Adventure to North East India - Part 2
That's true, I have lived in India for 3 years. During that time, I have done a lot of travelling to different parts of the country and one of the most memorable one was my adventure to the North East. If you want to know why, check out my previous post about how I got into this Adventure to North East India-Part 1. Hopefully, that will give you an insight on how Indian Railway operates which actually added huge values to my adventure!
Alright, so let's continue !
Arriving at New Jalpaiguri and starting the trip
It was 3 am when we arrived at New Jalpaiguri station. The first thing we did was going to the police station. We reported the lost of my friend's bag but were not really confident that they would do something about it. Luckily, my friend kept her passport safe and she only kept some new clothes and few hundreds rupees in her bag. Although it hurt to lose them, but I really admire her and everyone's attitude about it and didn't let this ruin our holiday. So, there we were, waiting for the sun to rise, for the taxi to operate so we could go to the hotel where we were supposed to meet our ICCR trip leaders and the rest of the students.
Slightly past 6 am, we went out of the station and were so relieved by how different the city was. Much calmer and weather was perfectly colder. We took a risckshaw / taxi to take us to the hotel. We arrived and met the two guardians from ICCR who would lead the tour. We also hired a room for a few hours so we could rest and shower. That was the best feeling, hot shower!
our hotel in New Jalpaiguri looks so nice in and out
We then submitted our passport, forms and other documents needed for the trip. It was around noon time then we finally got to eat and departed for our first destination, Sikkim. When we arrived in Sikkim, it was already dark. We were served buffet style hot food. It was nice the food was always around the Indian-Chinese theme like Chow mien, stir fry veggies, possibly throughout the trip. When we arrived at the hotel, 2 girls were assigned in one room, and we each get a double bed 😆
The view from inside the hotel. I honestly enjoy the colder weather of Sikkim
The next day, we went straight to go around Gangtok; visited the monastries, the Buddhist temple called Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, where we learned more about the Buddhism in Sikkim in line with Tibetan culture, the Tibetology Institute, and the Himalayan Zoological Park in Gangtok!
On our way further north, we stopped by the The Tsomgo Lake. The view was incredible and I got to pet a yak 😍
We moved on to Darjeeling, and was so amazed by the city location and layout on the hill with only one narrow road for cars taking turn to pass. That's the beauty of it. Here is the view of Darjeeling from my hotel room.
Next, we started the day at Tiger Hill which is a lookout for a view of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga, and an amazing sunrise. We visited the Druk Thupten Sangag Choeling Monastry.
We visited the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple and the Peace Pagoda. There was a lot to learn about the story of Gautam Buddha, through the paintings and statues. We also got the chance to join the prayers inside the prayers' hall. The chants were nothing like what I learned growing up, but more like a repeated meditating chants with a small bell in each of our hand.
Later the day, we went to Darjeeling Ropeway Valley, to make memories with the other fellow students in the trip. The weather was consistently cool throughout the trip, with a little rain some nights. I had a fun memory too walking on the wet Darjeeling street with the bustling traffic next to me.
While in Darjeeling, we also visited the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. This was very informative as I learned a lot about what it takes to be a mountain climber, the equipment, the strength, and the life in a typical climbing day. I came across the name Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in most photos and scripts as they were the pioneer in climbing the Everest. I also got to try a mini mountain climb, where I got tied on my waist and experience the feeling of climbing 90 degree inclined mountain. Quite scary but I was glad I tried it!
We went to the Tea Garden to explore the tea plantation in Darjeeling and saw how the locals managed it. I also got to dress up in a traditional costume along with the huge basket for tea picking! Around the tea garden, there are plenty of shops selling varieties of Darjeeling tea and momos. I bought in bulk the real black and green Darjeeling Tea which I thought was better than buying the small decorated jars.
We went to Kalimpong and stayed at the Sana Hill Top. Really, it was a great experience staying in a villa like accommodation, very isolated, at the hill and the only way to go is through a narrow road uphill. It was very romantic actually. I got assigned a room with the 2 other Indonesian girls. The room was actually the biggest and at the top most level. It was like a suite with 3 double beds. I was so glad to experience such peaceful and away from the city feeling, especially with my great friends. We enjoyed our evening walk around the villa, explored the village to find out that there is no way we find shops or anything alike nearby. We walked back for dinner and had an amazing time in Kalimpong.
On the last day of our trip, we went to the Lamahatta Eco Park, which was still in Darjeeling. Such a great site for a picnic with an interesting atmosphere of the North East. Unfortunately, the fun of being in the park cancelled out with my worries of not getting tickets to go back to Pune. My friends and I have asked around people in Pune to help us to get train tickets or anything just to get us back safely. I basically had 24 hours before we had to again endure the possible dangerous scenario of travelling in the seating class with no seats confirmed. I was so anxious 😬😰
Getting back to Pune (the West) - another 55 hours train ride😓😓😓
Many people from the trip had their ways arranged to go back to where they came from. Some went to New Delhi by flight, some even took the risk to wait at the station until they move up the waiting list. Then, us. I sadly had to tell the girls that I could get the ticket. We then decided that it might be best to leave for Kolkata and get the train from there. As it is a big busy city, there would be more frequent trains going to the west. Also luckily, 2 of the girls had arranged a confirmed seats booking for a train that departed on that night from Kolkata. This meant only 3 of us left to find our way back. So, I and the girls went straight to the station and took the train to Kolkata. It took us 6 hours to reach Howrah Station.
We arrived in the afternoon, a much safer time for us to get by. As soon as we arrived, I directly lined up for a Tatkal ticket (for train departing the next day). I took a friend with me, with enough cash in hand. As we got to the counter, we were told the availability for normal sleeper class was against the 174 in waiting list. But we also were given the option to book the second class AC compartment with only 2 in the waiting list. So much more chance to get seats confirmed, right? Yes, with no doubt, I booked that but we only had enough cash to pay for 2 people. Great! I gave all the Rs. 7000 and then booked another seat later on. At least we 3 could share the 2 seats that we bought. We were literally abused by the line of people behind us as we took longer to pay. We ignored them and cried to the police officers as we exit the counter. What a great drama 😂!
Kolkata in 2012
The next task was to find an accommodation to stay for the day. All of us then went to a hotel and stayed in a room for a night. What's more annoying was my 2 friends who were leaving on that day also had to pay Rs.500 each just to use the shower in our room, even though they didn't stay for the night. Such a bad service! But we left all that behind and pay what we had to. We had dinner around the market and sent the 2 girls to the station for their journey back home.
It was just 3 of us now and we had one whole day to explore Kolkata. So the next day, as we checked out, we explored the city. We purposely took a ride to see the Howrah bridge, and went to eat at the food court. Something interesting about Kolkata and its yellow taxis, the corner of a street with old newspaper stall.
Howrah Bridge and Howrah station
As the sun set, then it was time for us to finally board our train. Our AC compartment indeed was a better and cleaner; clean floor, clean air, and definitely occupied with passengers of higher etiquette. We felt safe and had no problem sharing our 2 wide seats. The whole 2 day journey from Kolkata to Pune was fun with a little bit of rain in between, which we obviously could enjoy from the closed window of our second class carriage. We could also get some hot water from the attendant and overall had a much more comfort. When we arrived in Pune, I felt so accomplished and proud for having gone through such adventure.
To my dear friends, Manzoora, Saeda, Bulga, and Hishige, many many thanks for your company 8 years ago! You girls are brave and full of fun, and you make this whole trip memorable for me 🤗. Hope our paths cross again someday, we could travel and see each other again!