April 18 – Day 8 – The Return to the Plains
Today we return to the heat, dust & polution of the plains. Gangtok was pollution free most of the time.
We had asked the travel agent in Siliguri who had rented us the cab on the journey from Siliguri to Gangtok to send us a car at Gangtok. The car was to arrive at 12.00 noon. We had planned to stop mid way to go river rafting in the Tista (spelling?) river (Cost – Rs. 325/- per head, adult or child). You can opt to go rafting over various distances, e.g., 11 km, 7 km etc. The price varies with distance.
Noon is aslo the check-out time for Mintokling. I paid by credit card. Pema, the manager put a 10% service charge on everything. Also she told me very clearly that she wanted rhe room vacated by noon. This is the first hotel i have come across that is so insistent on the check-out time. All this happened at a quarter to 12 and one of the hotel waiters / bell boys was waiting outside to take my luggage out. I told him to come back at 12. Rather childish but I was put off. I have often stayed in my hotel room after check out and since Prma insisted on the time, so would I!
So we were tossed out of Mintokling at noon. Pema did not offer us the hotel lounge to wait for our cab. The bell boys just dumped our luggage on the street outside the guest house. That earned them no tips.
Then the secobd nightmare started. We kept calling the cab driver’s mobile phone and he kept telling us that he was stuck in traffic and would be there in another half hour. We waited outside on the street till 2.30 pm when finally the driver showed up with another passenger. Then it struck me that the travel agent in Sulliguri was taking me for a ride. He had no intention of sending an empty car to Gangtok though he was charging me for both legs of the trip. The driver had met the 9.30 am train from Kolkata, picked up passengers and driven to Gangtok to arrive at about 2.15 pm, the same time we had arrived three days ago. He had no doubt charged those people double the fare claiming that he would have to return with an empty car.
Anyway we pilled in and drove off, leaving Gangtok close to 3.00 pm. This driver wasn’t a good one and gave mw a few tense moments on the mountain roads. I had to keep shouting at the idiot in Bengali to slow down. Padmaja and the kids fell asleep in the back seat and slept through most of the journey. I stopped the car ouside Gangtok to buy a loaf of bread, some potato chips, and a couple of packets of biscuits. Mamli & Bablu practically devoured the lot, having missed lunch. I dared not stop anywhere for a bite to eat as we had a train to catch at New Jalpaiguri at 8.00 pm.
We arrived at Siliguri at 6.30 pm and stopped at the LIC guest house on Sevak Road. I called the travel agent (Raju & Tarun) and told them flatly that I would only pay half the agreed fare and they should come and meet me to discuss it. There was a lot of spluttering on the other side and indignant muttering which changed into abuse at which point I disconnected.
Tarun & Raju arrived about 10 minutes later. There was more shouting but I stood my ground. I was the customer and paying for a service with which I was very dissatisfied. Secondly that idiot Tarun of the travel agency was abusive from the first. I would have paid them the whole amount if they had but apologized for their grossly deficient service. I finally left for the station at New Jalpaiguri leaving Rs. 800/- lying on the ground where I dropped it as the idiots refused to accept it. I think this is the first time a customer has stood up to these idiots and refused to be brow-beaten.
We made it to the station in time to catch the Darjeeling Mail to Kolkata which left New Jalpaiguri at 8.00 pm. We will arrive in Kolkata early tomorrow morning, about 6.00 am.
Thus ends our Gangtok Trip in the summer of ’09.