April 15, Day 5, 9.00 am: Local Sightseeing.
The entire day today was spent in local sightseeing. Pema, the manager of Mintokling had booked a taxi for us yesterday and Kiran Chettri, our driver for the day, arrived with his Maruti WagonR well before the allotted time of 9.00 am. I got up early in the hope of catching a glimpse of Kanchenjunga from the hotel windows but was disappointed by the cloud cover. Any the good thing was that I was able to get breakfast started with tea brewed in a glass of water with a small immersion heater, sugar cubes, milk powder and tea bags 🙂 yea i know how to cook! Or at least make tea, coffee and omelets. We managed to be ready to leave just before 9.00 am, no small feat with 2 small kids to be dragged out of a warm bed and fed breakfast after they brush their teeth and take their baths. We packed my bag with a water bottle, some snacks, binoculars, spare clothes for Bablu, silk scarfs for the kids and Padmaja, and two folding umbrellas.
I of course had my camera bag as well as the camera tripod in it’s case. We met Pema ‘upstairs’ and were introduced to Kiran, our driver for the day. We went over our agenda for the day and asked for a few modifications. Essentially added the Ban Jhakari Waterfall (10 km from Gangtok) and the Ling Dum Monastery (about e4 kms from the waterfalls, in the same diection. Also added Hanuman Tok and Tashi View Point to the itinerary. The price agreed upon was Rs. 1200/- for the deal as against the original Rs. 800/- for the original tour plan of the following:
- Enchen Monastery
- Tibetology Institute
- Handi crafts and Handlooms Exhibition
- Flower Show
- Ganesh Tok
We first visited the Enchen Monastery, a beautiful place festooned with prayer flags and located at the top of a hill opposite the TV tower. Photography is allowed outside the temple but not inside. We went in and sat for some time behind the monks chanting prayers. On the way to Enchen we crossed the Flower Show and realized how close it was to Mintokling. Padmaja and I talked it over and decided to drop the ‘points’ inside the city of Gangtok and visit the waterfalls and Ling Dum. The price went up to Rs. 1400/- for the whole day.
Kiran then took us to Hanuman Tok and there we got the best treat of the day – a clearing of the clouds shrouding Kanchenjunga and our first glimpse of that mighty peak. I have taken photographs, both with the digital as well as my SLR with the telephoto. Can’t say how they will come out till I reach Bhubaneswar on Monday. Hanuman Tokk was beautiful with a great view of a part of the Gangtok valley.
After that we visited Ganesh Tok. Again a small, modern temple perched on a hill top, with a fantastic view of the valley. Kiran pointed out some land marks including the old royal palace nestling on top of the same hill as our guest house, Mingtokling.
After Ganesh Tok we visited the Tashi View Point, a hill commanding a good view of the surrounding hills and valleys. There is a souvenir shop on the road side which seems to be organized by the army, or so we were told. Anyway the prices on the regular souvenir trinkets was the best we have seen so far. We also had good veg Momos and Paneer Pakodas at the small fast food stall next to the souvenir shop. Padmaja bought a ton of stuff at the souvenir shop.
From Tashi we started for the Ban Jankri (spelling?) Waterfalls. We had to cross the valley and the roads to the falls are in poor repair. They are maintained by the local PWD while the roads around Ganesh Tok etc are maintained by the BRO, the Border Roads Organization, an Indian Army entity. The waterfall is a beautiful area. Deep in the forests, the area is beautifully landscaped to show off the natural terrain and to highlight the local tribal population. Ban Jakri (spelling?) is how the tribal medicine man is called. There are walkways that allow you to approach the foot of the waterfall. I have taken many photographs and will use them to describe the area once I get back to Bhubaneswar as I have no way of transfering the images from the camera to my phone for uploading. A word of caution:- Don’t eat at the veg restaurant on the first floor of the Energy Museum building. The food is BAD! And the service is so pathetic that I would rather not talk about it.
From the falls we went to the Ling Dum (spelling?) Monastery. This monastery is closer than Rumthek and is not as old, being only about a 100 years old. It is a beautiful place and colourful. Also they allow photography inside the shrine whose walls are covered with beautiful paintings of the life of the Budha. The large idol of the Budha dominates the shrine. Outside there is a small garden and a eatery that makes nice veg Momos. They charge the same for a cup of coffee as a plate of Momos, Rs. 25/-
After the Monastery we returned to Gangtok and stopped at Lal Bazaar to buy me a jacket for the visit to Tsomgo Lake tomorrow. The bazaar has some good bargains. After dropping off Padmaja and the kids at the hotel, I walked down to M. G. Marg to pick up something for dinner. I stopped at the Square restaurant for fried rice, chicken curry and chowmien. I had some of Danny’s beer, Hit, while I waited. Tomorrow we are to visit Tsomogo Lake and must start early.