Bala sitting on a bench near a waterfall on his Sikkim-Darjeeling trip

Balasubramanian Manikandan talks about his 10 day trip to the northeast and elaborates on his trek to Sandakphu, and visits to Darjeeling and Gangtok. His package from Travel Triangle included sightseeing, trek stays, guide, and private cabs all for a total cost of INR 20,617. He describes his experience in the heavenly states of Sikkim and West Bengal.

I live to travel. Nature, Lifestyle, and Wildlife are three foundations that make up my wandering experience and this was exactly the aim when I took up northeast India this year.

The adventurous trek to Sandakphu and the trip to Gangtok and Darjeeling were decided after an in-depth discussion with the local agent that was connected to me via Travel Triangle, an online travel portal that connects you to local agents of the place you’re visiting for a truly authentic experience.

Waterfall in the forests of West Bengal

Thus after choosing the best quote and itinerary from them, I was all set for the mountains.

Day 1: From Bagdogra Airport to Maneybhanjang

Balasubramanian in the backdrop of the Darjeeling Hills

I landed in Bagdogra from Bangalore and took the private cab that was included in the package for me.

On my way to Maneybhanjang, I observed that locals usually counted distance in minutes rather than kilometers, something which I understood when I witnessed the climbing roads. The scenery on the way refreshed my senses and it was lovely to witness the colorful houses, tea estates and most importantly, the beautiful weather.

I stopped at Kurseong for tea and snacks and noticed that a lot of locals were excited about the ongoing football match between Darjeeling and Siliguri. Later near Maneybhanjang, we stopped at a Jaubari (Jau = wheat, bari = farm) which was also a homestay. I experienced amazing hospitality and food here and the sticky rice with dal that they gave me for dinner was really good.

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Day 2: The Trek to Sandakphu – Depart for Tonglu/Tumling

A view of the Himalayas from Sandakphu

Next day, the host introduced me to my guide for the trek (again part of the package) – Sanghi, an expert of the area who also worked as an engine repairman to make ends meet. Apart from this, the guide also had immense knowledge about botany and the local culture. Happy and impressed by this glorious bio, we began our trek on a positive note.

After continuing our journey for a while, we stopped at Meghma, a place near the army base on the Indian Nepal Border. This border also had the oldest monastery in Nepal, but unfortunately, it was locked that day.

Houses and buildings enroute Bagdogra West Bengal

After reaching Tonglu (3000 meters), I wandered for a while and it was here that I met a Ph.D. student who was studying the local economy of the place. She informed me about how the locals found it difficult to survive and how they were forced to sell their products for less than 5 percent of the market price. She also talked about the ingenious methods like rainwater harvesting and solar energy that the locals used for going on in their daily activities.

Day 3: Depart for Kalapokhri (6-7 hrs trek)

A view of the Kanchenjunga range while trekking

Next day in the morning, I woke up to the glorious view of the whole Kanchenjunga range and the ranges that made the sleeping Buddha pose. ( Kumbhakarna – head, Kanchenjunga – body, and the Mt. Pandim – the feet) Later we reached Tumling, where I could again see the border between India and Nepal and now as were trekking on and off between the two countries, the sense of adventure was really at its peak. Trekking in Nepal also required me to show my passport and ID card to the officials. I reached Kalapokhri with a severe headache and was treated by a local natural medicine that worked like a balm.

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Day 4: Depart for Sandakphu (4-5 hrs trek)

A view of the Himalayas from Kala Pokhri

The next day, we reached Sandakphu at around 2 pm and it was quite foggy. I could view the Kanchenjunga range and the sleeping Buddha pose more clearly now since I was quite near this time, but my guide increased the suspense by asking me to wait till the morning. This time, I shared a room with 6-7 people from Bangladesh and I spoke to them about travel at length. I realised that this was the part that excited me the most during my travel. It allowed me to make friends and get in touch with people from other parts of the world.

Day 5: Depart for Rimbick (7-8 hrs trek)

View of hills in West Bengal

Next morning as soon as I woke up, I rushed to the viewpoint that my guide has told me about and to my utter surprise, I could see the Mt. Everest now. I had never expected to see the highest peak in the world and witnessing it all of a sudden was a wonderful surprise. My journey now seemed even more satisfying and this unexpected kind gesture from God will forever be cherished.

The whole panoramic view of the Himalayan range had a trance like effect on me and was nothing short of spectacular.

Happy and content for having fulfilled my wish, we began our downward trek of 24 km to Rimbick. There weren’t any roads this time but only dense forests. We reached Rimbick in time and I retired for the night.

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Day 6: Darjeeling

Sunset in Tumling

The next morning, after bidding farewell to my wonderful guide, I started for Darjeeling and reached there by noon.

I had booked my resort in Darjeeling privately and it was called the Summit and had very European ambience to it. The Ropeway was a delightful experience and I could see the tea gardens and mountains on one side and the Darjeeling city on the other. Later in the bazaar, one bakery that caught my attention was Glenary’s, which had some mouthwatering cakes, pastries, and puffs. I also visited Nathumalls and bought black tea for friends and family.
Finally after exiting the bazaar, I reached the Japanese Temple also known as the Peace Pagoda which had an amazing view of the valley.

Day 7: Exploring Darjeeling

Balasubramanian posing in the backdrop of Darjeeling Hills

Next day, I visited the Tiger Hills where I witnessed an awesome sunrise followed by the Ghoom Monastery and the Batasia Loop. I also covered the Rock Garden on my own and it was a nice experience. Then I came back to Darjeeling and boarded the cab to Gangtok. I visited MG Marg and was happy to be back in the usual bustles of the marketplace. I actually found it to be a cool place to hang out.

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Day 8: Gangtok

Balasubramanian posing in a Sikkimese dress

I went for a visit to the Jhakri falls in the morning where I saw a guy renting traditional Sikkimese dresses. I wore the dress and got a lot of pictures clicked.

Also, on my way to the Ranka Monastery, I opted for an activity combo and it was quite enjoyable. The activities included zip lock, rock rappelling, rock climbing, Mowgli walk, zig-zag walk, and Burma bridge.

The Ranka Monastery was huge and I saw a lot of disciples learning the art and culture of their religion. It was a colorful place and a soothing experience. It was then time for the Rumtek Monastery, which is the biggest one in Gangtok, but, unfortunately, there was an annual meet and festival happening there so I couldn’t witness the marvels of the place.

Day 9: Witnessing nature in its purest form

Balasubramanian on a Yak near Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim

I went to the Nathu la Pass next day and my car ride to this place was awesome among the other things that I saw. I also visited the Tsomgo lake near the army base and its view in the background of mountains and mist was mind blowing.

There was a Baba Mandir dedicated to Sepoy Harbhajan Singh, and a beautiful replica of the Shiva idol of Rishikesh too. I also enjoyed a Yak ride and the overall experience of the place was interesting and fun.

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Day 10: Going back

The road to Siliguri

This was the last day, and I took a cab to the railway station Siliguri in the morning. I then took a train to Kolkata from where I finally boarded my flight to Bangalore.

I had always wanted to explore new places, know about the culture of its people and find out about their lifestyle. This trek and trip gave me all of this and more. My encounter with nature in its raw form led to self-exploration and discovery and in the end, I am glad I took this trip.

Farmers working in the mountains

High Points – The trek to Sandakphu, jaubari, Mt. Everest, Darjeeling, Japanese Temple, my guide – Sanghi, Rumtek Monastery, Tsomgo Lake, Nathu La Pass, Baba Mandir, Tiger Hill

Low Points – Lack of ATM’s. The Handloom is boring.

Tip to future travelers – Visit this place if you want to know people and culture or have a longing for the unexplored. With adventure lurking around in every corner, you will love the nature and the sense of fulfillment that it gives.

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Looking for an authentic feel of the northeast? Plan your holiday by taking down some holiday ideas from Manikandan’s travel story and enjoy a time like never before at this place.

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Category: Hill Station, Memories & Experiences, North East, Travel Story, Travelogues

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