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Old 22nd August 2016, 00:54   #1
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Default Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

During the first week of April 2014 there was a plan to travel to East Sikkim along with a friend of mine but unfortunately he was unable to accompany us and confirmed it by the end of March. For sudden change in the planning, it took me more time to re-plan the trip again. Meanwhile Lok Sabha elections came into the picture and there was unrest in the area. So we were suggested to postpone the trip by one and half month. And finally the day came and that was mid May 2014.

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Day 0 and Day 1 (Kolkata to Rishikhola): In order to reach Siliguri at morning as per the plan; I decided to start at 3-3:30 PM. I always avoid staying in Siliguri as it is waste of time and money. And night drive is always faster and peaceful than driving in the day crowd. There are alternative roads to reach Siliguri but only NH-34 is safe for night drive.
Till Baharampur everyone was very active and counting the remaining kilometers to go. It was obvious for them as my parents were traveling such a long trip first time. However, after dinner at Baharampur as expected everyone fell asleep. Near around 2:30 we reached Dalkhola and I decided to complete refreshment as we were not going to enter Siliguri city but move beyond to Rishikhola.

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Early Morning .. Way to Siliguri

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Somewhere near Bagdogra


We crossed Siliguri by 7:00 AM and planned to take the road through Gorubathan instead of Kalingpong. Objective of the plan was simply to have a glimpse of the tea estate on either side of the road. The morning sunlight made the place appear greener and the fresh air and chirping sounds of the birds filled the heart with pleasure.

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Gorubathan



In the back of my mind I decided to take a break somewhere near Lava. While crossing Lava I felt as if I was driving through clouds. And when I looked in my rear view mirror I saw the clouds trailing behind. Soon we realize that we are moving at a higher altitude as we started feeling cold. Due to the change in air pressure our ears started deafening.

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Road towards Lava..Pic from on of my bike trip

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Lava from my last North Bengal trip


few kilometers ahead of Rishikhola, we stopped to ask people the way to Rishikhola. It was then that I met a driver who shared some important tips. The roads have deteriorated in some places due to heavy rain. We reached the point where we needed to park our car and had to walk near about one kilometer downhill to cross a river and a small forest to reach Eco-tourism home-stay.

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Rishikhola

After 21 hoursí journey from Kolkata I was very tired and took a power nap right after lunch. In the evening we sat beside the river with our feet dangling in the river.


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Rishikhola at Evening..


Rishikhola is a small plateau area at the bank of river Rishi. In the local language of the people Khola means River. The place is located at a moderate altitude and so it was moderately cold. In darkness the light from enormous houses on the slopes of the surrounding hills gave it a look of a Christmas tree decorated with light bulbs. The calm place was enchanted by the sound of river water drifting on the rocks. The river bank is an ideal place to have a gala time with family and friends over a bonfire.
Rishikhola ecotourism homestay will give you a family feeling as there are small cottages built around the free space cover with flowers. There are children playing all around and they have also created small open places to sit and have chats. These places also serve as open buffet to have food. The cottages and the free space are full of flowers.
People of the place are very humble and eager to help you for all your needs. As the local children are very poor they earn some money for schooling by giving porter services. I have heard from the owner of the eco-tourism that before starting East Sikkim tourism, these people were so poor that the opportunity of education was beyond imagination. So he started this movement to educate the people and provide opportunity to earn a better living. All those people who have visited east Sikkim are well aware of this gentleman.

To be continued ...
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Old 22nd August 2016, 01:16   #2
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Default re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Day 2 (Rishikhola – Rongli – Zuluk): Early morning the river seemed to beckon us as we walked along the bank. We sat there for a while to hear the rustling sound of the water. The water was chilling cold and it was so clear and blue that the river bed could clearly be seen. My dad and my sister were eager to take a deep in the same. My parents were very rejoiced to have a bath in the fresh flowing water.


After ravishing the beauty of Rishikhola, it was time to discover another serene place, Zuluk. We had to reach Rongli well in time to get the permission done. On our way we came across children waiting for public vehicles to reach school. A girl requested us to drop her at Rongli. It was also a help for us as we did not have to ask any passerby for directions.


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Way to Rongli from Rishikhola

We reached Rongli by 10:30 A.M and the police station was just at the confluence of the bridge and the main road. We entered the office of SDPO with all relevant documents and photographs. As I had a talk with SDPO prior to coming to Rongli, I knew that there will be no issues in getting the permission.

The SDPO was on leave so the officer present collected all the photocopies and kept it to get it signed by an alternate officer. Meantime the officer in-charge returned and granted us the permission confirming that we were driving on a Bolero (Only Jeep and SUVs are permitted during monsoon). But he also asked to get a shovel and some coconut ropes as it was mandatory to have these things while going. Actually tyre chain was mentioned in the rules but as we didn’t have any experience they suggested us to carry ropes. When we returned after sourcing these things from a nearby hardware store, another officer present denied such requirements for private cars. We returned the shovel and the shopkeeper was kind enough to return the money.

Suddenly I realized that I could not find my family members inside the SDPO office area. Later I discovered that they were having some snacks. Feeling relieved we moved on towards Zuluk and reached by 1:00 PM.

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Way to Zuluk

The experience there was just like staying at home. In this place the people are very bad in calculation and hence they charged on per head basis. They include foods along with lodging and hence you will not find any food menu rather they can prepare if you wish to eat something in the evening and include it in the package itself.

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After refreshing it was time to explore the place. It was drizzling outside and we were ready with rain coats and umbrella. Zuluk is a small village located beside Old Silk Route and it’s a military controlled area. Zuluk does not have good schools and the local children have to stay at Rongli for education. You can see only military vans running up and down on the lonely roads. While we walked in the rain to the helipad we could see the army were connecting to their families standing on a particular uphill place. I guess that the mobile network is only available on that particular location.

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The helipad reminded me of some of the Hindi Romantic song venues. The clouds in the valley were dancing at the gaps, it appeared as if we were standing on a giant hill and all other hills have bowed down in front of us to greet us.

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At dinner the owner proposed to visit the place in November to experience snowfall and there is no tourist also. While having chat he also said that the vegetables they consume are grown by themselves through step-cultivation.


Winter Zuluk Trip 2015: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ilk-route.html (Sunrise to Sunset in the Lap of Himalayas - Old Silk Route)


To be continued ...

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 24th August 2016 at 19:17. Reason: Typo corected: maintained to mentioned
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Old 23rd August 2016, 23:54   #3
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Default re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Day 3 (Zuluk - Kupup - Gangtok - Singtham): We started to twist and turn on the old silk route. This is considered as the paradise for drivers. The curves of the loops made me feel the adrenaline gushing down.

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First few KM in Old Silk Route

Following these loops, we reached Thambi. Fog and clouds dramatically hinders visibility and we were not able to see much but I waited for few minutes and captured the moments in my camera.

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View from Thambi


The place started becoming more chilling as we passed by. On the way towards Nathang valley the weather condition deteriorated and on top of it the road was covered with tripling water. After going certain distance, I found that nothing was visible and it will be very difficult to return if the rain continues. I waited for some time but no change, it was raining continuously. Alas! We decided to move towards Old Baba Mandir.

By 12:00 PM we reached Baba Mandir. I took the cup of tea to feel the warm in my numb hands. My mom and Dad became very happy after seeing some people (army) as for the past few hours they did not encountered any man on Old Silk Route.

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At Old Baba mandir

We spent some time with the army out there and waited for the rain to stop. Though I knew about the story of Baba Harbanjan Singh it was still interesting to hear it again from them with some momo and tea.

From Old Baba Mandir we moved on to Kupup. A lake in Kupup is named as Elephant Lake because it is as gigantic as an elephant and surrounded with hills on two sides. It was filled with water up till the brim. We could not capture any snaps because of the rain. Kupup is rather a flat land surrounded by hills and hence it is very cold. There is a rock present there painted with chants of prayer recited by the people out there.

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Somewhere near Kupup

From old Baba Mandir we went to see its replica, the new Baba Mandir. It was built with the purpose to make easy accessible as old Baba Mandir is cumbersome and most people canít make it through. There was a number of tourists there. By the time we reached all of them were leaving as they were coming from Gangtok Side and it was last place for them.

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New Baba Mandir and Surrounding

After spending some time in Baba Mandir we found that the clouds were getting clear and rain has stopped. I felt good that I could take some good snap in Tsomgo Lake.

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Tsomgo Lake - NOW

I was surprised to see that Tsomgo Lake has changed drastically over the past few years. When I had last visited the place in the year Jan-2010 there were few countable people and water was frozen into ice. The lake was barricaded on the one side which used to be open and we could walk to the lake.

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Tsomgo Lake - 2010

The water has turned black as it has been raining and the ripples of the muddy water have been banging the barricades. The market adjacent to the lake was chaotic and the cacophony of the crowd could be heard from the lake side.

The chaos of the place and rain forced of us to go on towards next destination.

As we did not spend much time at crowded Tsomgo Lake, we had ample time to take a break at a lonely place. We were lucky enough as the weather has also cleared and at a place we could see the clouds hugging the hills. After spending a little while sitting on the rock and taking some snaps, we drove towards Gangtok and submitted our permission papers at the last check post.

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Towards Gangtok

I was not willing to stay at Gangtok because it would be crowded and I would not get an economic place to stay along with parking facility. The temptation of shopping engulfed my family members and for that purpose, Gangtok is an ideal place. Being frustrated with the crowd at the market place of Gangtok I took an abrupt decision to go to Singtham. We had already spent a lot of time searching hotels in Gangtok and while we entered Singtham it was evening. Everyone was very hungry as the only food we had was momo at Old Baba Mandir. We were thinking of moving to Ravangla on the very same day but the people out there suggested us that we may not get a place to stay as it will be late enough to reach Ravangla.

To be continued ...
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Old 24th August 2016, 00:10   #4
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Day 4 (Singtham - Ravangla): The next morning did not appear promising. It was raining continuously since morning and the dark clouds accumulated in the sky. We started early for Ravangla and when we reached it was still raining. We decided to stay away from the Ravangla market place to find a less crowded hotel. On the way we saw the helipad but thought of to pay a visit later. We checked in into a hotel which was very impressive.


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My Bolero on Ravangla Helipad



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Our Stay at Ravangla

In the afternoon we went to visit Buddha Park. It was a gigantic size temple built in the shape of Lord Buddha. The place was calm and colorful and we walked the whole premises with umbrella. I donít want to give more description as it is very famous and a well-known place.

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Some Random snaps of Ravangla Buddha Park

Late afternoon there was nothing to do apart from taking rest in the hotel and chatting. We wished for the rain to stop because otherwise it would be quite boring.

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Waiting for clear sky .. View from our stay

To be continued ...
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Old 24th August 2016, 00:33   #5
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Day 4 continued ...

My wife went out to order some snacks and came running back and asked everyone to come out. No one could believe the view we saw there and yes the prayer was heard. The sky became clear and blue and the snowy clouds gushed here and there. We could see the ice clad peaks and when we went to capture them the clouds would mock us and cover the peaks. Finally, after some time the peaks glowed golden in the bright sunlight. Soon we witnessed the clouds dancing in the gaps of the valleys. It appeared as though the clouds got trapped in between the hills forming a river fall structure. The sun rays penetrated through the clouds and made the view beyond description.


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We were so impressed with the hotel location that we forgot everything bad in the past and enjoyed the afternoon with nature sitting at the dining space of the hotel till dusk. At some intervals we walked down the street to give peace to our eyes.

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Evening Time

In darkness the Buddha temple appeared to be molded with gold and was visible from every place in Ravangla.

To be continued ...

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 24th August 2016 at 19:19. Reason: Typo corected: say to saw
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Day 5 (Ravangla - Namchi - Temi - Peshok - Darjeeling): The next day was clear and warm as the sky was sparkling clear with bright sun after a daylong rain shower. We captured the greenery of the place and made our way to Darjeeling.

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Good morning Ravangla

I had a plan to visit Yuksom which would have been a new place for me but for my parents Darjeeling was a more renowned place and so they were willing to visit Darjeeling (Same year we went to Yuksom - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ce-sikkim.html (Yuksom, West Sikkim - Drive to the birthplace of Sikkim)). We traveled through Namchi and crossed Temi Tea garden on our way towards Darjeeling.

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Way to Temi

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Near Peshok


We reached Darjeeling in afternoon but the biggest challenge was to find a hotel with car parking. Our known hotels were already packed and hunted to find new one. My wife and sister started to hunt for hotels meanwhile I started looking for a common parking place for night. Soon I learnt about Gymkhana Club where the care taker helped me to park my car at night. By this time my wife and sister had been able to get rooms in the historical hotel “Chalet”.

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Near Jorebanglow

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Darjeeling


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Ma Kalikai Temple


In the evening we explored the market place as usual and tried out some of the delicacies of Darjeeling.


Day 6 (Darjeeling – Tiger Hill - Kolkata): Early morning walking along the circular roads around the mall in Darjeeling have a special delight. In some time after having tea and snacks, we drove to Tiger Hill to have a glimpse of six sisters of Khangchengzonga.


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Early morning at Darjeeling



But to our dismay we were not able to see anything as the sky was cloudy and the weather was clumsy. On the way back from Tiger Hill something worse was waiting for us. At the entrance gate of Tiger Hill, we stopped to take some snaps.

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Returning from Tiger Hill

After this point our car didn’t start and I found that it is giving Engine Immobilizer error. I called service center to seek advice and they told me that somebody had tried to start my car with a duplicate key and as a result it has been locked. The only way to recover is to remove the error code using OBD software. For that they will take at least 4 hours to reach Tiger Hill from Siliguri. After disconnecting the battery cable and reconnecting them again I found that the error was not displaying any more. Hence I was able to start my car and took no risk and drove directly to Siliguri Mahindra (Sona Motors) Service center. At service center we spent another couple of hours to repair the car.

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Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-tkd_1808.jpg
The point where we got engine check light ..

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-tkd_1817.jpg
Way to Siliguri..

Then from there we moved to Dalkhola where we had our dinner and headed for Kolkata.

-------------- END ----------

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 24th August 2016 at 19:20. Reason: Typo corrected: Gimkhana to Gymkhana
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Old 24th August 2016, 19:10   #7
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Default re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 24th August 2016, 19:27   #8
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Default re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Let me have the privilege to comment first in this beautifully crafted travelogue!
Speechless is the word that comes first to my mind! The pictures are just superb. You have captured the essence of monsoon on the hills beautifully. Plus the narration is great too with all the required details. Keep up the great work.
Travel more and keep on gifting us with more such wonderful travelogues in the future.
Rated 5*.

Edit : Couldn't resist myself from sharing a similar pic from the same place (Thambi view point) few months back!

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-13001055_1058059590932600_8676575736445224958_n.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 24th August 2016 at 19:39.
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Old 24th August 2016, 19:57   #9
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Default re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Very well narrated and beautiful photographs. And so lovely to have your entire family with you.
Thank you for sharing
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Old 25th August 2016, 10:28   #10
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Beautiful narration and superb pictures. "Good morning Ravangla" picture is like Kabali Da!
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Old 25th August 2016, 11:49   #11
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

This is an awesome travelogue. Thanked and rated. The old silk route reminds me of our East Sikkim trip last year. You have covered almost everything in Sikkim by now. We should definitely do a road trip together.


Btw - Are you coming with us to Borong in Dec ? Tbhp winter meet ? check the meet section.
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Old 25th August 2016, 11:50   #12
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Stunning pictures accompanied with crisp narration. Wonderful read!

Is it possible to share the details of the home-stays you had visited. Contemplating a trip around mid November this year and it would help a lot in planning. You may send me a personal message if you wish.

Thanks in advance for all the help!
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Old 25th August 2016, 16:48   #13
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Thanks Samba. Also I have seen that you went in winter season too..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
Let me have the privilege to comment first in this beautifully crafted travelogue!
Speechless is the word that comes first to my mind! The pictures are just superb. You have captured the essence of monsoon on the hills beautifully. Plus the narration is great too with all the required details. Keep up the great work.
Travel more and keep on gifting us with more such wonderful travelogues in the future.
Rated 5*.

Edit : Couldn't resist myself from sharing a similar pic from the same place (Thambi view point) few months back!

Attachment 1546556
Thanks earthian. Yes I was really happy as it was my first trip with entire family. Now they are used to to join road trips. After that my parents joined me for Bhutan and North Sikkim trip. Like me they are also started enjoying the road trips .

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
Very well narrated and beautiful photographs. And so lovely to have your entire family with you.
Thank you for sharing
Thanks LoneRidder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRidder View Post
Beautiful narration and superb pictures. "Good morning Ravangla" picture is like Kabali Da!
Thanks Uprasenjit. I have the plan for Borong with the team in Dec, but December is too far for me to commit right now. Will love to join and drive in group.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uprasenjit View Post
This is an awesome travelogue. Thanked and rated. The old silk route reminds me of our East Sikkim trip last year. You have covered almost everything in Sikkim by now. We should definitely do a road trip together.


Btw - Are you coming with us to Borong in Dec ? Tbhp winter meet ? check the meet section.
Thanks arjab, I will post the route maps and hotels details.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjab View Post
Stunning pictures accompanied with crisp narration. Wonderful read!

Is it possible to share the details of the home-stays you had visited. Contemplating a trip around mid November this year and it would help a lot in planning. You may send me a personal message if you wish.

Thanks in advance for all the help!
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Old 25th August 2016, 17:17   #14
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Good, crisp travelogue PointZero. Liked the cloud covered pics.

BTW, did you encounter any mud or slush towards Zuluk or Kupup? The roads otherwise seem good enough without any need for high GC or 4wd.

Last edited by wanderer4x4 : 25th August 2016 at 17:18.
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Old 25th August 2016, 17:30   #15
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Default Re: Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight

Route Map -


Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-day_1.jpg
Day 1. Rishikhola

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-day_2.jpg
Day 2. Zuluk

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-day_3.jpg
Day 3. Singtam

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-day_4.jpg
Day 4. Ravangla

Sikkim: Long winding road to serenity, the game of clouds & sunlight-day_5.jpg
Day 5. Darjeeling

Hotels / Homestay

1. Rishikhola - Mr. Sebastian Pradhan (9932 274 407). Rs - 700/- per day per head including all meals.

2. Zuluk - Palzor Home, Can be booked from Mr. Sebastian Pradhan (9932 274 407). Rs - 800/- per day per head including all meals.

3. Rishikhola - http://www.mtnarsingresorts.com/. They have two hotels. We stayed in budget one. 1500/- for double bed room.

4. Hotel Chalet. 1650/- for double bed room.
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