A tour in North-East of India

This is not the kind of blog which gives you a guide-like description. This blog is just about my experience. I enjoyed this trip a lot. I just want to share my feelings on the Internet. I don’t know what this blog will turn out to be; a traveling blog or a sarcasm post. Because this tour always took a funny turn.

And every time we used to tell ourselves, ‘Feel no pressure, bro.’ I live in Bangladesh. Most of our land is basically plain. Big-small rivers, sea, forest and small hills are quite common here. But what I miss is the high-altitude experience. Luckily, that’s not that far away from my home.

But I have to step into another country, which is India. And three of my juniors started planning for Sandakphu in the Darjeeling district and Sikkim. It was a 7-day tour. Our budget was less than 250 USD. We were expecting a lot of fun. There were disagreements from the first.

They didn’t want to trek sandakphu, but it was my dream to trek sandakphu. I tried to explain to them a lot of things like trekking is good for health, completing trekking is an achievement and so many other things. But they didn’t listen to me.

North India

They listened to their heart. And I was sure that their heart was giving them bad suggestions. Our first destination was Siliguri. Siliguri was near the ‘Banglabandha’ border. But my visa was issued at the ‘Changrabandha’ border. Actually, when my visa was in processing, I got confused between those two bandha.

That was the first backdrop I faced. My tourmates were clever enough to issue their visa at Bangabandhu. They mocked me, laughed at me and I had no option but to listen to them quietly. The good part was that one can reach Siliguri from Changrabandha in two hours. Then we started our journey differently.

And on the way, I lost my phone. Luckily, I had a relative on the border. He gave me a phone and an Indian sim. It was a lifesaver. But that phone had issues. It had both network and connectivity issues. I wasn’t sure if I could contact them after crossing the border. I can still remember the fight between me and my phone at Siliguri junction.

Whatever, I was successful in contacting them. They again mocked me for losing my phone. I have to say, this kind of mocking can sometimes get painful. (In front of Siliguri Junction. I am the one with the Real Madrid jersey, the selfie-taker is tS, the other guy with spectacles is Jyoti and the bearded guy is sS) Our next destination was Manebhanjan.

We took a 10 seater shared taxi. The driver and the conductors were Nepali Gorkha. This shared taxi was like a local bus. People were taking a 5-minute ride in that taxi. It was unusual because most of the shared taxis go straight to Darjeeling. They don’t do this kind of stuff.

But this was a bad day. Why should the ride go smooth? After we reached Darjeeling, the driver had started to try to pick passengers for Manebhanjan. But he couldn’t find any. He was depressed. And we started for Manebhanjan. Then after 30 minutes, he suddenly demanded 200 rupees more.

We argued that this 200 rupee was not in our negotiation. Then what he told was spine chilling. He was like, “ Agar Hamara gussa agaya, hum kissiko bhi jungle me fek sakte hai (If I get angry, I can throw anyone into the jungle)”. He stopped the car.

I looked outside. It was cold, dark, silent and foxes were looking at us from the roadside jungle. Then I looked at the driver and the conductor. They were short but very muscular. I realized they have the ability to throw us into the jungle. I looked at the juniors and hinted that we should do whatever they said.

After being successful in that so-called ‘extortion’, the driver was behaving like he was our long-lost brother. He was like, “ I will get you there and I won’t leave until I can manage you a hotel”. And I was like, “ F…. you man”. That Driver But he kept his promise, at least at this time. We stayed in a small homestay because we were on a budget.

The owner was nice and cordial. The night should have ended without any more hazards. But there was one. We went out to buy some booze. But Manebhanjan is basically a small town at 6325 feet altitude. So nothing was open at that point in time. In this confusion, someone sold us a bottle of honey drink.

While drinking it, one of my juniors said, “Bro, I ain’t getting tipsy”. I said, “ Feel like you are getting tipsy”. The next day we went to hire a car to go to Sandakphu top. We had to go through some registration processes. There we met some trekking guides. Those guides started to market the awesome trekking experience to us.

They were able to influence my mates. Now they want to trek all of a sudden. I felt sudden respect towards those guides. What I couldn’t do in one month, they did it in thirty minutes. I knew I would have to work on my marketing strategy back home. We started our trek.

The first two kilometers were very stiff. And also we were not used to this altitude. So, we were getting exhausted. I am a patient with asthma. So, my level of exhaustion was much higher than theirs. But after the first two kilometers, it wasn’t that stiff. I got a walking stick after that phase.

Suddenly everything was feeling like a cakewalk. But one of my mates started to feel bad slowly. At the end of the day, he was really bad. This bad feeling stayed with him throughout the journey. We later realized that it was actually high altitude sickness. Anyway, we reached Meghma at noon.

After relaxing there, we started Tumbling. We reached there after an hour. Jyoti (the one with altitude sickness) was pretty exhausted. We met some British guys. We had a drinking night. But Jyoti couldn’t join us. Every Time when we asked to join, he was like, “ I don’t feel very well”. We had two Shuvo in our group.

I will call them tS and sS (tall shuvo and short shuvo). Suddenly tS started shouting that his money bag had been stolen. I asked him who the thief can be. He replied that one of the British can be. He was drunk and damn serious about it.

He was actually on his way to their hotel. I tried to explain that the British guys looked rich. They shouldn’t steal something. Then tS started to give me lectures on ‘British Colonialism’ and so on. I was lucky that his money bag was found in the middle of his lecture.

Otherwise, he would have started to lecture on ‘ Evolution of Mankind’. On the way to Tumbling. There was fog all around us, so there weren’t a lot of photos tS accused this guy of theft We saw epic mountain views in different Sandakphu vlogs on Youtube. But there were always fogs around us.

The views were not that great. Later we found that monsoon times are mostly foggy. We chose the wrong time to travel actually. But morning time is the time when the Sun is the brightest. So, we were told to wake up at 6 am. We woke up and it was a heaven-like experience. We are plain land dwellers.

Seeing those mountains at this close range was an uncommon feeling to me. I have to say, this was the best day of our trip. And then, it was all about photo shooting. After 7 am, the weather again started to get foggy. We were preparing for trekking. Then Jyoti declared that he couldn’t trek anymore.

It was disappointing for us. But really he was not in shape to trek. So our guide arranged a car. It was a two hours journey then. We got into the car and it started moving. But we have to remember that trekking is the most fun experience one can have in the mountains. And we got a taste of it.

So me, tS, sS were sitting in the car with a sorry face. Then we decided to trek the last two kilometers. Trekking is always fun. We enjoyed those moments. Morning at Tumbling There was a glimpse of Kanchenjunga in the background, but the camera was not powerful enough to capture that The car made Jyoti happy and us poor.

Our trek guide is standing beside us There are good hotels at Sandakphu top, but they are costly. We wanted something cheap to stay. So our guide took us to Phalut. He knew of a homestay there. The owner was a very good guy. He is just a simple villager with a big smile. We had a chat with him.

He told us about his hard life in the mountains. He died recently in the middle of covid lockdown. May his soul rest in peace! We woke up again at 6 am the next morning. The morning in Tumbling made us believe that we could see the ‘Lying Buddha’ (five mountaintops make a figure like someone is lying) figure.

It was sunny, but not enough to make the ‘Lying Buddha’ visible. We were disappointed again. We all agreed that we should come up here again in fall or spring, not in the monsoon season. Some shots during our short trek to sandakphu Our car was waiting for us at the Sandakphu top.

We went to Manebhanjan. We kept our heavy things in the Manebhanjan homestay. We took that and started for Darjeeling. Our next destination was Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. It was our time to say goodbye to the state of West Bengal and step into the state of Sikkim. I will talk about Sikkim in the later part. Until then, adios amigos.

Sikkim used to be a princely state under the ‘Union of India’. This northeast state of India lost its protectorate status in 1975 and became the 22nd state. It has borders with China and Bhutan and is very close to ‘Siliguri Corridor. Due to its uncommon history and strategic geographical position, Sikkim was partially closed for Bangladeshis.

But it’s open now with a lot of paperwork. This paperwork is very exhausting. You are traveling with 15 pages of photocopies and a lot of photos and I am telling you, it’s not exciting. We took a shared cab. Some Sikkimese locals also got into the cab. Before getting into the cab, we told the driver to stop at the Rangpo check post.

We did our paperwork, got our 15 days to stay permission, and started for Gangtok. Unfortunately, it was election time for Sikkim. Because of some political VIPs, there was a long traffic jam. It wasted around three hours of our time. When we reached Gangtok, it was 9 pm and there was heavy rainfall. One of the passengers helped us to find a hotel.

Otherwise, it would have been disastrous. But still, that hotel was not en route to the cab. It left us somewhere in the city. We were standing in front of some bank under a roof. The rain was at its highest rhythm. We didn’t know what to do. We were worried, but somehow we also felt excited. Because this is what you call traveling.

However you plan, these unscripted things will keep falling in front of you. You will have to manage those things, you will have to trust someone you never knew before. There will be some moments where people will break your trust. But there will be a lot of moments where your belief in mankind will get strong.

I try to remember those moments and forget that past. We managed to grab a cab. That hotel was a little hard to find but we got there. They served us hot food. I can’t remember what the food was, but it was delicious and we were hungry. We ate and slept. We were talking about last night.

We were sleeping in a hut where Mount Everest could look at us. But we did change our place. We planned for something more in Sikkim. We decided to stay in Gangtok for one day. We had plans for North Sikkim, so our duty was to find a travel agency the next day. When we woke up in the morning, it was still raining.

We were not sure if we could go out. At 8 am the rain stopped. We decided to take our breakfast outside. We went to M.G. Marg which is the main tourist point of Sikkim. We had our breakfast and started to find a travel agency. This finding part was full of torture. We had a fault in our planning.

We thought, as monsoon time is not good for mountain view, there will be fewer people. But it was just the opposite. Sikkim was full of tourists. Everything’s price was just too high for us. So, why should the travel agency lag behind? They were also charging high. And foreigners can’t ride in a shared car.

We will have to hire an 8 seater jeep for the four of us. We could have hired something four-seater, but the cost was the same. We went to a lot of agencies, but no one could give us a package which we could afford. We saw that if we give the money which they are demanding, we will have to go back by begging (money transfer from Bangladesh to India is not an easy task).

Then we were planning on setting aside the North Sikkim trip. Then an idea struck into my mind. There was a ‘Tourist Information Center’ established by the Sikkim State Government. I read in some blogs that this thing is just good for nothing. But there is a little chance that every foreigner here read those blogs.

Meanwhile, we decided to take some foreigners into our group. That’s the way we can fulfill their requirements and lessen our share. So we stood in front of the tourist information center and tracked those foreigners who were looking for transport for North Sikkim. Luckily we got one Australian Couple.

Now the amount would divide into six people. We could afford this trip easily then. This couple ( Michael and Claudia) made everyone astonished throughout our trip. Everywhere people were asking how we had managed them. We replied nothing. We just put a swag look on our faces.

Some shots at M.G. Marg We then booked our car, had lunch, and watched a film together. Then they left and we started walking a bit with a fresh mind. Nighttime in Gangtok is very charming. I went to Darjeeling once. Darjeeling is a populous town with a shabby look. The views are great, but you will feel the shortage of water everywhere.

It’s because every hill station has a shortage of water. Water is a thing of plain land, not mountains unless you are close to a river source. That’s the thing that makes Gangtok cleaner. The source of ‘Teesta’ is in Sikkim and it flows valiantly through Gangtok. Also, the people of Sikkim are cautious about cleanliness.

That’s a good thing as stupid tourists tend to soil every place they go. I will come to Gangtok again whenever I get a chance. We went to our hotel and slept. The next day we checked out and went to the jeep station. Michael and Claudia were waiting for us.

We waited for a bit and then got into the car. We started for Lachung. We saw a lot of fountains on the road. And the mountain views were spectacular. I could spend all day watching those views. The trip was going well but suddenly there was rain. It was not that much, but enough to soak our bags on the top.

When we reached the hotel, we were at war with our clothes. But there was nothing much to do in this kind of cold weather. We just unpacked the clothes and had a long chat with Mike and Claudia. The night went well (there were intoxicating materials).

Our next destination was Zero Point and Yumthang valley. Snow falls throughout the year at zero point. It was our first experience of snow. We played there like a 10-year-old child. Then we went to Yumthang valley. It was good. I don’t know why, but Claudia seemed angry at that time.

Mike was trying to tell her something, god knows what he was telling. We, the singles, started feeling nature again. And nature was far better than arguing. Mike and Claudia joined us. The selfie shooter is our North Sikkim driver, Mingma Took a stop at a waterfall. Can’t remember the name. There were lots of it Teesta dam and Teesta river.

The difference between artificial and natural Zero Point. I went crazy after seeing snow We went to our hotel and got into our jeep. Our next destination was Lachen. Lachung was a small village, on the other hand, Lachen was a small town. After reaching the, I went outside for a walk.

When I came back, my mates were arguing with themselves. I again went out for a walk and found Mike. Mike was asking why they were upset. I replied the same reason Claudia was upset with you. He laughed at my reply. He is a jolly guy, a likable person. He is a good company to have. Yumthang Valley Then I came back to our room.

Their argument stopped. They were laughing then. Things were getting cooler, but suddenly news came from Bangladesh and it made me angry. Then I was shouting, getting drinks. It made the environment nasty again. Mike and Claudia came into our room. The situation was awkward for them, I made it awkward for them.

That night didn’t go well. Our bad patch continued till the next morning. There were two spots in Lachen; Chopta valley and Gurudongmar valley. Gurudongmar valley is prohibited for foreigners. I understood the reason when we went outside Lachen. It was a cantonment-like area.

There were Army personnel, Army trucks, and a lot of other things. Actually, gurudongmar valley is close to the indo-Tibetan border. The rising tension between India and China made this foreigner rule, probably. We stopped at someplace to have our breakfast. I was standing on the roadside.

Suddenly I noticed every tourist car’s passengers were giving me a salute. I took it as a good gesture and saluted them back. But something wasn’t right. Salute is not a tourist gesture. They say hi, wish good luck or give a ‘V sign. But this wasn’t happening. Then I looked at myself. I was wearing camouflage-colored trousers and my jacket was of khaki color.

I understood that they were thinking of me as an Army personnel. I had quickly got into our car before any real Army started giving me a salute. Whatever, we were stopped after some time. Though there was no restriction on going to chop valley, an Army man stopped us and forced us to go back. We had no other options but to turn back.

The moment when that Army man forced us to go back, our tour just ended then. It was our time to go back. We didn’t waste much time. We went to our hotel, packed our bags, and moved. We took a detour to Singtam rather than Gangtok. Siliguri was close to singtam. The journey of Mike and Claudia stretched a bit, but they did it for our sake.

We said bye to them at Singham, they invited us to come to Australia, we invited them to come to Bangladesh. Mike and Claudia were good people. We had a nice trip with them. On the way to SIngtam. Enjoyed this waterfall after a sudden roadblock Goodbye time with Mike, Claudia, and Mingma We went to Rangpo from Singtam and hired a cab to Siliguri.

This cab driver was an old man and a rash driver. A combination of these two things can be breathtaking. He gave us a roller coaster ride for free. None should have this kind of experience. But he was able to reach Siliguri before 8 pm. It gave us ample time to find a hotel. It took us time to find a hotel but we found it.

After getting into the room, we slept like dead men. The night ended, we woke up. Jyoti, tS, sS made their way to Bangabandhu. My destination was changrabandha. After bidding them goodbye, I went to the Hongkong market to buy some fancy things for my family. Then I rode a bus to go to Changrabandha.

Endgame On the way, there were rivers, paddy fields, and all other plain land things. Suddenly, I felt that there is beauty in plain land. I just couldn’t feel it before as I grew in it. After spending some days in the mountains, the beauty of plain land came to me like fresh air. You may call it homesickness, but I call it rediscovering my home.

I was not still at home, but nature was quite the same. I should have felt sorry, but I was still enjoying my homecoming. The immigration process at the Changrabandha border was easy. There was some paperwork and I was good to go. The tour ended officially.

It wasn’t my first tour and it won’t be my last. But I would like to give a long tour, probably a bike tour. I spent most of my time in the car, that’s not so enjoyable. I may have to wait for this kind of tour, but I will wait for that. Until then, adios amigos.

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