Break From the Law travel blog

Statute photographed today while en route to Kalimpong.

The Holumba Haven in Kalimpong is a great place to relax with...

Holumba Haven had many nice walkways through its gardens.

Volleyball net in outdoor recreation area at Holumba Haven.

View from our front porch at Holumba Haven.

Walkway leading up to reception office at Holumba Haven.

Holumba Haven has many nice walkways through its gardens.

The owner's dog at Holumba Haven wanders around the premises.

Our room at Holumba Haven lies is visible to the left here.

Today we left Yuksom at 6:30 a.m. for Jorathang, a popular transit hub in Sikkim, in a shared jeep taxi with about 8 other passengers - local residents, two Canadians and a Czech. We arrived in Jorathang at around 9:15 a.m., and quickly bought tickets for another jeep taxi to Kalimpong, across the state border in West Bengal. The transfer proceeded so smoothly that I barely had time to wolf down the vegetable momos I had purchased from a food stand behind the ticket office before we left in the jeep taxi for Kalimpong.

The entire drive through Sikkim was a scenic one, with steppe agriculture, scenic villages and picturesque valleys. Sikkim is a really picturesque place generally, a clean and pleasant destination which has not been defoliated by mass tourism - not yet anyway. The locals are friendly and helpful, the prices very reasonable and the various sights interesting. It is the kind of low key tourism which many travelers yearn for when selecting destinations, and I would recommend it as a trekking and cultural destination unequivocally, subject to visiting during the right time of year weather-wise.

As we arrived at the border between Sikkim and the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, Vikki and I, as the only non-Indians in our jeep, had to hop out of the jeep and walk over to the office of the border control and have our passports stamped that we were leaving Sikkim. It is very odd to get stamped by an individual region within a country in the passport itself, and I now have a total of four Sikkim stamps in my passport. The border itself has some formalities of a national border, including a machine gun toting soldier standing behind a pile of sandbags in front of the Buddhist gate marking the entry into Sikkim. Given Sikkim’s somewhat special status within India, I imagine the Sikkimese authorities are keen to maintain at least some trappings of sovereignty vis-à-vis the Indian national government, if for nothing more than to keep India’s generous financial subsidies flowing.

After crossing the river forming the border between Sikkim and West Bengal, we continued to drive along the river until the turnoff. Almost immediately I noticed that the character of the area had a somewhat slightly more Indianesque feel to it than in Sikkim. I again saw more typical Indian faces, more saris and the general feel that one was back somewhere in India. We reached the turnoff for Kalimpong near Testa Bazaar, a small village which is a local white water rafting center for the area, and proceeded to climb along the road for 14 kilometers until we came to what appeared to be Kalimpong’s center, where we halted. From here we quickly found a taxi to take us to the hotel we had selected from our guidebooks, Holumba Haven. Our arrival time: 12:15 p.m.

Fortunately the Holumba Haven, which consists largely of cottages and several outdoor gardens with tables, chairs and even hammocks and is actually nestled within a plant nursery on a hillside, had a room available for us. The atmosphere at the hotel is so inviting that one is tempted to simply to lounge about the hotel’s grounds for the day. And as it turns out, we did exactly just that. After settling in, we spent much of this afternoon planning out our activities for the next couple of days, with the assistance of the Holumba Haven’s very helpful owner. We capped off the day with dinner at the hotel of Tandoori chicken. After several weeks in Sikkim eating virtually no “Indian” food - but rather, Sikkimese cuisine - , I found myself sweating from the spicy ingredients.

Given that there is quite a bit to do in the vicinity between Kalimpong and Jaigon, the Indian border town where we need to be early in the morning on May 23 when we will enter Bhutan, I expect the next few days to be quite filled with activity.

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