Prologue : It was time to move to next leg of our trip i.e. Exploring Kaluk and Pelling via Rinchenpong, Hee, Bermiok, Chaya Taal, Uttarey after having an amazing time by Trekking Through Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. We still had 5 more days left as per our plan and I was very excited specially, because I always had plan to visit Pelling. Infact I tried the same by extending my last Trip To Sikkim, but it couldn’t take place due to various reasons. So here was my chance to explore beautiful West Sikkim.
Here’s the itenary again, for your reference
Day 1 : NJP to Okhrey. O/N at Okhrey.
Day 2 : Okhrey to Hilley and Trek through Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. O/N at Barsey.
Day 3 : Barsey to Hilley and move to Kaluk via Rinchenpong. O/N at Kaluk.
Day 4 : Kaluk to Pelling via Hee, Bermiok, Chaya Taal, Dentam and Uttarey. O/N at Pelling.
Day 5 : Pelling Sightseeing and Day Trip to Yuksom.
Day 6 : Pelling to Borong via Ravangla.
Day 7 : Borong to NJP via Namchi.
16th April 2016 – Day 3 : Barsey to Hilley and move to Kaluk via Rinchenpong. O/N at Kaluk :
When I woke up at the morning at around 9 o’ clock, I felt no pain in my legs, thanks to Avik for the massage he had given me last night. Also I realized how right they were, by taking the decision of coming back to Okhrey instead of staying at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Otherwise we had to trek around 5 KM to Hilley today morning before moving on to our next leg of our journey. The decision of theirs really helped me to relax and get off the tiredness and all pains.
As usual, we were late by an hour as expected by Gopi. When we went to restaurant hall of Sherpa Lodge, we kept stunned. Whoa!! What a view it was. Let the pictures take charge to describe the scenes.
Mr. Sherpa came forward to return Rs. 600/- by adjusting the bill with yesterday’s stay and food with that of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. I was really overwhelmed with this of his behavior. In today’s world, hotels do not even return the advance amount if you cancel the booking even before a month, whereas this humble person is returning me Rs. 600/- by adjusting the bill. Really hats off to this fellow. Rs. 600/- doesn’t matters much, but what matters is his honesty.
Finally we started for Kaluk via Rinchenpong at around 10:50 AM bidding goodbye to Mr. Sherpa, Sonam (the boy who always helped us in time of pleasing our hunger) and Choden. Our first stop was at Dodak Helipad at around 12:40. Ladies in our group went to the washroom nearby to freshen up while we boys had a smoke with a view of cloudy greenish mountains.
After a small smoke and freshen up break for around 15 minutes we started for our destination for today, Kaluk. Finally we reached Kaluk Bazaar around 2 o’ clock. Kaluk looked like a small hilly hamlet to have a quite time ignoring the hustle bustle of the city life. It was perfect destination for relaxing with a cup of coffee in hand. Book lovers would love spending a week reading their favorite novel in the vicinity of 180 degree Mt. K view. Gopi walked us in to Shrada Restaurant, just in the middle of Kaluk Bazaar for lunch. After ordering our lunch, I and Gopi decided to have a local beer named “Hit” while our lunch was being prepared. “Hit” is very famous among Sikkimese people as it belongs from the production factory of well known Bollywood actor Danny Denzongpa, who himself is from Sikkim.
Finally, after having our lunch, we started for Azing’s Model Farm and Rinchenpong Monastry at around 3 o’ clock. We met Dipankar Da again en route who was also visiting Azing’s Model Farm and then he’d move to Chaya Taal, his shelter for the day. We came to know about Azing’s Model Farm from Jishnu and Dipannita who just returned from their Honeymoon at Kaluk, just 2 months back. Azing’s Model Farm is famous for organic fruit wine, which they prepare on their own. It was a half an hour drive from Kaluk. But one have to climb down around 100 stairs to reach the Farm. No worry, you’d have to climb back the same while coming back 😛
But we were determined, as we have heard a lot about Azing’s Model Farm from Dipankar Da and specially Jishnu and Dipannita. It took us few minutes to climb down to the Farm which was the easiest task 😛 The route to the Farm offers astounding view of Rinchenpong Valley with full of flowers on both side of the road. By noticing us a came forward, we told her our urge to get the wines. She first took us the Pickle section where various kinds of Pickles were there.
Though we were amazed but we were in no mood to get one of them. She then took us forward to the wine section and gave us various of them to taste ranging from Orange, Cherry, Passion Fruit, Ginger, Cardamom etc. We loved Cherry of all the wines we tasted. So we decided to get 2 small bottles of the same costing Rs. 100/- each for taking back to home and one large bottle costing Rs. 300/- to enjoy it in Kaluk. We further got Orange and Passion Fruit to enjoy it for the remaining tour. She then took us to Honey section where there were various size of bottles of various qualities with differential pricing. She asked us to taste, and it was sweet like hell. We bought 4 bottles costing Rs. 250/- each for taking back to Kolkata. Finally after spending some time, we started climbing up. Finally when we climbed up, we couldn’t stop panting for around 10 minutes. What the hell we have done to our health at such an young age by smoking regularly 🙁
Gopi drove us to Rinchenpong Monastery, but no one were interested, as we felt like, we have seen lots of such monasteries already. We asked him to take us to the Hotel. We already had booked Ghonday Village Resort. We were in dual mind between Ghonday and Mandarin, both of which are best in Kaluk. Finally looking at TripAdvisor proved Ghonday to be a bit superior than Mandarin. Though that doesn’t mean Mandarin is not up to the mark in any way. It was like competition between the best ones.
We were welcomed in a traditional way as soon as we get off our car, which we liked quite a bit. We are not accustomed with such high end experience, so the 3* treatment was like amazing to us. The interiors and exteriors were awesomely designed. We kept stunned as the hotel boy showed us our rooms. It was such nicely decorated. As soon as they hotel boy left taking order of evening Tea and snacks, we rushed to the viewpoint area. We clicked and clicked and kept clicking various angles. It was so nicely decorated with flowers with a 180 degree view of Mt. K. Though we were not lucky enough to experience the 180 degree view of Mt. K due to the cloudy weather. This cloudy weather was following us since we entered Sikkim.
Soon, our Tea and snacks arrived. Avik is a master in chess and the royal chess board in the view point created this of his urge to have a game. Preliminary Dipannita and Avik started playing, but Dipannita being loosing, Sushmita, my wife Suparna joined her too. In the end, I also couldn’t resist joining them to make a team with Avik being on the other side to make him loose 😛 But once a master is always a master, we lose. We 4 people couldn’t make him loose 😛 Jishnu was busy watching IPL in the room. Soon, the idea of having Barbeque stroked our mind. I literally ran to the Reception to order Barbeque for the evening. But alas!! It was already booked by another group of guests who came in the morning. And they don’t take more than one order for Barbeque. A Barbeque with this awesome view would have been memorable but it was not in our luck. So we kept aside the plan for having the same at Borong. And this time we decided to order the same the day before we reach Borong, so that we don’t miss the same there too. Ghonday is so nicely decorated with flowers in their garden and we got busy testing our photography skills.
Surprisingly, in the evening, the hotel staffs asked us to evacuate the View Point area as they started arranging Barbeque for other groups. Though this may seem normal to you, but we didn’t liked this behavior of theirs. Because Ghonday have only this one area where you can enjoy and spend the evening gossiping, and that also not too large to accommodate more than one or two group. Does that mean if one group books Barbeque, other guests staying at Ghonday have to lock up themselves inside room? We requested them, whether they can arrange a table on the upper floor of view point area so that we can gossip and enjoy the wine that we got from Azing’s Model Farm. Preliminary they denied but when we asked the same question to them, they agreed.
Though they had to took chairs and tables from our room only. Still it was fine. Well I’d not have bothered much if it was a homestay or kind, but when we are paying a hefty premium for the accommodation, of course your expectation varies. We also asked Gopi to join us and rest of the evening we spent enjoying our wine. Later they came to call us for dinner, though when we asked them about the possibilities about serving the same in room, they agreed. We were not in mood to have early dinner. Thanks to Ghonday staffs.
17th April 2016 – Day 4 : Kaluk to Pelling via Hee, Bermiok, Chaya Taal, Dentam and Uttarey. O/N at Pelling :
Today our plan was to move to Pelling via sightseeing’s at Hee, Bermiok, a small detour to Chaya Taal, Dentam and Uttarey. Dipannnita, Avik and Sushmita got up very early and went to visit Mandarin. Dipannita and Jishnu had just returned from their honeymoon and they stayed at Mandarin when at Kaluk. So she is accustomed with Mandarin and she didn’t quite liked the Ghonday. She explained us that, the main difference between Ghonday and Mandarin was, Ghonday offers view from Room windows whereas in Mandarin you have to walk down to the viewpoint’s if you are not staying in a cottage to get the view. But other than they were more satisfied with Mandarin, as Mandarin offers much space than Ghonday and the former have many areas like Kiwi Farm, Orange Garden, Pine Point and View Point. So, if you like to spend some quite time alone or even one group books Barbeque (Mandarin also doesn’t take more than one Barbeque Order), you have 3 other places to enjoy the evening unlike Ghonday.
We were almost ready when they returned from Mandarin, Avik and Sushmita explained us that they too liked Mandarin more than Ghonday as they were also upset with yesterday’s incident. Anyway, we started a bit late today, at around 11 o’ clock. After clearing all the bills, the hotel staff came forward to bid goodbye with the scarfs and a smiling face.
Our first destination for the day was Chaya Taal. It was around 12 o’ clock in the noon when we reached Chaya Taal. Gopi explained us that, Chaya Taal has lost it’s charm since the water level went down that of the “Taal” (Pond). Though we spotted some great flowers there and we didn’t wasted a minute capturing them in our frames. After clicking few pictures we started for our next stop Water Park.
It was an hours drive to Water Park from Chaya Taal. En route we met again with Dipankar Da who halted at Chaya Taal, previous night. Avik clicked some great pictures of butterflies out there. The swimming pool encouraged us to be in there, but we somehow resisted and moved forward.
The next stop was Cheese Factory in Dentam. Dipannita and Jishnu explained us that one can get awesome and fresh Cheese, Ghee and Paneerthere. But the day being Sunday, it was closed. Again bad luck. Though Gopi somehow managed to call and get one of the staffs out there, but he informed us that they are out of stock. Though we were not much interested in Paneer, but we wanted to take a bottle of Ghee back to Kolkata and taste some Cheese with Sandwiches.
To encourage us, Gopi stopped near a small food joint and asked us to taste Momo. I love having Momo, but these days I hardly find good Momo. The best Momo I had in my life was in Dehradun at Rajpur Road. It’s a Tibetian area and they serve awesome Tibetian Dishes. That was the first time, I used chopsticks, because they don’t offer spoons or forks generally unless you ask for it. Anyway, we ordered 6 plates of Momo and one for Gopi too. Wow!! Gopi was like an angel to us. It was really good. I believe they used the Cheese from the nearest Cheese Factory. It was really awesome. Though the shop didn’t had any name as they recently acquired licence, the lady told me, to give her reference as Madhu Pradhan’s Shop in Dentam and everyone will understand. I highly suggest you to have a plate of Momo if you seem to have pass through Dentam. Not to mention the awesome view of Dentam Valley. But we missed to frame it in our shots. 🙁
After having such tasty Momo’s and each one of us ordered another plate which helped us skipping our lunch. As we forwarded to Singshore, it started raining slightly. Gopi told us “Uttarey ghum ke ane ke time rokenge.” (We will stop at Singshore while coming back from Uttarey). We obliged. As we were climbing up to Uttarey, the weather became colder and the rain played a big role changing the weather. It was around 3 o’ clock when we reached Uttarey. Uttarey is really beautiful with full of lush green on both sides of the road. Each and every shop, hotel and home is decorated with various flowers. But the area is so small that one can see end to end of Uttarey. We spent some time in the chilling weather. But we had to hurry ourselves into the car as rain started to gain it’s speed. While planning for the tour, various travelogues suggested that Kaluk is much better in terms of 180 degree view of Mt. K than Uttarey. Though the weather was cloudy, but I believe it was right. I think someone who stayed at Uttarey would be able to comment on it properly.
Finally we were back down to Singshore bridge. Uttarey to Singshore bridge takes around 10 minutes. It was raining heavily. We ordered cups of Tea in the small food joint near Singshore Bridge. We had a urge to walk through the bridge, but due to this rain we had to limit ourselves in the restaurant. Soon Dipankar Da joined us with his family. We played a bit with his cure little daughter before we moved on. Finally when we were about to start, God forbid us and the rain stopped. We walked over the bridge and asked Gopi to join us on the other side of the bridge. Dipankar Da, with his family too couldn’t resist to walk over the bridge and they came with us. It’s known as Asia’s 2nd highest suspension bridge. It’s in talks that, if you drop something from the bridge, it takes around 9 seconds to touch the ground. The view from the bridge was awesome that I can’t describe in words.
Dipannita told us about “Faley” (A kind of momo, but much bigger one), but the food joint was out of stock. Finally we started for Pelling at around 4:40 PM. On the way it started raining heavily such that suddenly everything went foggy. Gopi was having a hard time driving through it. Sushmita expressed her tension about the luggage getting wet being on top. But we made joke of her saying “Nothing would happen”. Changey Falls on the way was looking dangerous due to the rain. Sushmita and Avik have already been to Pelling several times and and they said that they have never seen such huge amount of water in Changey Falls. We could hardly take pictures as it was raining heavily.
Gopi asked us to hurry up, as the road can get blocked any time due to such bad rain. Finally we reached Pelling at around 5:30. Our stay for the day and tomorrow was booked at Pachu Residency at Upper Pelling. The manager himself came forward and helped us with our luggage due to such rain. And…alas!! As Sushmita suspected our bags were full wet. When she warned us, we were making fun of her, but now we too got worried. As there are three more days left and we don’t see any scope of drying up our clothes.
One of the hotel staff showed us our rooms. Two were on rooftop and one was in the previous floor, but all were view rooms. Thanks to Dipankar Da, for managing view rooms on much lower price than what’s quoted by the hotels. The first thing we did after checking in to our room was opening the luggage and check how much damage we have to suffer. Ohh god…we were relieved. Only some portion of the clothes that also near to the chain was affected. Rest were absolutely fine. It’d not take more than a night to dry up those portions.
The hotel staff came up to take order for evening snacks and tea. Rest of the evening we enjoyed gossiping among ourselves and having seldom smokes in the roof shade the the midst of rainy weather. Later in the night we went out to search for restaurant for having our dinner. Hotel Garuda, next to our one, declined it firmly that they can’t make arrangements for us as they are already facing huge rush of the guests who were staying there. We scanned through various restaurants but didn’t liked them much and some were already closed due to the rain. Finally we came across Hotel Window Park which offered us “Khichdi” along with “Maach Bhaja” (Fish Fry) which seemed perfect to us in this weather. But Me and My wife was not in mood to have Khichdi, so we went back to our hotel, Pachu Residency, to have Chinese cuisine.
Gopi called us, to be ready within 8 o’ clock tomorrow as the plan includes day trip to Yuksom. But all of them except Me and My Wife denied waking up early again. They were tired with waking up early everyday with lots of journey. I know very few people prefers to have rush tour like us. And inquiring about Yuksom, to our hotel owner, revealed that there’s nothing much to see except being the base point for Kanchenjunga Trek, Dzongri Trek & Goechala Trek. Other than being the base point of various treks Yuksom offers nothing except Dubdi Monastery which can be reached with an hours trek. This encouraged them more to skip Yuksom. Well, I always believe in “Majority Wins“, so we thought of leaving it and kept our plan for tomorrow limited to Pelling Sightseeings only.
18th April 2016 – Day 5 : Pelling Sightseeing and Day Trip to Yuksom :
We woke up a bit late today, as we had already decided to leave Yuksom. We woke up around 8:30 AM. The weather was sunny and we were out of luck consecutively again to experience the view of Mt. K. Finally after having our breakfast in a nearby Restaurant named Havmore, which is a pure vegetarian restaurant, we started for our sightseeing at around 11:30 AM. Our first stop was at Rimbi Falls at around 12:15 PM. Except me and my wife, all of them have been to Pelling before and sightseeing at Pelling is not new to them. Infact Avik and Sushmita have visited Pelling several times. But none of them experienced Rabdentse Ruins before while in Pelling. So that one point was something new for all of us. But for Me and Suparna, this the first time we came to Pelling.
Next we moved on to Rimbi River Orange Garden which was a 5 – 10 minutes drive from Rimbi Falls.
We spent some great time there. Though I was hurrying them up for remaining points, but others wanted to enjoy and relax in the river bed. But when we were about to start, our car broke down and it refused to take start. Finally with the help of few locals and other drivers nearby, we started from Rimbi River Orange Garden at around 1:40 PM bidding good bye and thanks to them for the help. This is how it works in hills. Everyone helps each other without any selfishness being involved. This is why I always prefers hill stations over beaches. The culture over hill station is something very different and you’ll realize how we city people have lost our humanity by participating in rat race. Anyway, it took us around half an hour to reach Kanchenjunga Falls.
It started raining as we climbed up. So we halted for few minutes and refreshing ourselves with Tea and “Chola Makha” (Prepared using Boiled Gram). As soon as the rain halted we started again for our next point Khecheopalri Lake. Yuksom was some 12 odd KM’s from Kanchenjunga Falls as suggested by the signboards aside the roads. I really felt bad for giving Yuksom a bad miss. We reached Khecheopalri Lake at around 3:30 PM and it was raining like cats and dogs. We took shelter in a nearby homestay food joint. They were renting umbrella to other tourists who were waiting. Though we brought our own umbrella, but we were hesitating a bit due to such heavy rain. All of us had been to Pelling except Me and My Wife. So they didn’t had much urge to go through all the way in rain to see Khecheopalri Lake.
I took the myntra “Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe, tobe ekla cholore” and bought tickets myself with Rs 10/- and another Rs. 10/- as parking fee and started for Khecheopalri Lake. The route to Khecheopalri Lake seemed scary due to the cloudy dark weather and with such heavy rain. Somehow I managed to reach the Lake. Spent some time there. There were another group of tourists who were offering Puja.
After returning from the Lake, we had some Momo and Tea at the food joint and finally when rain halted at around 4:30 PM we started again. Gopi informed us that we’d have to skip Pemayangtse Monastery and Rabdentse Ruins today as it’s too late to visit those places. But if we can manage to get up early tomorrow, he’d help us covering them tomorrow. Well, tomorrow we already had a big plan of moving to Borong via Ravangla and that includes various sightseeing too and on top of that Pemayangtse Monastery and Rabdentse Ruins was added. This time, I seriously literally begged them to get up a bit early as I didn’t wanted to give Pemayangtse Monastery and Rabdentse Ruins a miss too like Yuksom. Though they were making fun, but I knew they would agree. As this time I was not alone, Dipannita and Sushmita also missed Rabdentse Ruins last time when they were in Pelling.
We requested Gopi to take us to Pelling Helipad atleast, as we won’t get time to visit the helipad tomorrow. Gopi drove us to the Helipad, but we couldn’t spend much time there due to the rains. I noticed 3 – 4 hotels around the helipad which would offer awesome view if one chooses to stay there. Finally Gopi drove us back to our hotel at around 5:30 PM. We were hungry like hell and so we decided to visit Havmore first to refuel ourselves. While returning to the hotel, I also took side of my friends and decided to have Khichdi with Begun Bhaja, Omlette and Mach Bhaja for them. I couldn’t resist myself trying out Khichdi in this weather. Whereas my wife, Suparna and Dipannita decided to have Chinese in our Hotel. Though our Hotel too offers great Bengali Thalis but somehow due to the love for Khichdi, we decided to take our dinner outside.
After returning to our hotel, we all felt full for having heavy evening tiffin and didn’t felt like going to have dinner. But we had already ordered a huge dinner for all of us and payed an advance amount. Though the advance amount didn’t mattered much, but the guilt of wasting food made us felt bad. Sushmita felt really weak, as she caught cold due to getting wet in rain. Gradually as the time passed by none of us felt like going out in this rain to have dinner as we all were already full. But it’d have been very bad if we waste such an amount of food even after pre-ordering. Finally at around 9 o’ clock Jishnu and Avik decided to go and provide proxy for all of us. Though we couldn’t go there inspite of pre-ordering our food, they didn’t charged us for the same. They only took the bill for Avik and Jishnu only. We felt really very bad for such behavior of ours.
The next part of the trip report is continued at Exploring South Sikkim – Ravangla – Borong.
Ghonday Village Resort : Well, we quite liked Ghonday. Kaluk itself is awesome and Ghonday is one of the best resort in Kaluk. But due to some issues we found Mandarin to be much better. Ghonday have only one viewpoint and if some group books Barbeque for the night other groups are barred from the view point. So for other groups it can be very boring spending the evening in the room enjoying the TV. Whereas Mandarin offers multiple view points, so even if one of them books Barbeque at some point, other group still can enjoy themselves at other viewpoints. The food at Ghonday was nothing exceptional, but good, but not at all value for money.
Pachu Residency : Pachu Residency is the first hotel that you”ll come across while entering Upper Pelling. I’d categorise it as no-frills budget hotel which offers great view. The service and hospitality of hotel staffs and specially the manager, Mr. Prantik is exceptional. The food at hotel is really tasty. But we didn’t found snacks to be much good. But dinner items were really exceptional.
Hotel Garuda : Hotel Garuda is well known accommodation in Upper Pelling. While booking accommodation, I considered this hotel, but then as Dipankar Da offered great discount o Pachu Residency, we choose that instead. Hotel Garuda is just next to Pachu Residency. We went there for dinner. But due to huge rush of guests staying there they had to refuse us.
Hotel Window Park : We didn’t stayed there, but we went there for food on both of the nights and they serve excellent Khichdi with Begun Bhaja, Alu Bhaja, Maach Bhaja, Omlette. So if you are a Bengali at Pelling starving for some Bengali food, Hotel Window Park deserves to be your choice atleast for a meal.
Havmor : One of the best vegetarian restaurant across Pelling. Serves wide variety of dishes. Even if you don’t happen to be an veterinarian, Havmor can please you at Breakfast or for evening snacks.
Ghonday Village Resort at Kaluk : 3500/- (4 Bedroom) + 2100 (Double Bed Room) = 5600/-. Our Fooding charge on Ghonday Village Resort at Kaluk was about 1936/-. At Kaluk, Fooding charges is a bit high and you are bound to have it in hotel only due to scarcity of any other restaurants in and around specially after dawn.
Pachu Residency at Pelling : 1500/- (Double Bed Room with View) x 3 (rooms) = 4500/-
Gopi charged us Rs. 3300/- per day. (Booked by Dipankar Da)
The Trip Would Not Have Been Such Memorable Without :
- India Mike Sikkim Forums. Special mention to member Arup Ratan Ghosh well known as Arup Da for helping out with various queries.
- Trip Advisor Pelling Forums
Special Thanks To :
Dipankar Da from North East Travels. He gave us heavy discount on both the hotels. He literally offered us around Rs. 500/- less than what Ghonday quoted us over phone. And for Pelling he offered us Rs. 100/- discount on each room. That saved us around 100/- (discount amount) x 3 (rooms) x 2 (days) = 600/-. So total savings for Kaluk and Pelling was around 1100/-
Pachu Residency – Manager, Mr. Prantik : +91-9830329591.
Hotel Window Park – Mr. Rajat Ghosh : +91-9954175370 / +91-8486015606 / +91-7074548256 / +91-7663950873.
Havmor Restaurant : 097342-30378 / 096478-35465.
Simvo Tour & Travels – Mr. Topjor Bhutia : +91-97330-76457. Mr. Partha – +91-97334-57492. Mr. Rajat (of Hotel Window Park) – +91-97330-21577.
Mr. Dipankar Roy (North East Travels) : Email : firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone : +918972247306.
Gopi (Driver) : +91-9733083795 / +91-8016288879. Gopi drives Bolero with the registration number of SK 02 J0179. He’s one of the best and friendliest driver I have even been with.
The next part of the trip report is continued at Exploring South Sikkim – Ravangla – Borong.