A Slice Of The Himalayas
Like me if you had been fascinated by Rajesh Khanna jumping in and out of the toy train in Mere sapno ki rani, you sure would have longed to go to Darjeeling some day.
Bagdogra is the nearest Airport and I decided to tread along the path and cover some more places before this Bengali Hill station. So my first halt was Kalimpong, 75 km on the smooth NH31A. The River Teesta flows in the valley below, separating Kalimpong from the state of Sikkim. The river moving along with you on one side and the high mountains on the other is picturesque and one is tempted to exhaust all the memory in the camera on this road only. It is a town quieter than Bagdogra, fabled for orchids and rarest of cacti. Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas at an elevation of 1243 m, it is a hill station that offers a lavish view of Mt Kanchenjunga and its ranges. Milder climate, dense forest offset by the rich undergrowth of moss and lichen provide an ideal setting for calm walks on cushions of auburn leaves. This town that goes dead by 8 pm and awakes to crowing roosters as early as 4 in the morning is a tourist paradise. It has a small market with nice bakeries and mouth watering momos can be had as cheap as ` 5 a plate. One of course can not miss out on the local home made lollipops, handbags and handicrafts can be bought.
The legendary Hanuman Temple at Mangal Dham and a visit to the Durbin Dara monastery are the enriching experience to start the day after taking in the moist aroma at Gladioli and Orchid flower nurseries. The town centre is located on a ridge connecting two hills, Deolo and Durpin. A walk through the Deolo Hill top is gripping. With fog and mist blanketing the beautifully maintained park, it is an ideal location for the couples on a honeymoon excursion whom you spot in plenty here. There is an Army Golf Course and the Morgan House that offers a peep into the British architecture. Dr. Graham is a trailer to the many renowned schools that this little town has.
The next day, we proceeded to Namchi. This is the immaculate dream groove. Amidst the mountains on all sides a narrow road leads to the magnificent Samdroptse Monastery. The world’s largest statue (118 feet) of the Buddhist Padmasambhava, is on the Samdruptse hill. It is also said that this hill is actually a dormant volcano. This place is a one stop spot for pilgrims. There is a Shirdi Sai temple which steals the thunder by its spotless cleanliness and the location. What won the Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling the award for the best innovative project is the next marvel. It is Siddheswar Dham where all the four Hindu pilgrimages have been replicated. Surrounded by the 12 Jyotirlingas it has Dwarka, Rameshwaram, Jagannath and Badrinath on the four sides, Kailasha with a huge Shiv Mandir is an icing on the cake. Tourists throng around this temple and are content that their chaar dham teerath has been accomplished in one go.
We reached Gangtok this night and the celebrated MG market is a must visit place for shopaholics. Gangtok, the capital of the 22nd sate of India, Sikkim abounds in scenic beauty. It enjoys mild temperature all year round and offers a spectacular view of Himalyan ranges. It is the ultimate harbour for tourists in search of enchantment, tranquility and trekking. It is the mystic land of Stupas, Monasteries, temples and endless intriguing rituals. The next morning you are in for an unimaginable journey to the China border that runs along the Tsomgo Lake. It used to be a gateway to the trade between Tibet and India prior to China’s annexation of Tibet. At the height of 12,400 feet and 50 feet depth, its cool placid water, the scenic beauty enchanted by the reflection in the lake is bewitching. Primula flowers and other alpine vegetation that grow around the lake add a pristine beauty to this site.
By Padmini Jain