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North East Adventure

I had wanted to explore the exotically beautiful North Eastern part of India for sometime now, a surprise opportunity came in the form of an invitation from a very good friend of mine who was posted in that region.   We wanted to explore India as it changed from north to the east and what better way then to travel by train. As we traveled from Ambala in Haryana to Dhup Guri in West Bengal, we came across the changing landscape and a marked change in the cuisine as well.

  We reached Dhup guri at 6:30 PM, there was a car waiting for us which was sent by my good friend Major Meetesh Khajuria. After reaching his house we went over the itinerary prepared for us by Rana Sidhu and contacted the local taxi person whose number was already given to us and informed him of our arrival. We told him to be here for us early in the morning.

25th December

Early in the morning we were off to Kalinpong. On the way we stopped at the famous S.P sweets in New Jalpaiguri; don’t miss the famous Bengali sweet known as Sweet Chok and Mo Chok. Driving through tea estates on both sides of the road was like going through a carpet of green, passing through Lava and Paparkhtie we reached Kalinpong in the evening and checked into our hotel. A little bit of rest and we were off to check out the local market which has an amazing variety of shops selling exotic cakes, local delicacies as well as local handicrafts which are a must have as you will not find things like these back home. The must have are the Buddhist curios and the collection of Fengshui articles, the mantra of shopping is to bargain like crazy.
In the morning we checked out the beautiful and challenging golf course. In the evening a tour of the town was undertaken to check out things missed the previous day. I must say, the local people were extremely courteous and charming.

26th December

We were off to Gangtok entering the state of Sikkim through Rumtock we were accompanied by a clear river which runs alongside the road till Gangtok city. Rumtock is the starting point for river rafting as well. The people are friendly and helpful, after checking into our hotel, we took a tea break as it was raining and we wanted to get up early morning as we wanted to go to Nathu-La, there is a line permit which is required, Rana Sidhu had arranged that and after collecting the permit we went to bed.

27th December

Today after an early morning breakfast we were off to Nathu-La (important take snow chains along), driving through Gangtok we reached the 15 mile traffic check point, the weather had packed in and it was freezing cold, here after putting on the snow chains and having a cup of hot steaming tea with pakoras we reached Changu lake. This lake never freezes up even in minus temperatures, Changu lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides the road winds alongside it and the view is something to die for, from here onwards the snow chains came in handy as we were traveling on iced up roads. Just short of Nathu-La our permit were checked and after the person in charge was satisfied we were allowed to go up to the border. This place was freezing cold but it was compensated by the fact that we were here. After a hot cup of tea we made full use of the camera even though the fog had settled in, after getting to know about cross border trade it was time to move back as the weather was turning from bad to worse. The drive back was eventful as our vehicle ran out of diesel as there was a leak near the fuel pump, as the vehicle had power brakes we could not even roll down hill after parking the vehicle on the side we took help from an army post which was about 3 kms away, after repairing the vehicle and filling it up with fuel we started back through thick fog and reached our hotel late in the night.

28th December

Today was the day to check out Gangtok city. The best way was to hire a local taxi which takes you to designated spots. There are 13 spots in all from taking in the handicrafts to checking out the water park and the view points which have some great views of the surrounding Himalayas and the crowning glory of Kanchunjunga. Then it was time to visit the Rumteck Monastery which is a very important Buddhist place, the architecture is well defined and the gold pagoda is a sight to be seen. It requires at least 3 days to cover the places near and around Gangtok.

29th December

After breakfast and a bit more of sight seeing we were off to Darjeeling known as the queen of hill stations. This place was gifted by the king of Sikkim to the East India Company. We reached Darjeeling in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, and then it was time to mingle with people. There is no better way then to walk around and soak in the atmosphere, the streets are chock a block with people selling wares from baby clothes to jackets, pullovers, exotic spices, hardened cheese and curios. There are also small but great exclusive shopping arcades, which cater to shoes as well as a great collection of clothes. After booking our tickets on the world heritage toy train which took us on a journey through Darjeeling with stops at Gorkha memorial, which was set up in the memory of the soldiers who fought and laid down there life’s for the betterment of the country. After reaching Ghum station which houses a Railway Museum as well, the train stops here for half and hour, there is the time to check out the Railway Museum and grab a bite to eat, Moms and Thopas (local Delicacy), after making our way back to Darjeeling station we headed for the Mecca of Mountaineers H.M..I There is a great museum here which houses the equipment used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in their conquest of Mount Everest. There are three types of courses which are offered by the institute for the adventure lovers. 1: Adventure course is a basic course of 20 days which includes a trek of 7 days covering 250kms 2:  Advanced course: this course takes you to high altitudes for acclimatization and is a much tougher course. 3: Instructor course: this is for people who have completed there first two courses in flying colors. The courses start in February, March and September.The way passes through a zoo which houses a wide variety of animals, from mountain bear to panthers and snow leopards to a wide variety of birds also.

30th December

This was the day to check out the locale delicacy Tea in its amazing variety from long stems to the C.T.C, flavored Tea in light lemon essence turned out to be my favorite, after tea tasting it was time to shop which took the better half of the day. We wanted to spend the New Year with friends in Binaguri so we moved back there and reached late in the night.

31st December

Today in the morning we hit the Golf course for some well deserved game of Golf which was keenly contested in a foursome. In the evening there was a party in the club (costume party) which saw people dressed in there ethnic wear. There was a fancy dress competition for kids, which was won by Diya Khajuria who was dressed as eve armed with an apple as well. The party went in to full swing with DJ Emanuel belting out songs in full flow.

1st January 

Today we got up late and took in a late afternoon game of golf after which we retired to bed.

2nd January 

The journey to Bhutan is through spectacular tea estates on both side of the road as we entered Bhutan through Funsling, where we applied for our entry permit. After spending some time in Funsling we started towards Paro the drive is through beautiful mountains and the scenic beauty is seen to be believed after reaching Paro we checked in to our hotel and in the evening stepped out to enjoy the vibrating night life here. After checking out the night life and dancing our blues away we came back to our hotel at 2oclock in the morning and hit the bed hard.

3rd January

The sights to check out in Paro are varied, starting from Dungtse Lhakhanga which is a temple built in the 15th century, nearby is the Ugyen Perli Palace which is a royal retreat.
Then we went to Paro Dzong which is a monastery and a fortress and near by is the Ta Dzong which houses the museum, here we got a feel of the real Bhutan we were looking for.  

4th January

 Starting from Paro in the morning, we got back to Funsling and here we shopped like crazy, Niku really liked the collection on offer and the prices. There is a great collection of shops with a wide variety of clothes and shoes plus shops which have ethnic items as well. The crocodile breeding farm is a must visit as well as the Gompa.  After spending a better half of the day here we started back for our base camp Binaguri.

5th January

Early morning we were off to Cocch Bihar the birth place of Maharani Gaytri Devi. The palace here has been turned into a fitting museum which holds the artifacts and the history of the erstwhile princely state in its full grandeur. The visit to the temple of Shiva was one of the highlights of this visit; the temple is built near a small lake and is teaming with turtles. Today our lunch was fixed in a Tea Estate at the house of Neeraj Sirohi, before lunch he took us on a grand tour of the Tea Estate and the Factory where he explained in minuet detail the working of the entire factory. Then we were back to his house for lunch accompanied with a couple of beers, afterwards it was time to move back to Binaguri.  

6th January 

Today we were of to the Jaldapara wild life sanctuary which houses a wide range of wild animals in there natural habitat. This place was set up in 1943 for the protection of the single horn Rhino, there are other wild animals inhabiting this place as well such as deer, wild elephants, wild pigs and the Royal Bengal Tiger. This place is also a bird watchers paradise as there is a varied variety of birds like racket tailed drongo, pea fowl, paradise fly-catch, hornbill and a host of other birds as well. The thing to do is to come here early in the morning or better yet stay in the accommodation provided inside the sanctuary and take an Elephant ride through the park to catch a site of the elusive Rhino.
There are view points inside the sanctuary which have huge machans built where you can sit and wait for a glimpse of the Rhino. These machans are strategically placed for your viewing pleasure.

7th January 

Today was the day to start back to our home. Taking a train from N.J.P back to Ambala was a journey to remember as we passed through this great country and saw the change from east to north. The diversity of this country never fails to amaze me.

8th January 

After I got back home I thought that I should write about the extraordinary adventure, I took with a lot of help and support from Rana Sidhu. So this is it.

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