Today, the last day of our 3 full days in Gangtok, we had kept aside for the city of Gangtok itself. We haven’t seen the Flower Exhibition, the Handicrafts and Handloom Museum and a few other places.
We had a leisurely breakfast in the Mintokling Guest House restaurant. The service was bad, the prices high and the food passable. We had stayed away from the guest house restaurant on purpose because these places are typically low quality high cost. I will post a separate review on Mintokling.
I carried my back pack with a bottle of water, some biscuits and other snacks, along with my camera bag. Everything went over the shoulders leaving my hands free.
Our first visit was to the flower show which was less than half a kilometer from Mintokling and one street higher. We had crossed it on our way to Enchyen Monastery the other day and I was fairly certain that I could find it again. We used one of the many staircases connecting the various streets in Gangtok to reach the street above Bhanu Path. From there it was a short walk to the park abutting the flower show. Admission to the Flower Exhibition was Rs. 15/- for adults with Bablu going free. The Exhibition is housed in a 50 by 30 feet hall, with moss covered galleries on the sides and artificial pond in the center. The galleries on the sides have buried pots with a wild profusion of flowers, orchids predominating. I am no poet and will not try to describe their beauty in words. I will let my photographs speak.
We spent about an hour at the Flower Exhibition. On the way out is a Sales Counter selling seeds, bulbs and Orchid cuttings. Padmaja bought some for my father. The share a common love for growing things.
From the Flower Exhibition we walked down to the Handicrafts and Handloom museum, a part of the Institute of Handicrafts and Handlooms. The museum is about a kilometer away, at the Zero Point of Gangtok, next to the Governor’s Palace. This too is a must see. The walk from the Flower Exhibition is picturesque and safe. Gangtok seems to have pedestrian walk-ways along the major roads.
The Handicrafts Museum is a small hall containing some excellent exhibits of the artisan’s work, some older than a 100 years. We spent about 30 minutes in the museum proper before walking around the rest of the Institute, to see the students at work.
After that we went to the attached sales counter. Padmaja bought some trinkets for Mamli and to give away as gifts. The sales emporium has a decent mix of handicrafts and handloom articles, including wool carpets, Sikkimise Paintings and wood carvings.
From the Handicrafts Museum we walked down to M. G. Marg, a distance of about 4 km. The walk wasn’t as pleasant as the one from the Flower Exhibition because of the heavy traffic and resulting pollution. At M. G. Marg we decided to try ‘The Taste of Tibet’ for lunch. A big mistake. It is a low end eatery and everything other than the Chicken Momos was bad. The fried rice was under cooked, the chicken curry looked and tasted bad. We ended up ordering cold drinks to take away the bad taste. Cheap enough and I think we made a mistake by not ordering the local dishes like Ghatak (spelling?), a broth with noodles, vegetables and chicken (or other meat or just plain vegetables. I also noticed people make a meal of a plate of Momos which are served with a spicy cabbage salad and a clear vegetable soup.
After lunch, we took a cab to the Gangtok Ropeway, a cable car that links 3 of the Gangtok hills. a round trip costs Rs. 60/- for adults and Rs. 35/- for children above 5 years of age. The view from the cable car is spectacular! I have taken many photographs and hope they will come out okay. The ropeway is also a ‘must see’.
After that we walked back to M. G. Marg and spent some time just loitering around till it started drizzling. I found a Kodak Express and gave them one of my film rolls for development and printing. They don’t do 1 hour jobs but promised my the prints by 7.00 pm (it was then about 3.30 pm). Bablu and Mamli wanted ice-cream and Padmaja as usual was most agreeable to any idea involving ice-cream. There are a few ‘Softy Ice-cream’ shops on M. G. Marg and we selected one at random. I had a cup of coffee, priced outrageously at Rs. 10/- for a small cup of vending machine coffee.
After that Padmaja picked up another loaf of bread and a 100 gm pack of Amul Butter. I have never seen packets of Amul butter stored on shelves rather than refrigerated
We went back to Mintokling Guest House by cab and collapsed into sofas and beds. I don’t remember walking so much since my college days at IIT Kharagpur, and definitely not in hilly terrain.
It started raining very heavily about 5 minutes after we arrived at the guest house. The rain kept up till about 6.30 pm. I left to walk down to M. G. Marg for the photographs and something for dinner just before 7 pm. The roads were clean after the rain but the stairs going down to Tibet Road from Bhanu Path was a mess and smelled of shit. M. G. Marg glistened after the rains and I immediately regretted not insisting on Padmaja and the kids accompanying me. I tried calling Padmaja’s cell without success (both our cells are AP BSNL, Cell One, post paid, on national roaming). I gave up after a few tries and went to pick up the photographs thinking that I would go back to Mintokling and bring them back with me. This was our last evening in Gangtok!
I then went looking for that ‘Rolls & Momos’ shop I had seen the other day. They only have veg rolls but I went ahead and bought some for our dinner. The rolls were good but not great.
I went back to Mintokling but could not convince the tired kids to go back with me again. I gave up and had a shower before dinner.
Tomorrow we leave the Himalayas and Beautiful Gangtok to return to the sweltering plains of Bengal and Kolkata. Then on to my home state of Odissa and the temple city of Bhubaneswar. The city our parents have made their home.