India. I forgot how amazing this mercurial land can be. There are parts up here in the North East that are definitely NOT for the faint hearted and also warm, human connections that happen every time you turn around. The peoples English is the best I’ve come across on the sub-continent, that makes communication easier.
Varun has decided that we need to walk as exercise and so I follow along in his fit, firm and fabulous wake sweating like a farm hand and puffing like bellows. It must look very comical to the average Indian.
Scent Diary: 11.9 – 17.9.2017
Monday morning. Slept like a baby for 7 hours straight. That is such a rare occurrence that I wanted you to know. WOW! It feels wonderful. Talk about revitalising.
The sun has come out in Shillong and the air is bright and crisp with promise of adventure. I’m currently enjoying my first lazy coffee of the day and Varun is having his Bucket Bath.
I found a couple of extra frags in my emergency section of the suitcase so today I’m wearing Oliver & Co Vaninger. Its warm spicy lactonic vanilla is very reminiscent of masala chai and Yuvrag will later comment how beautiful I smell.
Our destination today is the Natural Double Root Bridge. We have an extra passenger because our driver Yuvrag brought his cousin Shurag to help with driving. The misty mountains were beautiful.
On arrival we then had to walk about 500m down into the bush to get to the root bridge and falls. It was well worth the walk, as we reached the area the sun came out and bathed us in its warmth. Yuvraj said he’d only once seen it in sunlight before, normally it’s draped in clouds anmd drizzling.
The way back up was not nearly so easy. The sun made everything hot and humid. Still, we took it relatively slowly and ate the pre-cut pineapple prepared by the locals at the halfway point.
We got back in the car and cloud once more closed in.
We didn’t get home till well after 10pm and we were all bushed. Bedtime.
5am wake up. Out the door and off to the airport to our next destination Sikkim, an Indian state set between Nepal and Bhutan on either side and China above. We drove from the airport straight up into the Himalayas. I needed to get a permit which was quickly and easily arranged at the border at no charge. I did need a passport photo, photocopy of my passport and my Indian Visa stamp. The gent was charming and helpful and we were duly driven yet higher towards Gantok.
The capital Gantok is a multi hilltop town and we are in one of the highest areas, just below the main tourist shopping boulevard M G Marg. The state university is here and so while not being a university town there are a large percentage of youth around. It’s got an excellent welcoming atmosphere.
There are few tourists here at this time because there has been some insurgency so basically the area is at war with internal guerrillas and Varun thinks that China may be trying to reclaim the area too.
As we climbed in the car this view took me by complete surprise, it was shot as the vehicle was moving.
The beginnings of Gantok at the bottom of our mountain.
View from our room is epic. You can see the village atop the next peak. We are hopefully going there to a temple for sunrise prayers Thuesday.
Lazy day. Well I say lazy day but Varun had me up at sparrows fart walking down the mountain and back up in the drizzle before breakfast. Bastard. It was lovely to be out & about though.
Did the undies and sock wash & had a bucket bath. I freaking love them and prefer it over a shower.
Later we walked up the mountain to drop off some laundry. Then onwards to MG Marg and I did a little souvenir shopping. As we reached the street the sun broke through the clouds and it was surprisingly warm. We also went down through the Lal Bazaar and that was a fun way to see the people of the town shopping and having haircuts. I also bought some Darjeeling, Assam and Sikkim tea as gifts.
Suddenly we were cloudy again and a cool, persistent rain fell so we took refuge in The Coffee Shop. It was lovely and we read magazines, chatted on the phone to Jin and Neela Vermeire and looked out over the nearest buildings as the clouds billowed and flowed around us. It was so peaceful and happy.
Mona di Orio Myrrh Cassati accompanied us today. It is a perfect fit for this holiday.
Varun had us up so early that we were ready to leave by 7am. Then, oh joy oh bliss, we walked up and down vertical mountains for over two kilometres till we got to the Chortan Temple. The stupa looks especially lovely in Varun’s blurry pic.
I walked the Prayer Wheel circuit praying for some of my besties. Strangely calming when you wish good things for people you love.
These small cup lights had all been bought this morning to honour a recent decease. The female monks were in charge here lighting and praying. Beautiful.
They were kind enough to offer me a large candle for my Mum. These candles are prayers that help people reach Nirvana. If anyone deserves it, then my Mum does.
Then Varun, bastard supreme, suggested we walk back. ASSHOLE! So we did in the warm sunshine and I was most uncomfortable by the time we reached the hotel. Dripping wet and only able to breathe in ragged, desperate gasps.
I complain but really it was lovely, just a bit overly energetic.
Breakfast was really yum. I know, it looks disgusting but it is so freaking delicious. Aloo Mutter, spicy Sambal, Yoghurt and Puri. MMMMM. Washed down with sweet milky coffee.
We went up to MG Marg later and then the heavens opened. It was belting down for a little while. Great gouts of water splashing all over the pavements. MONSOON in Gantok. Actually, they are saying that this part of India has had a very soft monsoon and that we were very lucky.
Super yummy Chinese. Quite different to the Aussie and Chinese versions. How good are those two story dragons?
Every day I try to have at least one Garlic Naan. It was Kath’s favourite and we called her the Naan Devi while she was here in 2012. I send her daily pics.
Wandering back to the hotel (a 1500m descent at an alarming angle with cars whizzing by inches away and 100m drops at your elbow with no railing) in the cool drizzle we HAD to stop at the Tara Palace and see what all the fuss was about.
Well, it is indeed worth the raves. From the back verandah where we had coffee the view was breathtaking. A constantly changing mountain and cloud show over the rice paris and farms of the hill villagers all the way down to the river in the valley. Magic!
Tonight we stayed in the hotel, read, chatted, listened to some music and I wrote some postcards. Very chill evening. Now I’m for bed.
Slept like dead people. Woke up to sunshine streaming in the windows. Miss Dior parfum. Off to breakfast.
Walked to the top of the drive, no mean feat as it’s 100m upwards, as we get there a cab appears and we ask how much to do our days adventures. 1500 rupees. There are 50 rupees in an Australian dollar. Basically this kid has offered to drive us around all day for AUD$30, and he has jacked the price up by a third so we can haggle him to the 1000 he expects to get. I smile and say fine. He has already saved us 2000 extra rupees the hotel was going to put on top to call and have him come to the front door.
So you know, we took him to lunch with us and had him sit with us to eat. Drivers in India sit outside in the car and wait. Then after a gruelling day of about 7 hours taking us to temples and the zoo I paid him 2,100 rupees (what I had) and he was so sweet. First he reminded me how much he had quoted, then he got really emotional and happy. 7 hours for AUD$42. It’s heartbreaking. When will the world become a more level playing field? Sometimes the injustice gets to me.
The temple, monastery and university is the first refugee temple in the world. The Tibetan buddhists had to flee Tibet before China stole their country. India gave them this site first and another in McLeod Gang.
This is the university. Monks must study for 13 years then do six years of service.
We grabbed a thali for lunch at a roadside hole in the wall.
Then off to the ZOO! We saw this incredible leopard. They are so much bigger than I expected and we were about 5 feet from him. He was lovely.
Then we went to the Ganesha Temple where the priests prayed for us and gave us tikas & wristcords.
Off to the Tara Palace for chai. This is the view from the balcony. It’s one of the more expensive hotels in Gangtok but it looks worth every rupee to us, inside and out. Very swish.
Here is Benjamin, our nighttime driver and will be driving us tomorrow. HOW CUTE?
Good morning Gangtok. It’s our last morning in the Himalayas and I’m feeling a bit glum about leaving. This week has been a perfect idyll, really relaxed and seeing so much. The people up here are some of the most welcoming I’ve met anywhere.
Driving, flying, arriving, eating, sleeping.
Did spritz original Burberry Women on my way through Delhi Duty Free. Smells so otherworldly here in India. That seems to make it even more interesting. Also I really noticed a peony note in it that sprang out. Mix that with some sweetness and almonds and voila, smells good.
Morning. I’m lazy. Slept in, awake of my own accord, got up and did some computer stuff. I will have a shower in a minute, or 10. Hopefully a bucket bath.
Breakfast of champions and the view from the Matsya Aravli room where I’m staying.
Went and visited Varun’s Mummy and Pappa. Always great to see them. His niece was home sick from uni and we took her shopping with us. So much fun buying new saris and ordering the tailor to make them into coats for me. Mine are starting to fall apart.
Then home for a nap.
What all have you been up to?
Tell me in the comments please, I love to know.