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“Are you serious, we aren’t driving up these roads!” she yelled on our tough ascend to Shangarh from Sainj Valley! Doubtful about the choice, she gave me tough looks throughout the uphill drive. But once we reached and stopped near the meadow, she grinned and said it’s endearing!

A warm hug to my cold soul, A pretty smile to my sad face;

I fell in love with you at first glimpse, thus I call you my Happy Place!

Shangarh is a tiny hamlet perched in the gorgeous Sainj valley of Himachal Pradesh which is yet in veil and not exposed to many tourists. The gorgeous village welcomes you with enchanting views and warm people. Lying in the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park, Shangarh has numerous treks to take. It is home to Shangchul Mahadev temple and extraordinary meadows overlooking snow capped hills.

The gorgeous golden-green carpeted meadow! This is how it looks in the monsoons and summers! All green and glorious! My Trip to Shangarh, Sainj Valley-

It was 7 AM and both I and Swati were half awake just when we heard our Volvo driver calling out “Aut passengers”, we got down and were taken aback by the wild chilly wind which woke us up in a jiffy. Received by Nitish here, who was ready with the car, we left for our 30 KM drive to Shangarh!

Crossing cute bridges enroute! How can you not want to be clicked in such enchanting valleys!

That feeling when you land up in the mountains after ages and could feel the soul come alive is magical and that is exactly what we felt as we drove through gorgeous the Sainj Valley. Crossing a number of Hydro projects, small schools and roads which you wish never end; we stopped at a roadside dhaba for a glass of hot tea. That is when a random man stopped and asked if I were Vandana (which later turned out, was our host for the night!). He then left wishing us a happy stay.

Crossing such trucks with quirky tags! The welcoming!

Again as we ascended the tough roads, jus 2 KMs short of Shangarh we found an extremely beautiful abandoned wood house, like the ones you see in dreams! After a while of trying to avoid trespassing we gave up to our wish and entered that house. After crossing some thorny bushes and a broken ladder, we stepped on the house as it creaked. On hearing the creaks, an old man came out and greeted us with beautiful stories of the valley and freshly plucked golden apples!

2 KMs- So close, yet so far! Freshly plucked golden apples with views to cherish forever! The beautiful wooden house, we could not help trespassing.

A quick drive and we reached the Shangarh meadows. Ohh! That beauty. You definitely don’t imagine what we saw there when we talk of a meadow. Surrounded by Pines and Cedars, this golden-green carpet is so much more than a meadow. Animals grazing around, clouds playing Hide and Seek, Beautiful Himachali temple at one end with gigantic mountains in the backdrop, it was straight out of a fantasy.

Just in awe of the magestic snow capped mountains in the backdrop!

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If you are reading this blog then you must have either booked your festival passes already or are soon going to book them! Yes guys, it’s the maddening music festival again in the land of clouds and hills! If the only clouds you have seen at a chilled out music festival are smoke clouds, then it’s going to change for you as Meghalayan clouds are going to give a “run for money” to all the clouds and high your joints can ever give you!

The NH7 Weekender is a Happy Music Festival and the venue this year is at Thadlaskein, almost 2 hours from Shillong, Meghalaya. The dates for the festival are 2nd-3rd November.

Don’t spend an amazing Weekender lying lazily at your campsites or hotels waiting for the loud music and the fest to gear up.

Considering you have very limited time (maybe around 3/4 days with 2 days at fest)

  1. Thadlaskein Lake and Trychi Falls

Distance from Fest venue- 500 meters

Highlight- The beautiful man-made lake is gorgeous and perfect to spend some time. Because of the close proximity of the festival ground, the lake might be crowded during the day. You could instead visit here around sunset if you don’t mind skipping on the first couple of hours at the fest. Also take a short hike to the mesmerizing Trychi falls which is hardly half an hour away.

  1. Nartiang

Distance from Fest Venue- 17 KMs/ 45 minutes Approx

Highlight- Nartiang Monoliths and a “hidden” Shaktipeeth/Durga temple. The Drive is extremely scenic and you might want to get off at one of the beautiful churches at Wahiajer. Be spooked up after listening to the human sacrifice stories from the Pujari at the temple and pose for a picture at the faded yellow rice paddy fields along the journey.

Reference Link: https://thevagabonddreamer.com/2017/10/02/discovering-jayantee-the-forgotten-durga-temple/

  1. Krang Suri Falls

Distance from Fest Venue- 40 KMs/ 1 Hour 30 minutes Approx

Highlight- My personal favorite, the waterfall is an absolute treat to watch and definitely worth squeezing out time to pay a visit when in when Meghalaya. Although the falls might not be as deserted during the festival, yet the green waters and bewitching falls are all you need to calm your hangover after a crazy party.

  1. Shnongpdeng

Distance from fest venue- 75 Kms/2 hours 15 minutes Approx

Highlight- With a campsite from Pioneer Adventures, if you have your own car and plan to remain sober or have a driver, you might as well book your stay here at least for a night. Wake up to the sound of the beautiful river and indulge in adventure activities.

  1. Dawki

Distance from Fest venue- 70 Kms/2 hours Approx.

Highlight- Indo-Bangladesh Border, Be awed while Riding a peculiar boat on crystal clear waters which appears as if you are floating atop the Umgnot River, (nicknamed as Dawki River), dive off a cliff (if there’s enough water) in the amazingly Emerald River.

Reference Link: https://thevagabonddreamer.com/2017/07/19/meghalaya-a-date-with-your-own-soul/

  1. Mawlynnong

Distance from Fest Venue-100 Kms/3 hours Approx.  (With an off road connecting Dawki and Mawlynnong)

Highlight- Home to the mesmerizing Living Root Bridge and also known as the “Cleanest Village of Asia”, you wouldn’t be happy about it if you don’t pay a visit here. Check out awesome places of interests like the Balancing Rock, Garden, and Sky Bridge etc when here. Also be amazed at the efforts of the locals to keep the village clean!

Reference Link: https://thevagabonddreamer.com/2017/07/19/meghalaya-a-date-with-your-own-soul/

  1. Umiam Lake

Distance from Fest Venue- 64 KMs/1 Hour 45 Mins Approx

Highlight- Extremely scenic lake surrounded by alpine trees. Lying on the way to almost anywhere in Meghalaya (if you come from Guwahati), Umiam lake, also known as Bada Pani is more like a pitstop. However, I would urge you to the lake side and spend some time dipping your feet in the chilling cold waters.

 

  1. Mawphlang Sacred Grave Forest

Distance from Fest Venue- 70 KMs/2 Hours Approx

Highlight- Considered religious by the local communities, they are extremely beautiful groves. Mystical and magical, the sacred grove forest holds many secrets in its womb and you would definitely have a little more love for nature once you step out from here.

  1. Laitlum Canyons

Distance from Fest Venue- 55 KMs/1 Hour 30 Mins

Highlight- Fall in love with nature if you spend some time here in the heart of nature. You will find rolling hills blanketed in beautiful golden covers with patches of green at this time of the year. Sit at any one of the edges and spend some time with self.

 

  1. Double Decker Living Root Bridge/Cherrapunjee

Distance from the Fest Venue- 102 KMs/3 Hours 30 Minutes Approx

Highlight- Double Decker living root bridge and the wettest place on earth with a number of waterfalls en route. Although, you won’t be able to come to Cherra and go back on the same day of the Fest, however if you have a day or 2 extra you must definitely visit here! Adventure lovers and trekkers behold as you will witness the most mesmerizing natural rainbow at Rainbow falls and double decker root bridges!

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Being a Travel Blogger and getting to travel to different places and sharing your experience with the world is sort of the best thing to happen to you. You know that people wait for your experiences and rely on your expertise to make their plans and bookings. But as Spider-man said: “With great powers, comes great responsibilities”. And I extremely agree to the same, we are responsible for unbiased and genuine feedbacks, we are responsible to share our experiences with the world and we are responsible to show the world the places we have been! And not living up to these expectations is disappointing for the followers as well as a major dent in your blog. I recently met with an incident where I did goof up with my responsibility but was saved with the help of an amazing expert!

A nightmare isn’t just a horrible dream which wakes you up. It could be a horrible incident which doesn’t let you sleep as well! I might be sounding like exaggerating or drama-fying my incident but I lost my TRAVEL PHOTOS! Yes, my 32GB SD Card having pictures from all my recent trips to Western Ghats, Gokarna and Uttar Pradesh (Brij Ki Holi trip) just vanished in thin air!

So, I was looking for some pictures to transfer to my phone for uploading on the Instagram, and my Camera kept showing “Insert SD Card”, I rechecked it a number of times and the card was already mounted, I panicked and inserted another card in the Camera and it accepted this one! It was only then I realized that I might have a problem.

I am pretty lazy with transferring data and creating backups regularly. Especially with the wi-fi options in the DSLRs, I just transfer the required picture to my phone, edit and upload the same. Plus, I had been keeping extremely busy lately and haven’t written a blog on either of these places yet, which left me with only like 50 out of 5K pictures which I had uploaded on Social Media. So my 32 GB precious SD card had like a ton of images and all the hard work I have done, clicking pictures and making memories was in that 1 inch square plastic card which was of no use to me now!

I have heard of regular Data Recovery Services and quite honestly I don’t have a pretty good review about them and wouldn’t wish to shell out a lot of money for the same. That’s when I came across the ISO Certified recovery service, Stellar Data Recovery! I read reviews about them and all were 4 Star plus, while other recovery services would generally have mixed reviews. Also, there’s this awesome Travel Blogger I follow who had written about the amazing services these guys provide and their photo recovery service. A little skeptical in the beginning, I somehow managed to call them for help. Oh and what a gentle response. These guys actually have a branch in Pune-Stellar Data Recovery Pune , close to where I was staying and they listened to all my cribs and complaints calmly assuring me that I would receive my pictures back also, I was promised that I would not be charged a single penny if the data wasn’t recovered!

Still uncertain, I asked them to pick the card from my place and the agreed for a home pick up, in fact they offer free home pick-up and delivery for almost all their customers. The pick-up guy came to my place and took the Memory Card from me, assuring me the recovery. Fingers crossed and I gave it to him for the initial analysis to check if data can be recovered or not and how much data they can recover also the estimated cost. I received the analysis report within a day. And after my approval they start working on my SD Card After spending almost a day in anticipation and nervously, I got a call from their office that I would get my photos back and guess what, it cost me much lesser than what I had expected!

When I asked them the details about the process and my privacy (I mean, that is after all important), they guaranteed me 100% Privacy and data security as they are Iso certified organization and recovering data since 1993 . And after all if they have served over 2 Million plus victims of data loss, there must be something commendable about them! I mean, we can call them the new age “gadget doctors” right! At least that’s what they are to me, and just like a human hospital be, they make sure that any product, be it hard drives, SD Cards or phones aren’t tampered with. It’s always opened only in A Class 100 clean room– thus guarantying the product to not get further damaged!

I am extremely glad I chose Stellar for my SD Card Recovery and I would personally recommend you to get in touch with the Stellar Data Recovery guys if you ever fall into a place like I did (Although I hope you don’t!) They are available at different locations in all the major cities across the country.

The post How I Lost and Found precious photos! appeared first on The Vagabond Dreamer!.

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Nestled in the bordering corners of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley lies in the Western parts of Himalayas which witnesses less rainfall and has minimum vegetation.

Known for its “beyond amazing” landscapes, rough terrains and a tough accessibility, it is one of the most loved places for travelers who like less-commercial and partially explored destinations! Spiti is not just a District or destination to explore; it is an emotion which can truly be felt by a lucky few!

The second best way to experience Spiti is through a road trip (First would be on foot, provided you have that much time and stamina). The population here is really low thus limiting the public transport. Of course you can travel across Spiti with Public vehicles if you are an ardent traveler, yet I would suggest a Roadtrip.

Reasons to take a Road Trip across the Spiti Wilderness-

1. Itinerary Flexibility-  A road trip means having a car at your own disposal, you may or may not drive it, but you can stop it anywhere and call it a day! The magic that these harsh terrains does to you, you might want to stay a day extra at the Kye monastery or just stop by at the Chacha-Chachi Dhaba in Batal and wish to spend the night there. Well it’s all possible only when you have your own vehicle. So come prepared with a rough itinerary and make amends  as and when needed.

2. Photographer’s Dream- Alright, let’s just be honest, each one of us has a hidden photographer within us who wakes up from the nap whenever it sees something gorgeous!  You know, that tiny photographer friend of yours, is gonna be up all while, when in Spiti. be it the dramatic changes in the landscape, the pretty Spiti river or the Deers crossing roads randomly, you would want to capture it all.  Having your own vehicle gives you the liberty to snap the bewitching valleys and beauty of this majestic land and take breather breaks as you wish.

3. Spoilt for Comfort-  The magic about Spiti Valley is that the entire journey is breathtaking and the “destination” just doesn’t matter.  You enjoy each bit of the valley and be amazed as the landscape changes frequently, it just gets a little better when enjoying it from the comfort of your car. Also, its a continuous journey for hours each day (unless you are planning to call it home for a month), the rough terrains and basic public transport might get on to you and give you a bad back. While a roadtrip saves you time and energy and you can can just dump in all your essentials and takeaways and get set for the journey instead of maintaining a schedule and waiting for shared cabs and buses.

4.  See the best of what you like- Although it looks like a small district, but Spiti has a lot to itself than just the awesomeness lying on the main roads, the villages in the interior regions doesn’t have easy connectivity.  There are so many off beat things to do in Spiti, and not all places are accessible otherwise! When you have your own vehicle, have no fears! You wouldn’t mind spending the night at a deserted village with only a few houses, neither would you mind leaving extremely early to catch the sunrise at a particular point!

5. No fixed Time Schedule- Spiti Valley being remote has a scarce connectivity and using public transport means being on time, if you missed one bus, you are stranded for a day unless some amazing rider gives you lift. And with limited office leaves, even a day wasted can cost you a lot! While it sounds adventurous and keeps on your toes, Spiti is one of those places where you would want to laze around and wandergaze the valleys and lose track of time.  Specially if it’s the off season when spotting buses or travelers is occasional, you don’t have to rely on hitch hiking for commute. And if you aren’t a Morning person, missing out on buses is quite easy.

Note- I will be sharing the tips, Information and Contacts (places to visit) in my upcoming blog on Spiti. Stay tuned for more!

Check out this Video for a glimpse of Spiti Valley as seen from the Window seat!

Spiti from the Window Seat! - YouTube


Here’s an ideal itinerary (with moderate pace) for Spiti Valley en route Kinnaur based on my recent trips to this hamlet!

Day 0- Delhi- Shimla (Overnight Volvo) Considering Delhi as the base, you can catch an overnight Bus from Delhi which drops you at Shimla early morning and this breathtaking journey would begin from Shimla!

Day 1- Shimla-Sarahan (Overnight Sarahan)- With a Good Morning Kiss from the mountains, Leave for your journey towards Sarahan en route stopping at Narkanda and Rampur for breather breaks and local sightseeing! You can visit the Bhimkali temple and the Sarahan palace and be awed at the typical Himachali architecture. Chill with the locals overlooking grand mountains and treat yourself to plate of Kinnauri Rajma-Rice, a staple of this region!

Day 2- Sarahan- Chitkul- Rakcham (Overnight Rakcham)- This is going to be an amazing journey through some of the most treacherous roads of world. You will cross a number of those rocky semi-tunnels and blind turns. Drive till Chitkul, last village of India crossing Sangla and Rakcham, take a short hike and soak in the beauty. Drive back to Rakcham for your stay by the riverside valley.

Day 3-..

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The Vagabond Dreamer! by Chetna Khetawat - 3d ago

Nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award! When you are surrounded with doubts and wonder whether things are going your way or not, you get a sign that you are on the perfect track! Got such an amazing sign in the form of this nomination!

All thanks to Lara Lorenzi for nominating me for this award! Check out her awesome work here!

Rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:
  1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you in the blog post add their link in your post.
  2. Answer the 11 questions which your nominator asked you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 new bloggers for the award and write them 11 new questions for the same.
  4. Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.
  5. List the rules and add the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.

Nominees-

I chose to nominate the following awesome Travel Bloggers! Congratulations guys, loved everyone’s content and wish you great luck for future!

  1. Sahil Singh http://ghoomakad.in/
  2. Rahul Yuvi https://the-passport-souls.travel.blog/
  3. Sreedevi Jeevan http://fireflysree.blogspot.in/
  4. Chandreyi Bandyopadhyay https://themoonchasers.blog/
  5. Jim Jones https://travelstoriesandimages.com/
  6. Alexandria Brown http://www.thecloudtraveler.com/
  7. Souvik Mandal http://samtravelogue.com/
  8. Saloni Kilam Rampal http://www.gypsyescapade.com/
  9. Prachi Sachdev https://www.justbeingme.in/
  10. Dale Anthony https://www.facebook.com/rebefser/ 

Answers to Lara’s questions!
  1. What kind of Traveler are you?

Well, I am more of a lazy and laid back solo explorer! Not a trekker or an adventurist, I love to enjoy the little things a place has to offer. I prefer solo traveling as it gives me the opportunity to step out of the comfort zone and indulge with amazing conversations with strangers!

  1. Which place that you have visited is in your mind for its beauty?

I prefer to travel to naturally beautiful places rather than grand cities. Still out of all the places I have visited recently, my favorite remains Spiti Valley.

  1. Share one of your best experiences in your trips.

Quite recently on my trip to Spiti valley with my best friend, we missed our bus and boarded a wrong bus. The driver and his conductor were amazing enough to convince the rest of the passengers, take a short detour and wait there for the other bus which would drop us to our destination. Meeting such helpful people when you least expect them is a miracle!

  1. Tell me how many countries have you visited and which is your favorite?

Only 2 so far. India and Bhutan so far, and my favorite is India.

  1. Which is the craziest thing you have done in your travels?

Planning random Solo trips, Staying at basic tents with temperature below zero and almost freezing to death are some of the crazy things I have done till date!

  1. Which place in your country would you recommend visiting and why?

For History and Culture Lovers- Rajasthan and for Nature Lovers- Norh East India.

  1. What is top in your Bucket List?

Attend the Burning Man Festival, Nevada, USA.

  1. While travelling, what do you do to help local business?

I generally use local transport, like to stay at small homestays or local hotels and also prefer eating at local eateries thus contributing to local business.

  1. What is the most important thing you look for when you start a new trip?

What does the place have to offer in terms of natural beauty and cultural uniqueness!

  1. Which place would you like to go for living if you could choose?

Anywhere in the Himalayas.

  1. Where are you planning to go next?

I am planning to explore different locations of Western Ghats in Monsoons.

My Questions to the Nominees:
  1. What do you love the most about blogging?
  2. Who is your Blogging Inspiration?
  3. Is it a hobby or you are pursuing it as a profession? If hobby, do you plan to be a full time professional blogger?
  4. Mention 3 top Travel Bloggers you adore and wish to be like?
  5. Have you read my Blogs (https://thevagabonddreamer.com/) before this nomination?
  6. Any suggestion for improvement in my blogs?
  7.  Which is your favorite travel destination so far? Why?
  8. What do you do to promote your blogs?
  9. Do you believe in paid promotion of blogs?
  10. Share any memorable experience with a local resident of one of your favorite travel destinations?
  11. How do you think you can contribute to the society with the help of your blogs or travel advents?

Looking forward for answers from you guys! Wish you all good luck and Congratulations again!

Keep Traveling and Keep Sharing!

The post Sunshine Blogger Award! appeared first on The Vagabond Dreamer!.

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It was a pleasant evening at Rishikesh as we were sipping tea by the Ganges post the Ganga Aarti, when the name Mussoorie popped up and Dad started sharing his College trip stories to Mussoorie.

It’s funny that they visited this little hamlet only because it was called the “Queen of Hills”; since they had already been to Kashmir which was considered the “King of hills”, so someone suggested they should check out the queen next! We could see the enthusiasm build up and how excited he got recounting those young old days! I wasn’t too keen on visiting a commercial Mussoorie, but that smile on Dad’s face was more than enough a reason to quit all the other plans and head there!

Next morning, we left for Mussoorie stopping at Dehradun and Sahastradhara. Now, travelling with religious parents means stopping at temples instead of taking breather breaks at beautiful spots. But for a change, I didn’t mind that. In fact it was a different experience altogether!

The drive across the Garhwal region is an astoundingly beautiful one and good music and favorite people only make an addition to it! Driving up from the lush green blanket of deodars, oaks and conifers to rather curvaceous and steep roads is amazing! You will be thrilled to witness the landscape change so quickly and enjoy every bit of it! There’s some magic in these mountain winds, it captivates your heart and that one long breath on reaching the top sure gives you a feeling of Nirvana!

As we headed towards Mussoorie, I had a mixed feeling, while the enchanting nature kept me at the edge of my seat; the traffic sure was a turn off. I wondered what is so amazing about this “Over-touristy” town which gives her a title like that of a queen! After all Himalayas has so much more to offer than a trafficy Mussorie!

It was a Sunday evening and we were greeted by flocks of tourists all across the town till we reached our hotel! After check in, we left for a walk at the famous Library Chowk. While my Parents were shopping and enjoying sumptuous meals at fancy restaurants at library bazaar, I went for a walk at Camel’s back road when it was almost sunset time! And Boy! That road, the beauty! I was taken aback as I hadn’t expected something like this in what I considered a commercial hill town! It was one of the most spectacular sunsets I had seen in the past few months!

Evening was more of spending family time and exploring some amazing cafes post that. The next morning, I had a literal visual orgasm to witness the view from my room which I had ignored in a hurry last evening! Waking up to such views is what travelling to Mountains is about! After another sunrise walk at the Camel’s back road I was happy to discover that almost half the crowd had vanished as it was Monday.

A regular touristy day as it was expected to be, visiting the sought after “sight-seeing” destinations like the Kempty Falls, Gun Hill, Churches, some lakes and temples and a small Tibetan valley! The visit to George Everest’s House and Cloud’s end definitely stood out for me!

I am not generally a fan, but guilty of falling in love with the beautiful Victorian style view-points all across the Library Bazar and Gandhi Chowk and witnessing a sunset, sipping hot coffee from one of these points is a clichéd pleasure! The Misty fog enveloping the town by this time adds the finesse to it!

The next day was more of a surprise for me as we explored an amazing under popular Dhanaulti and Ruskin Bond’s village at Greater Mussoorie, Landour! By the evening it was time to bid adieu to this hamlet of beauty and I was drenched in mixed feelings again.

(I will soon upload a guide to the places to visit and plan a trip to Mussoorie in details.)

It was a tough goodbye for sure and at the same time I was grateful to my Dad’s wish for reminiscence which brought us here. I was definitely high on nature as I had come to a nature’s delight which I had been trying to avoid, assuming it to be commercialized and thus not worth a visit! Let alone glad to have spent amazing family time!

While we drove down the darling roads I wondered the same question again, is Mussoorie worthy of her title or is it us who have disappointed her?

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“Should I take this trip or skip it for a couple of days extra at Kolkata? It would be a Solo trip anyway; beaches are more fun with company. Chuck it! I better stay back and catch up with my friends, Mandarmani some other time!” I thought to myself before sleeping but somehow I forgot to switch off my Alarm which woke me up at 5 AM and I instantly decided to leave. Packed in a few clothes and off to Esplanade to catch a bus to the most pristine beach of East India!

I boarded an AC Bus to Mandarmani, it was a comfortable seater with the eyes of all travelers glued to the small screen which played the movie “Rustam”. As we cruised away from the city-scape of Kolkata, the construction drastically changed from large buildings to humble and broken Huts. Crossing huge vegetation, mostly Banana trees and a number of artificial fishing ponds, we stopped at a brilliant Dhaba at Kolaghat. Stuffing with good Bengali breakfast I napped on the cozy Bus seat and was finally dropped off at a sub road leading to Mandarmani.

Received a few suspicious looks by some Aunties and Rikshaw walas, a decent Auto guy asked where I wanted to go and took me on the 10 KM long extremely scenic village drive. I got down at my hotel and could already hear the sound of the waves, without stopping for a moment I rushed to the sea (which happened to be at the back side of the property) and Voila!

The sun, the sand, the waves and me, I was finally here after a number of second thoughts! In front of me was a huge beach with nobody to spot, except a Coconut seller soaking in the sun. I was amazed as the coconut guy collected all the empty coconut shells and said that it is his responsibility to keep the beach clean, for a moment I forgot I was in Bengal! :p

I was excited to ride on the Motor cart at the beach! Apparently Mandarmani is the largest motorable beach in the country. But unfortunately there had been some major accident a few months ago and since then the beach had been closed for driving.

But there were a number of water activities which gained my interest. Trying some food, strolling around for a while, not able to sit as the beach sand is all muddy, I finally hired an E-Rickshaw to Mohana!

A good Rickshaw guy=Striking Gold! On having a short conversation (in Broken Bengali) with him and seeing me with a camera, he was happy to see my interest in the rare Red Crabs of Mandarmani and suggested me to check out a fishing village a little ahead of Mohana where they are in abundance! A group of local kids playing football striked for a pose and guided us the way to the village!

Things you see in such villages!

A Vast stretch of Sand with no human at all!! At a distance I could spot the shore and I walked towards it beside an artificially created mini forest. I almost leaped with joy as I saw the shore Bleeding Red with these tiny creatures! As if they played the game of Hide and Seek with me, if I went closer to them, they hid in their holes and as I moved a little back they would come out.

After almost an half an hour of this Hide and Seek and me sitting on the sands soaking the sun, a little girl Mumtaj, came to me and asked me to buy some shells from her, before I could respond she storm towards the water and started digging and brought a crab out!

I thought she had caught it for a meal, but apparently red crabs are poisonous and can’t be eaten, she was just playful wit these mini beauties! A short conversation with her and she called her father to take me on a boat ride to the Delta!

Mumtaj

So, they row you in a boat for a..

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North Sikkim is a mystical land with many hidden and unexplored gems! A romance with this enchantress will have you smitten for life as the snow laden peaks and milky white waterfalls cast a spell on you! But planning a perfect trip to this Magical abode could be a daunting task!

I had received a great response and huge queries for details to plan a perfect North Sikkim trip after my previous publish on the same (Ever grateful to you for all the support!).    https://thevagabonddreamer.com/2018/02/10/experiencing-the-wizardry-of-north-sikkim/

Here’s an effort to bring together all the necessary information, tips and most amazing places to include in your itinerary to this heavenly land!

INFORMATION-

Best Season For North Sikkim – Although North Sikkim is very unpredictable and loves to play with your plans, yet you can be almost certain of these dates for an open access to North Sikkim (I still recommend you to check before making plans because the access to this route is very uncertain).

  • October- December (January and February beginning witness Heavy snow, blocking the roads)
  • February End- May (Post that, monsoons start and it’s difficult to visit in heavy rains)

Inner Line Permit – You need to get a permit to Enter North Sikkim (Border Sensitivity). Carry all your Valid Documents, preferably both Original and Xeroxed. You would need- Passport Photos and an Address Proof (DL, Passport etc.)

Saviors on Rent- You can get warm Jackets, Boots and Snow Gloves on rent for a mere cost of 50-100 bucks/day. You wouldn’t necessarily have winter wears for such freaking cold; you can always rent from the local shops.

Join the Herd- If you are travelling solo or a couple and don’t wish to shell out much from your pockets, you can join any 3D2N, 4D3N or 5D4N Sikkim Tour Package from a decent travel agent. They send groups of 6-10 in a car offering same services like arranging ILP, Stay, Travel, Meals and Basic Sightseeing. Package lies anywhere between 3500-8000 depending on which one you choose.

Zero Point Charges- The driver’s union of North Sikkim has fixed a driving charge of Rs. 2,500 for a drive ahead of Lachung to Yumthang Valley and Zero point. If it has not been already discussed with your agent, check with them regarding the same.

TIPS
  1. It’s going to be FREEZING COLD. Carry enough warm wears and dress up in layers as the temperature will change during the journey and at different times of the day. Take extra pairs of Socks (woolen if possible), Gloves and Thermal wears.
  2. It is always advisable to halt a night at Lachung/Lachen when ascending towards Zero Point or Gurudongmar. Otherwise you may have to suffer from AMS, plus you wouldn’t be able to enjoy as you would be dead tired.

    Amazing Flowers at Yumthang!

  3. Remember, you are travelling on the hills so the Average speed of the vehicle would be around 20-25 KMPH, with a risk of road blocks or breather breaks to click the beautiful landscapes.
  4. Carry Diamox with you. It’s a tablet used for Altitude Sickness, just pop one if you feel dizzy on your ascend to Gurudongmar Lake.
  5. It would be a boon if you carry an umbrella/Raincoat and Rainproof your Luggage if possible.

    Jacket, wind cheater and Gum Boots taken on rent!

  6. You might not have cell phone networks on the treacherous mountains of North Sikkim, you may want to keep your loved ones informed and not rely on network alone.
  7. If at any point you feel the lack of oxygen, don’t try to be a hero. First try taking in deep breaths or sip in small sips of water and relax for a while. Don’t run, jump or panic (as this might increase the need for oxygen). If nothing seems to work, come down hill.

    Valleys and tough roads!

  8. Unless you are staying at a Luxury Hotel, the internet reviews for your stay at North Sikkim doesn’t really matter. All of them are basic and similar. The travel agents have their settings with certain Hotels/Homestays and it is preferable to stay with the bookings they have made.
  9. If the cold gets too much on to you, don’t hesitate to indulge in Brandy or local liquor Chhang for some warmth.
  10. If you dare to self drive on this route, don’t forget spare tires, toolbox, torch light etc with you.

    The curvaceous Route!

FOOD TIPS
  1. The Hotels would generally serve you Rice/Rotis in the meals. You may ask them in advance to prepare some local delicacies for you instead. (They might charge extra but it’s totally worth).
  2. Bring a Thermos along. Fill in Hot water and take while traveling to Zero Point or Gurudongmar. You can thank me later!
  3. You will get basic food in the Northern part of Sikkim, so if you are fussy about food, you might as well carry some instant food along. (You get packet soup, noodles etc in shops at Lachen and Lachung, just in case)
  4. You MUST have the momos at Chungthang Canteen.
  5. Try Hot Thukpa (Veg/Non Veg), Butter Tea, Chhang (local liquor), Gundruk and Timo apart from Momos.
  6. Wai Wai (a kind of noodle snack) isn’t available in all the parts of the country but you can find in abundance here! You have to try and maybe take some home.
Momos!!! Veg Thupka!
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Sikkim, often considered as the “unexplored paradise”, has an annual tourism more than the total population of this tiny state! What make Sikkim truly miraculous is the nature and the constant efforts of the locals to live in harmony with the blessing called mother Earth!

The enchanting Yumthang Valley!!

The land of dancing clouds and snow clad mountains!
Fondly embracing lakes, streams and natural fountains!
Home to majestic Yaks and peace seeking Monks!
Vacant roads so curvy, feels like intoxicating through bongs!
A canvas which the spring paints in color and winters leave white!
Oh Sikkim, you are a seductress and being with you is such a delight!

-The Vagabond Dreamer!

A barren bridge which looks straight out from heaven!

Watch this video- a compilation of a few short random videos of our Journey across North Sikkim. (The quality is very basic and the video may be blurry at times as they were all captured at random times with random phones!) Highly recommended to get a glimpse of the enchanting journey that it is!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KPVId1jCOc

North Sikkim district is an enchantress and doesn’t fail to give you enough hickeys! Despite of not being exclusive and secluded like it used to be a few years ago, the tourism industry here is still very basic and minimal thus helping maintain the pristine and sacred environment.

Breathing in a little magic!

My trip to North Sikkim has been truly spell-binding and fun! Fun because this was with a group of crazy friends, although I did feel I needed some solitude at times, but the bewitching spell that North Sikkim casts, had me smitten!

Looks like a happy group??

This a short excerpt of my journey to this darling land (A detailed post with tips and place guides will follow soon!)

Day 1: Waking up to the sound of a Hair Dryer, I saw Pammy as she got all dolled up and dried her clothes with the drier, I realized it was past 7 and we had a long way to travel. After getting ready quick, we left for Lachen with our documents handy. The advent began with dusty curvaceous roads and within no time we eloped out from the traffic zone to a greener and better landscape.En route stopping at a small monastery and a few waterfalls, we reached the verification point where our documents got checked and permits were issued and we headed towards Lachen.

Can you make out the gush?

Stopped at a small town Mangan for lunch and with a few breather breaks to enjoy the striking picturesque landscape, we reached Chungthang. The momos at Chungthang cafeteria were other worldly and we hogged on them after a “not so great” lunch at Mangan.

Om Mani Padme Hum!

Rains and dense fog gave us company for the entire journey from Chungthang to Lachen and the broken roads had us tired. Checked in at the hotel at Lachen where we were served amazing butter tea and steaming maggi noodles. After moments of shivering in the clouds, as the rains got heavier, we cozied ourselves in the warm beds as we had a long day ahead tomorrow!

Spot the Rainbow!

Day 2: Almost after a sleepless night, awoken by the knocks on the door, we got dressed with as many clothes as possible and quivering with the chill, departed for Gurudongmar, early morning at 4:00 AM. Traversing through the rough roads in the dark has a thrill of its own. We made sure our driver had had enough tea and is wide awake as we were all drowsy, but once the dawn broke and we could get a glimpse of the picturesque roads and mountains, the sleep was long gone..

1st rays of sun making the snow laden mountains glisten like gold.

The rays of the sun made the snow clad mountains glisten like gold and I had lost my heart right then. Stopping at places to capture the beauty and then at our pit stop Thangu Village, we were thrilled to be surrounded by fresh snow. The temperature was below zero,after getting a long queue for using the loo and warming ourselves near the wood fire stove at a small eatery, we regained the energy to ascend ahead!

Warming it up!

With cristmassy atmosphere and absolutely ravishing views, reached the Gurudongmar check point, BSF canteen. At an altitude of around 16000 ft, they check your acclimatization and whether or not you should move ahead.

The most important companion… You know when the mountains call, but never when nature calls! This squeezy helped a number of strangers too! :p

The friendly BSF jawans were at constant service of the public, offering hot tea and water. (I wonder what this journey would be like if the BRO (Border Roads Organization) wouldn’t build amazing roads on these extremely tough terrains and BSF (Border Security Force) weren’t there to help!)

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A beautiful French Memorial.

Like a fresh breeze of air, it tickled my soul as I sat on the beach watching the sun rise from under the endless waters! Pondicherry (Puducherry) is like that little moment of a peace you find in a never ending chaos. It is the Land of Beaches, Rising Sun, Amazing food, Charming Coastline, Friendly people and Peaceful environment. Lying on the South East Coast of India, Pondicherry is a Union Territory at a distance of around 3 hours from Chennai. It was ruled by British, Dutch, Portuguese and the French and became a part of independent India only in 1962. Thus keeping intact the Colonial essence along with an urban serene touch and is called the “French capital of India”. I personally feel it can be nicknamed to the “Yellow Beach City” because of the gorgeous picturesque buildings painted yellow and enchanting beaches.

Such Boulevards!

Most people claim that the entire Pondicherry can be explored or “done” in a day’s time and a Weekend trip (2D1N) is perfect for this Quaint Laidback town! Well I beg to differ, as this favorite beach town is so much more than just a bunch of beautiful buildings and cheap booze!

Beside the beautiful Lady of Angels church

My trip to Pondicherry was quite a wild one! Before I could accept that fact, that it’s for real and I am here with 11 cousins on a Women’s trip which is turning out amazing; (You know I love solo and small group trips, this one changed my thinking totally!) I got caught with a horrible stomach infection and wasted a day at the resort. (Yes, You can afford resorts when travelling with family!)  With frequent trips to the loo, my only saviour was Coconut water and ORS while my crazy darling cousins pampered me as I whined over being on a restricted diet, after all Pondicherry is a Foodies heaven! But the views and experiences that this quaint town has to offer is impeccable and totally makes up for my loss! I urge you to visit and explore my new found love. While there’s so much more to do in Pondicherry, Below are my top recommendations!

The resort we had put up near Auroville! Yes! The only Booze I could have!
  1. Explore the Beaches

With a number of enchanting beaches, Pondicherry wins the beach game by a huge margin as compared to other touristy places in India! The beaches here offer a riveting and refreshing feel while making sure you have a memorable trip. Even during the peak season, the beaches are clean, calm and devoid of chaos! If you are seeking for Serenity and a Paradise, this is the place to be, quite literally :p! Paradise and Promenade beaches happens to be my top picks at Pondicherry while there are many to explore and each offers something different and worth spending time. You would like to check out-

  • Serenity Beach
  • Promenade Beach
  • Auroville Beach
  • Silver Beach
  • Paradise Beach
  • Karikal Beach
Promenade beach. The picture says it all!
  1. Picturesque Sunrise

Lying on the East Coast of India, Pondicherry enjoys the pleasure of witnessing a rising sun! Out of the many beaches in the town, you may visit the one closer to you (prefer Promenade) and indulge in the unspoilt beauty of the sun as it rises from the never ending waters! So no matter how difficult it is to wake up after a night of partying, you have to make it happen!

Gandhi Statue morning Silhouette! Sunrise at Promenade!
  1. Get touristy as you do the Local sight-seeing!

Winter months are most favorable to visit Pondicherry. While the weather is pleasant and you will love it here, it is also flooded with tourists making it a little crowded. But trust me; the magic of Pondicherry doesn’t leave you high and dry! You will fall in love with the regular sight-seeing and these are highly recommended and must be done!

  • Aurobindo Ashram– You can’t come to Pondicherry and not visit here! Spend a few hours (or days if you wish) here to find inner peace!
  • Old Lighthouse– Yes you may want to run back after looking at the endless stairs, but Oh boy the view from the top of the Light house is spell binding! The entire town looks like a miniature colorful painting on a blue canvas of the sea!
  • Ousteri Lake– Picturesque Lake where you can spot a number of migratory birds! Take a boat ride as you chill and enjoy the view around.
  • Gandhi statue– Located on the Promenade beach, the entire structure with Mahatma’s statue and the giant granite Monoliths look mesmerizing when seen from a distance. Given a chance, click this during sunrise!
Shri Aurobindo Ashram!
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