My wife shook me up at five in the morning. The flight to Bagdogra was scheduled at ten, but to make her pine for that pine paradise longer, it got delayed by two-and-a-half hours.
Bagdogra is the nearest airport, and it took a good five hours to reach the Mayfair resort in Gangtok from there. The roads coil and climb tiringly, cutting through the mighty mountains and offering a fairytale view in route. Mayfair strikes as a spectacular oasis after the journey uphill.
It is the first 5-star resort in North East, at an altitude of 3,500ft. We were welcomed warmly, our accommodation comfortable and luxurious enough to lure laziness. And so set the sun on the first day.
It was next morning that we ventured out, and learnt that an umbrella is your best friend if you visit Gangtok between June and September — you never know when it pours. The streets stock beautiful varieties — both with ethnic Sikkimese and modern abstract prints.
Walk under the umbrella to the Banjhakhari falls, which we loved. Surrounded by rhododendron and pine trees and gushing mountain streams, the place is home to sculptures and figurines of the ancient Jhakri culture.
If you don’t want step out of your comforts, spend time in the pool, library or the several bar-lounges at the resort. The MG Marg market is another attraction. Pick Temi tea, Sikkim liquor, Dansberg beer, orchids, jams and preserves, if not fresh bamboo shoots, glass beads, semi-precious stones, hand-woven jackets and silver jewellery.
Spend a Sunday at Lal Market, if that’s not enough. For traditional designs, the Directorate of Handloom and Handicrafts does it. All that was bound to make us ravenous, so we settled for the customary momos and thukpa (soupy noodles with vegetables or meat).
The flavor is different from what you get in Delhi. Liquor is comparatively cheap, and if you are a little more adventurous, you should try the local drink, Chhang, made by fermenting millet. It is best sipped from a bamboo receptacle using a bamboo pipe.
After a hot, hearty meal, it was time to get pampered at Spa Pevonia at Mayfair. Set in a lush Thai ambience, it is the winner of Asia Spa’s ‘Best new resort spa in the country’ award. So it came as no surprise that the Swedish massage was one of the best we’ve ever experienced.
Day 3 saw us all thrilled, thanks to Nathula. The Nathula pass is situated at an altitude of 14,450ft, 56 kms from Gangtok, on the Indo-China border. Our permits were in place, but it was then that we came to know that it had rained heavily all night, and the roads were not clear.
The resort management requested visitors not to take risk, as land sliding is common in the rainy season. We were much better off in the resort itself, with its blend of vibrant Sikkimese spunk and Rajwada regality. On the day of departure, chants of Hanuman Chalisa bid us farewell, blending effortlessly with the piety of the prayer flags.
How to reach
By air: The nearest airport for Sikkim is Bagdogra in North Bengal (123 kms from Gangtok)
By train: Two nearest railway station are Siliguri (114kms) and New Jalpaiguri (125kms)
Rhododendron and flower show
Tashi view point
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Ganesh and Hanuman tok
M G Road market
Tsomgo Lake and Nathula pass
Where to stay
The place is bustling with hotels and guest houses. The Mayfair Resort, though, situated on the outskirts of Gangtok, offers a nice view of the valley. You can choose from villas, suites and rooms at this 33-acre forest property. Getting pampered at Spa Pevonia is another advantage. Call 035-42250777.