“Sabse bura log Dilli ka aata hai (The worst people we receive are from Delhi)”, my cabbie remarked.
I couldn’t help but laugh at his candid and innocent ways.
“Aap Dilli ka hai madam (Are you from Delhi?)”
Well, you can say that I am from Delhi.
Whether we go to Ladakh, Kanyakumari or Sikkim, the tour operators continue to complain about the loud & aggressive creatures that are found in Delhi, a certain version of Homo sapiens. Unless it’s a debate with people from Bombay, I don’t defend Delhites. And how can I? Wherever we go, we find better people than the ones that are found in Delhi (I am not an exception either :)).
Since I began taking travel seriously (which was November 2015), I have been worried about only one thing when it comes to travel – leave from work. Everything else has always been easier until I began planning for North East India. People say that you go to Vaishnodevi when maa/ the goddess wants to call you. My experience tells me that you go to Northeast India only when the Northeast calls for you. And when it does, you must pack your bags, find someone to water your plants in your absence & catch your flight no matter what.
I caught mine & within a couple of hours, I landed at the Pakyong airport that’s quite similar to our parks like the Lodhi Garden in Delhi. But hey, who’s comparing?! You land, you deboard the plan & you walk towards the airport. Yeah, yeah. It’s that compact! As I collected my luggage & stepped outside the airport, I expected the cabbies to run towards me & other passengers. But nobody came. They all just stood near their cabs, fashionably dressed. Later I realised that this was a prepaid taxi stand. You stand in the queue, pay the fare upfront & find the next available taxi to take you to your destination. +1 to Sikkim!
We reached Gangtok in a couple of hours. It’s been a beautiful, scenic ride like I expected. After a disappointing lunch at the Dragon Wok on the MG road, we found our hotel & checked in. By the way, what’s with the stairs?! I had to carry my luggage as I climbed some 100 stairs (that felt like 1000) to reach my hotel. In the whole of Sikkim, wherever I visited, I found a staircase.
Why? They might tell you it’s because the place is situated at an altitude. But let me tell you the real reason. It’s because the Northeast first tests you if you are fit enough to experience the high at this altitude, in these mountains. I wasn’t the fittest but I must have passed muster because Sikkim welcomed me with open arms & took me in for the next seven days!
What’s so special about Sikkim?
Well, a few things:
- People are supremely fashionable – I don’t know how they do it. Their fashion sense was so chic & so cool. Every second person was dressed absolutely amazingly well. Men, women, kids, oldies – everyone!
- People got no f***s to give – They won’t sell you unnecessary stuff. They won’t push you for longer itineraries. They will tell you as much as you need. Nothing more! Probably less.
- The place has got culture, attitude & a vibe – Forget Bombay, Sikkim has got a cool vibe. In so many places, we saw people singing songs, playing instruments, engaging in Karoke & dancing on the street. And in style! Their dress, their food & the way they lead their lives- everything seemed fascinating to my Delhi-marinated eyes.
- Sikkim speaks good English & good Hindi – I don’t know who produces these rumours that Kashmir is always burning or you can’t find chapatis in southern India or people down south are rude or they don’t know how to speak Hindi in North east. Because I have found all of these to be baseless especially the last one. All the people I met in Sikkim were quite well spoken. They switched to Hindi, English & local dialects with the ease with which my boss gives me feedback. 😉 Kidding!
- They do only love marriages – My cabbie told me that they don’t do arranged marriages in Northeast. He asked me if we have the concept of – Love Marriage – in Delhi. Needless to say, I was surprised at his question. And he was shocked at my answer. They do only love marriages in Sikkim. Because they are cool! Also because they think it’s totally a lo**r attitude to settle for an arranged match. Not my words, it’s my cabbie who said that. I personally think that arranged marriages are quite cool.
- Eve teasing! What’s that? It’s one of the safest places – It’s not as if I was expecting this. But I have grown up in Ghaziabad & been in NCR all my growing up years. And no matter how much, people from Delhi, Gurgaon & Ghaziabad continue to shift the blame on each other, the fact remains. It’s not safe in the whole of North India. The crime against women is quite high in the whole of North. Unless you were born and brought up in Bombay, all girls grow up to be aware of their surroundings. I am too! I look around to check signs of danger. But in Sikkim, no matter how much I looked, I couldn’t find anything. Folks (boys & girls) were drinking, dancing & playing instruments at so many places. And when you look at them, all you feel is a sense of happiness.
- You can find vegetarian food, and it tastes delicious too – Yeah, I am not kidding. It’s a different thing that by the end of my trip, I was dying to see & eat a round, wheat chapati. That aside, the food was generally good. I didn’t feel disadvantaged in anyway even though I am a pure vegetarian. There were a few incidents here & there: someone served me chicken momos even though I declared that I am a vegetarian. Maybe I looked like someone who could eat a chicken. Someone else almost shoved an omlette down my throat. But other than that, I loved the vegetarian food all throughout. By the way, I didn’t touch the chicken momos or the omlette (in case my dad is reading this).
On the second day, we started for Lachung and visited Yumthang Valley & Zero point the day after. We had originally planned for Peiling but ended up in Dzongu valley which turned out to be more amazing. Thank god for that. Because on a good day, we could spot Kanchenjunga peaks from our home stay in Dzongu. After Dzongu, we stayed in Latpnchar for a couple of days & caught our flight back home from Bagdogra. As I landed & walked towards the baggage section, I spotted Costa, Sephora & Hamleys and I can’t tell you how happy I got.
If this trip has taught me something, it is that I can never apply minimalism in life. I just talk about it. But I get happy at spotting Starbucks, Costa, Hamleys & Sephora. The next time you catch me talking about minimalism, please remind me of the fact that after seven days in mountains, a mere sighting of Costa made me happy. And not just the regular happy, sparkle-in-the-eyes & jump-in-the-step kind of happy!
And why would I not be? Had it not been for the Yak milk tea, I don’t think I could have survived the high altitude & the low temperatures of the Zero point in Lachung. Caffeine never disappoints!
What happened at the Zero point? Read all about that in the next blog post!
Till then, stay healthy, stay in touch of your friends & family, and enjoy good food!