Bhutan Festival & Sikkim Tour is our signature group journey and its inception is as old as the company per se. These two nations offers quite a contrast in terms of landscapes, ambience, people and essence. Bhutan typically highlights the serenity and tranquility marked by its pristine environ, quaintness, medieval Dzongs (Fortress), Monasteries etc. On other hand Sikkim has its own distinct character as a small mountain kingdom till it merged with Indian Union in 1975. Also the reflection of Hindu and Buddhist cultures in harmony in form of Hindu shrines & mural filled, meditative monasteries with astonishing mega structures that adorn the skyline. Sikkim in some places or India in general incorporates lots of people, a maddening crowds, chaotic traffics, blaring horns but to some and to larger degree this is where inherent charm of its own lies. As Allison remarked” After sometimes she found a sense of order in chaos” This tour in particular not just provides an insights into these two beautiful nations but also interesting analogy.
This autumn trip comprises of 3 guests – Michael, June & Allison, all three from USA. Michael is man of letters and a very few words but harbours lot of curiosities and questions especially if it revolves around spiritual metaphysic. June has a gift with words and congenial aura to make any counterpart comfortable. Allison has humility, poise, grace and elegance, far beyond her young age. She was also a guardian angel to me for correcting my poor english pronunciations more often than not.
After Bhutan, it was 4 nights/ 5 days trip to Sikkim. Originally, it was designed with 2 nights in Gangtok and 2 nights in Darjeeling but there was political impasse and indefinite strike in Darjeeling. So we found alternative in Temi Tea Estate (Sikkim) for Darjeeling Tour. In short, it was all Sikkim trip.
Odyssey commenced for 5 of us that includes me, driver and 3 guests on 12 Oct, 2017.
Day1, 12.10.17 – The first port of call was Gangtok, exuberant capital of Sikkim. As we set out on long drive for Gangtok, pang of sadness was conspicuous in Allison’s face for leaving beautiful Bhutan. Though long drive but scenic one as it traverses through lush green tea gardens and National Parks for major portion. Moment we arrived in Gangtok we were greeted with light drizzle which in my opinion was a bit unusual in October. Soon it took heavier forms, but we needed some walk to have blood flow in our legs as we were sitting in car almost whole day. We planned to brave the drizzle, so came out the rain gears and umbrellas. It was 7 – 10 minutes walk to Lal Bazar (Market), the crowd was thin so were the shops due to rain. A few minutes walk took us to iconic MG Mark Boulevard – a pedestrian through fare with its usual delights. Dinner, long conversation centring around Yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and other mystical elements, and then bed.
Day 2, 13.10.17 – In Gangtok – Started with visit to Zoo, Handicraft, and tried to cover other attractions but the early afternoon downpours curtailed our efforts. There was no sign of rains stopping but it hardly deterred the guests’s confidence to take a walk in the town. But this time, they did on their own, so that they have time of their own perhaps to introspect on the events that transpired today. Dinner was typical Sikkimese accompanied by “Tongba” – a local millet beer. Perhaps it was Tongba that triggered a long conversation revolving around literatures and poems for a change.
Day 3, 14.10.17 – Drive to Temi Tea Estate – We covered the remaining attractions visit that were denied by rains the other day in Gangtok. Subsequently, drove to opposite ridge to visit Rumtek Monastery. There were hives of activities and monks thronged the monastery along with lay worshippers. There was festive ambience as high priest was conducting blessing ceremony. It was a treat to see some monks in meditation and some prostrating. After we drove to Temi Tea Garden. It was dusk as we reached there and soon turned dark. Early Dinner and Bed.
Day 4 15.10.17 – In Temi Tea Estate – Allison being an early riser could see astounding views of Mt Kanchenjunga which has been elusive since Gangtok for us. Hotel is idyllically located in the ridge overlooking sprawling tea garden below and views of mountains on clear day. By the time June and Michael woke up, it was covered in clouds. After breakfast, an excursion to Ravangla, visited Buddha Park and colourful & vibrant weekend farmer market. Returned to Temi Tea garden for traditional lunch in local home stay. Followed by Tea factory visit, village nearby and school. It was quite a day so we all retired early after dinner and also for early departure next day.
Day 5 16.10.17 – Departure – Drive to Bagdogra – Even though we left early for airport but the heavy traffics in Siliguri and nearby Airport nearly threw us off guarded as we reached there in nick of time – not to miss the flight. In retrospect, I can say it was a “Close Call”
One may say 5 days is too short a trip but it was long enough to foster camaraderie, learn, interact with each others and with locales. Like any other travels, it was learning curve for me also, even as a guide , visiting same places even have something different to offer every time and also sometime travelling with new guests offer a different perspective to same subject.
Except the ruckus that arose due to crazy traffic resulting in close call with flight, the rest of trip was smooth ride and I also like to believe that guests feels the same. On this delightful note, I sign out but not before wishing them best wishes in all their endeavours in life.
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