Friday, March 31, 2017

Sikkim - Part One

I had been on a six nights seven days trip to Sikkim and Darjeeling in November 2016. From 11th to 17th Nov. There were a lot of firsts for me on this trip. It was the first time in eleven years of marriage that I had missed Sathya’s birthday which fell on the 16th. Just missed! It was also the first time in eleven years of marriage that I went on a week-long vacation without him & Tan. 

It was also the first time that I drank; a glass of brandy. That single glass, oh it was just Rs 60 /- by the way, got me so high I actually felt dizzy and realized what being drunk or “tight” meant. I still don’t know how it hit me so hard. It was just one small glass, after all. Maybe it was the fact that I gulped it down in one shot in order to beat the cold of the mountains. Or blame it on lack of experience! 
The women selling everything from beer to hot maggi to rented gloves and boots. 
It was also the first time I went on a girls-only trip. All my trips have always been with Sathya &Tan. I have gone on a few solo trips but they were mostly on work. I am an expert at combining work with pleasure. But I had never been on a trip with two other girls.
The one in the middle is my friend from school. She was the one who had organized the whole trip. She had coordinated with the lousy MakeMyTrip guys throughout the trip. Big thanks to her. The one on her right, in the picture, is her ex-colleague. It was the first time I spent a week travelling with a person I never met before. She was the one I met only and directly on the trip. As good as travelling with a stranger. 

It was the first time I stayed overnight in 2-4 degree Celsius cold. This was at Lachung. Freakishly cold! It was the first time I bought and wore thermals. I never even knew what thermals were or where to buy them. I had shopped at Jockey for the thermals. I don't remember shopping at Jockey even once before.
It was the first time I went on a package tour. All trips we have been on have been self-planned and self-executed.

It was the first time I did paragliding. It is a must do when in Sikkim. We chose the 8 minute, 1200 meters high, flying option which cost us for Rs 2500 and an additional Rs 500 for the video. It was an experience of a lifetime. It was not part of the tour itinerary of MakeMyTrip (MMT) and we had to really do a lot of "circus" to make it happen. First, the demonetization bomb had dropped just one day before we set off on this trip owing to which we didn’t have the cash in hand to pay for it. None of the paragliding operators accepted cards. All the ATMs had dried out of cash. 

We finally found one operator Arun, thank you Google, who agreed to accept card. He even solved our cash problems by agreeing to swipe the card for an additional amount, deduct the paragliding charges and pay the extra to us so we could pay the cab driver. The cab driver had agreed to take the detour to the paragliding location and charged us for it. 

We also had to request our co-travellers, an elderly couple from Delhi who had been clubbed with us for all local sight-seeing as this was a group package from MMT. The kind couple waited for 2-3 hours for us. Was it worth all the trouble? ABSOLUTELY. That ten minute flying-in-the-air-like-a-bird feel is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Scuba diving comes a close second.

So how was Sikkim and Darjeeling? What did we see and do? How was our package tour experience with MMT? More on all that later.