Friday, 23 February 2018

A Trip to Manali - Vashisht Temple & Club House

After visiting Hidimba Temple, Van Vihar and the Museum on Himachal culture, now was the turn for Vashisht Temple, another place of historical and mythological importance.

Vashisht Temple

Our next destination was Vashisht temple, which was in a small village named Vashisht in Old Manali, around 2.5 km from Mall road of Manali. The wooden temple is believed to be around 4000 years old and is dedicated to Sage Vashisht, one of the seven Hindu sages, who is also renowned as teacher (Aacharya) of Lord Rama. 

The temple is also famous for hot springs, which are believed to be curative in nature. There are separate arrangements of bathing for men and women. There is a story behind the emergence of hot springs, which says that when Lord Lakshman came to know that the old sage had to take long strolls to take bath, he shot an arrow in the ground and that's how hot springs emerged. 

The place attracts a lot of visitors especially foreign nationals due to old world charm of the tiny village and off-course the hot springs. We had to leave our vehicle around half kilometer back and then had to walk up to the temple. There are many shops near the temple, from where you can buy handicraft items.

                                                       Vashisht Temple                                           image courtesy

Club House, Manali

Manali Club House was our next spot, which is located just 2 km from the mall road. It is one of the major tourist attractions of Manali and popular among kids and adult alike. Club House is basically an amusement zone, which has both indoor and outdoor game facilities. Tourists can enjoy indoor games like carom, billiards, skating & table-tennis. However the best part is outdoor games on Manalsu river, a branch of Beas river. Adventurous souls can try their hands at Zip- lining, i.e. crossing the river using ropeway. One can also enjoy rope jumping over the river, which gives thrilling experience, especially when you come in contact with the ice cold water flowing beneath. Observing these activities just sitting on a rock beside river flowing with full might fighting all obstacles in it's path is also a wonderful experience in itself.

Outdoor Sports at Club House Manali

Manalsu River

The club house managed by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) also has an in-house restaurant offering delightful snacks and beverages, and there are few shops too, where you can get your hands on woolen cloths and local handicraft items.

Club House, Manali

We spent some time at Club House unwinding ourselves and purchased some traditional wall-hangings made of jute and then proceeded to a Tibetan Monastry which was recommended by our driver. The Monastry is a popular Buddhist religious centre in the region, which was built by Tibetan refugees during Sixties. Though the monastry is not very big in size, but it's vibrant yellow color coupled with it's exquisite surroundings makes a grand spectacle. There is a huge statue of Lord Buddha inside the monastry and number of murals on the wall depicting philosophies of Lord Buddha.

Tibetan Monastry

After visiting major tourist spots around Manali, we thought of spending an evening at Mall Road, which is the main commercial hub of the city. As we reached there, the street was already bustling with huge crowd and the atmosphere was electric. Though the pedestrian-only zone of the road is smaller than iconic mall road of Shimla and M G Marg of Gangtok, still it is worth spending some time taking a stroll at the mall road and trying some Tibetan cuisine. The road also houses Tourism Office, a range of hotels, taxi and bus stand and this makes the area chaotic and busy. We were informed that the beauty of this place increase manifold in the snowfall season. 

Mall Road, Manali
We had a wonderful time roaming around and trying local food at the mall road. With this, we had completed our local sightseeing. 

The most exciting part of our Manali trip was to start next day with Solang Valley, Gulaba & Rohtang Pass. Please keep visiting my blog page to know more about my travel to the most amazing Rohtang Pass.

If you like reading my post, you may show you love through your comments on my blogpost or on facebook blog page Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhaana.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Exploring Himachal - Trip to Manali Part - II

In the previous post, i had written about my journey from Chandigarh to Manali and the tourist spots located in between. Our next day in Manali was earmarked for local sightseeing and exploring local markets of the hill station.
It was a sunny morning in Manali and when we came out of our hotel, we found the streets bustling with the tourists, tour guides and the locals. As i had said in the previous post that our hotel was also sort of a small view point, our sightseeing started from the garden of our hotel. The views were simply irresistible and superb and we knew our camera had a field day. Here are some glimpses of  natural beauty for you:

View from my hotel's garden

Hidimba Devi Temple

The first among our visit list for the day was Hidimba Devi Temple around 3 km from mall road of Manali, which is very popular among tourists due to it's location amid beautiful cedar forests on top of a hill and tranquil environment. The temple holds great significance for the locals and tourists alike, who visit the temple to seek blessings of Goddess Hidimba. 

The temple is dedicated to Goddess Hidimba, who was wife of Bhima, the strongest of Pandava brothers. As per Hindu Mythology, Hidimba, born into a Rakshasa Family, had taken a vow to marry the person, who will defeat her brother Hidimb, a brave and fearless giant. During Pandava's exile, Hidimb was killed by Bhima and Hidimba married Bhima and gave birth to Ghatotkach, who became a great warrior in Mahabharat battle. When Bhima and his brothers returned from exile, she stayed back and started meditation (Tapasya) to atone her sins and eventually attained the status of Goddess. 

People in Manali worship her as deity and especially during Navaratri, the devotees throng to the temple in large numbers.

The temple was built in 1553 AD by Raja Bahadur Singh in a distinctive architectural style having three square roofs and one cone-shaped roof at the top. It is a protected monument and it's premises are being maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). One thing, which caught our attention was the skeletons and horns of animals hanging on the walls of the temple. There is an idol made of wood of Ghatotkach at some distance from the temple.

Hidimba Devi Temple
A long serpentine queue was there outside the temple to offer prayers to the goddess, when we reached there. It took us one and half hours to reach inside the temple.

Long Queue outside temple

See below the display board - Archaic traditions still continue

Horns & Skeletons of Animals

After the prayers, it was time for indulging in some fun activities, which are there in plenty. You can get your photographs clicked in traditional attire holding rabbit in your hands, you can ride the yak or you can buy souvenirs for your loved ones and yes, you can also spend some time in the Forest Park located just behind the temple. Traditional dress for women is called Pattoo, whereas for men it is known as Lachhoo. 

We also had our moment in the colorful dress and then we spent some time in the wilderness of mighty deodar forests. Sitting or taking a stroll in the tranquility of these forests far away from the chaos of urban life can reinvigorate one's mind and body and re-establish the broken link with the mother nature.

Van Vihar near Hidimba Temple

View from the forest

Himachal Culture & Folk Arts Museum

We also visited Museum of Himalayan culture and Folk arts located near the temple which was showcasing culture of Himachal through traditional dresses, utensils, musical instruments, wood carvings, paintings and several other traditional articles depicting life in mountains. The wide range of artifacts kept in the museum gave us a deep insight of the old-age practices and rituals followed in the hilly state. 

Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art, Manali

Utensils of Old days 

Statue of Goddess

After enriching ourselves with the Himachal culture, we proceeded further for our next destination Vashisht Temple, an ancient temple and a village of hot springs, about which i will write in the next post.

If you like reading my post, you may show you love through your comments on my blogpost or on facebook blog page Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhaana.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Exploring Himachal - A Trip to Manali

Travel re-establishes the original harmony, which once existed between man and the universe. 
                                                       - Anatole France

Friends! After a long hiatus, i am back with my new post on my trip to Kullu, Manali and then onward sojourn to Shimla. Hope this will receive the same love and affection, which was showered upon my previous posts. In my previous post, i had written on the most beautiful city of the North India and the gateway to the Mighty Himalayas, i.e. Chandigarh, where i halted during my trip to Manali and Shimla. The city is a perfect place to start your vacation if you want to explore the serene hill stations of Himachal, for it sets the tone and gets you in the perfect mindset to enjoy what it's superior and divine vicinity has to offer.

After exploring natural and man-made marvels of Chandigarh, we proceeded for Manali by taxi, which we had hired for Chandigarh - Manali - Shimla - Chandigarh trip for a period of 06 days. 


From Chandigarh, three alternative routes are there to reach Manali, however, we went Manali via Rupnagar - Sundarnagar - Mandi - Kullu, which was the shortest route taking around eight hours to cover a distance of 308 km. The eight hour long journey in hills and numerous patchy stretches of road may give you jitters but at the same time, the scenery, which keeps unfolding before your eyes every now and then keeps you in good spirit. We had started our journey by 8:30 in the morning and by 01:30 or so, we had crossed Mandi, a prominent place in the tourism map of Himachal Pradesh. One can explore some off-beat tourists attractions of Mandi, such as Parashar Lake & Rewalsar Lake which are famous for several myths and legends attached to them as well as panoramic view of clear blue water body surrounded by lush green land and verdant hills. 

A well-deserved break was needed after travelling halfway through and we stopped at a restaurant, which was already over-crowded with the tourists, mostly honeymoon couples. Manali has always been a favourite honeymoon destination among it's indian counterparts due to it's eye-soothing and picture-perfect locations. 

After energizing ourselves, we resumed our journey with renewed zeal and by another one hour, we were near famous Pandoh Dam, which is an embankment dam built over Beas river. The river water flowing ferociously with thunderous noise amid lush green surroundings makes a magnificent spectacle. However the spot was in the news for a disastrous miss-happening few years back, as a group of engineering students  from Hyderabad drawn in the flash flood while enjoying in their college picnic. After that incident, going near the dam has been prohibited. We clicked some photographs and proceeded ahead, as our driver was insisting not to stay at the site.

Pandoh Dam
As we moved ahead, we noticed that we were in the company of beas river flowing  along the road till we reached Manali. As we were going upstream of the river, the calm and composed beas was turning more aggressive and fiery. In the process, it was offering us many breathtaking views to capture. We stopped at a view-point which was really offering good views of the evergreen landscape of river flowing amid mountains.

Beas river meandering through the mountains

The wires which can be seen in the above photograph are not for electricity or telecom, but a mode of goods transport from one village to other or from hill-top village to highway. Afterall, we are famous for finding indigenous solutions (Desi Jugaad☺) for our day to day problems.

Cables carrying goods for villagers

Tiny village atop hill

Our next stop in the route was Hanogi Mata Temple, which is loacted just on the highway  (N.H. - 03) and  is a must-visit place for travellers on this route. The temple is around 40 km from Kullu. The temple is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Hango Mata. Not only religios belief allures tourists to the temple, but it's location on top of a small peak and green mountain in the backdrop also catches the attention of the visitors. We also paid visit to the deity and took her blessings and then started the last leg of our travel to the hill station.

Hanogi Mata Temple, Kullu

As we were approaching Kullu, the sunshine was giving way to the chilly evening and while entering kullu, we were greeted by the brief drizzle, which also contributed in dipping temperature of the mountain. Kullu is known for it's handlooms, winterwears specially shawls, temples and water sports such as river rafting, surfing, kayaking etc. There is so much in kullu to explore, so we decided to spend a day in kullu, while returning from Manali. 

As it was drizzling in kullu, we thought we wold be confined in our vehicle for the remaining part of our journey, but the rain stopped abruptly, as we travelled further.

View of Kullu Town

Manali was still around 40 km away from us and now we wanted to reach Manali as soon as possible, as the day long journey had squeezed energy out of us. After one hour of journey, we had reached Manali. Incidentally, our pre-booked hotel was on the way and just 01 km behind the city, so out of a sudden, we realized that we have reached our destination for the day. The location of our hotel, Chandramukhi made us happy for our decision to stay in the hotel, as river Beas was flowing in the front and then a dense forest of pine trees on the other side and on top of that snow-laden Himalayan peaks peeking through numerous lush-green mountain ranges. Our excitement grew a notch higher, when we came to know that our room's window was also like a small view point.

View from our Hotel

The window-side view had given an indication of what was in store for us in next 2 -3 days in Manali. Our itinerary for next two days was local sight-seeing on the first day and Solang Valley & Rohtang Pass on 2nd day. I will share my travel story of Manali in my next post. Till then adios..

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Chandigarh - The City Beautiful

मनाली यात्रा के दौरान चूंकि हमने चंडीगढ़ को ही बेस बनाया था इसलिए हमारे पास मनाली जाते समय एक दिन और मनाली से लौटते समय एक दिन चंडीगढ़ घूमने का मौका था।  यूँ तो चंडीगढ़ की खूबसूरती को निहारने के लिए एक दिन का समय पर्याप्त है किन्तु इस शहर के अलग अलग मिजाज को देखने और परखने का मज़ा भी कुछ और है। संयोगवश हमें मौसम की विभिन्न छटाओं में इस शहर के सुन्दर पर्यटन स्थलों के भ्रमण का अवसर मिला। प्रख्यात फ्रेंच आर्किटेक्ट ले कॉर्बुसियर द्वारा योजनाबद्ध तरीके से बसाया गया यह शहर भारत के शहरी प्लानिंग के बेहतरीन उदाहरणों में से एक है।

चंडीगढ़ पहुँचने के घंटे भर के अंदर ही हमलोग मशहूर रॉक गार्डन की और चल पड़े थे क्योंकि शाम घिर आयी थी और गार्डन में प्रवेश का समय समाप्त न हो जाये , यह चिंता हो रही थी। शहर से लगभग ३ किमी दूर होने की वजह से हमलोग जल्द ही गार्डन पहुँच गए और एंट्री टिकट लेकर अंदर प्रवेश कर गए। अंदर प्रवेश करने पर ये पता चला कि किन्हीं नेकचंद जी के अथक प्रयासों से यह 1957 में अस्तित्व में आया और वर्तमान में चंडीगढ़ शहर की पहचान बन चुका है।

रॉक गार्डन, चंडीगढ़ 

रॉक गार्डन में प्रवेश करते ही पत्थरों एवं अन्य धातुओं से बनी कलाकृतियाँ मन मोह लेती हैं। कई कलाकृतियों में अपशिष्ट पदार्थों (waste materials) का भी उपयोग किया गया है। गार्डन के अंदर के रास्ते भी किसी भूल-भूलैया से कम नहीं हैं। ऐसे में अन्य पर्यटकों की आवाज़ से आप आगे के रास्ते का अनुमान लगा सकते हैं। तंग गलियों से आगे बढ़ते हुए सहसा हमारी नजर इस झरने पर गयी और साथ ही दिखे झरने के पास खड़े कई सारे टूरिस्ट। कुछ देर तो झरने की कल-कल करती आवाज़ के सानिध्य में समय बिताना लाजिमी था और हम भी बढ़ लिए पानी के समीप बाल-सुलभ उत्सुकता लिए - कपड़ों के भींगने के डर से परे।

कुछ वक़्त झरने के पास 

रॉक गार्डन में करीब घंटे भर घूमने के बाद हमलोग गार्डन से एक-डेढ़ किमी दूर सुखना लेक चले गए, हालाँकि शाम घिर आयी थी फिर भी झील किनारे बैठ मंद-मंद हवा का आनंद उठाना भला किसे अच्छा नहीं लगता। तीन वर्ग किलोमीटर क्षेत्र में फैली यह विशालकाय झील चंडीगढ़ के प्रमुख पर्यटन आकर्षणों में  एक है जहाँ न सिर्फ पर्यटक, बल्कि स्थानीय लोग, बच्चे, औरतें एवं फिटनेस के शौक़ीन युवा भी बड़ी संख्या में आते हैं। झील से सूर्योदय का दृश्य भी काफी शानदार होता है ऐसा हमें वहां पहुँचने पर पता चला। हमने अगली सुबह फिर से झील आने का निश्चय किया ताकि सूर्योदय के नज़ारे को देखा जा सके। वैसे शाम का नजारा भी कुछ कम मनमोहक नहीं था और चहल पहल भी काफी थी। कई लोग झील में बोटिंग करते दिखाई पड़ रहे थे और माहौल कुछ उत्सव जैसा बना हुआ था। कुछ देर झील किनारे बने बांध पर बैठने के बाद हमलोग अपने गेस्ट हाउस की ओर चल दिए। 

सुखना झील
अभी हमलोग झील से सड़क की तरफ कुछ ही दूर गए थे कि एक सुखद आश्चर्य हमारा इंतज़ार कर रहा था और वो था आसमान में पंख फैलाये इंद्रधनुष। अपनी किस्मत को धन्यवाद देते हुए मैं इस सतरंगी छटा को अपने कैमरे मैं कैद करने में जुट गया।
अगली सुबह हमें मनाली के लिए भी निकलना था पर हमने सुखना झील और रोज गार्डन के लये थोड़ा वक़्त निकाल लिया था और हमलोगों ने अपने ड्राइवर जो कि हमारे आगे के पूरे ट्रिप के दौरान हमारे साथ रहने वाले थे, उन्हें भी झील और रोज गार्डन होते हुए मनाली चलने के बारे में बता दिया था। 

तड़के सुबह हमलोग अपने सामान के साथ झील की तरफ चल पड़े और सूरज की लालिमा हमारा स्वागत कर रही थी। प्रातः काल की लालिमा से ओत-प्रोत झील और झील में तैरते हंसों के समूह को देखना बहुत ही खुशनुमा एहसास था। समय का बिल्कुल भी पता नहीं चला की कब सूरज की रक्तिम किरणें सुनहली हो चलीं थीं और झील के आस-पास लोगों की आवा-जाही भी बढ़ गयी थी। 
                                               सुखना झील से सूर्योदय का दृश्य                                                   इमेज सौजन्य :

हमलोग झील के किनारे बने बाँध पे चल रहे थे और हमारा ध्यान इस पुराने और जर्जर टावर ने आकर्षित किया। टावर तक जाने का रास्ता अब बंद हो चुका है, हालाँकि हमें लोगों से बात-चीत से यह पता चला कि इस टावर पे चढ़ कर कई लोग आत्महत्या का प्रयास कर चुके हैं और इसलिए स्थानीय लोग इसे सुसाइड टावर के नाम से भी जानते हैं। 
सुसाइड टावर 
अब समय हो चला था की हम रोज गार्डन को देखते हुए मनाली के सफर की शुरुआत करें क्यूंकि 8 -9 घंटे का सफर अँधेरा होने के पहले पूरा किया जा सके। झील के पास स्थित कैफेटेरिया में हमलोगों ने नाश्ता किया और रोज गार्डन की एक झलक पाने के लिए निकल पड़े। 
झील के पास स्थित कैफेटेरिया 
रोज गार्डन में बहुत ज्यादा समय बिताने का मौका नहीं मिल पाया और थोड़ी देर वहां रुक कर हम अपने गंतव्य की तरफ कूच कर गए। 
रोज गार्डन, चंडीगढ़ 
चंडीगढ़ से मनाली तक का सफर भी कम मनोरंजक नहीं था , पर उसके बारे में विस्तार से अगले अंक में....  तब तक के लिए अलविदा। ..... 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Exploring Himachal - Manali ki Manoram Sair - Part I

अरसे बाद भ्रमण का अवसर मिला इस बार मई के महीने में और बैंक के आखिरी तिमाही  की टारगेट और अचीवमेंट के उठापटक के बाद इससे अच्छा मौका शायद नहीं मिल सकता था दिलोदिमाग को तरोताजा करने के लिए। दूसरी तरफ पटना में मई की प्रचंड गर्मी भी शरीर को झुलसा देने के जतन में जुट गयी थी। ऐसे में पहाड़ों की ओर रुख करने के अलावा अन्य कोई भी विचार मन को नहीं सूझा और इस तरह मैंने और श्रीमती जी ने हिमालय की हसीं वादियों का लुत्फ़ उठाने का प्लान बनाया। अरुणाचल को छोड़कर पूर्वी हिमालय में बसे सारे पर्वतीय रमणीक स्थलों पर समय बिताने का अवसर मुझे प्राप्त हो चुका है इसीलिये जो विकल्प मेरे जेहन में उभर कर आये, वो थे हिमाचल प्रदेश व उत्तराखंड।

ऑफिस के काम से एक बार शिमला जाना हुआ था पर घूमने का ज्यादा मौका नहीं मिल पाया था और जब श्रीमती जी ने भी शिमला और मनाली जाने की इच्छा प्रकट की  तो हमने इस बार देव भूमि हिमाचल प्रदेश को एक्स्प्लोर करने का मन बना लिया। यूँ तो हिमाचल का हरेक हिस्सा (चाहे वो धर्मशाला हो या फिर मैकलॉयडगंज, केलोंग हो या फिर किन्नौर)  एक से बढ़ कर एक है और अपने आप में एक टूरिस्ट स्पॉट है पर हमने इस बार के ट्रिप में कुल्लू, मनाली एवं शिमला को शामिल किया। मनाली जाने के क्रम में चंडीगढ़ में भी एक रात बिताने की योजना थी।

सफर की सारी तैयारियों के बाद मई के दूसरे हफ्ते में हमलोग अपने गन्तव्य की ओर निकल पड़े। राजधानी एक्सप्रेस से पटना  से दिल्ली तक का रात भर का सफर काफी आरामदायक रहा और ट्रेन अपनी ख्याति के अनुरूप बिलकुल सही समय पर नयी दिल्ली रेलवे स्टेशन पहुँच चुकी थी।  यूँ तो मनाली के लिए दिल्ली से भी डायरेक्ट बस सेवा उपलब्ध है पर १२ घंटों  से भी ज्यादा बस के लगातार सफर का आईडिया हमें कुछ जमा नहीं। कुछ तो पहाड़ी रास्तों की उबड़-खाबड़  और कुछ हरियाना रोडवेज के चालकों की सिद्धहस्तता के बारे में सुन रखी कहानियों ने मुझे भयाक्रांत कर दिया था।  तय ये हुआ कि दिल्ली से चंडीगढ़ बस से पहुँचा जाये और फिर वहीं रात बिता कर अगली सुबह चंडीगढ़ से मनाली और शिमला का सफर टैक्सी से किया जाये। प्लान  के मुताबिक़ हमने दिल्ली से चंडीगढ़ केलिए वॉल्वो बस की टिकटें हरियाना रोडवेज की वेबसाइट ( से ऑनलाइन बुक कर रखी थी और  चंडीगढ़ से आगे के पूरे सफर केलिए टैक्सी भी बुक कर लिया था।

दिल्ली के आईएसबीटी बस अड्डे से सुबह १०:२० बजे की बस से हमलोग चंडीगढ़ चल पड़े थे। दिल्ली-चंडीगढ़ उच्चमार्ग जिसे भारत की सबसे बेहतरीन सड़कों में एक माना जा सकता है, पर हमारी बस पानीपत और करनाल के रास्ते सरपट दौड़ लगा रही थी। करीब दो घंटे के सफर के बाद हमारी बस करनाल में एक रेस्तरां के पास 15 - 20 मिनट तक रुकी। रेस्तरां से थोड़ी ही दूर पर हमें एक सुन्दर सी झील दिखी और झील की तरफ हमारे कदम खुद- बखुद बढ़ गए।

करना झील 
लंबे सफर के बाद झील के पास थोड़ा समय बिताना एक सुखद एहसास था और हमलोग झील की खूबसूरती को निहारने में इतने मशरूफ हो गए थे कि बस के हॉर्न की आवाज़ भी सुनाई नहीं पड़ रही थी। आखिरकार बस कंडक्टर की तेज आवाज़ से हमें अचानक महसूस हुआ कि हमलोग अल्प विराम के लिए यहाँ रुके थे और अच्छा खासा वक़्त बीत चुका है। भागते हुए हमलोग बस में चढ़े और कंडक्टर ने हमें जब घूर के देखा तो पता चला बाकी सारे लोग बस में बैठ चुके थे और केवल हमदोनों के इंतज़ार में बस रुकी थी।

करीब २ बजे तक हमलोग अम्बाला और जिरकपुर होते हुए चंडीगढ़ पहुँच चुके थे। चंडीगढ़ के बारे में जैसा सुन रखा था, हू-बहू वैसा ही पाया - सुनियोजित, सुन्दर और शालीन। मोहाली के बाद जब सड़कें और ज्यादा चौड़ी और सुन्दर हो जाती हैं और गाड़ियाँ अनुशासित हो चलने लगती हैं तो यह समझते देर नहीं लगती कि आप चंडीगढ़ में प्रवेश कर चुके हैं।
Image courtesy:

शहर पहुँचने के बाद हमलोग मनिमाजरा स्थित गेस्टहॉउस चले गए।  हमारे पास चंडीगढ़ घूमने के लिए शाम तक का समय था , क्योंकि अगली सुबह हमें मनाली की ओर जो कूच करना था।

मनाली के बारे में विस्तार से अगले अंक में बताने का प्रयास होगा।  तब तक के लिए अलविदा।  

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Trip to Zuluk, East Sikkim

Nature has bestowed upon us bountiful natural beauties in the form of gigantic snow caped mountains, fast flowing rivers, serene lakes and springs so on and on. Our country has been richly endowed with wide and diverse ranges of flora and fauna and other natural formations.

Several tourist places of Eastern Himalaya has been covered in my articles so far. Today, I would like to introduce before my readers and fellow travellers, Zuluk, a relatively lesser known place in Eastern Himalayas, which is slowly gaining popularity due to it’s prominent location and magnificent views.
Located at a height of around 10,100 feet on the rugged terrain of the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim, Zuluk offers excellent view of Himalayan ranges. Zuluk, located at erstwhile historical silk route between Kalimpong, India and Lhasa, Tibet used to be base for traders coming from Tibet for their night stay. After Chinese aggression in Tibet, the silk route connecting Tibet with India through Jelep-la has been closed and now the tiny village is used as a base by travellers going to Kupup, Jelep-La and Tsomgo Lake. In the last few years, Zuluk itself has risen into prominence as a scenic tourist spot due to it’s numerous hairpin bends in the road leading up to the village and spectacular views from the hilltop.
The Silk Route leading to Zuluk
On one weekend, we started from Gangtok to Zuluk via Pakyong, Rongli & Padamchen. Though there is another route from Gangtok via Bhusuk, Tsomgo Lake & Sherethang, which is shorter, we chose the other one, as we had to visit Aritar Lake too. Aritar lake is a major picnic spot for locals and tourists of neighbouring state West Bengal. 
Aritar Lake
One can spend entire day around the lake by indulging in range of fun activities like boating and trekking up to the Shiva temple at the hilltop.

Do Hanson ka Joda
Flowers around the lake
We spent some time at the lake and refreshed ourselves having tolerated travelling on patchy roads for around 2 hours, then proceeded for our destination. We had crossed Rongli by 1:00 PM and after half an hour drive from Rongli, our vehicle started moving up on a never-ending serpentine hilly road with numerous hairpin bends. There are about 32 hairpin bends on the route, which makes this road an engineering marvel. As we were inching towards Nathang Valley, Army camp was before our sight. The major chunk of land of zuluk village is under Army's control. By 02:15 PM, we had reached Zuluk, but we did nit stop there, as for the best views of the Eastern Himalayan ranges, we had to reach Thambi view point, which was another half an hour away. Though it was a sunny day, but after reaching Thambi View Point, weather had changed it's colour and we had started looking for additional warm cloths, which we were carrying anticipating the turbulent mood of weather in mountains. Snow was increasingly visible on the mountains, as we were moving ahead and after some time, our vehicle had started moving with a snail's pace on a snow-covered road.
Scenic View as seen from Thambi View Point
 After having some photographs at view point, we proceeded towards Kupup Lake. 
Snow was increasingly visible on the nearby mountains, as we were moving ahead and after some time, our vehicle had started moving with a snail's pace on a snow-covered road. The panoramic lake surrounded by snow laden hills was before our eyes with all it's magnificence and grandeur.
Kupup Lake

We had chosen another route for our return to Gangtok via sherethang and Tsomgo Lake, to which we all were familiar due to our frequent visit to Nathu-la pass. By 6:00 PM or so, we had reached back home at Gangtok.

How to reach Zuluk:
For those coming from various parts of the world, Zuluk can be reached from Siliguri, West Bengal covering a distance of around 150 Kms. Alternatively, you can also visit the place after reaching Gangtok. Inner Line Permit is required to be obtained even in case of Indian travellers for visiting Zuluk. Hotels are not available at Zuluk, however, one can stay in homestays being run by local villagers. For those preferring staying in a hotel, Padamchen, around 10 km before Zuluk offers more options.

Zuluk can be visited any time through out the year, however after rainy season, the route becomes more beautiful due to blossoming wild flowers covering entire valleys. Come, visit Zuluk. It won't disappoint you.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Lamahatta : The countryside of Darzeeling

Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.”
- Jeffrey Rasley
Mountains are really a great place to unwind and discover one's inner self and if those mountains are none other than the Himalayas, the experience becomes heavenly. 

Friends! I am back with a new travel memoir about a new rather less known tourist place nestled in Eastern Himalayas, i.e. Lamahatta. Hope, you will find the place appealing enough to include it in your travel wishlist. There are many natural travel destinations in Eastern Himalayas, which are at their best, when there is no human intervention to keep their beauty and glory intact, however there are some places, which have been developed into a tourist spot, so that people can spend good quality time, while enjoying the company of their loved ones along with the lovely nature. Lamahatta is one such travel destination. The place was developed as tourist spot in 2012 by the local administration with the help of villagers at the behest of the Hon'ble chief minister of West Bengal.

The road-side mountain village falls in Gangtok to Darjeeling route and is at around an hour away from Darjeeling. Travelers on Darjeeling trip can plan for one night stay in home stays of Lamahatta. It can also be chosen as honeymoon destination. The scenic site offers something for everyone - breathtaking scenery, magical glimpse of Snow-caped mountain ranges, trekking, delicacy of food prepared by locals and a memorable night stay in tents and huts miles away from hustle and bustle of urban life.

The altitude of Lamahatta is lesser (5700 ft) than that of Darjeeling, however the temperature is almost the same, as the place is replete with greenery, surrounded by large number of dhupi and pine trees.

As we came to know about the place through a colleague, we decided to make it our next picnic destination. It was a 3 and 1/2 hours ride from Gangtok and by 11 AM, we had reached Lamahatta. After reaching there, we decided to find some good home stays for our night stay and keep our luggage there, so that we can roam around or go on trekking freely. There were around 15 rooms and some tents with total capacity of around 40 persons on one side of road. Each room had two beds and maximum 3 persons can be accomodated in one room. The rent for one room was around Rs. 800/- and for tent, it was little higher. We got settled in four rooms and took breakfast there. One special feature of Lamahatta may be the delicious and fresh food served by the locals. You will not get professional service, but will definitely feel the warmth in their hospitality. You will have to tell them in advance, what you want to have in your food.

After having breakfast, we started exploring the place and capture some good views of the manicured park located at the foothill. The garden has many seasonal flowering plants including orchids. There is an entry fee of Rs. 10/- for entering in the eco-tourism park.

View of Garden and trail of flags

Beautiful Hut with beautiful kids

Garden and Homestays at Lamahatta

There after, we decided to trek along 1.5 km long route to the sacred lake, situated at top of the hill. The trek offered some excellent photography opportunities, while walking in the woods.

Walking in the woods

Sacred Lake at the Hilltop
We had reached at the hill top with in 40 to 45 minutes and spent couple of hours there, enjoying the purity of the breeze blowing through the dense forests and purifying ourselves in the process. We started to climb down the hill, as it was getting dark and we had also started feeling hunger pangs.

After reaching our homestays, we had our lunch and then started planning for our evening with bonfire and music in the mountain village. The weather god was getting harsher on us , as the chilly evening was engulfing the village. The temperature must have fallen to 2 or 3 degree celsius on that december night. Now, it was time to show some resistance to the biting cold and we had prepared well. 

Soon, we were all sitting in the open surrounding the bonfire set by us and then started the round of our musical talent in the form of Antakshari. It was indeed very enjoyable and the tranquility of the sleeping mountain unperturbed by the sound of gushing river nearby added to our amazing experience. Our musical night had turned into a magical night. Our tryst with fierce winter night came to an end with the announcement of dinner time by the cook of the home stay. With the fire surrendering to the might of freezing cold and our stock of songs getting scarce, we decided to call it a day. We had our dinner and then rushed to our beds to cover ourselves with blankets and quilts to fight the punishing cold.

In the morning, we were greeted by the sunshine and a clear view of Snow-caped peaks of Mt. Kanchendzonga. With this, our trip was really complete and memorable.

Mt. Kanchendzonga ranges as seen from Lamahatta

Please do share your experiences, if you have been to Lamahatta or any other lesser known tourist places in India.