Tag Archives: india

The 10 Places I loved visiting (and would love to go back to!)

Carrying on from Sunday’s blog post, here are ten places in the world that I truly loved visiting and, in a heartbeat, would run back to if money, time and common sense were chucked out of the window. I have only been to 35 countries but I have seen a fair few sights which really should be shared with the rest of you. So without a do, here are my top ten places that I have visited and would definitely visit again in a heartbeat:

10) Seychelles.

I know I have a bias towards the Seychelles as it is my mother’s country, but I have to be blunt. I really do love this country. I also love Sri Lanka, my father’s country, but due to its security situation, I really do not want to go back there for pleasure. You see, Seychelles attracts me, not just for family, but for the islands themselves. There are over 100 islands in the archipelago, and I have only seen four of them. And it is not just beaches. Great wildlife, a steamy hot and mountainous interior and wonderful old colonial architecture give the islands one hell of a lot of variety for such a small place. Plus, the culture, a polyglot of the islanders’ ancestery means that this is a fascinating place to see and meet people. Yes, the Seychelles are expensive, they are a pain to get to but it truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

(Last visited 2008)

9) San Francisco.

I love America, and I jump at the opportunity to travel there. The country is so vast, and is naturally blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. America’s cities are also some of the best that humanity has ever built. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are wonderful places that were launched on the backs of their old colonial past. But for me, San Francisco is the place to get to. A wonderful city in probably one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. And it is not too big or small, San Francisco is just that right size where you can explore and relax in equal amounts. A city steeped in history but also at the forefront of modern technology, this really is one of the happiest places on Earth.

(Last visited 1994)

8) Mexico.

All right, I know this is a big one, but Mexico is one hell of a country, and I have to return here one day. From the magnificent ruins of Chichen Itza, to the wonderful beauty is Chiapas and the frenetic capital of Mexico City itself – which I have to point out as one of the best cities I have ever visited!

I saw a hell of a lot of this country, but a visit back is a must for me. I loved my time here, and would happily go back and this time see the north of Mexico as well has head to the coasts for a bit of R&R.

(Last visited 2002)

7) Budapest.

One of three European cities on my list – and surprising, as I have only really begun to explore Europe in the past two years. But Budapest is truly beautiful. Split by the Danube you have the flat and fun Pest on one side of the river and the hilly, snooty but really beautiful Buda on the other bank. One thing, the Danube really shapes this city and its history. I am probably biased to this city, and I have a lot of fond memories of the place, which is also why I do want to hedd back here. But genuinely, memories are not the only thing. Budapest has tons of stuff to see, and has awoken from its communist stupor with vigour. Check it out when you have the chance, you will not regret it! I will certainly be heading back there.

(Last visited 2011)

6) Meghalaya.

The wettest place on Earth may seem like a strange place to recommend, but Meghalaya is truly a cultural gem of this world. Its unique hilltop location on a ridge overlooking the Gangetic plain both isolates and links it to the surrounding country in one fell swoop. Three unique cultures dot the state, and its pristine environment truly makes this one of India’s great surprises. I have never felt do relaxed and refreshed in my life as I have in Meghalaya. Whether it is the excess amounts of water, the wholesome food or the really cool locals, Meghalaya is a place I could visit time and time again.

(Last visited 2009)

5) Yunnan.

One of China’s true gems, Yunnan has it all. Great food, spectacular countryside and a culture that intertwines South East Asia, Mainland China and Tibet all rolled into one easily accessible destination – no small feat for a country as difficult as China. From the border with Burma to the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau there is something for everyone. Dotted with the famed backpacker hangouts of Dali and Lijiang, it is easy to be an independent traveler or to mosey in and relax with the crowd. It is definitely a part of China that I would not hesitate to visit again!

(Last visited 2001)

4) Krakow.

Wow, wow, and wow would be the best three adjectives to describe Krakow.

I know, it is surprising to include this city here, but really, my Poland bias aside, I really have to recommend Krakow and it is a city I would run back to in a heartbeat. To simply put it, there is A LOT to do in Krakow, and Poland’s piss-poor marketing skills means that it is a destination that flies far beneath the radar. Without the crowds you get in other European hotspots (unless it is a stag-do summer), you can feel a little like a pioneer coming here with all the ease of mainstream European travel. There is so much to recommend about Krakow, go on, treat yourself, and take some time out over here.

(Last visited 2011)

3) Xinjiang.

China’s biggest province is arguably it emptiest as well. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of tensions over here, with a separatist movement that is far more bloody than Tibet’s. And it is hard work to travel across here. But it is a culturally fascinating area. Plus it is a desert, now that counts as a huge amount of kudos for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here. It really was the first place that I experienced ‘independent’ travel, far cut-off from family, friends and anyone else, having to survive on my own with my interactions meaning the difference between food or nothing. I also crossed this vast area by foot (took me two months and lost a third of my body weight) which drove me slightly nutty.

Xinjiang is definitely a place with strong emotional ties, but I can also safely say that this is a part of the world that has a hell of a lot to give to the outside visitor. And despite beinfg in China, it is ironically the easiest part of Central Asia to visit, and that is a spectacular region of the world to taste…

(Last visited 2003)

2) Berlin.

Surprised? Well, you really shouldn’t be. Berlin has it all. An all encompassing history, easily accessible tourist spots, all at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking for cool bars, great food or simple fun, Berlin has something for everyone. London and Paris may get all the glitz and glamour. Barcelona and Milan get all the cool kids. But Berlin itself is simply magnificent. There is far too much to see and do that can be simply described in a short paragraph. There is so much I have left to see. I will be back here, and probably sooner rather than later.

(Last visited 2012)

1) Assam.

There really is not an order to this list, and while Assam currently takes the number 1 spot, I would go back to any of these destinations if I had instant access to cash. But the reason I value Assam so highly is multiple. Firstly, it was my first destination in India, and so I will always have an emotional attachment here. Secondly, it is so big, and so the variety is there. Thirdly, it is undiscovered; despite its huge size and obvious attractions, foreign tourists are few and far between, partly as it is so cut off.

But Assam is truly a stellar destination. It is easy to get round, once you get there! It is also really friendly, with a shockingly competent Tourist Office that will go out of its way to give you information. With a wide variation in Geography from lowland plains to mountainous, I just did not have the time to see all there was. There is a magnificent history, one of Asia’s great civilisations nestled here in the fields. Lush forests and wildlife that will make your jaw drop (I saw my first Rhino here!)

I will go back to India again, and while there is so much of the country I have not seen, I will have to make a beeline for Assam.

(Last visited 2009)

So that is my top ten of places I have seen, and ideally, would love to go to again. Any comments, drop them in the box below. And have you been to any of these places? Agree with me and what would be your top ten?

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under fun, places, travel

Wishlist – The Ten Places I would most like to see in my lifetime

For those that know me or regularly check back to this blog, you know that I love to travel. I have been to thirty five countries in my lifetime, which is a fair few in my short time on this Earth. But there is a lot more that I want to see, and so, here is a top ten of places I would really like to see before I die. From the impossible to reach to the high tourist footfall, here are the places that I have not yet visited that I really want to get to sometime in the near future.

10) Prague.

I thought I would start with a simple place. Even though I have been to the Czech Republic, the reality is that I drove through the country in the middle of the night. For me the Czech Republic provided toilet breaks, a small fine for not paying the motorway tolls and lots of crazy driving. I hope to rectify this in the not-too-distant future, and visit what is regarded as one of Europe’s prettiest capitals.

9) Bolivia.

In fact I would like to visit all of South America. I have never stepped foot on this continent and so anywhere on here would be great for me. But for me, Bolivia really stands out due to its combination of natural beauty and spectacular culture. In particular, I would really love to see Salar Uyuni, the largest salt flats on Earth.

8) Ethiopia.

Oldest civilisation on Earth after China, this is one of the world’s great cultural treasure troves. In fact the whole of the Horn of Africa is culturally rich. After all, humanity itself evolved here. Next door Somalia also holds a great allure, but that is not looking like a place I could visit anytime soon.

7) Ooty.

India is going to feature heavily on my list. Officially my new favourite country to visit, I have only been here for a few brief weeks and really only saw the North East. I would really love to see more, and Ooty has the combination of all that is magical. An old steam train puffing up the mountains, stunning scenery and a romantic edge that makes it popular with honeymooners the world over. Out of all the destinations on this list, this is probably the best combination of exotic and ease of travel.

(From Pratheept2000)

6) Tokyo.

What can I say. Cute gadgets, cute food and cute chicks. But behind all the cuteness, Tokyo really is one of the world’s great cities, and out of the ‘Big 4’ Global Cities, Tokyo is the only one I have not visited. It is big, crazy and expensive, but it is still worth a look in. One day…

5) Easter Island.

Well, the remotest place on Earth, one of the real outposts of civilisation with a fascinating Archaeological story. There is so much to learn from Easter Island, and so much tragedy too. The planet in a microcosm, and it shows on one small spot the great achievements of humanity and also the worst ravages of man. Expensive and hard to get to, but this is definitely one of the more likely destinations to reach.

4) Aksai Chin.

Yeah, right. The likelihood of getting here is about as good as me becoming a world class sprinter. At this moment in time, all entry is virtually impossible. But for me, it is the perfect combination of my two favourite types of scenery – desert and mountain. I have always been fascinated by the Himalaya, both from a scenic and cultural point of view. But, out of all the places on my list, I doubt I will see this place in my lifetime.

3) Istanbul.

Out of all the places on this list, Istanbul really should have been one that I should have arrived at sooner, but have so far been thwarted at every turn. I did once have a flight booked here, but, yeah, Easyjet changed the flight days, and so I plumped for the refund. Maybe I should have just jumped, but with my work being impossible to work around, it is one that is on my ‘to-do’ list.

2) Madagascar.

It may have been popularised by the cartoon, but for me, this island in the Indian Ocean really has it all. Exotic wildlife, a spectacular fusion of Polynesian and African culture and a landscape that is simply divine. For me, this destination is more about money and time rather than anything else.

(From Frank Vassen)

1) Arunachal Pradesh.

Again, this is one place I really should have visited sooner than I did. Arunachal Pradesh in India’s far North East is simply divine. Nestled in the slopes of the Himalaya, this is where the mighty Brahmaputra gets its power. All of India’s North East is fascinating, which is why on my two journeys to this great country, I focused my efforts here. Arunachal Pradesh would be the jewel in the crown, and it is just a case of getting round the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it is Indian bureaucracy…grr…

(From Rajkumma1220)

So there you have it. Ten places in the world that I have not yet visited, but would so love to. What do you guys think, and have any of you been to anywhere on this list?

And what would be your wishlist of places to visit? And anything you think I should have included on this list but missed out (and trust me, it was hard to compile). Answers in the comments below!

2 Comments

Filed under Goals, Hopes, places, travel

Blogs I Admire (and will immitate one off) 2 – Indiophiles

It is no secret that I love India. And like Marmite, you either love it and embrace the country for what it is, or you run screaming for the KFC stand at the airport. I have never claimed that as a country it is perfect, nor have I claimed that it is idyllic. But for sheer excitement, there is nowhere else I have visited on this planet that shows the complexity of us as a species as India. It is a country that I visited twice in 2009 (yes, that long ago!) and I want to visit it again as soon as finances and time make it possible.

That may be quite some time. And I only spent a brief while in the North East corner of the country. There is probably no other place on Earth that holds within its borders, a diversity as great as India. Linguistically, culturally, in every way possible, the country is different. Going from one state to another is like entering a different world. There is nothing that is ‘typically Indian’, despite the banner waving of the Desi crowd who shudder every time they step foot into the country. (really, they do – just watch those ‘bad kids’ step off the plane and wilt with fear!)

Anyway, there is a particular blog I admire, and that is in every atom. Everyday, a new blog post is published that shows what is quite clearly a love for India. A multitude of journeys to this country is showcased in photos that not only capture the stunning landscape, but the people who live in this wonderful country. Sometimes the photos are funny, sometimes there is a great deal of sadness in the pictures shown and sometimes it is just a random snap from a passing vehicle. But all the time, there is a story told behind the picture, of the world’s greatest contradiction…

So here is my (very) pale imitation of in every atom’s (a great pic – click on that link!) unique take and perspective on India and the many travels undertaken. I took this while in Kolkata, for me one of the world’s most underrated cities. A traffic cop, chatting on his mobile while the vehicles around him seem to trundle on. To be honest though, I was really taking a snap of his beautiful bike – Royal Enfield Bullet baby!

5 Comments

Filed under asia, fun, india, places, travel

Crossings of the River Rangeet (1)- The Mangitar Bridge

Last month, while I was reminiscing about my second trip to the North East of India, I related a rather jolly stroll that I took, from Darjeeling to the market town of Jorethang. On the way I crossed the River Rangeet, which marks the border between the two states of West Bengal and Sikkim. And so what better way to round up my journeys through India this year, then by ending my rambling words on a tiny little footbridge strung high above the valley of this raging torrent of the Himalaya…

This is one old bridge – 110 years old to be precise. And it is pretty good nick all things considered. This has had to put up with the freezing winters, monsoon rains and the ‘cyclones’ that come up the valley. In fact it was a cyclone that necessitated the construction of this footbridge as the old cane bridge was washed away in a nasty storm.

A little history is needed here. The whole area was once part of the Kingdom of Sikkim, but the British leased some land south of the Rangeet River for the hill station in Darjeeling. Sikkim remained a Princely State, which meant it was de jure independent, but the reality was that the British controlled the affairs of the area. On India’s independence, it retained its autonomy as a Princely State until 1975 when it joined India after a referendum. And so, to cut this down to basics, this bridge was once an international border crossing!

But enough politics and onto the bridge. Now there is no wikipedia entry for me to paraphrase, so I will have to go on my own observations. It is basically a narrow suspension bridge, designed for pedestrians, but I am sure that the odd scooter will roar over this bridge. The flooring is of wooden planks and so you can quite easily see the torrential flow of water below (and I was in the dry season). Unlike other crossing points into Sikkim, there is no one from the Sikkim State Police entering your details into a book and checking for your Inner Line Permit (an easily available piece of paperwork needed by foreigners to enter the state). So it is a whizz for anyone who just wants to take a peek into a life a little less known. Just like I did…

(Getting there and away)

The Mangitar Bridge is a two minute stroll from Mangitar village or a long jeep ride from Darjeeling. Alternatively, you can do a day hike to and from Darjeeling, or if you have an ILP, you can approach the bridge from the Sikkimese side. And take a look below the bridge as well, there is a lot of life on the river banks of the Rangeet. This is a place I must return too…

2 Comments

Filed under asia, india, places, travel

Riding the Jeep…

On arriving at Jorethang, I treated myself to a couple of Samosas and a deep fried boiled egg. Trust me, it tastes better than it sounds, especially when dipped in a bit of chilli soy sauce. But I needed to get back to Darjeeling. And the sun was setting fast, had I missed the last bus. Well, the bus service does not really run in this part of India.

Okay, a little explanation is needed here for anyone who is unfamiliar with Asian travel. This is the world’s most populated land mass. Six in every ten people live on this continent. They need to get around. Of course, buses will ply the major routes, the densely populated areas. But Sikkim, and other ‘sparsely populated areas’ do not have regular bus services, there is no money to be made. Plus the roads are almost impassable. We are not talking about long straight highways, or even metalled surfaces. We are looking at twisting hairpin bends in the Himalaya. So, there is a plethora of options available to supplement (and even surpass) the local bus service in most of Asia. Unregulated, untaxed and infinitely more fun, for those that travel regularly in Asia, hanging onto the back of a moving vehicle is not some unique thrill, but a way of life.

Being India, there was a cartel. Or a ‘taxi driver’s’ association that controlled the route between Jorethang in Sikkim and Darjeeling in West Bengal. Some guy in a booth (in this case, a man with a pony tail) would take your money. This was one of the few times that I pretended I was from India (I can get away with it). I did not feel like getting conned and I was too tired of answering questions about where I was from. So this time I was a native of Cochin, that could speak Tamil, Malayalam and English. I do this in a lot of countries, pretend I am from a neighboring region, just to get better prices or sneak in and out on local transport. We waited, the other passengers and I. Oh, this is another thing to expect with travel (especially road travel) in Asia. A lot of waiting about.

Eventually ‘Humlae’ appeared. That was not his real name but our driver really looked like the character of Humlae from the film Ong Bak (the locals in this part of the world have exotic looks). The best way to describe our driver was easy – he was ‘the dude’. Quite simply, he was one of the coolest people ever. Shaking hands and chatting loudly as he approached our vehicle, everyone knew him, and he knew everyone. He said hello to me, easily seeing that I was a foreigner, and leaped into the driver’s seat, ready to take us back to Darjeeling. Any kids reading this (why?) do not worry about careers or cash, just be the coolest person you can be. And this person was definitely cool.

And we were off. Jolting up and down in the jeep, you must realise that any time spent waiting about is not in vain. It gives the driver a chance to floor it. Of course, ‘flooring it’ means no more than 40km/h on the roads of the Himalaya, and that is at a push. But this was Humlae’s turf, as he greeted the border guards of Sikkim (more on that next month), he knew every bump and pot hole on this road, every twist and turn. Well, most of them. The sun was setting fast and there are no street lights in this part of of the world. You needed a guy like Humlae, you needed a cool person at the wheels.

We passed another checkpoint. It seemed that this part of West Bengal had its own unofficial, private police force. Unlike the Sikkim border guards, Humlae was more coy with these people, more fawning. They let us pass and onward we went. We went through our first village, dropping off a couple of passengers and on meeting another jeep coming towards us, it was Humlae who stormed through! We were the winners, and Humlae had the wheels to prove it as we raced through tea plantations and forest upwards towards Darjeeling.

Dusk was upon us, as Humlae decided to stop the jeep in the next village. he engine (unusually) was kept running as Humlae jumped out of the jeep, cigarette in hand, and took a bag with him. He lifted the bonnet and took his bag into someone’s house. There, Humlae started chatting with the locals, and flirted with all the chicks of the village – hey, who can blame him – they’re cute!

Humlae then came running out of the house with ONE jug of water and poured it into the radiator. Cap closed, he went back into the house and we could hear the lively conversation taking place alongside the illicit consumption of beer. Prohibition, whether enforced by the unofficial police or the real Sikkim border guards is useless. The village became a party zone and Humlae was at the centre of attention. Jovial and in his element, it seemed that everyone (except for the passengers in the jeep) knew his name. But Humlae was only there to kick off the party. He had brought the booze along, stayed for a drink, but he had a job to do! Off to Darjeeling we went!

Into the next village we arrived and Humlae knew everyone there too! As a jeep driver approached in the opposite direction, Humlae engaged him in some witty banter that put a smile on his face. Smiles abounded and we were off. And then we stopped! An old woman leapt out in front of us! Screeching to a halt, the old woman ran over to the driver’s window and gave Humlae a letter. He was not just a transporter of goods and people but also the local postman! Whatever task you needed to get done, Humlae would do it. They chatted for a bit, Humlae as always, respectful to his elders before he floored it. And agan we stopped! A few more needed to squeeze in. We were probably the last jeep of the night, and obligingly, Humlae let them one, and we squeezed together, Humlae himself giving up his driving space to accommodate the extra passengers. Humlae was no mere taxi driver, he really was the dude, a pillar of the local community.

Kids, remember this, be cool, just like Humlae. Never have I seen a man more content in life, than our driver. It may have been the beer, but he was happily driving along. And his love was infectious. Whenever he passed someone by, he would stop and chat with them, putting a smile on their face too, before driving off. Forget about those crooked bankers, or idiots in suits that seem to be proliferating in this world. It is people like Humlae who keep the world going round. He may not have much, just the jeep and his wits, but he knew love, he knew how to spread it, and even though we were running well late, no one seemed to care. Hey man, this is India! Enjoy it, this type of thing won’t be around forever…

And so, Humlae continued. By now it was pitch black outside. The bends were sharper as we climbed up towards Darjeeling. Vehicles were coming the other way, the road got rougher (a legacy of the monsoon) and Humlae concentrated on the journey ahead. But alas, we got stuck. We grounded ourselves on one of the bends. Now, travel in Asia, is not always smooth. It’s the terrain, its pretty rough. And so we all jumped out, and all the men helped push the vehicle back onto the road surface. That was about ten minutes of revving and muscle, but at least I got to stretch the legs. Then we were on the way. Back through Lebong, the road that I had taken earlier that day looking familiar in the dark as we screamed towards Darjeeling.

And finally we arrived, in the lower part of town, where all the markets and stalls were located. Dusty from a full day’s hike, where I got to see a world few other outsiders get to glimpse at, I stumbled out of the jeep. I wished Humlae good bye, and he warmly shook my hand. I do not know who he is, what is his history or personal life. But he was a cool guy. He was the dude! Like many other journeys that I have taken on this magnificent continent, he provided me with memories that were far more special than the destination itself. And you know what kids, spread the love. Be like Humlae. You may not be as wealthy as you had hoped, but you will be a lot happier. And that happiness is infectious!

Leave a comment

Filed under asia, india, life, places, tomfoolery, travel

India 2 – A look back

Twice in a year, what a lucky guy I am and again to North East India. What a place to go, just go! Anyone (if there is anyone) who reads these posts must now realise how much I love India. Admittedly, I have only seen a tiny part of the country but what a country to visit! And the North East, what an undiscovered gem!

To be honest, most people (my own family included on their Indian trips) do not know much about the North East. Its isolation due to the geographical (wet and mountainous) and geopolitical (Bangladesh) reality means that it is a pain to get in and out of the region. So why bother when you can stick with the beautiful sights of the Golden Triangle, head south to Goa or take in the sights of eclectic Mumbai. And these are all great things to do, and activities that I will do one day. But for now, I am still captivated by the wonders of the North East.

Few Indians realise the beauty of this corner of their land and even fewer foreigners venture to this part of the world. Apart from the above mentioned difficulties, it is also a land that unfortunately that has had its fair share of internal turmoil. But move past these problems and you will see a magical land, untouched by the ravages of modern society. Traditions prevail here in the North East, proud traditions that have given the area far more advantages than the rest of India. Literacy in the North East is higher than the national average. Education and multilingualism is evident when traveling in North East India. Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram do not have the problems with female infanticide that plagues the rest of India. Again this translates into more egalitarian roles for women. Unlike the rest of India, women are running businesses and controlling the wealth. Its location as well, at the crossroads of the North Indian, Tibetan and South East Asian worlds have given this area a fascinating backdrop and its people a richness in their culture that is unsurpassed in much of my travels. This is real fusion country, having a unique identity that is its own.

North East India, is not an easy place to travel round. Like the rest of the country, it is plagued by incompetence from upon high, and this area especially so as it is ‘in the corner’. But it is a rewarding place to visit, it is a stunning part of the world to experience. I feel very blessed that I have been able to travel around the North East of India so freely and openly, one of the advantages to travel as a whole round this country. Wandering like I did in the countryside of Sikkim or chatting with the locals in Meghalaya would not be possible across the border in nearby China, the police would swarm around you in a few minutes. And I am also very lucky to have picked the North East of India as the first part of the country to visit. I do not know what the future holds, whether or not I shall return to India. But if my path leads to the North East, don’t worry, I will be there in a flash.

And just in case, you have not realised from these posts, I love India. It is a tough country to visit, but man, is it a great place to visit. Everyone in their life, if they can do it, must see this land at least once before they die. You will not regret it!

3 Comments

Filed under asia, india, places, travel

India 2 – A walk through Sikkim…

(Continued from yesterday).

Refueled with Noodles, and with a spring in my spirit (a.k.a. stomach), I took my first steps on the road to Jorethang, the big ‘market town’ for this part of Southern Sikkim. Some 7km away, this would be only an hour or so by foot. Interestingly, this was the first time that the locals were unsurprised by the fact that I was prepared to walk it. Most parts of the world, people look at you strangely and even laugh that you are prepared to walk more than ten minutes. Here in Sikkim however, the walk to Jorethang was considered a ‘short walk’. People after my own heart, they also had the same mentality a me. Why bother spending your cash on a four wheeled monstrosity when you can enjoy the scenery, keep fit and save that cash for some funky food at the other end. While walking from Majitar to Jorethang, I passed by people who were walking back from market and a few locals overtaking me on their walk to Jorethang (impressive for them, as I am a six footer, and my strides are a lot loner than theirs).

My path was a fairly easy one. The road to Jorethang was well paved and more importantly, followed the course of the River Rangeet upstream, meaning that it would be hard to get lost on the way to Jorethang village. As a true child of the Himalaya, the Rangeet had carved an impressive valley for me to walk through. Hard rocks, the foothills of the mountains to the north surrounded me as I meandered my way through South Sikkim. The river however, was always a raging torrent, although the valley it had carved was huge. I can only imagine what it would be like after the srping thaw or during the impressive monsoon season in this part of India.

The river is a hive of industry now that the monsoon is over. The rough pebbles in the bed of the river were being exploited by the local building industry, while the sand banks left behind by the meandering watercourse are utilised as paddy fields bringing rice to the local populace. And nets were cast throughout the watercourse, catching the many fish that populate this part of the river. The Himalaya gives a lot to the local land. Its fertility is a gift to India, and this part of Sikkim is one of the first places to receive its bounty. But it is also a harsh land. I was traveling in this area through the benign post-monsoon season. But during the rains, it would become almost impassable. Landslides are common, and the river itself is a dangerous child of the mountain, sweeping all away in front if it when the rains leave it full.

But life goes on. In amongst the landscape, the many trees and plants that sheltered my way during this sunny walk through South Sikkim, were signs of civilisation. This is one of the least crowded parts of India, but all through business takes place, people are living their lives and despite the many hardships and Blessings of the land, people are just that. People. Eating, going to work, loving, arguing, laughing and crying on their journey through life. One thing you learn very quickly in your travels, whether it is to the local shops or halfway around the world is how similar we all are. It is that rather than the differences which is the biggest eye-opener. And so I arrived in Jorethang, another bustling town on my wanders through life. A cross roads of sorts, nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya.

What a walk! Started in touristic Darjeeling, I quickly left behind all sense of backpackers and travelers and was truly by myself amongst the tea plantations of West Bengal. Crossing the River Rangeet, I made my first, tentative footsteps into Sikkim, a name synonymous with intrigue and mystery. Finally I made my way into ‘Real Sikkim’, and got to saw life first hand, without the help of a TV screen or a hastily written guidebook. I do not know when I will return to the North East of India, hell, I do not know when I will next come to India. But it is a land that I have truly fallen in love with. A beautiful country, filled with intrigue to satisfy even me, the most curious of all people. And if my path takes me to this country again, I hope to revisit this magical place, nestled in the shadow of the Himalaya.

My walk complete I managed to grab a space on a jeep heading towards Darjeeling from the ‘local cartel’. But that of course, is another story…

Leave a comment

Filed under asia, india, places, travel