Monday, April 19, 2010

Some Heat, Some Taj, Some Mountains

Agra and Gangtok - April 2 to 9, 2010 (by Swiss)


Our next segment of our increasingly shrinking remaining stay in India involved the city of Agra followed by a 30 hour train trip to the north-east state of Sikkim, where we were to visit Gangtok.  Agra, of course, is most famous for the Taj Mahal.  As so often happens a famous monument will draw respective tourist crowds and supporting industry, so our excitement was a tad subdued in fear of encountering a tourist hot spot designed to rip off foreigners while offering relatively little in return.  Wary of this, we decided to limit our stay in Agra to two days, provided we managed to get a train ticket out of there in time.  Catch the Taj, relax a bit, sort out train tickets, and move on.  Sikkim, in contrast to Agra, is a little more off the beaten travel path and was to offer beautiful views of the Himalayas coupled with cooler temperatures in the 70's.  Besides it's location and climate, we knew relatively little about the spot that came highly recommended from our friends in Goa.  So why not sample it?

(WARNING:  This post is a bit wordy)

We came to see the Taj Mahal, and left ... well, having seen the Taj

Our train from Udaipur arrived safely and on time after a 12.5 hour journey in an A/C seat car.  Having seats instead of a bed was different from our usual 3AC sleeper car choice, a result of limited sleeper availability for this particular segment at the time of booking.  The seats were actually quite nice, and most of the car was empty, allowing us to spread out quite comfortably.



Upon our arrival, we immediately went about checking the status of our wait-list tickets from Agra to NJP (New Jalpaiguri.)  To our disappointment, we had not moved up on the wait-list from spots 4 & 5 for the second day in a row, with our departure date nearing within 3 days.  Inquiries at the foreign travel desk yielded no additional viable train options from Agra.  We thus agreed to start pondering alternatives once we got settled into our hotel.

As with many major train stations, there were plenty auto-rickshaws offering their services (I personally prefer calling them tuk tuks, mainly due to habit and to save key strokes.)  Drivers were initially warded off as we were heading to the reservation office at the train station.  Once our wait-list check was complete, yet another guy came up and offered rides into town.  He offered what we concluded was a reasonable price of Rs 50 (just over 1 USD) for the 15 minute ride to our hotel.  The guy then handed us off to his buddy, Keke, who would drive us into town.

Keke, friendly enough at first, was a chatty character explaining a couple of landmarks along the way and eventually pulled over to give us his little spiel about being able to drive us around to various tourist spots (Baby Taj, Agra Fort, etc) if we were so inclined.  We explained that we were still working out train details, and the only item on our agenda at this time was the Taj, and frankly won't plan anything until the train situation was resolved.  He then produced the standard booklet with endorsements by previous travelers from around the world who had used his services.  Slightly annoyed that he was delaying our arrival to the hotel after an exhaustive night of traveling, we requested his phone number so we could call him if we wanted the tour, a request he denied because "people usually don't call."  Tough luck, we figured, as we got the phone number from our tuk tuk driver in Udaipur (Salim) and subsequently used his excellent services for our trip to Kumbulgarh/Ranakpur. Regardless, it did little to calm our fears that Agra was to be a classic tourist trap.

We eventually arrived near our hotel (tuk tuks are not allowed into the immediate vicinity due to pollution control around the Taj), where Keke again tried to have us commit to a tour with him the following day (after our visit to the Taj.)  Once more, we made it clear that we were not about to commit to anything, as we might be dealing with train ticket issues.  We got out and paid him Rs 50, which he now tried to claim was for a ride to the west gate, not the east gate, for which he wanted Rs 80.  We told him that wasn't the deal, after which he insisted on calling his buddy at the train station to confirm.  We told him that this was between him and his buddy, i.e., not our problem.   We were also sure to never use his services again, and our scam-meter started to move into the red zone.  A shame, really, especially since we weren't in the best of moods to start with.  Welcome to Agra, I suppose.

We walked the five minute walk to Hotel Sheela, where Jason had reserved a room for Rs 500 for two nights.  Sure enough, they had our reservation, but suddenly only had Rs 600 rooms available and had us scheduled to move to their sister hotel, the Sheela Inn, for the second night due to limited availability.  Jason brought up the idea that we just move there now, which allowed us to have a Rs 500 room and not have us move our luggage.

Between train tickets, Keke, and now this, we were growing increasingly wary of the Agra vibe.  The rooms at the Sheela Inn were a tad more basic, but cheap and clean.  In the grand scheme of things, not a bad place to stay, although the shower did lack hot water and could have used a good CLR treatment.  The staff were friendly and accommodating, and we were happy to at least have lodging settled.

Bags dropped off, we undertook the 15 minute stroll into "town", which in our case was the area adjoining walls around the Taj Mahal.  To our surprise the town seemed relatively quiet, which we figured was in large part due to the Taj being closed on Fridays.  There also happened to be a full day power outage following the takeover of the electric supply by a private company the previous day.  And it was a bank holiday.  It was pretty quiet.

A fairly forgettable lunch was had, followed by our quest for options out of Agra towards Darjeeling.  Half-hearted inquiries about buses - we had no real desire to sit on a bus for more than a couple of hours - were fruitless, and so it was back to either planes or trains.  A trip to an internet cafe confirmed that flights out of Delhi were available, although quite pricey and involved a ~4 hour train/bus ride to the airport.  We decided that this would be our last ditch option, as trains to Delhi were quite full already and the hassle involved was approaching our tolerance limit.

As we were chatting about our situation with folks at the cafe, a local informed us that another option would be to book a train from TDL (Tundla Junction), which can be reached by Taxi for about Rs 500 and where train availability tends to be more plentiful.  Although trains were booked solid, they did run daily - trains out of Agra run weekly - and we decided to book a "backup" wait-list reservation for Monday in case our original tickets didn't pan out.  Additionally, we found out that tourist quota tickets were also available Monday for guaranteed seats.  To book those, however, we would have had to go to the train station.  So our options boiled down to this:

Option 1 (preferred):  Our wait-list ticket from Agra Fort becomes confirmed and we leave Sunday.  We cancel our Monday backup train ticket online and celebrate.

Option 2: Our wait-list ticket from Agra doesn't pan out, but the other wait-list ticket from TDL becomes confirmed.  We pay a cab Rs 500 to get us to the station for our Monday departure.  We also cancel our Sunday wait-list ticket and get that money back.

Option 3: None of our W/L tickets materialize in the next 24 hours.  We head to the train station the following day (Sat), book a foreign tourist quota ticket from TDL for Monday, and cancel our Sunday/Monday wait-list tickets.  Come Monday, we pay a cab Rs 500 to get us to the TDL station.

Ah, the joys of travel.

Multiple locals assured us that even though our wait-list status had not changed in a couple of days, we needn't worry too much:  Option 1 was likely to pan out just fine last minute, even though we were within two days of departure, especially given we had spots 4 and 5 on the list.  So we decided to wait one more day and hope the tourist quota for Monday wouldn't fill up by that time.  Exhausted from the prior night's travel and evaluating options, it was time for a nap.  Our 4:30pm nap ended up turning into a full nights sleep, which suited us just fine, as we had intended on getting up at 5am to go visit the Taj Mahal.

Sunrise, Marble, and Clutchness


With almost 12 hours of sleep under our belts, it was (un)surprisingly easy to wake up at 5am.  I immediately texted the train system to check on our wait-list statuses (stati?), which once more didn't change.  Not a good start to the day.  Regardless, it was time for the Taj, and going there for sunrise is the way to go.  By 5:45 we were at the ticket counter, which is located about 800 meters east of the entry gates and a mere 2 minute walk from our digs.  Rs 750 (about 16 bucks) buys you an entry ticket, booties for your shoes, and a small bottle of water.  If you're Indian, you pay Rs 20.  Though cheap, neither of us had the guts, features, nor skin tones to pull off being a local, so we grudgingly handed over the dough.  Sujit - we really could have used you here.

Btw, tiered pricing is very common in India, so as a foreigner, be prepared to pay extra pretty much everywhere you go.  The Taj did take the cake in terms of the disparity in pricing (over 30x.)


10 minutes later we were dropped off near the gate by the free electric government bus, where we followed fellow tourists to get in line to be frisked.  You actually get a proper pat down, so ladies and gents get into separate lines.  We, of course, initially got in the wrong (women's) line only to be corrected by a friendly local with a big grin on his face.  It was a classic Mumbai regional train SNAFU flashback.



Another 20 minutes, and we were in.  I won't bore you with too much factoids on the Taj as wiki has an article here.  In a nutshell, it's a marble Mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in commemoration of his favorite wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, after her death in 1631.  He died in 1666 and was subsequently buried next to her in the Taj Mahal.  As you can imagine, it was absolutely stunning.  Getting there early was indeed a good move, as early crowds were much lighter and thus picture opportunities proportionally greater:




Swiss and me at the Taj Mahal









One cool little feature found quite often in Indian architecture is the use of a chevron pattern to create a 3 dimensional optical illusion often found on pillars.  By including this pattern, a three-sided pillar suddenly appears to have six sides in a star pattern.  Hard to explain, so just look at the pictures.  Neato, huh?



And what would a visit to the Taj be without the standard "I'm so tall I can pinch the top of the Taj" picture, which due to Jason's initial laziness was a fail...


...and was shortly thereafter turned into a win after figuring out that he may just have to kneel a bit to get the proper angle:


And you can see the magic behind the shot

As the time neared 9am, we were ready to leave.   Crowds were also multiplying, so it was definitely time to move.  On  our way out we were musing how many pictures must be taken of this beautiful Mausoleum on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.  There must be trillions of pictures out there.


Before we left, I did decide to gamble on the reverse osmosis water available inside.

Jason, too, filled up his bottle but waited 24 hours to see how I reacted to the H2O.  Our conclusion was that the water there indeed was safe to drink.

We grabbed breakfast at Yash cafe, which was near the east gate and offered a very reasonable breakfast of eggs, toast, butter, jam and tea or coffee for Rs 30 (70 US cents.)  Other menu options were available as well, which combined with a nice view of the street and a friendly owner would result in a second breakfast visit the following day.

But first it was time to face the truth about train tickets, so it was off to an internet cafe to check on our W/L status and foreign tourist quota ticket availability from TDL.  As (unfortunate) luck would have it, we were still on the wait-list for both our bookings, but at least there were four foreign quota tickets available for Monday.  We still had an out.  So it was decided to head back to the hotel, grab our passports plus the Sunday W/L ticket, and hop in a tuk tuk to pursue Option 3 (Book Foreign Quota ticket, cancel Sun W/L, cancel Mon W/L.)

We arrived about an hour later at the train station, where Jason promptly got in line to start the cancellation and booking process, while I decided to try one last ditch effort at the computerized kiosk to see if our W/L status had changed in the last hour.  Lo and behold, literally 5 minutes before we were going to cancel our Sunday ticket, we got a confirmed seat for the Sunday train.  Ecstatic, I ran to Jason in line telling him that I think we have a confirmed ticket.  Ever the pessimist, I did ask him to double check while I took his spot in line.  Long story short, we had our preferred (Option 1) seats. A close call - Time for celebration!  The locals were right once again.

With that little hurdle behind us, our luck started to turn in our favor.  We headed back into town and located an internet cafe to cancel our option 2 ticket.  While at the cafe, we met a super nice girl from Argentina (Manuela) who gave us her contact information with a request that we contact her once we get closer to our visit in South America.  Score.  A quick break back at our hotel, and it was off into town to upload Jason's latest blog post.  While he was working on that, I managed to exchange my book for a new read.  This was a must, given our upcoming 30+ hour train ride to the north-east.

Content, we worked our way back the now much busier streets, where we were subjected to the usual tourist hassle ("Come to my shop", "Cheap price", "Rickshaw?", "Postcard 1 Rupee", etc.)  It's quite common in Agra, and one just has to learn to ignore it.  In a sense, it reminded us of tourist spots throughout SE Asia.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped by a restaurant, Relax He Relax, where the guy earlier quoted 75 rupees for a beer and I told him I'd come back later.  Being a tourist town, most places here charge inflated prices between Rs 120-150 for a beer, and thus resulted in us mainly drinking tea (I know, a much healthier option), fresh lime soda (great), and soft drinks. The guy running the place ended up being very friendly (although he did wrap his beer bottles in newspaper, making us wonder if he even had a beer license), and we decided to come back for dinner.

During yet one more stop at our hotel, we chatted away with our tuk tuk driver from earlier in the day.  He offered me the opportunity to take a spin in his rickshaw, for which I gave him Rs 10 in return.  Take a giddy, 29 year old nerd and mix him with India's most prevalent form of public transportation, and you basically get this:



And yes, it was way cool.  3 gears only; and no, I didn't stall or crash the thing.

We arrived back at "Relax He Relax" sometime around 7pm, where drinks and a delicious chicken dish were had (although both our intestinal systems seem to be reacting undesirably to chicken dishes here in India.)  We chatted away with the owner as well as the cook, and later were joined by an American gentleman from Seattle to round out the evening. A good three enjoyable hours were spent there, and if you make it to Agra, make sure to check out this restaurant.  It's about 200 meters east of east gate near the police barricade.


Bye Bye Agra, Hello Choo-Choo Train

And so Sunday arrived.  Although we were warming up to Agra - both literally and analogically - we were also ready to move on to the cooler parts of the country.  We admittedly kept our tourist activities to a minimum, mainly because we didn't feel like dealing with usual hassle that comes along with it.  It was also part of the reason why we skipped Agra Fort, for example.  One more breakfast at Yash cafe, a quick check on train status (1 hour late), and we were on our way back to the hotel to pick up bags and catch a ride to Agra Fort train station.  Along the way, I decided to grab a soda from a guy who the previous day very honestly told us that yes, he had internet, but it was slow and spotty.  Refreshed by his honesty, we figured it would be appropriate to give him some business in the form of purchasing drinks.  We had, after all, about an hour to spare.

He promptly invited us to sit down, and we had some coffee with him while listening to Hindi music.  As it turns out, while originally from India, he had worked in both Chicago and San Francisco in the past.


We ended up spending a good hour chatting with him as well as one of the police officers who was manning a checkpoint across from the shop.  Both folks were very nice, with the police officer at one point innocently asking Jason how much milk American cows produce on a daily basis.  Anybody who knows Jason can imagine his difficulty in answering said question.  To the officer this was a legit inquiry as he owned a couple of cows himself.  We explained to him that in our country, short of living on a farm, people buy their milk at supermarkets and rarely milk cows themselves.  We thus could not give him a good number.

As we wrapped things up, the police officer from earlier called us over to his checkpoint where he was sitting with his buddies.  He proudly produced a picture of himself with a gun and asked us to have a seat with the rest of the guys.  While it was a very nice gesture, we explained that we had to head back to our Hotel as we were to catch the train and therefore didn't have any more time to chat.  So he got up and hailed down one of the shuttles instructing them to give us a free ride back to the Sheela Inn.  Nice people indeed and a very pleasant way to say goodbye to Agra.

Bags already packed, we caught a tuk tuk to the Agra Fort station after a quick cool down period and some intense fare haggling.  We arrived about an hour early, as we figured we could grab some snack food around the station.  Getting there early ended up being a tad of a mistake, as our train ended up being 3 hours delayed (ETAs changed on an hourly basis.)  That time was spent hanging out, snacking, watching monkeys, and generally being bored.





When we finally boarded the train around 16:10, we found a family had set up camp in our berth.  Without going into too much detail, it ended up being quite cramped and we weren't all that stoked to be spending 30 hours with the existing layout.  As luck would have it, two persons got out at around 5am, allowing us some extra space (although they were noisy enough to wake up pretty much everybody in the compartment as they got ready to get out while also managing to spill an entire container of solid and liquid trash on the floor, narrowly missing our backpacks.)

The family left around noon, and our ride quickly started turning into a more pleasant experience.  Both of us managed to finish one novel each during the ride. We ended up arriving two hours late, or about midnight, in NJP.  Counting the waiting at the train station in Agra, we had been on the road for nearly 36 hours.





NJP, as it happens, was not quite our final destination.  That would be Gangtok, which is located in the state of Sikkim.  To get into Sikkim one must apply for a permit, which can be done in the town of Siliguri about 5km from the NJP station.   A subsequent 4-5 hour bumpy bus ride northbound eventually gets you to Gangtok.  As it was midnight, we decided that it would be advantageous to grab a place for the evening.

Tuk tuk drivers requested an outlandish Rs 150 for a ride into town, and as the negotiating failed, we opted instead to stay closer to the train station.  So with a little help from a local, we found Nilachal lodge, which quickly made it in our top five "worst places we've stayed" list.  But it was a place to sleep (sort of), a 5 minute walk from the train station, and offered a shower (albeit cold) the next morning.

We awoke early the next morning a tad scratchy from mosquito bites (we hope they were mosquitoes), hopped in the shower, checked out, and walked back to the train station to catch a ride to Siliguri.  A share tuk tuk agreed to take us for Rs 50, for which I'm sure we paid a bit of a tourist tax but we were happy to get into town.  Plans were to go to the tourism office next to the bus station, get our permit, then book a bus to Gangtok.


What we didn't count on was the guy issuing permits being in Bagdogra that day and the office therefore not being able to issue permits.  We were instructed instead to get our permit in Rangpo on the West Bengal/Sikkim border.  When inquiring at the bus ticket counter whether the bus would wait while we got our permit at the border, the response from both ladies there was a resounding "No."  Ergo, we booked a ticket to Rangpo and would figure out our onward journey from there after permits were obtained.  The 10:30 bus ended up being full, so we dished out our Rs 75 for the 12:30 ride and headed off to grab some grub.

12:30 came about fairly quickly, as we returned to the bus station after meeting a nice Dutch couple over lunch that had a convenient Darjeeling lodging recommendation for us.  On to the bus it was to continue our quest for Gangtok.


The ride itself through the windy roads was bumpy but ultimately uneventful.  Once we arrived in Rangpo, a well dressed gentleman who appeared to work for the bus company instructed us to get off and to get our permits resolved.  Asked whether the bus would wait for us, he assured us it would, completely nullifying the statements made earlier by the ladies at the ticket counter.  So we left our big bags on the bus, and 15 mintues came back with our permit in hand.  With exception of yet more paperwork, the process is quite easy, quick, and free.  And no copies of our passports were required.  So onwards it was to Gangtok, where we paid the well dressed dude the extra Rs 40/person for bringing us all the way to our final destination.


For those of you keeping track, we started our journey around noon on April 4.  The picture below shows when we finally stepped off the bus in Gangtok.


Do the math, and you end up with our longest travel segment thus far in our journey:  Just over 53 1/2 hours on the road.  We were happy to have arrived and managed to check-in to our hotel, the Modern Central Lodge, about 10 minutes later.  It offered basic accommodation with warm shower for Rs 350.  Gear was dropped off while a fairly heavy thunderstorm moved in.  We braved the rainy weather to grab a burrito at Anum Pedro, one of the few places that was open, a decision that offered nice ambiance but disappointing food.  Bedtime under warm comforters came soon thereafter.



Mountain Village

Gangtok (meaning "hill top"), located at 1400-1700 m (4600-5600 ft) is the captial of Sikkim.  With about 31,000 inhabitants, it's a popular destination for Indian tourists due to its scenic location and mild temperatures in the summer.  It's starkly different from the rest of India, and the Tibetan/Nepalese influence is quite apparent in the culture and physical features of the locals.  We were glad to have escaped the heat that is Agra this time a year, and were ready to take in the mountainous terrain.


When we awoke on Wednesday, the rain had subsided and the town came alive (the prior night was rather quiet due to rain and power outages.)  It was time to explore town a bit and enjoy the fact that we were no longer on the move.  Our goal was to take care of items that had been on the backlog for a while:  SIM card for Jason, Haircut for Jason, Postcard for Jason's mom, Batteries for Jason's Flash Light (power outages teach you to appreciate having a "torch"), uploading my Goa blog post, and an email check for both of us.  Sightseeing was to be postponed for the following day; although honestly, we were seeking a break from that activity as well.

We grabbed coffee and a snack first thing in the morning at Baker's Cafe, a Lonely Planet recommendation that really wasn't all that great.  Next up was the post office to mail a post card, followed by the procurement of two AAA batteries.  Both went quite smoothly.


Still hungry due to the meager selection at Bakers Cafe, we headed to the "Roll House" to indulge on their very much filling rolls.  Cheap, fast, and delicious about sums it up.



Next up was a SIM card for Jason, which he got resolved courtesy to a very nice Airtel office staff.  Credit on my phone had dipped below Rs 10, so it was time for a new communication link.  Save for the usual paperwork, it went pretty smoothly.  More importantly, I've been officially released from my phone duties (phew!)

After Jason's Rs 40 (less than 1 USD) haircut, we had achieved all our major objectives for the day (save internet) in just under two hours.  On the way to looking for a decent internet cafe, we did a detour to the local market in search of hair thinning shears I wanted to buy.  This, unfortunately, proved to be unsuccessful.  On the flip side, we did spot this shirt prominently displayed at one of the shops invoking a strong surge of Alma matter pride among us:


So it came down to internet, which happened to be a bit shaky in this town.  The first cafe we tried ended up being off-line and directed us to its sister location down the road.  Multiple attempts at uploading my blog post failed due the shaky connection, with the proprietors at one point relying on a cellular phone modem to provide bandwidth to the place.  Uploads would therefore have to wait until a later date.

Which now bring us to lunch and us tiring somewhat of eating Indian food every day (as evidenced by our burrito excursion the previous eve.)  My dietary system had been suffering for the last week, and we were both craving something different. So what better way to get over that than indulging on some Dominos Pizza?  Oh yes, we dih-id!  And it was good.  Running on a generator due to one of the many/frequent power outages in the area, we happily consumed our western fare.



The rest of the day involved hanging out, sampling a local beer, and ultimately getting into a fight (between us, not others.)  I won't bore you with the details.  The only other noteworthy item is that we requested a quote for a three point tour from our hotel, which asked for 500-800 rupees for the service depending on how many locations we hit up.  Considering this overpriced, we walked to the tourism office across the street which was happy to arrange a tour for us starting at 6am for Rs 350.

Mountains and Haze

Cell phone alarms sounded around 5 am the following day, when we switched on our hot water heater about 10 minutes too late for brief cold (me) and lukewarm (Jason) showers prior to our scheduled pickup at 6am.  Plan was to visit Baghthang waterfall as well as Ganesh Tok, Tashi, and Hanumen Tok viewpoints. Hanumen Tok ultimately got nixed due to what we think was an error in translation and very much limited visibility.  Our primary goal was to catch the sunrise and views of Khangchendzonga courtesy of Tashi viewpoint.  Khangchendzonga is the highest point in India and the 3rd highest mountain in the world - a must see in our book.

As promised, our driver picked us up promptly at 6 am and brought us first by the Baghthang "falls", a tad of a letdown in my opinion.



Next up on the menu was Ganesh Tok, where we were slated to catch the sunrise.  Unfortunately, the weather continued to be hazy and views of the Himalayas were quite limited.



The quest then concluded with the visitation of Tashi viewpoint, where glimpses of Khangchendzonga were to be had.   It also appears to double as a place of worship, with a nice shrine and Tibetan prayer flags surrounding the viewpoint.






As with Ganesh Tok, the views themselves were rather disappointing due to the ever present haze.  Our driver was kind enough to point out to us where Mt Khangchendzonga was supposed to be, which we coupled with my drawing skills to give you an idea what the view was supposed to look like:


Our driver did offer us a ride to one of the monasteries, but frankly we had enough sight seeing over the last couple of weeks and decided to head back into town.  We returned into town around 8am, and visited a local joint for some samosas and hot chai.

With our attempt at a blog upload a failure the previous day, we set out to find a place to hook in Jason's computer where my latest post was presently residing.  We found a nice enough cafe with great upload speeds and thus were quickly up and running.  Jason checked the New York Times, while I stuck with Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column during our blog upload.  With that complete, it was on to yet another sampling of the roll house rolls (both going for single cheese this time, very good), before puttering on for a ride on the Gangtok Ropeway.

Rs 60 buys you a return ticket, but we decided to "hike" down to the base and just take the gondola one-way to the top, which brought us within a 20 minute walk of our hotel.  We were, however, quite intrigued by some of the Indian tourists who were content in riding the gondola up and down without even getting out of the cabin.  To each their own, I guess :)





The afternoon involved some nap time, as we were both pretty tired from walking and getting up before sun rise.  The day was wrapped up with downloading some reading material for the next few days, sampling excellent Momo's (wiki link) (local dumpling), and enjoying a very tasty Sikkimese dinner at Tangerine lounge.



Upon return from dinner we checked out and prepared for our journey the next morning.  Bedtime came around 10 or so, with alarms ready and set for 5:30 the next morning.  We managed to get up early enough to switch on our water heater allowing for hot showers this time around. After a quick cash hit at the ATM, we hopped on our bus to Kalimpong at 7:30am ready for the 4 hour journey through the mountains.

Gangtok ended up being a very nice, clean, relaxing village with good facilities and beautiful terrain.  It indeed is a great spot to come visit, especially if you're seeking an escape from the hot summer temperatures found further south.  Even with the haze, we enjoyed our brief stay there.

1 comments:

Selah said...

I love the Mt Khangchendzonga picture!

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