this temple is a must visit when ever I visit Rajasthan.4.) SAJJANGARH PALACEMonsoon palace is also known as Sajjangarh Palace,is situated on the hills of Udaipur which offers a panoramic view of Udaipur.The palace was built by Maharana Fateh Singh keeping in mind the Rajput Architecture Style built with white marble,labored in with turrets,pillars,towers which depict beautiful motifs of leaves and flowers.Due to lack of water the palace is not constructed properly but still opened for public which offers beautiful sunset in the vicinity. Sajjangarh palace also has Wildlife Sanctuary which is populated by several exotic creatures and birds.You can trek on your own or take a safari ride which has pickup and drop facility.P.S:I found this place not value for time and worth to spend your half day of itenary. but a popular tourist attraction. ENTRY FEE:Indian has to pay 80rs for safari ride,if travelling by rick from old udaipur city distance of 5kms,you have to pay 400rs ..(i booked ola rick for 6hrs costing me 600rs).5) CITY PALACE -LAKE PICHOLA
Udaipur city palace is one of the architectural marvels of Rajasthan, located on the banks of Lake Pichola. Built by Maharana Udai Singh, it consists of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. Much of it is now a Museum, spread through several palaces and keeping tourists engaged with boat rides, restaurant, shopping. Make sure you at least take out 3hrs to visit this property.
Lake Pichola is one of the oldest and largest lakes of Udaipur (3miles in length and 2miles in width with up to 30feet deep ).
Visiting hours: 9am -5.30pm. Tickets lines are huge so please add one more hour to your day. Boat ride cost is 200-300rs.Ticket prices:Audio tour available in FRENCH, SPANISH, ENGLISH AND GERMAN @250rs .Buy separate ticket to watch light and sound show.P.S: Car parking is expensive 250rs for 2hrs.WHERE TO EAT:AMBRAI RESTAURANTImpeccable waterfront location and lake view make this restaurant view more brilliant. Famous among foreigners as one can enjoy beautiful backdrop of the lake while enjoying their food n drinks; For me, the food was strictly okay and I would not come back for it, I coincidentally met my friends and we enjoyed a couple of drinks which was worth paying for.Popular for dinner dates among couples.
Make sure you do reservations prior because the restaurant is always full and don’t prefer breakfast as you will miss the view.

7) MILLETS OF MEWAR

Since I was travelling for almost a week I was totally recommended by my friends to visit Millet’s of Mewar situated near Bagore ki Haveli. Healthy food and beautiful ambience of the lake took my heart away-this restaurant use local Vegan, gluten-free and organic ingredients in its global dishes..What else I would have asked for??My personal favourite-Red Thai curry, Orange ginger, carrot juice and Penne arabitta. Do visit if you love healthy and authentic food.

TRADITIONAL KHANAA lot of people had recommended me to try the food at Natraj dining hall and have a Thali there to experience rajasthani food but in my humble opinion the food sucked there big big time , so save your self the horror and even the long waiting queues and just blindly visit this place called Traditional Khana at Shekhawati circle

I will not describe what I ate here because words will fail short to do justice to the food served and the love with which the owners interact and feed you. Do yourself a favour by having a meal here and you can thank me later for the best vegetarian Rajasthani meal of your life in the city of Udaipur.

WHERE TO STAY:AKSHAY NIWAS -BOUTIQUE HOTEL

The rich and fascinating luxury boutique property offers beautiful view of sunset of Sajjangarh palace from the terrace.Spacious rooms ,organic ingredients,own farming,pool and terrace view makes the property more beautiful. Suite Rooms have Diwan style sitting like royals and balcony to sense your calmness. I was impressed by the concept of cultivating fresh vegetables in their own farm. Excellent service, delicious food makes it worth to visit.

Overall Udaipur leaves you enthralled and how its definitely a city one should visit in a lifetime

Day Out at Poovar Island’s Golden Sand Beach

A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee

(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)

During our recent trip to Kerala, we visited a number of beaches and temples; but one of our best stopovers was at Poovar Island’s Golden Sand Beach. If you love blue sea, golden sands and lip-smacking seafood with tranquility as a complimentary gift, then you should not miss to visit this awesome stretch of golden sands. Very few vacationers visit this virgin beach of Kerala, but believe me, it is perhaps one of the most eternal coastal destinations of India, but hardly talked off! Tourists mostly gather around Kovalam and Varkala beaches in Thiruvananthapuram, however this one is a must go place for any leisure traveler.

Poovar Island

Golden Sand Beach – Backwaters Meeting the Arabian Sea

Poovar Island is a small isolated village towards the southern end of Thiruvananthapuram, known mostly for its Golden Sand Beach. It is probably the only place in Kerala where backwater gorge directly meets the Arabian Sea through a narrow mangrove forest. Alongside is the Golden Sand Beach which forms a natural barrier between the backwaters and the sea. As you can expect, it cannot be reached directly by road. From Akkulam Boat Club, one has to take an hour’s canoe ride to reach the beach which in itself becomes a remarkable moment of the trip.

Akkulam Boat Club Jetty

Boat Ride to Poovar via Akkulam Backwaters

Making our way through the Akkulam Backwaters, we reached Poovar Island. Totally disconnected from the Indian mainland, the handful of hotels and food joints found here are mostly floating and thus heavily expensive too.

Floating KTDC Restaurant at Poovar

It was almost an hour’s journey, utterly refreshing. By 10am we reached the beach. Oh what a beauty! The golden glows of the morning sun created mystic reflections, beckoning us for a dreamy splash.

Welcome to Poovar Island’s Golden Sand Beach


The Mighty Arabian Sea at a Distance from the Shore

(Note: Not all boatmen have their private jetties at Poovar, so beware of cheaters. Only a few registered ones will take you till the endpoint, else there might be immense harassment after reaching there. It is wise to spend few extra bucks to avail this facility as there are no normal walkways to the beach. One has to hop over multiple floating boats to reach the jetty which is very risky and cumbersome even for youngsters. The depth of backwaters here is almost as deep as an average man’s height.)

Glimpses of Golden Sand Beach


We spent the whole day at Poovar, exploring its different corners; starting our return journey by 3.30pm. The enthralling boat ride along the Akkulam backwaters, mesmerizing view of Golden Sand Beach and yummy seafood at the floating restaurant were the key takeaways from our day’s trip. Once the floods retreat, why don’t you plan to spend your next holiday at Poovar?

Chitkul- the last village of India

    How about camping in the lap of Himalayas?

Well, this is one of the most mesmerising place I have ever been. I always try to spare out any oppurtunity to escape away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city in India. So I took a bus from Delhi to Shimla which took me 7-8hours. Then next day early morning I availed another bus from Shimla to Reckong peo,a small hamlet in the himalayas in Kinnaur district . From Shimla to Reckong peo it almost took me 10-11 hours but the journey was acoompanied with stunning landscapes of the himalayas.

Enroute Chitkul- the last Indian village.

I chose to spend over night in Reckong peo since it was already near to sunset when I reached this beautiful hamlet.. Early morning I started my journey and took a bus to Chitkul which took me 6hours, as road conditions were not good..

Last Indian Dhaba on indo-China border.

Now welcome to, Chitkul, the last village of India. And it was one of the best solo trip ever. I was completely astounded to see the untouched beauty. Through the roads were less travelled still I chose it. Because, the roads which are difficult very few traveller avail that,but those roads often lead to beautiful destinations. And there I was!! This was truely like heaven on earth, surrounded by pretty pink flowers (which are actually used to make sticky chapatis). I can still feel the moment.

There is a kid inside every human being!

And it’s very sure, that I am gonna visit chitkul again. I highly recommend this place to backpackers and solo travellers. Routes are tricky but trust me you will love it.

Pretty pink flowers?.

Rakchham, is a village 10 kms before Chitkul. Settled on a picturesque setting amid himalayas,I did camping here, surrounded by pine trees, dense fogs, clouds hovering all around and yes that pure Baspa river❤. Just to feel it completely, I chose to hike from Chitkul to rakchham ( just 10kms). The chilled air refreshed me from the inside out. And most importantly, that day I was the only female there according to few army men. I spoke to many villagers there and no doubt, everyone was keen to help me. And also they shared their way of surviving and living on such high altitudes. That’s the best part of solo travelling, I came to know many beautiful souls and the polite hospitality of these people living in the mountains.Camping there was one of the thrilling experience ever. And sitting near pristine Baspa river was more like a transportaion to paradise.❤.

Baspa River- the heart of Chitkul ❤. Baspa River rises near the Indo-Tibetan border and forms the Baspa Valley – one of the most scenic in Himalayas.

Its a must visit place! and it should be in everyone’s bucket list. No doubt adjectives do fall short of but I keep the word exhilarating ❤

And in the midst of mountains I celebrated my imperfections and mediocrity. I think something should be celebrated just because I am not perfect but I love my imperfections and for me it’s the best.

Alluring nature?

She know’s very well that extremely it’s hard to walk on the road which is less travelled, but she is the one who takes up the challenges and believes in accomplishing it, that too on the path which is less travelled.

This place,made me feel more alive. I went on the trails unknown. Trails that aren’t mentioned on the map and I didn’t even knew anything about it. It was just like I chose the road which was less travelled. And trust me while walking into the woods I reached at a point where nothing was there except ‘me’. And nothing intrigued me at that point of time. It was just me, and that experience was really fulfilling. That experience in the woods actually made me happy. And as I listened more towards to my heart, I was happy from inside.

Camping here In Rakcham village was totally worth it.
I felt the moment. I was at peace not in chaos.

Maybe, I was there to make my own story. Not to take it or copy it from someone else. I did camping in Rakcham village. I slept under a huge celestial display. Bonefire was right outside my tent, and laid down under those numerous stars, thinking how wonderfully God created all these.I was in complete awe. I travel in mountains, most of the time but everytime, I see something new and that newness surprises me everytime, no matter what! There is some sort of familiarity with mountains that whenever I go in the lap of Himalayas it just embraces me and treats me like her own daughter.

Sitting on the banks of Baspa river.

As I sit alone and introspect, I felt more alive.

Nature never fails to show me its newer side every morning ❣.

Most of the time I sit alone and I stare mountains for hours and I realise how beautiful they are❣. From changing colours/textures to every new and changing landscape surprises me more! How wonderfully God created everything! Every new morning it welcomes me and embraces me with all its newness. Trees growing beautifully on those foothills and spreading its arms to embrace each one of us, in a special way! And also welcoming other new small plants ? and leaflets at the same time. How beautifully they support and love each other!

Isn’t it amazing?

Ibex camp site.
Inside the camp, attached with washroom and they do have hot water facilities as well.

So now I will share some information about my stay or you can say where and how did I camped there. I hiked from Chitkul to Rakcham village, which is approximately 10kms from there. And one of the most beautiful village surrounded by majestic Himalayas and valley covered with pink flowers. So I went to Ibexx camp site. They have amazing hospitality and people are actually very nice, helpful and cooperative. And the camp site is nearby to baspa river and it’s near roadside as well (walkable distance), for catching bus. The address of ibex camp site is – Sangla Chitkul road, Rakcham (mustang), Himachal Pradesh. I really thank Mr Dhani Ram Kuku (the caretaker of the camp) for amazing food. Yes, the food was homemade and well cooked as well. It was normal chapati and vegetables but it was really really good,and very hygenic as well. It made me feel like home. And yes the bonefire, in that chilling night was like a saviour.

Kinnaur in winter’s.
You can witness this snow capped mountain beauty if you plan to visit this place around April last week. Everything will be covered with snow. From majestic Himalayas to trees to roads. It’s beauty cannot be described in words. So just go, explore and experience it.

It was a mind blowing stay at the base of the plush green and snow capped mountain and at around 100 meters,the Baspa river roars to its majesty.

 

Me on the banks of baspa river. It’s just 100 meters away from the ibex camp site.
At this moment, I just woke up and walked down into the woods, following the soothing sound of the river and I reached and I sat there for hours, until it started to rain again. And this picture was taken my Mr dhani ram only, he joined me afterwards.
She is so much into her own self discovery or own world❤. She believes in spending time alone, her soul craves for knowing herself more rather than knowing anyone else❤. She is bit self obsessed but that’s for her good!! And her solo travelling keeps her lit, and helps in her journey of own self discovery.

My solo trip to Chitkul, taught me many new and different things, apart from embracing oneself and others as well. But I felt that my world is inevitably enlightening where my everyday is filled with beauty and vanity with a clearest manifestation of deep learning processes. Those moments, where I spent time in self introspection were precious and it’s still very valueable and precious for me,because I think I came to know many other things, everytime I travel alone I discover a new me. The roads were never ending, it stretches as if other new adventure is waiting for me.

Here I am mentioning about the Swiss tent plan and their costings along with the breakfast:-

Delux tent:-2800/-

Modified American plan: 3200/-

American plan: 3500/-

Lastly, I would say that just don’t read and imagine the beauty of the place, I think that would be a huge injustice to this natural beauty. Instead, of scrolling down the pictures on Instagram, Facebook or any other social networking site just brace up yourself, pack your bags, wear shoes and just go out. Just simply don’t waste your time. Just move out, explore this heavenly beauty, take the moment in and most importantly live the moment. Capture those beautiful landscapes & peaceful moments in your heart rather than in your camera. Just go live your life.

Stay tuned for more. Happy reading.

Thankyou.

Name: Diksha Ranjan.

Instagram handle: solo_escapist

facebook: Diksha Ranjan

E-Mail for collaboration: [email protected]

 

Budibalam – Commemorating a Bloody Saga of Indian Freedom Movement

A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee

(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)

 

Instead of hoisting flag in the morning as a usual routine task and then spending rest of the day just like another holiday, last year we thought of celebrating our Independence Day at Budibalam, commemorating one of the most significant chapters of Indian freedom movement concerning Bengal uprisings. It was a fantastic five-hour drive (270 km) from Kolkata along the Mumbai Road towards Orissa. 102 years back, it was right here, our five brave young revolutionaries entered into a fierce fight with the overpowered British army and unfortunately ended up in losing their lives for the nation.

 

Driving road to Budibalam from Balasore

 

Jatindra Nath Mukherjee, popularly known as Bagha Jatin (Tiger Jatin) as he had killed a man-eater Royal Bengal tiger with only a knife, was the mastermind behind the Indo-German Plot during first World War. He had developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the German government who had agreed to supply weapons and funds to support Bagha Jatin’s armed revolt against the British. However, due to an insider conspiracy, the information got leaked to the colonials. In order to prevent an immediate head-on clash, Bagha Jatin decided to seek a hideout till the German ammunition reach him.

 

Under the nocturnal cover of the monsoons, Bagha Jatin, along with his four key associates – Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri, Jatish, Niren and Manoranjan Sengupta – clandestinely left for Balasore in the Bengal-Orissa border. They initially took refuge in the forested regions of Mayurbhanj district, later moved towards the Budibalam side as the German arms were supposed to land there through riverway. Unfortunately, English spies disguised amongst the German troops uncovered Bagha Jatin’s plans to the British which resulted in an immediate arrest warrant against the Indian revolutionaries.

 

Budibalam River where German troops were to arrive

 

By the time this information reached Bagha Jatin, it was quite late. The British army along with Bengal Police had already left for Balasore to catch hold of the mutineers. Meantime, they had also announced a monetary reward for the capture of five absconding Indian “dacoits” which instigated the local villagers too to participate in the fatal hunt.

 

The trench from a distance – where the British took position against our revolutionaries

 

It was 9th September 1915 – a heavy monsoon morning. Niren and Jatish were away in search of food inside the forest by the time the news came. Bagha Jatin had no means to connect with them and so insisted to wait for their return which delayed his escape by more than four hours.

 

Highly outnumbered by a well-armed battalion, the revolutionaries were chased down through the marshy forestland of Budibalam. It was a deltaic region with the Bay of Bengal at a striking distance. Totally cornered with no other option in hand, they finally decided to fight out the British with only a handful of leftover bullets and five Mauser pistols. Bagha Jatin’s companions wanted him to flee through the seaway while themselves giving him a cover from the riverside. Like a true leader, he refused the escape at the cost of his team.

 

Blood-drenched walkway revisited – the forested trench where the fight took place on 9 September 1915

 

The gunfire lasted for 75 minutes under torrential rains. But as their shells slowly ran out, Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri died on the spot, Bagha Jatin and Jatish were mortally wounded, Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren were arrested to be hanged till death.

 

Exact spot where Bagha Jatin and Chittapriya were found mortally wounded

 

Exact spot from where Niren and Manoranjan were captured by the riverside

 

As we drove through the forested trench along Budibalam River, it ran a chill through our spine. Nothing could have been a better honour to the martyrs than to visit the blood-drenched lethal spot after 70 years of our independence, sit silently by the riverside of Budibalam on a similar rainy afternoon, commemorate a forgotten chapter of Bengal’s bravery, salute their mortal sacrifice for fellow countrymen and come back with a recharged heart.