With much enthusiasm, I decided to book my tickets for Darjeeling and Gangtok trip inspite of all the health hazards in the day of Covid 19.
I was much delighted to see the SpiceJet direct flights from Delhi to Gangtok on MakeMyTrip and planned my trip accordingly. Cutting the long journey short, the flight was comfortable and I didn’t realize when we reached Gangtok without any delay.
We were lucky to get a cab immediately and I must say our driver was very polite and helpful.
How to Reach – You can take a direct flight from Delhi to Pakyong (Gangtok) or reach Bagdogra from all major cities in India and then hire a cab to take you to Gangtok which will cost you around 3-4k and is about 4-5 hours drive.
You can either do Darjeeling first and then go to Gangtok or vice versa depending on your flight back. We came back from Bagdogra as my friend had to go to Bangalore and I took a flight back to Delhi.
Day 1 in Gangtok – The ride from airport to the hotel was bumpy enough for us to feel the need for an afternoon nap and we were waiting to reach the hotel. There was construction going on at every nook and corner of the way from airport which is in Pakyong.
Not minding the bumpy ride, we reached our hotel safely and checked in only to our surprise that photos on sites can be deceptive or old when the property was in its hay days. However, our room was comfortable and large enough with baclony minus the view that I had dreamt of before boarding the plane.
To add to our misery, we were not lucky enough to get the permit for the next day for our visit to Nathula Pass (Indo-China Border) as it had snowed last night and the roads were closed.
As optimisitic as we were, we decided to take the city tour. i wish we had skipped that and stayed tucked in our blankets with some vodka or wine.
To my surprise, there wasnt much to see in the city and i guess all hill towns look same after a point. The Cable car ride was some satisfaction but we were looking for more.
My honest advice to those who want to visit Gangtok –
- Make sure you have a day or two to apply for your permit to North Sikkim where the real mountain beauty lies.
- Check for weather updates frequently and have a backup plan other than a city tour
- You can enjoy the Casino at Mayfair which we did on our first night and it was worth it
- Do not book your package in advance – rates are negotiable once you are there
When in Gangtok, do not forget to try your luck at the Mayfair Casino which is the only casino in india built on land. The ones in Goa are all on small boats and ships. You might just get lucky there. We had a gala night with Cabre shows and casino games.
Day 2 – The next morning we started our day with Banjhakri Falls which was a nice place to have a small picnic if you are here with your family. I’m sure it looks better during rains. The eating joints were mostly closed which i guess were due to less footfall and covid.
After the cable ride which gave us the panoramic view of Gangtok city was satisfactory for the cost we paid. It is around 120 INR for one person for a to-and-fro ride. You can take this from Deorili near the Institute of Tibetology.
There are no seats in the cabin and therefore try to pick a spot from where you can get a clear view. around 20-24 people are allowed at a time. The car takes you to another station and brings you back to the same place. It closed by 4:30 so plan your trip accordingly.
Disembarking the cable car, we went to the much hyped MG road. It was a breather to start with as no vehicles were allowed on that road and it was really clean. We had a wholesome lunch at ease a small restaurant called The Little Tibet before getting back to our hotel. Smoked Pork is must try when you are here.
So our one and a half day in Gangtok went in a jiffy and came the morning when we had to check out and head for Darjeeling.
Day 3 – As we reached closer to Darjeeling, I felt the change in the vibe. With 3 hours of snaky drive we reached Darjeeling by noon. Our hotel was spectacular and I suggest you to stay at Mayfair for sure. The old english decor will steal your heart away at once.
We were welcomed and served the famous Darjeeling Tea to start with. Our room was cozy and the hospitality was amazing. Whatever we asked for was catered to.
We decided to stay in the hotel for that day and have dinner at the hotel itself. The live music was much inviting and kept us from stepping out. The food was fine and the ambiance of the resort added much pleasure to our evening.
There isnt much to see around the town and if you wish to take a tour, you can visit the following –
- Japenese Temple & Peace Pagoda
- Happy Valley or Orange Valley
- Tenzing Rock
- Himalayan Institute of Mountaineering
- Rock Garden
- Some Monastries
Day 4 – I would stricktly suggest to skip the joy ride of the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway as it is a waste of time. It is expensive to start with and if you are coming from Gangtok, you will cross the same route to reach any place in Darjeeling which the train takes. There is absolutely no scenic beauty to witness and the train honks every 2 seconds due to chich you will not be able to have any conversation with your fellow passengers.
I was sitting on the window side and all I could see was wild shrubs hanging from the mountains that must have been cut to make the road. The sides were lined with vegetable shops and houses where you could see inside which wasn’t required at all.
The aisle side was no great either as the traffic was moving along. We felt better off in Delhi or Mumbai Jam than on that train. The Batasia Loop where the train halts for 10 minutes for passengers to enjoy the view was in ruins and unkempt. Due to clouds, the view of Kanchunjanga was also not clear. I guess my vacation got jinxed somehow. The taxis are expensive and for a small distance, the minimum is 200 INR one way. The day tour starts with 1500 INR and doesn’t cover much to see.
And to top it all, our evening dinner at Glenary’s (most recommended) had us on the roll the next morning – (you know what i mean!)
However, our lunch at Keventers was delicious and worth the wait and rudeness of the waiters. We tried the Sausage platter with fried eggs on the side. Were we expecting too much? I guess not.
On our way back to Bagdogra, we did stop at one of the famous Tea Estate for Goodricke Tea and got some for ourselves.
The final Verdict – You don’t need to spend a fortune and your precious time trying to explore the northeast unless you want to do North Sikkim. Which again I’m skeptical of as I have not been there. The hills look all the same to me now. The city is like a big bin with garbage all around except the Mall road. Hill stations in India need to up their game to attract tourists and if they want us to spend more. You can get the same food in the metro cities as well in some Tibetian restaurants.
You can definitely skip Darjeeling and may save more and do an International trip once the borders open. Gangtok was still bearable as it was much cleaner. And yes, you cannot smoke in public there. So be careful.
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