TRAVEL

Sikkim Diaries-For the ones travelling with their tiny tots

My daughter gets excited whenever I am telling the directions to our place on phone and I say the name of our building. Most of the time it’s for booking a cab for going to office. But when she is also dressed up and sees her little baby bag ready, she knows that she is also going out.

This time two of her bags were there which was making her super excited and this little one was trying to carry both by herself. We reached the airport. Check in counter had balloons hanging over the seats there which initially made her happy and she added one more word balloon to her list of words she is learning. Finally boarded the flight and was hoping that she will sleep off like our earlier flights, in this little longer 3 hour flight. But she didn’t. Her worst enemy was the infant seat belt and the curtain just ahead of our seat.

We landed Bagdogra Airport and after having lunch started our road trip to Baiguney. It took us some 4.5 hours to reach Club Mahindra Baiguney including half hour of tea and snacks (steaming Momo’s) break which we took.

The view from the room which was on third floor, took away all our tiredness. And for the little one she was excited to run around the new room she was into and exploring the new furniture.

Next day we spent our day around resort and river Teesta, some at garden where she watched other kid playing football, funzone which although had limited options for infants but she got company of another kid of similar age and mini library inside the resort. We had ordered traditional Nepali Thali for evening which you need pre-order. I must say the green vegetable, potato bhaji and the sweet dish was delicious.

We started next day morning around 10.30 for Gangtok via Namchi. We visited the the world’s largest statue (at 118/120 feet) of the Shri Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. You have to walk around half a km from the point till where car goes, to reach this point. There is also a hotel situated inside the premises which would be a great stay to experience this structure and enjoy the view of surrounding hills and habitations.  It took us around an hour to explore this place. If you have time there is lot more to explore if you are fine with climbing the stairs which  takes you to much higher viewing points. My right leg was not in good shape and it would have been too much for the little one, so we avoided it.

We reached Gangtok at around 4.00 pm. Few kms before you enter this city the colourful buildings made on this hilly landscape and river in between welcomes you. But mind it 4.00 pm is also the time when schools and lots of offices get closed, so it’s all traffic. Our hotel Mount Sincholu was near Einchey Monastery which is on VIP Road. This place is around 3 kms from the MG Road which is the main market and eating joint in Gangtok. We chose this hotel specifically for the view it offers of the hills and the city and this was met.

We left for MG Road around 6.30. The area was bustling with tourists and locals. We first went to The Coffee House where we enjoyed nice Hazelnut Coffee with starter and Garlic Bread. Once we stepped out it started raining. Another reason for us to go and explore the other famous eatery- Taste of Tibet which is on first floor. Momo’s outer crust was altogether different and nicely fluffy here. But more than that the lady who was in charge of this place was amazing. My little one was very tired and cranky. My husband took her down the restaurant as she was continuously crying. We tried everything but it was not working. I asked the waiter to bring a bowl of hot water to warm her milk. The waiter couldn’t understand but she did and instructed him.

Next day was our day to explore the city.  Started with visit to Hanuman Tonk and Ganesh Tonk which gives you spectacular view of the surroundings. Couple of other points we visited which I didn’t find much interesting though. Had one of our best lunch at Café loud. If you are with children just make sure whether you are okay with people using Hukkah around, else great food- Thukpa and Momos.

We ended our trip with visit to Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Do Drul Chorten Stupa which was 10 minute steep walk from the institute but worth it to see 108 prayer wheels all of which have mantras inscribed on them in Tibetan.

Time to say good bye to Sikkim at this time. Next time when the little ones grows older, we will visit the beautiful snow clad mountain- the very famous Natula pass and Tsomgo Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVEL

Himachal Diaries

Finally the wait was over & was time for my long awaited trip to Himachal. So what was I looking forward to. Relaxing in the nature, away from the daily rush & for a point to start afresh. 

The beauty of all the trips in the mountain terrain is that you actually get to experience a good part of it while reaching the destination. So was this one. The drive from Chandigarh to Kandhaghat (which is around 25 km from Solan) of 4 hours gave good glimpse of the terrain. On one side you can experience the beautiful greenery and the mountains all around & the blue sky sheltering them; on other hand you marvel at the roads , the turns & the habitation which has been created around it. 

So it was a 5 day trip inclusive of two day long travel from & to Mumbai. The second day we just relaxed and enjoyed the view of mountains & the well manicured gardens of Club Mahindra. Third day we went to Shimla which was one & half hour drive from this place. Again there also it was the drive which was the key to our experience. So after reaching there you have to take the lift to Mall Road. If you are travelling with infant & not using a carrier, you can rent stroller which are available just at the exit of this lift ride. From here on you can explore the market of Shimla Mall Road along with the view of mountains with beautiful houses rested at different levels .  You can explore the place either by walking towards your left or right. Most people choose left. So did we. Happened to come across a nice bakery which is just at the cross point with one road going towards Ridge Street & the other Lower Bazaar . Apple pie & cream roll of this place was amazing . At Ridge point you have again the amazing view of this city. There is dramatics society & arts museum there. We happened to visit this place on Monday when it is closed. So do avoid Monday visit if you plan to visit this place. From there to enjoy some good lunch head towards the fire brigade road where there are multiple eateries opposite to it. We had earlier planned to end the day with visit to Viceroy Lodge which again unfortunately is closed on Monday .

Fourth day was our trip to Chail which again was 1.5 hours drive. Here there were some challenging terrains which may make you rethink on drive. I was bit worried but the moment I reached Kali Mandir built on a mountain top with amazing white marble architecture , well maintained & offering a breathtaking glimpse of the valley . It was worth it.

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Mall Road

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View from Club Mahindra Room Balcony

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Greenary all around

temple
Kali Mandir

Then we went to Chail Palace which was another 20-30 mins from this place . It’s a small well maintained place with majority of palace area being converted into hotel room. The originals were renovated in Year 2007. We had a nice hot lunch at Kings Dining. Do try butter naan there which was one of the best naans I have ever had. There is an adjacent garden where you can spend some time. 

Day 5 was the time to say good bye . And this was topped with a delicious lunch at Pal Dhabha in Chandigarh . People have all written about the good food here & the generous portions . I would add do not forget to try lassi even if you don’t like lassi. I am one of those people who don’t like lassi but loved it here. 

So all in all five days spent well. 

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Ooty memories

I had been longing to visit Ooty (Ootacamund)  for a long time. Finally Holi holidays along with weekend made it happen in March 2015. I stay in Mumbai. We took Mumbai -Coimbatore late evening flight. We booked our stay at Gandhipuram which we found would be easier to reach from airport and also for our onward journey to Ooty the next day. We enjoyed the dinner of traditional Thali & Ghee Dosa at a local cafe nearby.

SHOOTING POINT

Next morning we started at around 9 from our hotel. Its around 85 kms but considering it’s a hilly terrain the road trip is around 3 hours if you go non-stop. The weather was pleasant with greenery & beautiful scenery all throughout the way.  It started pouring after sometime which was a bit surprise to us. But actually it was common here. The driver whom we had hired was a localite & had umbrella in his car. He offered us that when we got down at Doddabetta  peak on the way.

TEA FACTORY

Our second stop was at a tea factory on the way. There they guide you through the tea preparation process of sorting, cutting & drying of tea leaves to the final output. At the end of it they offer you a cuppa of tea for tasting. They also have a retail counter from where the visitors can buy tea packs.

 

We had booked our stay at Club Mahindra , Ooty which is overlooking the race course. We reached there at around 3.  After resting for an hour, we decided to have a quick visit to Ooty lake. There is a thread garden opposite to the lake. Here they have created a garden with flowers made of different types of threads which looks really awesome.  Thereafter we visited the market & after buying some knick knacks we headed back to hotel.

The next day was planned for a short forest safari finally reaching the beautiful Emerald lake. You can take your own vehicle only upto a particular point at Avalanche forest colony. From thereon you have to use the jeep & van services offered by forest authorities. We took the jeep service which takes 8 people at a time. You pay around 350 bucks per person for return journey. On the way they stop at two three points where you can get down & spend a couple of minutes to enjoy the scenery & click photos. Finally at the point which gives you spectacular view of Emerald lake they stop for around 30 minutes. Again here you have the option to climb a small stretch of hill & go further.

EMERALD LAKE

After that we visited chocolate museum on our way back. It gives its visitor’s overview of the cholocate making process, offers you a complementary chocolate tasting & then you can buy what you like. It was evening by then & we decided to visit the other end of Ooty market.

We headed back to hotel & enjoyed some local meat preparation . Next day we started early at around 7. We planned to cover half our journey by the famous ooty mountain train. Our driver had got us the tickets & we decided to meet at coonoor station. It is all packed up with visitors trying to be a part of this  journey in this amazing vintage train.

TRAIN (2)

We were lucky to get the window seats & just didn’t realise when this beautiful scenic journey ended. After a quick lunch we headed to botanical garden. The garden is pretty beautiful and well maintained. Then we went to Dolphin view point about an hour from here. The peak gives you a great view of the hills on the surrounding & valley beneath.

This was the last point of our visit in this journey . We headed to Coimbatore after a 3 day trip with all these beautiful memories.

TRAVEL

Beijing Diaries

White Christmas welcomesDec 24, 2015, our annual journey for 2015 began. First was Beijing with a 2 days stopover.

Beijing, Chinese Capital is truly a city with ancient landmarks as well as a symbol of China’s economic growth prosperity. Huge Beijing airport welcomes you as you enter this country. It is the second busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic, T3 is second largest airport terminal in the world and 6th largest building in the world by area.

It was like a mini town in itself. We took train from airport to subway where our hotel was located. The train journey gave us the beautiful glimpse of snow on the trees and roads. Christmas is not much of the usual celebration here as I have seen in other places. But nevertheless the snow around the area made the afternoon we reached as a welcome to another year of white Christmas.

Outside it was chilly. We finally reached the hotel- New World Beijing hotel which was a few minutes’ walk from the station. We had requested for a room with a view but that’s actually silly to ask in the skyscraper cities. You can’t get much of view from any room unless you are staying at the top floor of the tallest buildings. Nevertheless they gave us a room with a street view which came in as a good choice we realised a day after. Room was nice and cozy and after resting for some time we started our first tryst into the city.

The market was 10 minute walk from the hotel. It was 6 pm and all dark. But with the little Christmas glitterati put across the market, it looked beautiful. In spite of cold the market was buzzing with people around. We bought SIM card and after strolling around and having experienced the cold out there I decided to buy a jacket for my next day’s trip to Great Wall of China.

Starting from 150 Rmb to 6000 Rmb, the variety was huge. I finally found the pattern I had been looking for. But then the size was not found. Either it was hard core sales or hard core customer centricity, suddenly a couple of staff was with me to help and find what I wanted. I got it for some 800 Rmb and during my trip in Beijing and later I used it a couple of times and so far it was a good choice.

It was freezing cold outside and we wanted something nice and warm, other than regular coffee. I spotted a KFC nearby. Other than the regular items which are on KFC menu, there was some amazing soup, the best I could have wished for at that time. Then we returned back to hotel and rested for the big day waiting.

My husband suggested to hire a car for the trip to Great Wall. He quickly figured out a taxi service who provided English speaking driver. The lady reached at the scheduled time next day. Luckily it was a clear day. We reached the Mutianyu part of Great Wall in about 1.5 hours time. She asked us to wait and got tickets for the cable ride and bus ride. Private vehicles can take you up to a particular point post after which you have to take the bus which ferries from that point to cable car point. Cable car is the option we used. You always have the option of climbing the stairs. passage

 

The journey was a challenge and thrill in itself even when we covered a part of the wall which was largely by cable car. The views no doubt from this giant structure and one of the Seven Wonders of the World was amazing. It was a difficult climb but it was worth it. There are many remarkable things about this wall which you all would have read. But what did strike me was the passage at regular intervals for any water to pass in case of rainy season. It really surprises that so much of detailing was attended to when the wall was made. great wall overview

It was around 3 by the time we reached back to city. Now was the time for visiting other landmarks – Tiananmen Square, Temple of heaven and Forbidden city. We spent some time at Tiananmen Square. Forbidden city is just opposite to it. But we missed the other two places by some wrong time estimation as Forbidden city last entry closes early and you can visit only limited portions in Temple of Heaven if you are reaching post 5.30 pm.

Although this miscalculation cost me the experience to see those other creations, but I guess the visit to Great Wall itself was itself good enough an experience to cherish.

We were to take afternoon flight next day for our onward journey. But guess the Beijing experience was not just over for us. Next day early morning when I woke up, there was this beautiful snowfall. The road, the cars, the roof, the trees all were covered with snow flakes.

snowy morning

I enjoyed my morning coffee with this amazing outside street view.

It was finally the time to leave but I did carry amazing experience with the silver lining of the snow.