Gangtok Travel Blog› entry 6 of 15 › view all entries
Well, I was up with the lark, but still the mountains were hiding. I said goodbye to Andy's guesthouse, and Genesis and Matilda - surely the sweetest and kindest of hosts. Throwing on my backpack I headed for the jeep stand - and got there far too early. As luck would have it though, a family of five rolled up looking for a jeep to Gangtok, so I was bunged on with them and so got an early start. Even better, the jeep was reasonably new AND had decent tread on the tyres (always good when you're about to be negotiating perilous mountain roads). AND the driver was refreshingly free of the deathwish that my previous drivers have demonstrated.
So we were a happy little band. The driver put Indian pop on his stereo, and the kids of the family sang along as we travelled along the most scenic of roads.
So arriving in Gangtok, I walked into town to arrange yet another permit - this time to visit the Tsomgo lake tomorrow. Then I hired a taxi to take me to Gangtok's (very widely spread out) attractions. And very tame they were. It was almost embarrassing. Each time the driver stopped somewhere, ( a deeply unimpressive fountain, a traditional crafts museum, a monastery which seemed to be under construction..etc) after five minutes I was done. In the end, I was worried that I was offending him by clearly not appreciating the hot spots of his town. So after visiting the 'flower exhibition' (basically a greenhouse) I sat on a bench and drafted this - just to pass a decent amount of time. Just as he had said we would go back to the hotel, he suddenly remembered another monastery to take me to. I despaired. The last one had been awful. I was muttering under my breath as I left the car - furious that I was having to humour him. But...
Thank goodness I did. If there's any picture I wish I could have taken, any video I'd love to have had...this was the occasion. I could hear music coming from inside. I peeped around the curtain, and was waved in by an elderly monk. The hall of this monastery was the most wonderful, and most ornate I've seen - and I've seen a few. But best of all, ten young monks - between the ages of 12 to early twenties, were alternately chanting, and playing instruments the like of which I've never seen - including a couple of six foot long wooden horns. It was stunning, and I was the only person there. The elderly monk whispered explanations of what was going on, and it was just wonderful. I stayed for ages, made a donation and left feeling great. The taxi driver was forgiven. I asked him the name of the monastery. He didn't know. It's obviously not an important one - but wonderful.
Wandered into town later to find some food - only to hear shrieks of joy and "Sarah, Sarah!" It was my young friends from the jeep. They were ridiculously excited, and couldn't stop talking, vying with each other for their moment to ask or tell me something. They were so lovely. I seem to have an invitation to their home in Kolkata when I go back at the end of the holiday. But as their parents don't know, I'd best not take it up.
Ooh - I nearly forgot. Prashant won. I bet you've all been desperate to know that.