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Curves and swerves that test one’s nerves!

West Bengal Travel Blog

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Our driver.

We choose to visit the Indian state of Sikkim for a couple reasons: 1) moderate temperatures…it’s broiling hot elsewhere in India, and I read the average high in this area for this time of year is 73 deg F, which sounds downright chilly after SE Asia. 2) the Himalayas! We are excited to see a completely new landscape and do a little mountain trekking.

 

The closest airport to our Sikkim destinations (Pelling and Gangtok) is Bagdogra Airport, in the state of West Bengal. We landed, then collected our bags quickly this time and were met by a name sign-wielding man. (I am always so relieved when that works out. And it always does.) We commented that the temperature felt cooler.

Buying water en route.
.. and it was 32 (about 90 degrees F)! I never thought I would say that 90 degrees felt …pleasant.  Compared to Bangkok, it felt like springtime.

 

We had a pretty crazy drive to Kalimpong. Although it was only 80km, it took over two hours on a winding, upwardly climbing, narrow, busy road. Our driver was pretty good… he drove as fast as possible, and did some crazy-but-controlled passing moves, always slipping to the side just in time. I was impressed. And a little motion sick too.

 

Along the way we passed very interesting villages, their inhabitants conducting commerce of all sorts. Everything was open to the road. I saw men making furniture and sewing clothes.

The road to Kalimpong.
Women wore brightly colored dress. Cows just roamed at will. I would have taken more photos, but we just sped by it all so fast.

 

We arrived at out hotel, The Silver Oaks, and first impressions were very promising. It is set on a hill amidst nicely landscaped grounds. The reception area is straight out of the Victorian era. Lots of fussy furniture groupings, old wood floors and reception desk… no modernity to be found anywhere. Our room can be described similarly. After the initial delight at the quaintness of it all, we were left with a scruffy (dirty, actually) room with a doll-sized furniture… and -- horrors -- no Internet. This hotel was described by the tour booking agent as “Kalimpong’s only 4-star luxury resort” but in reality they would be hard pressed to muster even two stars here. (Maybe they are on a special Indian rating system that goes from 1 to 10?!)  Still, we are both bemused rather than annoyed, because it really is a novel experience to be at a place so stuck in the past.

View from our room at the Silver Oaks in Kalimpong.
When else will we get to experience time travel?

 

Soon after we arrived it started to pour, I mean POUR. The eaves are very wide, so we were able to leave the windows open and just enjoy the sound and a cool breeze. We hung out in the room waiting for dinner. Steve napped. I wandered the hotel, which appears to be fully occupied by Indian families on holiday. It was like a really big house, as everyone kept their room doors open. Children played games in the lobby. 

 

Dinner was in a grand old room, served buffet style. The tablecloths were remarkable filthy. Every dish but one was vegetarian. It’s fun to be in such vegetarian-friendly surroundings, but I had Indian food on the plane and I am already sick of it. Everything is cooked to death in lots of oil, and completely obscured by spice. It’s tasty, but it’s the kind of food I could happily eat twice a year and not miss the other 363 days.

 

We were both so tired after dinner. I am leery about the bedspreads which probably haven’t been washed this century, but the sheets are kind of clean. Tomorrow we have a full day if sightseeing in Kalimpong then a long drive to Pelling (in the state of Sikkim). Who knows what awaits us there?! Hopefully some snow covered peaks -- the Himalayas!

stabber911 says:
Maybe it is their way to conserve the Victoria era? :)
Posted on: Jun 04, 2008
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Our driver.
Our driver.
Buying water en route.
Buying water en route.
The road to Kalimpong.
The road to Kalimpong.
View from our room at the Silver O…
View from our room at the Silver …
Tiny sofa in our room at the Silve…
Tiny sofa in our room at the Silv…
Food vendor on the road to Kalimpo…
Food vendor on the road to Kalimp…
Bagdogra airport.
Bagdogra airport.
Our room at the Silver Oaks in Kal…
Our room at the Silver Oaks in Ka…
Steve sets up.
Steve sets up.
View from our room after the rain …
View from our room after the rain…
We have every modern convenience, …
We have every modern convenience,…
Dining room at the Silver Oaks.
Dining room at the Silver Oaks.