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Old 4th April 2010, 11:53   #76
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The reason for the jam...

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This is where the truck fell off from.

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By 9 pm, we are back at the Central Hotel, and coincidentally also get the same rooms as we had on our way up.

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Thursday, 25th March, 2010: Ready for a new day, and a trip to Gangtok. But before that, we need to fortify ourselves with a grand breakfast at Zomkey Restaurant.

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Old 4th April 2010, 13:16   #77
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Thursday, 25th March, 2010: Ready for a new day, and a trip to Gangtok.
It is raining again, sometimes slowing to a drizzle, sometimes full on. My uncle and I stroll across to Jaigaon to look for a suitable vehicle to transport us to Gangtok. All we get are a multitude of Omnis, asking for about 1800 to 2000 INR to take us there.

I, for one, am not a great Omni fan, especially when it comes to riding one for over 200 km of partly mountain road. So we keep looking, stopping frequently as the rain drives us to seek shelter.

Finally we find a Scorpio, whose driver thinks my uncle looks like a friend of his! He offers to take us for 3500 INR, which reduces to 3200 after some hard bargaining.

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Apparently, if we had turned up at the taxi stand before 7am, we could have got an SK-reg Sumo or Maxx for as little as 2000 INR. Well...

We're off again, along some narrow roads, though not too badly surfaced.

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The driver, Rehman, is married to a Bhutanese girl, and has recently acquired Bhutanese citizenship. He dreams of owning his own Innova someday soon, operating a tourist taxi business in Bhutan - but driving licenses are difficult to secure in Bhutan, and tourist taxi licenses even more so. Apparently the written and oral examinations that they have to appear for are really stringent.
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Tea stop before we hit the slopes.
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This grumpy, smelly and ill-mannered lout of a waiter at the tea stop reminds us that we are no more in Bhutan, and that we have to put up with bad behaviour as a way of life. Shudhu peyajer pakora paben, neben kina bolun, naa holey chherey din. (Only got onion pakoras. Take it or leave it.)
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Even Rehman decides to join the ill-mannered brigade, when asked to transfer some of our luggage to the roof rack, to make some space at the back for one of us to sit (it sure is cramped for 4 people sitting abreast on the middle bench seat). He handles the suitcases roughly, refuses to cover them up with tarpaulin, and finally after a bout of yelling and cursing, decides to do the needful.
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The fallout is that after this he starts driving like a maniac. Seems like we really got his goat!

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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 4th April 2010 at 13:19.
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Old 4th April 2010, 13:40   #78
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We try to talk Rehman out of his maniacal driving as far as possible, till our next stop (a short loo break) at Rangpo. Images from the road...

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An RE blasts by us, with a DL plate, on it's way up to Gangtok.

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Apt place for a warning sign: You smoke, you'll look like this.
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Old 4th April 2010, 14:23   #79
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At and after Rangpo, a number of things happen, which make Rehman slow down his driving. First, he almost slams into a truck coming from the other side. Soon after, he sees this...
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At the entry checkpost into Sikkim, we are asked whether we have rented the car. Since I am aware that an "yes" would mean the driver's needing to shell out Rs.200, I answer that it's a friend's car, and show the fellow my ID. He lets us through, saving Rehman the money.

Then at Rangpo, my uncle appeals to the husband and father in the guy, about how his wife and daughter would like him to come home safe.
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The rest of the ride is uneventful, a far cry from the hair-raising journey up to Rangpo.
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We check into the Tashi Tagey Hotel for the next 3 nights...
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...run by Mr. & Mrs. Dorji with a scanty staff to help them out.
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The rooms are comfortable.
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Mrs. Dorji is quite a person - a good cook, good painter, and handy with the needle and thread. They also have a lovely rooftop garden.
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Old 4th April 2010, 14:58   #80
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The first evening at Gangtok is spent with a walk along the pedestrian-only Mahatma Gandhi Road (which city in India doesn't have a road called this?)...
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...and a round of coffee, patties and pastries at the excellent Cacao Cafe.
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And then it starts raining. Freezing cold raindrops. So much so that there is waterlogging at 6000' ASL - believe it or not!!! And here I am, trying to capture the moment without getting a wet camera...
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Back at the hotel...
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...the heater in the room...
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...has to be assisted by a Tibetan delicacy called chhaang, which I taste for the first time.
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The piping hot drink stops the shivers, and we settle down for the night. Blissfully unaware of the shivers of the next two days.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 4th April 2010 at 15:00.
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Old 4th April 2010, 16:26   #81
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Hey man! nice travellogue! How was your Darjeeling trip. You did inquired about this long ago right.

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This sticker is so true. You will be surprised to know this is the only country that i know of when, in 2007 Ing announced his retirement and wanted a general election so that Democracy was sought. The citizens were very unenthusiastic about the election. They say they were well off with Kings as their ruler instead of politicians.

Also the King is a great football fan. If you visit in June you will know. Large screens will be put in many places.

The road are mainly done by BRO, our own GREF guys, I wish all our countries roads goes to GREF instead of useless corrupt PWD people.

Military is trained and assisted by IMTRAT, an indian army group stationed there. You know how much king used to pay to a single Indian Army soldier apart from his indian army salaries.?

Last edited by SirAlec : 4th April 2010 at 16:28.
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Old 4th April 2010, 16:38   #82
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Doc, what're the 2 dishes? Were they good? The Tibetan delicacy looks good to me. An additional Thanks to you for writing this non stop since morning & keeping our spirits alive . Thanks Doc.
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Old 4th April 2010, 19:56   #83
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Nice travelogue.

What is the Petrol and Diesel price at Bhutan now? I guess it is much lesser than Sikkim/West Bengal. Earlier I konw people from Odlabari, Jaigaon, Hasimara, Binnaguri used to go to Phuntsholing for refueling as petrol was much cheaper there.

In my childhood we used to buy Druk orange marmalade, oh god it was yaamee.

The Bhutan Broadcasting Services started television only on 1999, as the last country in the world to introduce TV.

Bhutan has produced some good movies too - Khyentse Norbu made a film named "The Cup" - showed the enthusiasam of monks with the world cup soccer. Famous Bollywood model and actor Kelly Dorje is also from Bhutan (I can see hin in the film poster of Sem Gawai Tasha).

You know I still have one 50 Chhertum (Bhutanese 50 paise) in my wallet and I always keep that with me. I have couple of 1 Ngultrum (Bhutanese 1 rupee) notes also.

A nice samll country with nice people with big heart.

Last edited by gaddiwale : 4th April 2010 at 19:58.
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Old 4th April 2010, 21:47   #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirAlec View Post
Hey man! nice travellogue! How was your Darjeeling trip.
The Darjeeling trip was the last leg of the journey. Will come to that...
Quote:
Originally Posted by SirAlec View Post
You know how much king used to pay to a single Indian Army soldier apart from his indian army salaries.?
I do have an idea. Friends of mine are/have been posted to the IMTRAT hospital at Thimphu.
Quote:
Originally Posted by aargee View Post
Doc, what're the 2 dishes? Were they good? The Tibetan delicacy looks good to me. An additional Thanks to you for writing this non stop since morning & keeping our spirits alive . Thanks Doc.
Thanks aargee. The dishes at the Cacao Cafe? The first one was called Raisin Danish, the second one was a Lemon Tart.
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Originally Posted by gaddiwale View Post
What is the Petrol and Diesel price at Bhutan now?
Petrol is Rs./Nu.45.xx per litre, diesel is Rs./Nu.35.xx per litre. Can't recall the exact figure.
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A nice samll country with nice people with big heart.
Very true.
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Old 5th April 2010, 13:32   #85
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Friday, 26th March, 2010:
Today has been set aside for some R&R, local sightseeing around Gangtok and some shopping. A taxi has been arranged for our use, through known channels, for the remainder of the trip.

What (and who) turns up at our doorstep in the morning leaves me with eyes rolling. A smart young guy with hair (longer than my wife's and daughter's put together) tied back in a ponytail, with a M&M Maxx playing body-music all its own.

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An asthmatic engine spews out black smoke, tyres appear smoother than (as my daughter put it) Rituporno's pate in its recent state, and the gearbox has rheumatism compounded by osteoarthritis.

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Oh, we are ready for some fun!!!
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Old 5th April 2010, 13:41   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
An asthmatic engine spews out black smoke.
over & above its written GREEN SIKKIM below
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Old 5th April 2010, 17:03   #87
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Quote:
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over & above its written GREEN SIKKIM below
I noticed that right then!

So we pile on board and off we go. I issue a stern warning, saying I am not riding this vehicle to Nathu La at any cost, not at least if the tyres look that way. Ponytail decides to check out the option of getting some replacement tyres. Retreaded tyres cost Rs.1800 each, and new ones over Rs.4000. He promises to replace tyres in the evening once we are back from our local sightseeing.

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Our first destination is the Rumtek monastery, some 24 km away. Not that the roads to here are any good either, but we make it withoout any stoppages or flats.

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Enjoy the visuals from the Rumtek monastery.

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Steep climb...
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Our guide, who decided to practice his English on us, after first giving us a choice of descriptions either in English or Hindi.
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Guide promises to install a lift here if he ever becomes CM of Sikkim. High hopes...
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Now what's an HIV poster doing on the premises of a monastery full of celibate monks?
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Old 5th April 2010, 17:49   #88
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Your guide is looking very cute
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Old 5th April 2010, 18:10   #89
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Back on board Khatara with ponytail at the wheel, forward march, smoking allowed.

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Our next stop is the Jhakri, or Banjhakri, falls, an enjoyable area in which to spend some time.
Quote:
Located en route to Ranka and 4 kms away from Gangtok, the Ban Jhakri Falls Energy Park, lies amidst a lush green valley spread over two acres, surrounded by trees and a gushing mountain river. The Park has a shamanistic theme. Hence, while the location of the Park penetrating the forest spreads seeks to enhance the essence of the occult and the unknown, the place itself is littered with ethnic sculptures and figurines of the jhakri culture.

The park includes a waterfall and has well laid out trails to wander along with gazebos placed at convenient spots to soothe weary legs while the eyes can continue to marvel over the gushing streams and falls. Sikkimese styled foot bridges add more colour to the myriad hued park adorned with exotic flowers of wide variety. A dragon-adorning splash pool beckons longingly at children who can splash about, while the exhibition centre also doubles as a cafeteria. Designated fishing spots along the stream further offer visitors a chance to dwell over life matters while waiting for a bite of the local trout.
We didn't try out the trout though!

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Away from the Jhakri Falls, we move past the District Administrative Centre of the East District of Sikkim, to a flower show.

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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th April 2010 at 18:15.
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Old 5th April 2010, 19:20   #90
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Default Flower Show, Gangtok

Our next stop is at what is locally known as the Chogyal Park, where a flower show is in progress. Lovely view...

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