Saturday, November 29, 2014

India - Darjeeling and Sikkim: Part 4

In Pelling (Sikkim), we had the luxury of staying in an awesome resort. I think this would have cost an arm and a leg in a developed country (i.e. out of my budget). Which is why, I have decided that from now on, I shall only visit developing countries (apart from the awesome scenery, fresh air and food). 
This is the view from our resort - the Chumbi mountain resort and spa. We didn't go to the spa (which has awesome reviews on trip advisor) since we were too busy trying to sleep early to catch the next days sunrise, and maximise our last few days in India. 

This is Pinky again! Visited her a few times during our stay in Sikkim cos we went to Hotel Garuda for tea and lunch.
Free carwash at all the numerous waterfalls. The roads are really bumpy and dusty, so most people take the opportunity to wash their car at the waterfall.
The Singshore bridge, which is a suspension bridge about 200m in length. It's the second highest suspension bridge in Asia, and the bridge sways when vehicles cross it.
Lots of rice terraces in the valley.
Wild cucumber, plucked off a tree.
We didn't believe that it was cucumber at first, until our guide took a bite out of it. I didn't try it but according to those people who tried (and one person tried it AFTER it was washed with bottled water, true city dweller style), it was tastier than our usual cucumber.
Squash growing on a tree. There's lots of edible stuff growing everywhere if you know where to look (I don't).
We visited the Rabdentse ruins, which used to be the ancient capital of Sikkim, until the Nepalese army. There's really nice views from the ruins.
After visiting the ruins, we walked around a small village. This is their charcoal stove in the kitchen.
We bought half a pumpkin from one of the villagers.
It looks pretty unripe and wasn't orange like the usual pumpkins that I know of, but it really tastes good and tastes even sweeter than the normal pumpkin.
Little kitten at one of the houses.
Lots of pickled vegetables.
Freshly plucked walnuts
Cracking walnuts - it's hard work cos the shell is really hard! I wonder how they manage to crack and peel the walnuts whole
Freshly cracked walnut. The flesh is actually slightly wet and very tasty, not like the dried ones that we get from the supermarket (btw I buy Nature Wonder Walnuts and it is definitely not half as tasty). Had a difficulty time trying to get the nut out initially, but things improved when I managed to get a fork to dig out every morsel of the precious walnut.

After all the holidays, I'm feeling all cooped up like a factory chicken. I wanna be a free range ...

Links to my Sikkim and Darjeeling trip:
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 3
Part 5

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

India - Darjeeling and Sikkim: Part 3

The next day, we visited Yuksom in Sikkim, and went to Norbugang.
There are 4 stone seats beneath an ancient pine tree. This was the coronation throne of Sikkim's first King in 1641.

The garden which surrounds this place is really peaceful.
We visited a nearby village - see how they're drying the corn for the winder just under the roof.
The block of wood at the bottom right corner of the house is actually a beehive, and the villagers can collect honey from the hive.
Dropped by an orphanage - the kids were having lunch of buttered rice, and they are impressively well behaved.
They took turns washing their plates and cutlery at the tap outside the kitchen.
Spotted NYJC's adopted orphanage - brightly decorated walls for the children staying there.
We also visited Khecheopalri Lake, which is a sacred lake. Its supposed to have wish fulfilling powers - hopefully it does so that all my wishes (that I wished there) will come true!
The locals believe that no leaf which falls into the lake will remain there. The day we went to the lake, it was drizzling so we weren't able to see the mountain range behind.
Met a friendly but very hungry cat there.
The next day, we got up bright and early and dragged everyone to watch the sunrise (again). Sadly, it was way too cloudy and we could barely see the sun peeping out from behind the clouds.

After unsuccessfully trying to watch the sunrise, we went for a short walk up to the Sanga Choeling Monastery.
It's a rather steep climb up a rocky road, I wonder how the locals do it (especially the elderly people, but I suppose that they are much hardier than Singaporeans).  The views from the Monastery are spectacular. Can you imagine waking up to the Kachenjanga mountain range every morning and breathing ultra fresh air. I might be able to live to a hundred.
We were very fortunate to visit the monastery during a festival, and they had invited 2000+ villagers for a meal at the monastery.
This is their outdoor kitchen, where there were many people helping with the food preparation. 
Here, they are making something similar to mantous, with spring onion and parsley. 
They were very friendly and we got to try making the mantous and the momos, which is actually quite technically difficult (my momos were all deformed and looked like an ugly caterpillar). 

Found a butterfly on the ground - it was probably quite cold in the morning and it was rather sluggish, but finally managed to fly away after resting for a while.
Stupas in the monastery. 
We also ate some of their local snacks - I really like the flower snack right in front - it's available in Singapore but I'm not sure what it's called.

You can read more about my trip here.
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 4
Part 5

Monday, November 24, 2014

India - Darjeeling and Sikkim: Part 2

After spending 2 days in Darjeeling, we drove to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
Along the way, we saw a peaceful student protest. I think it was for free education or something. The local police were directing the traffic and not trying to arrest everyone.
We visited the Buddha Park, which was built in commemoration of the 2550th Birth Anniversary of the Gautama Buddha. It was quite cloudy that day, if not we would have been able to see the spectacular mountain ranges behind the Buddha statue.
We dropped by a small village farm en route to Gangtok - these are cardamon plants. 
The scenery along the way - lots of plants and hills and clean, fresh air.
We stayed in the Chumbi Mountain Spa retreat for 2 nights. Chumbi has a spectacular view of the scenery. The next day, we got up at 5am to see the sunrise (at 530am) at the Helipad near our hotel.
We tried doing some jump shots with the mountain range behind us. These 3 Indian tourists also wanted to follow us. Many jumps later, they finally managed to get a good shot.
We dropped by Hotel Garuda for breakfast - they had a small display of traditional Sikkimese clothing.
The magnificent Kangchenjanga waterfall, which had many many tourists. It involves hopping over some rocks  and climbing up quite a few steps.
We spotted a herd of domestic yaks coming down from the mountain. Yaks have lots of insects and flies on them.
Dropped by a small village school which has 5 classes and 3 teachers. The lessons are all conducted in English. The kids are ultra well behaved.
Pinky, the resident dog at Hotel Garuda. She's being photobombed by a cat. She has to be the cutest dog ever! Her legs are incredibly stubby and she's very well fed, and has a really good temperament.

You can read more about my trip here.
Part 1
Part 4
Part 5