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India - Gangtok

INDIA | Saturday, 18 September 2010 | Views [508]

Sikkim is an area that was its own country up until the mid 70’s, and then they were kind of bribed to become part of India.  They were given loads of money for infrastructure (real sidewalks!) and have maintained an almost national park status.  Littering is much discouraged and heavily fined.  Treks must be applied for and escorted by guides.  We aren’t sure if this ecological thinking will eventually trickle down to the rest of India or if this is where all the ‘radical thinkers’ have been relegated to.  Either way, Gangtok is a beautiful modern city with vehicle free zones filled with lovely shops and benches and flowers.

The original plan was to do some trekking in Sikkim, but after meeting with a fellow who had just completed an 8 day trek – mostly in the rain – we decided it might not be so much fun.  Although Everest is visible on a clear day, and Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain definitely visible, we couldn't see past the next hill for clouds.  The whole point was to see some spectacular sights, not much point in this weather.

We went to the Institute of Tibetology.  They had a museum with ancient sutras (holy books), statues, and paintings.  They had coins, currency and stamps that is Tibet’s proof of once being an independent country; everything now relegated to a museum.  They had the most beautiful gardens and flowers creating an extremely tranquil setting.

 monks 

There was a monastery on the hill with monks blowing huge horns, banging a gigantic gong, and clanging cymbals while chanting.  It was quite impressive.  As I was manoeuvring away from the door, there were dozens of people blocking my path.  I thought they were trying to get a closer look at the monks doing their chants, as they all had their cameras out and ready.

However, as I was trying to get past all these people a man asked if he could take my picture.  There was something about him that I trusted so I said OK.  Instantly there were at least 20 cameras pointed at me.  I told the man I felt like a celebrity.  He very simply said, “Not celebrity, foreigner”.   I asked him why all these people wanted to take my picture.  He explained that he is head master of a school in Kolkata and these were his students. Most of them had never seen a foreigner, my white skin and yellow curly hair were very strange to them.   They all took photos of me talking to the head master, and then they took individual photos posing with me.   I really felt like a mess, as they were dressed in their beautiful sarees and jewels (the women really know how to dress in public in India!!) and here I was in a fleece and hiking boots, with not even my scarf this day.  They were all very appreciative and genuinely shook my hand in thanks.  Later in the day, we ran into some of the same group on the street and they took the opportunity to shake my hand and thank me again.  So sweet.....

One thing I can say about India is one should never be shy about washing one’s clothes – daily if possible.  Travel is long and most times in jeeps that don’t have proper windows.  Where it is hot, everything is dusty.  Where it is damp, everything is mouldy.  Either way, it seems to stick to your clothes.  I’m not sure what it is doing to my lungs, but I figure it is only temporary anyway.  It can’t be worse than all those years of grain dust and pesticide spraying on the farm.  It always amazes me how filthy the water is – even from my scarf.   I have also discovered that hot / warm water is FAR superior to cold / tepid water.   Tide/Cheer cold water wash will never convince me that the clothes come out just as clean.  I say Bull Shit!!  That is just my personal opinion from personal experience – on the road.  This was obviously not a paid advertisement.

TATA has got to be the most prolific company in the world.  They make electronics, cell phones, satellite dishes, bricks, cement, re-bar, bottled water, tea, insurance, jewelery, asset management, airplanes, military aircraft, pipes, salt, soap, they own the former British Steel,  Jaguar,  Land Rover, large trucks, SUV's and have developed a car that they have been able to market cheap enough that EVERYONE can afford one:  $2000 per car!  I read somewhere that they developed a plastic/Teflon engine, and thus are able to keep costs stupidly low.  The disposable car – should be a hit in North America.....   Ed, check into stock prices for TATA.

strange flower

 

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