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Old 22nd October 2014, 00:30   #1
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Default Sailed through North Sikkim in Sedans, Hatchbacks and an SUV

Well in my last three travelogues one question was commonly asked that why i didn't drive?

Well for Andaman driving was out of question.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ide-india.html (Andaman - India outside India!)

For Corbett and Agra time was a big constraint.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...nds-delhi.html (Corbett Tiger Reserve & Agra: Two consecutive weekends from Delhi!)

Kashmir was a pure family trip with just 7 days in hand. So flying was the best bet.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-paradise.html (Kashmir - A Traveller's Paradise!)

So the urge for going on a road trip was always there but was not getting the right opportunity. In the month of August we as a group went for a shortish long drive to Tajpur and in the evening we were having a gala time chatting among ourselves. At that time a proposal for a road trip to North Sikkim was placed. That point thinking logically about the expenditures done on my last 3 trips i decided to skip it. But as the days went by i started thinking how can i miss a drive to the Himalayas and that too north Sikkim! Eventually i agreed to go for the trip! At first i decided to take the Alto k10 as it will be more economical. But again heart ruled over mind and i ended taking the Etios!

Finally the number of cars, persons & the route were confirmed. It was 7 cars.

The plan was fixed like this-
11th October 2014 : Kolkata- Siliguri
12th October : Siliguri - Gangtok
13th October : Gangtok - Dzongu
14th October : Dzongu sight seeings
15th October : Dzongu - Lachung
16th October : Lachung- Yumthang - Zero point- Gangtok
17th October : Gangtok- Temi tea garden
18th October : Temi tea garden - Bhagalpur
19th October : Bhagalpur- Kolkata

Before starting the travelogue let me give a brief introduction to the cars and there owners.

Toyota Etios- Me (Team bhp handle Samba), Sriniwas Rao and his wife.
Mahindra Scorpio- Mr Debasish Dey (Team bhp handle Captdey) & his wife.
Maruti Swift Dzire - Mr Avrendu Majumdar (Team bhp handle avrendu). Solo.
Tata Indica- Mr Arindam Bandyopadhyay (Team bhp handle Arindamxeta) with his wife and two kids.
Fiat Punto- Mr Rana Adhikary with his wife ,kid & his relative with his wife.
Maruti Swift- Mr Souradeep Chaudhuri with his wife and kid.
Tata Indica Vista- Mr Indranil chatterjee. Solo

6 cars did North Sikkim and one car (Mr Arindam bandyopadhyay with his Tata Indica) went till Siliguri with us and then they headed for Darjeeling, Dello and joined us back at Temi Tea garden. The reason was his kids were too small to take the hectic North Sikkim trip.

The owners and there cars (Me in orange/blue stripped t-shirt)-
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Let me share a teaser pic before going ahead with the travelogue.
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And one teaser video to get a hint of what roads we had to encounter.

Last edited by Samba : 25th October 2014 at 18:20.
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Old 22nd October 2014, 22:23   #2
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Day 1 ( 17 hours to do 620kms drive. Kolkata - Siliguri stretch via Bhagalpur. )

We were scheduled to meet at Dankuni toll plaza at 4am in the morning. It was the common meet point selected as different cars will come from different parts of Kolkata. So to reach on time i had to start from my home at 3-30 am. For starting at 3-30am i need to wake up atleast by 2-30am. The excitement level was so high i was constantly looking at the watch resulting in a sleepless night! But finally the magical time arrived and i was cranking my car! The feeling was out of the world. Words cant describe it! We meet at Dankuni toll plaza at 4am. Our hi and hello's continued till 4-30am. So our journey officially began at 4-30am. Crossed Durgapur express way and entered Burdwan. Captdey with along with his wife joined us at Burdwan with his Scorpio as he stayed at his house in Burdwan the last night.

Just after crossing Burdwan we saw the beautiful sunrise. I couldn't resist myself from stopping and clicking the first picture of the trip!
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On time we crossed Santiniketan, Suri and we stopped for breakfast at Messanjore at 9am. After a 30 minutes break we crossed Dumka by 10am. Till here roads were good. Once we crossed Dumka the roads from Dumka to Bhagalpur was horrible and this 100kms stretch took us 4 hours. By 2pm we reached Bhagalpur, had our lunch and started off by 3-30pm. Had tea at Purnea during sunset and reached Siliguri around 8-30pm through moderate to heavy rain.We checked in at hotel Mainak. Had our dinner and retired for the day with full of excitement as hills were just a few kilometers away from us!

Day 2
(Siliguri to Gangtok, 112 kms in 4.5 hours.)

After a 17 hours drive the last day we still managed to get up early. By 10am we were ready and set our journey to Gangtok. As-usual Sevoke road was scenic. We crossed the famous Coronation bridge and we were on the winding Himalayan roads. I couldn't resist the smile, rather the grin on my face. My co-passengers must thought, am insane.

Our first stop was at Rongpo.

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Roads till Gangtok was mostly good except few broken stretches. We reached Gangtok by 2-30pm. We had our rooms booked at hotel Sonam Delak. The roads to Sonam Delak was steep and narrow, so need a bit of extra care while driving. The location of the hotel and the view from our rooms were just superb.

Our team members having snacks at the roof top restaurant of our hotel.

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The view from our room balcony.

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In the evening we went for a small walk to the famous MG Marg at Gangtok.

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At night we ordered the famous Momo's at our hotel. I love Momo so much that i was contemplating to have only Momo's for the dinner! But at last i ended up having all the items as the food was really tasty.

Day 3 (Gangtok to Dzongu, 85kms in 9 hours)

We woke up early to witness the Kanchanjungha but we were not much lucky to get a very clear view.

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Soon we got ready had our break fast and our plan was to drive till Dzongu. I started from the hotel by 10am went to a petrol bunk and refueled my car to its brim. But i cant find others coming. So called one of them and came to know the Swift suffered a dead battery. So he went to a battery shop to purchase a new battery and replace it. We were a convoy of 6 cars. 3 cars decided to drive till Mangan and check out the permits and wait for the rest 3 cars. Then we will head for Dzongu together. So me , Punto and Scorpio were on the way to Mangan. The Swift , Dzire and the Vista will join us at Mangan once the battery is been replaced. Knowing they will be late we were driving slow and taking breaks for pictures. The roads were okay in some places and horrible in some places. We even had to climb steep inclines with boulders. Adding a video as a reference. But it was just a mere tailor of what we are going to get ahead!


Few pics on the way.

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Finally after a drive full of breaks for enjoying the scenic beauty we reached Mangan by 2-30pm. The rest of the cars started at 12pm but they drove till Mangan non-stop and reached Mangan one hour after us. By that time i managed to click few pics at Mangan.

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After having a late lunch we finally reached the check post for Dzongu by 5pm. It was almost dark and we had to do 16kms through no roads and jungle with deep gorge in one side! The only positive was, the owner of the home stay was with us to accompany us for the full 16kms stretch.

Well as soon we started the drive bad roads welcomed us. We crossed slush, steep inclines with loose pebbles and rocks, narrow slushy and rocky landslide zone with deep gorge in one side and that too with intermittent drizzles.

A small video of a small stretch on that road. It was one of the best road on that 16 kms stretch! On the worst roads we didn't dare to take video's!


At one point just after a right turn the road was very steep, the swift was leading and its wheels just could not get enough grip which resulted in wheel spin. It tried a couple of time but the result was same. On the third attempt with the push of few locals it managed to climb up. Second turn was for the Dzire and it had the same fate as the Swift but finally managed to climb up.
The climb up of the Dzire-

Thirdly it was the Vista's turn. Sriniwas Rao who was in my car is an experienced hill driver. He took the pilot seat and made it in one attempt and with ease. I was a bit relieved seeing it. 4th in line was the scorpio. It went with a higher speed and managed in one go. Next was my turn. I decided to accelerate less , as the car is enough powerful so if i can avoid the wheel spin i can make it in one go. I tried that and succeeded in one go but due to lose pebbles my car skidded a couple of times resulting in a zig zag climb. Later i realized i could have done that on a much cleaner way but at that time i was happy. Last was the turn for the Punto. The owner of the homestay knew the roads better so he took the driving seat and took the Punto up in one go. Finally after a lot of hurdle and drama we managed to reach Dzongu by 7pm. And then we had some more surprise in our store. Due to some grid failure there was no electricity! So we had to spend the whole night in candle light. But i must say it was an awesome experience. Sharing horror stories among ourselves was the icing on the cake. Out side it was pitch dark and we had no clue what was around. So to get a clue of it i tried a long exposure shot and could see this scenic view surrounding us!

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Hoping for a great view in the morning we had our dinner and retired for the day. It was a tiring day full of adventure!

Last edited by Samba : 26th October 2014 at 12:31.
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Old 23rd October 2014, 00:14   #3
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Day 4 (2kms drive in 10 minutes, rest sight seeing in a Tata Sumo gold around Dzongu)

This was like a leisure day or rather a rest day for us. We had plans for exploring the wild beauty of Dzongu. Among us 4 of them wanted to stay back at the home stay and enjoy a leisure day surrounded by the greenery.The rest 9 of us wanted to explore the nearby places. The owner of our home stay Mr Dupben Lepcha gave us an option that he can take 9 of us in his Tata Sumo as it will save our cars from the bad roads. We promptly agreed and were on board in his sumo. The roads were really really bad. But with 10 persons the way the Sumo handled the terrain we were impressed by its capability!

For this day i do not have much to write, so will share the pictures of the wild & beautiful Dzongu which is still pretty much unknown to most of the people. Mr.Dupben Lepcha confirmed we were the first team to reach Dzongu driving out station cars & that too hatch backs and sedans! He took pics of us along with our cars. That will help him to advertise his home stay later on. Even he had a doubt that whether we will be able to reach till his home stay in our cars or not!

Time for pics-!!!

The morning view from our home stay.

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The journey begins through the road less traveled.

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Our home stay at night.

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The energizers of our trip. Souradeep da's daughter with Rana da's Son.

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Our cars parked in front of the home stay.

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Near by there was a water fall, which falls over the road. So took our car for a free power wash!

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In the evening we again had our share of horror stories, had dinner and retired for the day.

Last edited by Samba : 25th October 2014 at 01:07.
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Old 23rd October 2014, 21:30   #4
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Day 5 (78 kms in 6 hours, Dzongu to Lachung.)

In terms of drive it was going to be another challenging day ahead. Firstly every one told us small cars or sedans cant do north Sikkim but we were obstinate enough to over here them and try North Sikkim with our cars. But the icing on cake was last night it rained heavily through out. That means slush + boulders! Wow it sounds exciting but at that point we were all tensed and i was so tensed that last night i couldn't sleep well!

At 9am we started for Lachung via Mangan. From Mangan we had to collect our permits for North Sikkim. For Dzongu Mr. Dupben Lepcha the owner of the home stay arranged our permits and for Yumthang , he helped us in the procedure. By seeing the road from Dzongu to Lachung we were thrilled thinking we did that in night while coming. Thankfully at night we didn't notice the deep gorge at one side or else we would have been terrified that time!

Attaching a video of the road in day time.


At night we took 2 hours to do 16kms Mangan to Dzongu, in day time we managed it in 1.5 hours.

From Mangan we started for Lachung at 11am. We were aware that roads till chunthang will be super bad and after that its doable. But the first surprise was waiting with in 5 kms from Mangan. There was a 2 kms stretch of heavy slush with boulders in between. My front fog lamps went under the slush, it was so deep!
We managed a steady speed, few bad wheel spins, few zig zag movement which was not in our hand, few under belly hits and finally we were out of the slush! Our reaction was as if we reached Mars! From there it was typical North Sikkim broken roads with pebbles, sharp rocks, ditches and streams crossing the roads. Our only concentration was on keeping the car safe. When ever we saw a suv behind we let them pass by so we can take our own sweet time to save our cars. Finally after a lot of hurdle we reached Lachung at 3pm. We did 78kms in 6 hours!

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This XL sized water falls welcome us on the road..!
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By 3pm we got our rooms and that was it. No more drive for the day.

Day 6 (188kms in 13 hours, Lachung-Yumthang- Near zero point-Gangtok)

In the morning we had a breathtaking view from our hotel! It snowed in the night and the near by peaks were white. Took these two pics almost in dark.

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It was a big day in front of us. We had plans for doing Yumthang, zero point and then drive back to Gangtok. That means nearly 200kms of drive in those challenging roads.! We woke up by 3-30am and started by 5am towards Yumthang. The drive was so scenic and beautiful we forgot all the pain we took on the bad roads. Our every effort seemed to be more than worth. I silently thanked Mr.Rana Adhikary who took all the pain in arranging the whole trip starting from hotel booking till arranging the permits. Thanks a lot dada.

Sharing a video of what we were crossing very often.


Finally by 6-45am we reached Yumthang.

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We had plans to visit Zero point from here and come back and start from Lachung by 10 or 11am depending on the situation. After Yumtahng we drove till Yumesamdong. It was at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Here atleast one person per car started feeling dizzy with head ache. Indranil Chatterjee was ok but still he didnt want to proceed further. CaptDey and his wife didnt had any physical problem but even they wanted to return as they wanted to reach Gangtok in day light, so they do not have to encounter the bad roads in dark. Luckily all of us in my car was fit and had no physical problem. So i decided to go alone till Zero point and come back to our hotel at Lachung and then again proceed towards Gangtok together. We three in my Etios went ahead toward Zero point. From here roads were sort of okay. There was time constraint so i was pushing the car a bit with caution. After 7 odd kilometers i was driving on snow and after going another 2kms i could see all tourist vehicles standing over there. They told we cant proceed till zero point due to heavy snow on road. For that we need chains on our wheels. This was 5 kms before zero point at a height of 14,000 feet. That places was having such a breath taking view that even i didn't try to proceed further! Driving the Etios on snow was like a dream come true! I have driven it on sand, splashed sea water on sea shore and now on snow! The feeling was out of the world!

Well without writing any further let me share the pics which can portray the beauty of the place much more than my writing.

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We were so elated by the view that we wanted to stay longer but the drive back to Gangtok was in the back of my mind. So stayed there for 15 minutes and managed to reach back to Lachung by 10-15 am. Captdey left earlier as he do not prefer night driving and the rest 4 cars waited for me. We had our break fast and started by 11am. While returning we knew the roads better so we made it till Mangan by 2pm. Thats what the local jeeps take. Matching there time with our cars was like an achievement for us!
Had our lunch. Then one taxi guy told us to take the road vis Dikchu which goes to Gangtok and not by the typical Gangtok - Mangan road we came. He assured us the road through Dikchu is in good condition and our cars will be more suitable for it. We trusted him and found him to be correct! The roads were mostly well laid with occasional bad patches. We were near Gangtok around 5pm. From there Gangtok was hardly another 15kms. But in the left we could see the view of the magnificent kanchanjunga. I couldn't resist myself stopping the car and click the pictures.

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After clicking the pics it was almost dark. So with the headlights on we covered the last 15 kms in an hour and reached Gangtok around 6-15pm. What a day it was 188kms of raw Himalayan driving in 13 hours!

We were dog tired so had our dinner and slept like a log for the night!

Last edited by Samba : 25th October 2014 at 18:37.
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Old 24th October 2014, 00:08   #5
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Day 7 (60 kms in 3 hours Gangtok to Temi tea garden)

Today we had a plan to drive till Temi Tea garden in south Sikkim and enjoy the rest of the day. Its hardly 60kms from Gangtok. Locals told roads are not in good shape but small cars can do it. On reaching we felt the roads to be quiet good or rather after doing north Sikkim any roads seemed to be good for us! We did this 60 kms in hardly 3 hours. After breakfast we started from Gangtok around 11-30am and reached Cherry resort at Temi tea garden by 2-30pm.

Arindam Bandopadhyay (Arindamxeta) joined us back over here. So all the 7 cars were again back together.

This resort is located in the middle of the tea garden and its the best place for relaxing in the lap of nature. We had only one night stay over here and later we repented for not having another day over here!

It was much of a leisure day with full of gossips and chats among ourselves. I don't have much to write so just sharing the pictures.

Our steeds.

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A glimpse of the Kanchenjunga in the afternoon.

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Cherry resort in evening.

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Tried few night shots and i was lucky again to spot the milky way once again after our Kashmir trip a couple of months back.

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The Milky way.

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Around 10pm we had our dinner and we retired for the day.

Day 8 (354kms in 13 hours, Temi tea garden to Bhagalpur)

The morning was beautiful. But due to fog and cloud we could not see the Kanchenjunga. But the view of the tea garden compensated the loss.

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That's Arindamxeta's baby! The youngest member of our group.
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We with our cars.

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Finally around 11-30am we decided to check out and head for Bhagalpur.

A pic on the way.

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We reached Rongpo around 2-30pm. Had our lunch and by the time we reached coronation bridge it was 4pm. We were stuck for an hour in the Sevoke road traffic snarl and reached Siliguri around 6pm.

Captdey do not prefer night driving so he and his wife decided to stay back at Siliguri and do Siliguri to kolkata next day in one go and we decided to carry on till Bhagalpur so we can wake up late and do the Bhagalpur - Kolkata stretch the last day.

By 6pm we left Siliguri and we crossed Naugachea by 11pm. But we were royally stuck in a huge truck traffic with our hotel just 1.5 kms away from us. The jam was so bad that the truck drivers slept in there trucks!
I felt hopeless and prepared to sleep the night in my car. But Avrendu da and Souradeep da had some different plans. They got down from there cars woke up the half sleeping truck drivers and forced them to put there trucks in one side. So what we did was we squeezed our cars in between the trucks. The gap was same same but 6 cars in a convoy managed to squeeze out and reach our hotel at 12 am! Sigh! The last 1.5 kms took us 1 hour! We had our dinner and slept around 2am.

Day 9 (377kms in 13 hours Bhagalpur to Kolkata)

This was the last day for our trip. So we woke up and started taking our own time gossiping among ourselves. Out from the hotel and we were stuck in the infamous traffic jam at Vikramsheela setu and Bhagalpur town!. It took us 2.5 hours to come out of Bhagalpur!

Stuck in traffic !
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Once out of the city the drive was pretty smooth. We had our lunch at Massenjore and reached Bolpur by 5pm. Soon we were on the Bolpur - Burdwan road.

Witnessed a beautiful sunset with all the six cars lined up.

Sailed through North Sikkim in Sedans, Hatchbacks and an SUV-img_4952-3.jpg

While going the first pic of this trip was of my car during sunrise in the same road. While returning i decided to take a pic of my car in the same angle in the same road but with the sunset! The only difference between the sunrise and sunset was 8 days and over 1850kms with loads of unforgettable memories ! You can see the first pic of the travelogue to co-relate with this pic!

Sailed through North Sikkim in Sedans, Hatchbacks and an SUV-img_4956.jpg

Soon we reached Shaktigar around 7pm. We halted there over an hour as it was the last break and we were parting from each others. It was a sad moment. With a heavy heart we bid goodbye to each other and left for our respective homes. Reached home around 9pm.

At the end i checked the odometer reading for the full trip & it increased my driving experience by 1873.9 kms.

Well it was a challenging trip. Many people discouraged us saying our cars are not capable of doing this route but at the end we did it successfully. There were many hurdles , tough situation's but at the end the trip was a grand success! Definitely a trip to remember!

Last edited by Samba : 26th October 2014 at 02:21.
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Old 24th October 2014, 00:10   #6
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Few small bits -

1) Getting permit is necessary if one wants to proceed beyond Mangan in North Sikkim.

2)The roads are super bad so it will need time. Slow and steady is the key word. We were traveling in a convoy of 6-7 cars so it took more time for us. Driving a single car will be faster. You cant afford to make a mistake. It can be fatal. Roads are risky. Damaging the car can make you stranded too. Getting your car repaired can be tricky at this part of the world + mobile signals are inconsistent & feeble. One can although depend on army help.

3)At Dzongu and Lachung my Bsnl post paid gave the best service. Due to security issues at Lachung getting mobile signal before and after 10am to 1pm is difficult. Again post paid Bsnl is the best bet.

4)Good tyres are a must. Plus get your car thoroughly checked before the trip as your car will be under immense pressure.

5)People in Sikkim are very friendly and honest, they expect the same from us.

6) At high attitude do not get carried over. It can lead to breathing trouble or head ache due to rarefied oxygen. Carrying Diamox can be beneficial.

7) The scenic beauty is awesome, so do not get distracted while driving.

8) Carrying a portable room heater came out to be beneficial for us at Lachung. North Sikkim is bitter cold after sun down.

9) Dzongu is infested with snakes and leeches so be careful.

10) Carrying a torch is a must.

About the cars-

All the cars performed flawlessly. The only issue with our cars were the ground clearance. Few got some bad hit and damages like a misaligned bumper or a dented running panel was caused due to boulders.

I cant comment exactly on the performance of each and every car. There owners will be the best person to do so.

For the performance on my Etios you can check out here-

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/long-t...nt-view-9.html (Toyota Etios 1.5L Petrol : An Owner's Point of View)

Hotels-

Hotel Mainak (Siliguri) -
Good hotel with ample of parking space in good location. Maintenance and service is not up-to the mark. The Ac in my roomed leaked so much water that it gave a free washing to my trouser and t shirt which i have carelessly kept on the sofa. After repeated instruction they missed giving the bed tea.

Over all okay. (Recommended)

Hotel Sonam Delak (Gangtok)- Excellent hotel, excellent location, very good rooms with nice view, good tasty food. Has parking space for 5 cars. The only flip side is they take a bit time to prepare the food. (Highly recommended)

Dzongu home stay- Its a wild place in a remote location, so do not expect any luxury. The wash rooms were common but clean. The rooms were clean too. parking is not a problem. The hospitality by Mr Dupben Lepcha and his family was heart touching. They tried there every possible way to keep us happy and enjoy the stay. The food they provided was also tasty and good. (Highly recommended)

Himalayan Residency (Lachung)- Its a good hotel but nothing fancy. Food is okay. Location is okay too. Parking space is available. Stuffs are cooperative. On the flip side they do not provide room heater in such a cold place! (Recommended)

Cherry Resort (Temi tea garden)- Excellent location, excellent rooms, very cooperative stuffs, food was okay too, ample parking space. Cant think of any negatives. (Highly recommended)

Hotel Vaivhav Inn (Bhagalpur)- The hotel looks okay from out side. But we were pleasantly surprised seeing the rooms! They were really comfortable at a very good price. An excellent place to halt for a night with ample of parking space. (Highly recommended)

Lastly for any more queries please feel free to ask me.

Last edited by Samba : 25th October 2014 at 01:34.
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Old 26th October 2014, 18:48   #7
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 26th October 2014, 19:18   #8
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Thanks for sharing this awesome travelogue Samba

Can you let us know the route/directions you took Zongu, Lachung & Temi?

Thanks

Unfortunate we could not meet because of my crazy schedule, hope we meet soon.
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Old 26th October 2014, 20:37   #9
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Another picturesque beauty from you Samba, brought back memories of our trip to Gangtok last July.
A visit to North Sikkim is remaining pending & deeply hidden in my mind, and your travelogue is kind of kindling it right now
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Old 26th October 2014, 20:54   #10
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Samba, thread title is best for this travelogue.

Brilliant photographs as always, we are now used to see very nicely captured pics on your travelogues.

The best part is that you added some videos also to show what all you guys enjoyed even with hatch-backs or sedans. Good to see hatch-back/sedans doing the job well.

The biggest advantage of going in a group is that even if you struck, you have immediate help with you but at the same time as you said it takes more time to cross one bad patch.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th October 2014, 23:28   #11
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It was a pleasure to read through your travelogue and excellent pictures as usual. Too bad that I missed this trip, the roads seem to be ideal for my Bolero :-)
Anyways, there is a always a next time.
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Old 26th October 2014, 23:57   #12
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I just finished reading your travelogue at one go. Simply amazing! I guess, your travelogue would tempt many of us to take the plunge.

Cheers,
Golam

Last edited by gmhossain : 26th October 2014 at 23:58.
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Old 27th October 2014, 08:37   #13
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Excellent travelogues and pictures. I specially liked the picture of the galaxy, as it is something not at all visible from any city nowadays.
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Old 27th October 2014, 08:55   #14
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Brilliant travelogue Samba da. The pictures are tempting enough for anyone to go and visit sikkim. It has it's own different beauty which keeps pulling quite a few people towards sikkim I guess. I wish to visit this place someday soon. Till then keep us posted with travelogues like this with quality pics.

Cheers,
Subhra
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Old 27th October 2014, 09:29   #15
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I am jealous man! How could we not visit such places living in India. Excellent writing and photos. Thanks for sharing this with us.

I have a question, Are'nt permits available from Gangtok? Where did you get the permits for different places from.
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