Small but beautiful Sikkim (North East India)

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March 30th 2019
Published: March 30th 2019
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From Nepal we walked across the bridge that is the border into West Bengal, India. Already in the eastern part of Nepal we could see a lot of tea plantations, but now travelling to tea capital Darjeeling there is tea everywhere. With two shared jeeps we end up in Darjeeling, positioned on a high ridge and therefore again quite cold. We were surprised how lively the town is and especially Indian domestic tourists know how to find this place and spend some time during their holidays. We walked around the town, visited the Happy Valley Tea Estate and drank a lot of cups of nice tea, because obviously this is what you do in a place called Darjeeling. We got to experience a somewhat nostalgic government bureaucracy, when we applied for a local permit; first at the Foreigners Registration Office and then at the Magistrate Office, conveniently located 20 minutes walking distance apart. Our application went through very quickly, but it was interesting to see how many steps, people and stamps are involved.

With another shared Jeep we travelled from Darjeeling to Gangtok, the capital of the small North Eastern state of Sikkim. The winding road was beautiful and the traffic at points hectic yet arriving in Sikkim and Gangtok was much easier than we had anticipated. Gangtok is also located on a ridge so there are a lot of stairs, steps, small alleys and backstreets but the main centre and the main streets are much more modern, clean and lively than we had expected. The whole state seems to be greener and cleaner and environmentally aware than other states. Also Sikkim and Gangtok, although off the beaten track for most foreigners, are much frequented by Indian tourists from all over the country, most of them on pilgrim tours but also a lot of weekenders. We instantly got a good feeling.

We have been to India quite some times now but never were we able to attend Holi. Now finally In Gangtok we got to experience Holi for the first time. This was a lot of fun and a good example why we love India and the Indian people so much. Holi is an ancient Hindu festival of colours, festival of spring and festival of love for the first time in India. Holi signifies the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love, and for many a festive day to meet, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. It's celebrated mostly on the streets and we feel it's a festival for all, young and old, and from all parts of society. We were embraced by the people of Gangtok and the Indians visiting from other places, and of course we were easy targets for their coloured powders smearing ;-) We were quite touched by the way so many people sincerely wished us happy Holi and by the gentleness and the meaningfulness of them colouring our faces.

After we spent a few days in Gangtok and decided not to travel to the northern part of the state, mainly because some parts are closed to foreigners and some roads were still closed because of snow. We decided to rent a classic Indian motorcycle ‘The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Classic’ and tour around West Sikkim on our own, without a tour company or guide. Sikkim is just the perfect place for a motorcycle trip like this. Our three day self designed trip took us through valleys, over suspension bridges, across ridges and passes, off road where the road sometimes just ended, close to waterfalls, crossing rivers, riding through tea plantations, visiting temples and monasteries, seeing hundreds of Tibetan prayer flags and handling hundreds of hairpin curves.

It was a great trip, we stayed the first night in Ravangla, where we visited Buddha Park with a huge statue of the Buddha and a museum with a somewhat special interpretation of the life of Buddha. Next day we rode via Yuksom to Pelling, where we visited a beautiful, old and important Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Day three we rode back, straight through the tea plantations and more hairpins to Gangtok.

We had read that there exists a helicopter service between Gangtok and Bagdogra, where we needed to go to fly to Bangladesh. Instead of a whole day in a cramped shared Jeep we were lucky and got ourselves seats for the 30 minutes helicopter flight for a very reasonable amount of money. While travelling we have all the time of the world and usually we travel slow and over land but this was a great opportunity for us to fly in a helicopter for the first time in our lives and it was all worth it. The low altitude flight was great and gave us such a beautiful view of the mountains, roads and hairpins we had been riding through.

Our last night of this visit to India we spent in Siliguri a town close to Bagdogra Airport, where we went out of the way to find some good Indian food for lunch and dinner and even found a South Indian restaurant serving beautifully crispy dosas :-). Now we are in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, where we arrived on Bangladesh Independence Day.

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6th April 2019

Fantastic pic of a fantastic event

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