I wrote about the nature and adventure part of my “Culture, Nature, Adventure” travel series of Gangtok trip here. Now after a long delay, I am back to write on the culture part of the trip (and nature of course, the positives of being in a place like Gangtok). A major reason I had always wanted to go to the North East was that somehow this part of my country seemed a little remote and different. Don’t get me wrong. India is a diverse country. You meet different cultures, languages, clothes and food every few kilometers in this country. But having been born and brought up in Delhi, I had a fair idea of the northern part. And having worked for two and a half years in Hyderabad, I kind of knew about the southern half. My work brought me to Ranchi where I have been for over an year and I can claim to know a little bit about East. West – Gujarat, Rajasthan etc. seem familiar through either tourist visits or through friends from those regions. But North East had remained an enigma, so far. And thus when I got a chance to spend the day in Gangtok, wear local clothes, eat local food and experience local culture, I lapped it up.
After our adventurous day at Tsongo lake, we decided to spend the evening leisurely walking in the local market – the MG Marg. The place was clean and nice. There were flowers and water fountains through out the way, a number of shops, eat out joints and what not. Everyone in the streets looked fashionable. We roamed about, shopped and ate to our hearts’ content. It was 14 Feb and shops were decorated for Valentines day. After enjoying ourselves till about 10 PM we headed back to our hotel.
The next day started with planning which points of the available tour could we cover in the limited time that we had. Here is a guide map of Gangtok should you want to do the same exercise.
As you can see (if it is not clear in this image, you can download and zoom, the image quality is clear enough to see all the labels and read the name of the places), there were a lot of places to go. We started at about 830 AM from our hotel and the first stop was Gangtok waterfalls. There was an option to cross over the water through a rope bridge but it wasn’t open so early in the morning. So, we hardly stopped there and moved to the next point on our itinerary – Enchey Monastery. It was serene, beautiful and calm. The doors were the most attractive part to me – due to their grandeur.
We clicked a few photographs, trying very hard not to disturb the people studying there. It was fascinating to know that such an educational system is thriving in the country. Then we went to the Tashi view point – the place from where you can see the third highest mountain peak in the world – Kangchenjunga. Alas, it was raining that day and we were not able to see the peak, but we did enjoy the sight and shopped for a few souvenirs there.
Soon we were headed to the place we were all super excited to see the most – the Himalayan Zoological Park. This place boasted of moon bears, blue sheep, common and spotted leopard, snow leopards, Civets, Red Panda, wolves and some beautiful birds . We paid for our entry ticket, parked our vehicle near the cafeteria and started on foot. It had started drizzling by then and we were beginning to worry that the animals won’t come out in the open because of the cold. However, we managed to spot all except the wolves (and the sheep didn’t look blue, but that’s just me 🙂 )
The first one to greet us in the zoo was the moon bear. It gets its name from the crescent moon shaped white mark on its neck. It was a baby bear and was literally posing for us, standing on its hind legs. Then we moved forward and saw the spotted leopard enjoying his lunch. It was a wonderful sight. We were afraid and yet we were not. We knew he couldn’t attack us and yet the fact that we were somehow disturbing him during his lunch was scary. And then I though that I might get annoyed if people stared at me while I was trying to have my lunch. Having thought so, we moved forward and saw these lovely civets.
The one on the left ( a Himalayan Civet) was sleeping when we reached him, heaving up and down with every breath. The one on the right (the Indian Civet) had a companion too. They seemed to be lazing around, trying to beat the cold that bit more with the rainfall. From there we saw an arrow pointing to the Snow Leopard area. We waited a long time for him to come forth but he didn’t. And then somehow, we started moving in another direction and lo, there he was, pacing like a nervous man, eleven steps in either direction. He was definitely scary and we were glad of the enclosure keeping us away from him.
Upon encountering this beast, we kept moving on the path we had just discovered. It seemed like a trail and I wanted to go a long way up on it but we realized soon that we would probably get lost that way. Also, there were a lot more places to visit. So, clicking a few pictures there made us happy and then we moved forward.
We still hadn’t seen the cute Red Panda we were so eager to meet yet. So we went forward and kept looking. Meanwhile there was a wolf enclosure (And hey, by the way, wolves apparently have a social hierarchical structure, cool, right. Now The Jungle Book makes a lot more sense suddenly! 😀 ) but we couldn’t spot any. And then, we saw, a red panda, sleeping. He had a lot of food around. (I guess we reached the zoo at the time when all the inhabitants were being fed, or else, maybe they were all foodie like me 🙂 ). So, we (shamefully we admit), disturbed the Panda so we could see its cute face once. He looked at us just once, but when it did, Oh boy! It was totally worth the time and effort we spent trying to locate it. We couldn’t capture it on camera, but to assuage ourselves, clicked a photo of the guide post near its enclosure. And then mesmerized by the drizzling in the forest, walking through the winding road, we came back to where our vehicle was parked. There was another part of the zoological park there that we had completely forgotten. The bird enclosures. And I would let their pictures tell you how beautiful and majestic those creatures were.
Doesn’t that colorful bird just makes you want to look at it? And this white and black one was an attention seeker, kept coming to us while we were looking at it. Looking at the peacock made me mentally agree with whosoever chose our national bird. It is magnificent.
Anyways, after this brilliant tour of the zoo, we ate at the cafeteria (more on the food in a separate post). Right outside the zoological park, at a close distance was “Ganesh Tok” or Ganesh Temple. Outside the temple there were a number of hawkers selling souvenirs, but the attraction was people renting out traditional dresses for worship. We were all game to try those on, and this is what we looked like –
We were told that we were behaving as childishly as we look in these pictures. The next stop was Ridge Valley and Flower show, but we were already running late on our schedule so we skipped that and went straight to Do-Drul Chorten. It was a splendid place to meditate and worship. Right outside this was the museum of Tibetology but we had to skip that too due to time constraint. The ropeway which we were hoping to enjoy was closed for sometime for maintenance and wasn’t available during our visit.
All in all, it was a fun day and left us asking for more. But we wrapped up by about 330 PM to catch our cab back to New JalPaiguri from where we had to catch a train back to home.
More about the food and experience coming up in the next post!