Curves and swerves that test oneâ€™s nerves!
West Bengal Travel Blog› entry 89 of 251 › view all entries
We choose to visit the Indian state of Sikkim for a couple reasons: 1) moderate temperaturesâ€¦itâ€™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
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.
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 goodâ€¦ 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.
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 deskâ€¦ 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 furnitureâ€¦ and -- horrors -- no Internet. This hotel was described by the tour booking agent as â€śKalimpongâ€™s only 4-star luxury resortâ€ť 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.
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. Itâ€™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. Itâ€™s tasty, but itâ€™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 havenâ€™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