Saturday, December 19, 2015

Following the Old Silk Route, Sikkim

It was a very cold day of November. There was mist all over, visibility was very low and bone-chilling wind was blowing. We checked out inner line permites, confirmed the home stay and started for the journey that I will remember all my life. We were at Rongli the previous night. Rongli is a beautiful little town with lovely people and all, almost all houses full of flowers. It was an uphill drive with a local driver, Roshan who seemed to know almost very single soul. So our journey started with Roshan waiving and smiling at everyone.

Rongli to Zuluk

Driving uphill cutting through the fog we reached Zuluk. A small village at the altitude of 10,100ft. located in lower Himalayas of Eastern Sikkim on the historical old Silk Route which once connected India with Tibet. Till the first half of 20th century before the Chinese invaded Tibet, this old Silk Route was used heavily to trade silk, fur and wool between Tibet and India. But since 1962, Jelepla Pass has been closed. Now the official corridor between India and China in this area is Nathula Pass which is not far away.

It was still foggy when we were driving on a zig zag road post Zuluk. Just after a point weather got clear and we found ourselves above the clouds. As they say above the clouds it is all clear. We seemed to have passed through the clouds and reached the height where its just the blue sky and sunshine. I was amazed to find myself between the sky and the clouds. Further we could see the snow clad Kanchenjunga - the third highest peak of the Himalayas. The whole scenario seemed out of this world - like we have stepped into paradise.

And to reach this paradise we have drove uphill on 32 loops that are called Zuluk loops.

Kanchenjunga peaks from Thambi View Point:

Point where you get the first feel of being above the clouds. You get a breathtaking sun rise view from here and also a perfect view of the Zuluk loops and the Kanchenjunga range, so do come early morning here if you are staying at Zuluk or Nathang. 

Standing here looking down at the clouds, the Kanchenjunga peaks in front and deep blue sky above I felt like a bird. How I wish I had wings to fly across these clouds, touch those peaks that I can only see now and go farther beyond the peaks in the blue sky. Such a beautiful world it is that we live in, I wonder why we have created ugly concrete jungles. Anyways I don't even want to think about them while I am in this heaven.

We further continued our drive along the old silk route towards Gangtok and were amazed to see the beauty.

Hathpokhari Or Elephant Lake, Kupup:

A beautiful lake shaped like an elephant in the lap of mountains is no less than a wonder.

We reached Old Baba Mandir just when we wanted to take a short break. Maintained by Indian Army, you get excellent hospitality from Indian Jawans, Hot cup of tea, some chat chat and lots of smiles will refresh you for the further journey.

Sorethang (The China Market):  One can get woolen cloths, jackets at a very reasonable price here. The goods are brought from China and this market is the first point in Indian Territory where these goods are sold and supplied further in Gangtok city and other markets.

Meme Yen Cho Lake: 

There is no free access to the lake because it is in a prohibited area. You can get an amazing aerial view of the lake while going along the Silk Route,

Nathula Pass

Permit is required to can visit this India-China border that can be obtained from Gangtok. 

There are many ways to explore this wonderland, I did it the #ChaloLetsGo_Way!

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Royal Retreat - Prim Resort PUSHKAR

Pushkar to me was primarily either a place for backpackers or for pilgrims till my last visit. Amazed and thrilled I was to experience a stay at a boutique resort in the heart of desert that gave me a royal experience in moderate prices.

Just 6 hrs from Delhi and 2 hrs from Jaipur, I find Pushkar as a perfect weekend getaway for everyone. Be it small treks to Gayatri and Savitri devi or relaxing hip-hop cafes, culturally rich locals to feel the pulse of Rajasthan or 400 temples for those with religious bend of mind; mesmerizing views of sunset at the dunes or a refreshing mornings at the lake!

A traditional welcome by the hospitable staff set the course for the royal stay that it was. Quite impressed I was to see the interiors of the rooms. Traditionally decorated, every room was different. In-spite of my tiring journey I could not stop myself to explore the resort and see their beautifully done rooms. I particularly liked the Haveli rooms with the colorful glass windows, huge wooden doors and old paintings. The lamp shades that gave the character to the rooms. Staff told me that these rooms are made keeping in mind the Rajasthani style of architecture with private sitting loungers facing the Aravalli and interiors are done like the heritage havelis.

Pushkar is a heaven for foodies and there is a lot to chose from in the market. There are cafes that serve best Italian and Israeli cuisines and there are places where you get delicious local food. And I was glad the resort food was no less. There is a variety of food to chose from and every dish I had, had that traditional flavor to it. 

The morning temple bells woke me up, I opened the window and you saw camels pass by with locals in colorful dresses. Was happy to see the atmosphere in the lawn. kids running and enjoying near the pool, a couple having morning tea in a cozy corner, men playing badminton in the garden. 

Spent my day exploring this little hamlet and its surroundings. I started with a hike to Gayatri Devi temple. From up there I got a good bird eye's view of Pushkar. Relaxed with a big glass of fresh fruit juice by the lake side cafe after coming back. visited old rangji temple as had heard a lot about its architecture. Got foot massage at a massage parlour just next to the temple. On the way back to the resort did some shopping. Got very good bargains for some silver jewelry, leather bag and some rose products. 

After resting for a few hours in the resort I planned to go and explore the desert area on camel. The dunes were not very far from the resort. Camels were stopped at a raised spot in midst of the dunes where I experienced mesmerizing sunset. And to add to the charm to the evening were a few kalbelia dancers who performed on some local tunes. 

The next day was spent relaxing at the resort and evening was at the lake first enjoying the nagara beats, then the arti and then there was a group playing music by the side of the lake. Perfect ending it was to the wonderful trip!

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