Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sikkim...Here I come!

24 March 2006

Actually main destination for this trip is Sikkim and it wasn't 100% my idea. Since my buddy couldn't go to Nepal and I was on the way to India by myself anyway. So I thought it could be a compromise if he could join India trip and see the Himalayas a bit. Which was not bad idea at all. Sikkim is amazingly beautiful. Sometimes I'm amazed how people could live in such mountain areas.

We booked Jeep ticket one day in advance to avoid all the hassle. Since my friend gets sick if he doesn't get the front seat we had to pay extra for 'room' next to driver. Which obviously there're always 3 passengers next to driver. So it will be 4 big guys squeezing in front seat. We didn't want that (No, HE couldn't stand that) so we agreed to pay for third passenger too so we can get 3 seats just for 2 of us (yeah and my ass is big, I know, don't remind me!) :-P
(From Darjeeling to Gangtok. Ticket for one person = Rs 120, we paid Rs 360 for two of us.. they gave Rs 10 discount. Wow, how generous..!)

I was so damn tired that night because I had to wake up at 4 am to go to Tiger Hill. So that night i thought I would just sleep in a bit. But No.. I wasn't that lucky. There was an Indian family checked in next to our room and started to watch Bollywood film on TV with higest volume they could get.

Thank Buddha...I got my ear plugs

Next morning too they woke me up at 3 AM by talking so f**king loud to each other AND sound from TV. What a day..

Our jeep

We managed to get to Jeep Station at 8 AM. I needed something to eat but almost all the shops were still closed. My friend bought a lot of oranges. Not to eat. But for sniffing. (yeah.. u know.. u got car sick.. he got sick from smell of gasoline.. smoke.. and even got sick from pills that prevent motion sickness.. wicked)

having chai as breakfast

I really needed something to drink. Found "Chai" stall next to the ticket booth. So I chained my backpack to the booth and went for Chai. It's only Rs3 / cup of Chai and it was very lovely too. Drinking hot milk tea from cracked cup. No chairs. Just sitting on the street. I liked that! :-D (Didn't dare to eat crackers though)

After a while. Someone came to tell us to bring our bags to the jeep. It was early! I thought we were leaving but they were just loading all the bags and still had to wait for another passengers.

Then I met Bini and her dad. They were going to get on the same jeep. And Bini's dad said they booked ticket via their hotel in Darjeeling.

They told him that they wanted front seat. But when they arrived at station. Ofcourse front seat was already taken (ehm.. by us) They even went back to hotel reception to complain but nobody was there. So we had to take middle seat. (which is not so bad if you don't have to share with another 2 people and a baby) for whole day trip and a jeep.

Anyway, I found that they were going to Sikkim to do short trip too. That's perfect. Because to go on touring in Sikkim it's needed to be in group of 4 travelers. Good that we met here already so it means we wouldn't have to wait for an agency to find other people to join our group.

Tea bushes in Darjeeling. On the way to Sikkim

Along the way to Sikkim. There're signs everywhere. Some are really funny.. something like..
"If married, Divorce Speed"
"This is Highway.. Not Runway"
"Thank you for your visit.Please come to drive on our road again"
"Drive Slow, Blow horn".....

Nice album. No Money No Honey?

Teesta River, now we're entering Sikkim state

There's river named "Teesta" running through this valley. Lot of people come here to do white water rafting. Looks cool!

"Rafting town"

People of Darjeeling

Sun bathing in the morning. Taken near Old Supermarket.

This kid is just tooooooo cute!

Another sweet one, She's so quiet but smiling a lot. She was at the Buddhist Temple (Mandir) playing with other friends.

Many people here in Darjeeling are Nepalis.

Fish Shop

"Local backpacker"

Sun Rise at Tiger Hill

23 March 2006

Tourists (mostly Indians) waiting for the sun to come up.

Next day we went up to Tiger Hill. Famous spot to watch Sun rise in Darjeeling. The onwer of Guest House told us to wake up at 4 AM so we can make it at Tiger Hill around 4 : 30 but anyway, this driver came to pick us up nearly 5 AM. How nice! That morning was SO cold.

Sun is rising, now you can hear people "ohhh..", "haaaa..",

Chomik, A guy I met on the train told us that it's wonderful up here. Well, it's not bad indeed. And he said that watching sun rise while sipping a cup of coffee is not a bad idea at all.

"They have a cafe there?" I asked
"Nooo.. but they will come to you"

found it more entertaining to watch people not to sun. Family with kids.. and their kids are fighting while dad and mom are busy finding best spot to stand, Ladies in colorful Sari but wearing flip-flops, etc

And they really come to you. The Coffee Girls.

Girls selling hot coffee for Rs 5/ cup. (That was smallest cup of coffee I've ever seen) Seems to be good business. Everyone orders! I wonder why not tea. This is Darjeeling! Give me tea! :-P Damn, and that was too fucking cold up there.

People are still waiting. But once the sun came up.
Everyone just left right way. Now I feel sorry for
the sun.

I know, stupid face but the cap is cute :-P

In the clear days you can see mountain peaks from here. Including kanchenjunga. (meaning "Five Treasures of the Snow") The world second highest mountain.. too bad that day it was too cloudy. We could see only one peak on Kanchenjunga. Well, better than nothing!

At the Gompa

After Tiger Hill. The driver took us to Gompa (Buddhist Monastery) Bunch of indian tourists in there. Looks kinda wierd seeing them taking photos with little lama as if he was their little brother. There's one little Buddha statue from Thailand too.

Lama in Studying room

Older lama showed us "Study room" where young lamas are practicing their lessons. And for those outside the room. They're sitting with book in hands.. facing the wall. So they won't be distracted.

Some kind of bread? I dunno...

Gurkha Memorial Garden in Ghoom (I love the name of this city!) Not much to see here but they have fun activity which you can rent the costume of Gurkha soldiers for a few rupees. I don't need to tell you this coz you might have guessed already, my friend ran to one of these guys and rent a costume, dressed himself like Gurkha soldier.. Man, that was embarrassing!

Me and (fake) Gurkhas from Kolkata..hehehe

We finished small day tour, my friend wanted to send photo-CD back home and couldn't do that at smaller post office near our GH.

Darjeeling Main Post Office. I slept there for almost an hour.

So we had to go to "Main Post Office" further away. That guy at post office spent HOUR packing the CD by wrapping it with newspaper (many layers) and wrapped it again with cotton fabric and sew it!

Incredible India.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


22 March 2006

Second day in Darjeeling we had to find new place to stay. After checking a few of them around town center we found one Guest House named "Pleasure Hut" which it costs only Rs300/night/room so it's Rs 150 each between us. Not bad at all.

view from our windows.

And the room is just WONDERFUL from the windows you can see view of mountains much more beautiful than view from roof top of Andy's Guest House. I hope Lonely Planet won't discover this place! (all the GH listed in LP when you arrive there, prices are never that cheap as they're written in LP, too many people go there..)

Room at Pleasure Hut : Rs300/night

The owner of hotel seems to be to pleased to know that we're from Thailand (I didn't know why..?) but later I found out that he was looking for an opportunity to do some business in Thailand. (which is possible) but he asked about employment and such. I didn't want to disappoint him but I had to tell him the truth that if he would come to Thailand to look for a job. It's just not that easy.

Anyway, I enjoyed conversations with him. He's very nice guy. So is his staff. One of them he looks like a terrorist you see in newspaper..hehehe.. But he turned out to be so sweet and helped us for whatever he needed.

Mini Post Office

Little shop in the main market.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Toy train ride

21 March 2006
I have no idea how to move on from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Darjeeling. From that I've heard there're plently of choices here like shared-jeeps, trains. But ..what the hell, We'll see.

Toy train in Darjeeling

We arrived at NJP very early in the morning. It was a bit chilly there. I spotted another backpacker there. He's from Norway and also going to Darjeeling. Obviously he wanted to go by train. I knew the train was possible but what I didn't know was it would take whole day and would be THAT crowded.

It was quite a chaos to get ticket. It seemed to be special train (ultra slow speed toy train but not that proper one) I had to run across platforms to get the ticket and then back to Ticket Office on the other side to write down our names..etc.. anyway, I made it. We got tickets. Must be one of the cheapest tickets I've ever purchased. Rs 50 for whole day ride.

Train left NJP and stopped at Siliguri to pick up more people. Mostly weathy indian family on vacation with lot of kids and ladies that talk all the time. We got our lunch boxes here at Siliguri from Rs 40 each.

Darjeeling Train Station. Looks pretty in the day. And a bit crazy at night.

The train could go as fast as 1 km/ hour up to the hill. Sometimes the jeeps pass by and people in those jeeps take pictures of us and our train. Now I know how the animals in the zoo feel like!

Our Norwegian friend just sit there and talk to no one. No camera. No music. No Joking around. Nothing. I wonder if he was forced to travel..? And what is in that plastic bag and he's carring with him all the time..?

When we arrived Darjeeling it was completely dark. Everyone seemed to know the way where they wanted to go. I was standing there in my rain jacket trying to look where the hell the road is. But all I could see was only fog. No taxis around. I asked a guy who was hanging out there smoking where to find taxi. He looked puzzled and said "I'll try one!" And then all he had to do is just fish one of those jeeps on the street. It costed us damn Rs 100 just to get to the guest house. Our Norwegian friend (I wish I remembered his name) also came with us.

"It's up hill, hard to drive" I was told like that.

We picked "Andy's Guest House" from Lonely Planet (duh!) as it sounds like best place to stay for now. When we arrived the owner came to greet us and we were told that she had 2 rooms tonight. But one of them is booked for tomorrow night. So it means we could stay only for tonight and will have to check out tomorrow to find new place to stay.

Now I felt like it must be bad karma!

I asked that guy to share our taxi and he said "Yeah that guest house doesn't sound bad" now he got a room but we would have leave next day. He didn't offer us the room or anything. Just standing there felt sorry for us.(NICE!)

Our room at Andy's. And that was Rs400/night. Shower was hot when my friend
used it. But when it came to my turn water turned to be damn cold. It Ain't fair!

Room was OK, I wouldn't call it "Beautiful" but it was very clean, twin beds, with attached bathroom. And it was SO COLD that night. I couldn't sleep. I thought about Gagbeni village in Nepal. I just couldn't stand that cold night. Looking at my friend. That guy was even snoring!

Next day we had to check out early as other 2 backpacker chicks arrived damn early. We had to give away our room key to them coz they wanted to go out for breakfast and wanted to see their room tidy-up when they come back. How bitchy.. grrrr~! Maybe I should just use to toilet and don't flush it. Leave it to them. Yeah how about that.

INDIA TRIP : Bangkok - Kolkata

March 18,2006 | Bangkok - Kolkata

I'm pretty sure my travel partner is not reading this post (but if you are, I'm sorry. You have to live with it "You're the worst travel partner I've ever had)

To Deepak, even you told me not to go to Kolkata because it's horrible. I did go there anyway! coz it's the easiest way to go to Sikkim. I was not sure about it either about arriving there in the middle of the night and I had no idea how to get away from the airport!

And I was so smart. My camera went dead since first day in India. Battery was gone. And I forgot to bring plug converter even I was told to bring one. (I thought it would be easy to find in Kolkata! but it took me whole day to find the place where I could buy that)

Entry form. I don't know why on earth they want to know if you're a doctor, lawyer,
sports person.. for?

TG313 : one of indian dudes next to me asked for "whisky no ice" all the time. And
kept telling flight attendant how beautiful she is. You should see her face when
she heard that. It's screaming "Stay away from me!"

We landed Kolkata almost 1 AM..middle of the night. I was looking for Prepaid Taxi Stand which is the safest way (and least hassle) to get away from the airport. We were standing outside arrival hall and I mumbled "Where the hell is prepaid taxi stand"

There was Japanese guy standing around there didn't look like he knew where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. His name is "Kutsu" I found out that it wasn't his first time in Kolkata.

"So do you know which is the best way to go to hotel? where did you get taxi last time?"
"hehe...I don't remember..!" That's why he didn't look like he was sure where he wanted to go.

For only once in this trip that my friend is helpful. The Taxi Stand was just right next to Exchange Counter that we just changed $50 there.

"Why didn't you tell me then? we've been looking for that booth for half an hour" (yeah, sometimes I could be that bitchy)
"Well, I didn't know"

Thanks a lot.

Finally I managed to get a prepaid taxi. Kutsu shared the taxi with us. Taxi driver drove us through the darkness of Kolkata.. It was so dark that he couldn't see the "STOP" sign ahead. (looks like they were doing some construction work) He almost hit that f**king sign. He pulled over his taxi and that was SO CLOSE to it. I heard Kutsu screaming in Japanese.

Toilet at Kolkata Airport. One is "Western" and one is "Indian"

We arrived at YWCA almost 3 AM. Nobody's around. Not even stray dogs. We rang the bell as I was told to do so when I called for booking. After 20 minutes it was an old man in security uniform came to open the door for us. Apparently he doesn't speak much English. But it doesn't matter. We finally got in.

YWCA has big courtyard and the building is charming. Most important, it's away from Sudder Street (Which I found later that it's not very pleasant area to stay.) YWCA is right next to Park Street where you can find very good bookstore, cafe, decent places (but not too expensive) there.

We spent only a few days in Kolkata. After we got our train tickets booked for "New Jalpaiguri"

I find Kolkata is pretty charming city. Ofcourse not that everywhere is nice. It's not super clean place but I like it the way it is. Lot of beautiful old buildings. Watching people playing cricket.. Or just simply sitting next to the river watching people bathing.