Ananthoo's updates

When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

V for Bengal

Calcutta was a pleasant surprise for us..the day we reached was puja weekend and so it was a cool slide of a drive to the hotel belying all our fears of the horror stories we have heard about Cal traffic..that night we wandered around Cal till late in the night and were very impressed..lotsa colors, great pandals- each one monumentally designed like a regular structure- architecture and decoration out of the world..people, people every where with all smiles and what a festive look the whole city had..even the next day and on laxmi puja day too was marked with sparse traffic..Thats the best time to visit Cal folks! – weather is fine, great atmosphere and traffic is a dream..
We had one of the best walks all thru the Park street till late night and had a great ride on the metro (that was earlier- sad that metro doesn’t run late)..Metro was cool- very functional and clean, a blessing to cal..
The next 3 days were spent in the sundarbans area- less said the better. Most of the time we were on the boat and sometimes off to some view point or other expecting to sight some animal (2 crow,12 deers,250 mosquitoes,and some Bongs is what we ever saw).. How can one ever sight a tiger (expecting one out of the 250 in that vast expanse of 2500 sqkms!) and with those noisy boats loaded with even noisier did it not strike us I dunno! so bottom line: don’t even attempt sundarbans, if u do for the beauty and for the expanse of mangroves and water or for the great serene look of the rivers joining the sea- just do it for 1 day.. don’t ever try more..its so boring and useless!
Confession: when I compared some prices for sundarbans area and hastily with greed booked a 3 day jaunt for the same price as a 2 day pack and also saw that a single day was even costlier..but that logic dawned only after going there..u pay higher bcos u escape soon;-0 But I shud say that a village we stayed inside sundarbans that did not have any electricity (generator works from 6to 8pm in the evenings alone) was an unique experience..moon light walk was romantic and that village surrounded by water and mangroves on all sides with paddy cultivated anywhere possible..
But the boat drive with so many locals was interesting in its own way..only it took so much time for us to get used to their language- English with those Bs and Os – packed with their typical intonation! Once we were ready with that O filter, that is filtering the thrust of O on the 2nd syllable and filling all Bs with Vs (or almost..) it was fun..But man! I realized I shud have born there..the boat trip was filled with food, food timing, tea/coffee, snacks, food and many times..after a heavy snack, deep fried one at that, at 7 or 8pm folks freak out on a 5 course meal for dinner at 9.30pm! 10 years back I wud never have wanted to come back from Bengal..
One thing very obvious and irritating was everybody spits everywhere in Cal/Bengal..not that it doesn’t happen else where but its too much here..W said there are 3 types of people in cal..1- spitting (60%), 2- making that ugly iigaaaaaaaarhhhhhhhhh noise (35%) and 3- generating saliva(5%)..But Metro is an if they know one shud not spit there they can be courteous and maintain that decency everywhere else too rit?
Inspite of all this Bengal esp cal is captivating..I wud go there again..
Finally a test: Bob take a bob!
Didn’t get it right? U have to spend a week in Bengal to get that!
Its vow take a bow:-)


Friday, November 23, 2007

Assam & ML

Already folks have started asking me when will regular blogging much for the travel bits..any way shall finish off with small notes on Assam and Bengal..more for my memoirs than being very informative here..
After that interesting stay at Delo tourist home, we proceeded to siliguri to spend sometime with Bimal (the famous guy who gave us rosy picture about the try_n_avoid_them_if_u_can place called siliguri;-)) then we reached Guwati by train. From frying pan to fire u may say or from siliguri to Guwati u can say..
Man! Guwati is a drainage deluge and so we were actually glad to even forego one day’s paid up hotel stay and run off during the end of our assam trip.
Assam was so green and wealthy on water everywhere and we were glad to be on the road again. Add to that good roads all along assam, it was a great relief. Bonus was the colorful pandals all along the road side due to puja. We drove all the way to Kaziranga and stayed at a very interesting place- Bon Habi just a km away from the national park. But it was a wrong time (agent's goof up not expanded here)..most parts of the national park thrown out of gear by severe rains and a better time is normally Nov rather than Oct!
Still the amount of green, diversity of the flora and birds at Kaziranga amazed us.
From there we drove to Meghalaya- supposedly translates to ‘abode of clouds’, but we realized it was abode of dust and exhaust. Unimaginable amounts of dust turning the color of the leaves of trees on road side to brown! As u near Shillong u find more traffic and more spewing of exhaust. Its an unique place, unlike most hill top cities this is not a small one, but a vast expanse of a city on the top! Hardly any veg restaurants to help us but more cantonments and so well planned layouts and roads. We were surprised at the puja fever here too.
Next day came the to chirapunjee (ya, the rain record famous place) was exotic as one can imagine, this part of ML was fitting the bill of “Scotland of the east’ perfectly (as coined by some brits in early 20th century ). Winding roads, scenic beauty, bountiful falls, deep gorges, water bodies all made it a great drive. Remember that Dhoni and karthikeyan’s ad and their drive to cherrapunji? Now I know why they say that!This drive lives up to the ‘abode of clouds’ name of Meghalaya. There’s even a stalagmite cave here and many other nice view points, parks and falls..but not one good restaurant to lunch, sigh sigh..
If only they can do something to the huge truck traffic and their venom spewing exhausts these 2 states can be a good drivable tourist spot.
Lots of surprises in these 2 states anyway.



Remember Darjeeling?
On our way back from sikkim to guwati we stayed in a place called Deolo Tourist home and if ever u have to spend sometime in that part of Himalayas its ought to be this Deolo hills. Several times better than Darjeeling or Kalimpong! This is at a higher altitude than those 2 places, far less crowded, more oxygen and weatherwise too way better..
add to that one name- sanjay das!
This gentleman who was working in the hospitality industry in places like Goa suddenly felt the urge to get back to his native- Kalimpong in this case and took up the challenging job of reviving this Govt property on top of the deolo hills, yes govt prop! He has done a great job as one can easily see here- reviving it from a dilapidated condition in a few years is no joke.
One has to just spend some time with him to know what all he has done and how humourously he puts across his views and also have him narrate about what he watches (people’s actions and reactions, eg: stealthily sliding some garbage from back of the hand rather than walk couple of paces to the bin) from his cabin..Having turned this prop in to a very modern and private-like-running hotel he now aims to upgrade it in to an enviro friendly place.

Such people give us hope that things can prolly get better in our lifetime itself, or may be…

Update: forgot to give the fotos link

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Very impressive state, in many ways..a very cantonmental state with so much of military presence, border state all shud give us a different idea.. but it’s a state filled with nice smiling courteous affable people..very decent esp on the road..even if there is a traffic jam of 1km or more, people will still stay decent one behind other, no shoving their cars in all possible directions..hey, are they not Indians?? Then why such decency on road;-)
Blessed with scenery everywhere, what with Himalayas imposing on all directions..
What best describes sikkim is this: every day we would think we have seen the best part, and feel so great at the end of the day telling ourselves that we have prolly seen the best of Himalayas, only to be beaten the next day.
Other attractive plus points being a hoarding by the agri ministry of sikkim saying they were aiming to make sikkim an Organic state! Plastic ban- this good move has cut off the indiscriminate usage of plastic and so one doesn’t see them strewn all over!
Though most of us tend not to consider sikkim in our NE tour, be informed now to have sikkim an integral part..
as for NE itself, most states like Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura are hostile..I met a Manipuri who told we cant even visit there (but did mention there so much beauty and unique flora/fauna there, still)..infact no hindi channels/movies allowed there it seems:-(
For those of u who just came in- see Gurudongmar and Lachen Lachung and the brag


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lachen / Lachung

Two quaint places in two parallel valleys in North Sikkim with rivers of respective name traversing the valleys. These two rivers meet at Chumthang to become the lovely Teesta river. Lachen chu (chu is sikkimese for river) begins at the Gurudogmar lake and seems wider and more cheerful than the Lachung chu.

Of the valleys, the area around Lachung is so varied and beautiful.Lachung valley is a straight cut paste from swiss. We found lots of similarities – scattered houses, neat small roads, imposing moutains on all sides, 24x7 noise of the river, courteous n friendly locals.. The whole valley was very impressive. We were told the whole valley is soaked in snow in winter (so next visit shud be in march/april). No mobile phones work there, so ideal for holidays:-0..One can forget all else and stay for how ever long here! W said if she were a nomad and roaming to find a place to settle, she wud for sure choose this place to settle! I seconded that! (rare concurrence that)

We were lucky to see the fall colours, unlucky to see vast stretches of Rhododendron shrubs with not a single sample flower in sight. April is bloom time for the Rhododendron, and there are 24 varieties in 7 different colours apparently. Climbing through the winding roads of the Rhododendron sanctuary, we reach the beautiful Yumthang valley. The river bed of the Lachung chu has thousands of red coloured rocks which in the mid morning light looked glorious and almost ethereal. The red colour is from algae our well informed driver told us. He drove us further north, up beyond the tree line, past cleverly camouflaged army bunkers, to a place aptly called Zero point. This zero point comes next only to the 'once in a lifetime experience' like the walk I had on Glacier 3000 in CH! The "Hindustan road" to quote our driver ended right there. Further north was Tibet and some Himalayan peaks in their snow covered glory. The gurgling of a snowmelt stream that went on to become the Lachung chu and the whistling of the wind were the only sounds. This was kind of similar to the cold desert leading to Gurudogmar lake and kind of different. We traced back our path barely an hour later, but the Yumthang valley was now shrouded in fog and looked completely different and more ethereal. Dakbang another secluded place with dense pine trees by the Lachung chu was out of the world. An army truck headed straight into the woods unmindful of the fact that our flimsy vehicle was bouncing along on a semi paved road!!
As we were proceeding towards our hotel we gave lift to an army man, who apparently was the only survivor from a trekking team in that avalanche of 2005! he had more stories to tell and typical of all fields sighed about how mountaineering too has changed with time and how there is no 'season' these days, etc..u never know how interesting each turn in north sikkim can be!
The manager (santosh) of the hotel we stayed (Fortuna at lachung)was a very interesting person and who wud take us in to the woods for an interesting walk or to the secluded river side to experience the silence amidst just the river noise or for a sooper drive to off beat peaks..
No end to fun at lachung!

Lachen is just a small village but at 10000 feet is brought to life only by the tourists who stop the nights before hitting Gurudongmar next day.Its quite chilly with rustic comforts and simple food but tons of hospitality helps one overcome any other shortcoming.

for photos go here
Rating – Great
Will I go again- yes! Again and again…dont besurprised even if i settle there:-)
Best time to visit – Oct / Nov. and i u want snow- april/may and for the flowers - may-july..

Note: though brevity is not my cuppa, I refrain from writing more on the mess created by our travel agent like screw up in schedule, hotel etc at a couple of places..inspite of him and his mess we enjoyed, that’s the point


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Diwali! Happy oh NO!

'appy diwali but without noise, toxic chemicals, fire hazards/anxieties & child labor..enjoy sweets and the holiday..please say No to crackers!
Really cant stop wondering from when this cracker thingy caught up..that chemical crackers by itself is a recent phenomenon (<100 years) and dunno how it is treated like a ‘must do’ ritual!
Anyways, folks try and avoid crackers even though its much multifaceted implications including screwing up the water table and polluting air.
Please dissuade ur kids (and neighbours) if u can from this nonsense..let them atleast inherit a better world..
I cant really travel with freedom, what with a rocket or some such flying potential fire hazard threatening any moment..better be inside the house..may be TV is a better option after all..
Still, ‘appy diwali..

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gurudongmar Lake

The highest point of the trip, not just by altitude- by our expectation, eagerness to do it and after return too! Lake @ 17100 feet on the Himalayas on the tibetian border!
It’s one of the highest lakes in the world, so pristine and fantastic. Only the distance, road and weather can stand in the way. The roads were absolute bad and we were warned by many regarding the weather which cud be hostile esp with severe winds. But we were lucky partly because we started from Lachen (acclimatising place -write up to follow next) very early in the morning so as to beat the weather. Apparently the weather anyway turns bad by noon we were warned. This visit also needs special permission from army and access is very strictly monitored and controlled. We even saw some tanks parked there (may be we shud not be saying that rit?).
Our driver kept saying about how tuff it cud be and how inspite of the stunning beauty people stay there only for 10-15 minutes. He also warned us most wud not talk as we reach top and esp on return. Even my friend sudha who pushed me to include this lake said so.(thanks sudha, u made my day, che life!).
But luckily we passed that with high score, we walked around for 40 minutes and only bcos we wanted to hit back before noon we moved. But we were well prepared with good warm clothing. That day was good too.. But we saw some army guys taking bath there –Man, then they walked bare foot too!what religious faith can do!! that was a sight. This is, like many mountain top lakes/rivers, considered holy, prolly to avoid messing in those days. River Teesta starts here and it’s a sight too!
Such high altitude means very scarce oxygen and ofcourse harsh cold (the lake is fully frozen in winters except a part- supposedly blessed by some saint we were informed) which causes this inhospitable atmosphere but worth all the efforts.
The route is beautiful as u get to see the Himalayan riot of colors in oct/nov (lucky here again) and as u cross the tree line, u get to see only yak, occasional yak minders (yakherd?) and the military gaadi/men. Add to these the mind boggling gorges and falls one chances up on on the way. One enjoys all this inspite of no roads and steep climbs.There is an interesting cafeteria at 15000feet run by Indian army called café 15000! Then on it’s a cold desert, really! We even got to see a house and a big compound built only from the rocks and stones available there and it was a rare and interesting sight. The similarity to Bedouin’s houses in deep deserts of Egypt was striking.
Only experienced drivers like the one we had can even spot the way. No road, just some rough and tuff path to drive on. Suddenly one gets to see snow capped majestic mountains and slowly u feel the altitude.
And serendipity! out of no where u hit on a pristine copper sulphate blue pool of water and the reflections…my life was made..thats a sight do it..
Now, see the photos (taken with a simple old camera of the handy cam, still) here
( just in case -
and u will appreciate what a place it is. yes! Foto no. 22 is edelweiss!
One shud stop at Thangu -12700 feet for breakfast! U get only Maggie but still in that cold and height u will enjoy it like we did. (normally we don’t prefer Maggie noodles). Thangu itself is a nice rustic cold place but one will appreciate the tons of hospitality poured by locals amidst the rustic comforts.
But sorry foreigners! You are not allowed beyond thangu, bcos of its proximity to China, nops Tibet. How can I ever say China, its Tibet folks!

Rating – Soooper
Will I go again- yes! Again and again…
Best time to visit – Oct / Nov. (may be after april one cud see more snow and prolly frozen lake. Lemme try next time)

A small warning:
An amazing place. A must do experience for u all. But please do it when ur body listens to ur brain..with age u might find it tuff..

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


Decided to blow our own horn here..wanted to boast of our great achievement during this NE sojourn! As an ecofriendly move, we decided not to buy pet water bottles during this trip. We have been avoiding pet bottles for long now and also avoid/reduce plastic in general. So we carry stainless steel light water bottles. You can see here for an idea and btw that’s what we ask our friends to get us when they come from west (pref US) or such eco friendly products. ok, that’s another topic for another day
Now back to our tour – we managed with 2 such SS bottles and one pet bottle (that we were forced to buy during that inordinate delay of our train). So we erred in the 2nd day of the tour and the solace is if the train had been on time we wud have had an impeccable record.
Still, we shud pat ourselves as we just lived all through the tour – all of sikkim, WB, Assam on the stainless bottles. We even refused to take the water bottles offered to us in the rajdhani train and the flight back.
Hey, is that not an achievement? Now come reward us..