Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From South to North East: Gangtok City Tour

We had planned to stay in Gangtok for the first two days of our seven day trip to Sikkim. We chose to complete city tour on the first day of our trip. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, I wanted to keep the expense minimum by traveling in shared cabs wherever I'll go. But it would have stolen the exclusivity which I wanted and the freedom to stop anywhere and enjoy for as much as I want. So my wife and I decided to hire an exclusive cab. We asked our hotel manager where can we book the cab. The manager told us he can arrange it and gave us a couple of options. We had the option to book a Wagon R, an Innova, or a shared cab (Mahindra Maxx or Bolero). We booked Wagon R as it was cheaper than the rest and since we were just two, we didn't really need a big car.

City Tour
Our cab came at the time we were told, 9 AM. The cab driver seemed to be a big fan of English Premier League as he had decorated his car with stickers and banners of football clubs. I regret not taking the photo of his cab. The driver gave us two complimentary bottles of water. The driver acted as a tourist guide and gave us information about the places we visited.

Our first point was Do Drul Chorten Stupa. It is the largest stupa in Sikkim and was built in 1945.
do drul chorten stupa main temple
Do Drul Chorten Stupa, Exterior

It is surrounded with 108 prayer wheels. We were roaming around the area when some local women asked us to throw a coin and aim for the top of the stupa, and told us that if the coin stays there, whatever wish we make will come true. We tried a lot but were unable to throw the coin at the top. We were disappointed and were out of coin by the time we got tired. We made a wish anyway and hoped for it to come true, bid goodbye to the locals and continued for the next point.
Devotees offering diyas inside the Stupa

Do Drul Chorten Stupa

The next point was Namgyal Institute of Tibetology which was at a walking distance from the stupa. The institute boasts of the largest collection of Buddhist books and manuscripts outside Tibet. Entry to the museum requires a ticket which costs Rs 10. Visitors have to remove their shoes before entering the museum. We took a couple of photographs outside the museum as it was prohibited to take photographs inside the museum.

Our next point was Ban Jhakri Falls. It was a bit far from the institute and took us around 30 minutes to reach there but the wait was worth it. It was a beautiful waterfall. It was gushing with water and tourists as well. I wanted to take some long exposure shots of the fall but wasn't getting a good one because of the crowd. I finally took a satisfactory shot of the fall, took selfies with my wife and continued with our trip.
Long exposure shot of ban jhakri falls
Ban Jhakri Falls, Long Exposure shot
ban jhakri falls
Ban Jhakri Falls

 Drizzling had started by this time and it turned into heavy rainfall when we reached our next point, Enchey Monastery. Our driver parked the car just on the main gate and asked us to quickly run for the shed at the monastery entrance. We waited for some time for the rain to stop but it didn't. We went inside the main monastery as the rain was not stopping to pass time. It didn't look like the rain would stop. We ran towards the parking and sat inside our cab.
enchey monastery in rainfall
Enchey Monastery premises, rainfall can be seen

Our next point was Tashi Viewpoint. One can see a panoramic view of Gangtok from this point. Since it was still raining, we couldn't see far. The point does give a beautiful panoramic view and is surrounded by mountains. I made a couple of time-lapse videos, took some photographs and continued with our tour.
view from Tashi view point
View from Tashi View Point 
front view from tashi view point
View from Tashi View Point

vipul vaibhav posing at tashi view point
Myself, posing at Tashi View Point

Our next point was Hanuman Tok. It's a temple dedicated to lord Hanuman and is maintained by the Indian army. There was very less crowd as it was still raining and because of that, I couldn't take photos. We spent some time inside the temple and while returning, we were offered tea by the jawans. It was a lovely gesture from the jawans as the weather was quite chilly and a hot cup of tea was like a blessing in disguise. We quickly sipped it and went back to our cab. We reached our next point, Ganesh Tok in some time. We were really in a bad luck as rain was just not stopping. Luckily, there were a couple of shops in the parking area. We bought one giant umbrella for quite a steal at a price of Rs 200. We hopped inside the umbrella and started climbing the staircase towards Ganesh Tok. This place has a great viewpoint as it's at a height. There are a couple of shops in the premises for buying souvenirs and gift items. My wife bought a couple of items for family and herself.

We were quite hungry as we had been roaming around since morning and didn't have lunch. The shop where we bought the umbrella is also a small restaurant. We quickly went over the menu and ordered Maggi and aloo parantha. Since we were in northeast and momos are famous here, we ordered that as well. Aloo parantha was simply amazing and we quickly ordered one more. Maggi was made in thupka style which we later asked the chef to reduce water content and serve again. The chef happily obliged to our request. While we were having paranthas, i ordered tea as I am a dedicated tea drinker. After having a sumptuous lunch, we hopped in our cab and continued to our last point of the tour, Bakthang falls. It is different from Ban jhakri falls.

bakthang waterfall during gangtok city tour
Bakthang Falls

The falls were surrounded by fences so that people can't go near to it. The falls were quite violent and I guess that could be the reason for the fencing. It was a beautiful fall, though. I managed to get some good shots here. There's zip lining adventure available here for kids and adults. I requested my wife to try it and overcome her fear of height.

zip lining at bakthang falls
Zip lining at Bakthang falls

I asked the staff to persuade her as well but they failed as well. I promised her that I'll keep trying in our future trips to make her overcome her fear of height. She said OK to that and we left the place. It was quite dark by now. We asked our driver to drop us at MG road. We were quite tired and weren't really in a mood to walk so after 10-15 minutes we returned to our hotel which is just down below MG road. We ordered dinner from room service and talked about our next day's trip to Tsomgo lake. Stay tuned for my next blog on Tsomgo lake tour.

It was a full day tour and we covered 8 points for 2k. If you plan to go by shared cabs, they have 3 different options, "half day 7 point tour", "full day 10 point tour" and full day "16 point tour". We didn't want to include everything for one day so we asked our driver to take us to the best points. We couldn't go to the ropeway as it was under maintenance.

So, if you've done the city tour in the past or are planning to do it next time you visit Sikkim, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments section. Happy traveling.

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