Archive

Monthly Archives: August 2016

IMG_0458.JPG

Sikkim can’t be covered in a week’s time frame, this North Eastern State of India is primarily divided into North which is the largest, and very untapped and isolated, Tourists need special permits to visit North Sikkim beyond Mangan, South with Namchi as one of the favorite hill town stops to explore, West with Pelling as the most visited tourist town, very scenic and snow guaranteed most part of the year.

IMG_2723.JPG

Gangtok is in East Sikkim and a vital stop for those driving in from Bagdogra or Darjeeling. Tourists flock here and being the capital of Sikkim there are lots to do here, and the weather is heavenly all year round, again I cant but help draw parallels to Switzerland!

From Pine trees, dense woods to wide expanses of Tea gardens, this was the next sweep of scenery, only this time the land appeared flat and infinite, at certain angles a valley view in focus, the hills with carved stepped terraces was reminiscent of the fabled Balinese rice fields.

IMG_2843.JPG

Sikkim is making great inroads in the Tea industry, my first halt just before hitting the roads to Gangtok was a small highway outlet of Temi tea. Neighboring Darjeeling Tea is Sikkim’s main rival in the Tea industry but Sikkim is taking competition headlong and boasts of their tea estates organic compliant.

IMG_2779.JPGMore on Sikkim Tea later as I reach my destination {after 4 hours} the capital of Sikkim, Gangtok.

The drive now turns into gentle curves and clambers on higher ranges. The Teesta faded away like a distant memory and the landscape changes precipitously. The scent of Pine welcomes you as rows of ancient Pine stands proud creating thick green cover amidst the mist.

Sikkim-9.jpg

The driver remarks, that there has been massive denudation of these majestic trees, and other not so local tree plantation drive has taken place to revive the forests and woods back to its former glory.

Sikkim-10.jpg

He further continues that formerly a drive like this on narrow stretches one encountered many big cats, plenty of Deers, and even Elephants! Now it’s reduced to an oddity on these tracts.(cont)

IMG_2699.JPGMost tourists stop by at the Teesta Rangit confluence viewpoint to admire the view. The green verdant hills and the rivers as it meets, meanders round curves and bends can be seen miles away and beyond. A comfortable outpost (san restrooms) is created for a Chai point, there are many tea stalls, warm cup of tea is served with biscuits, the last point for Darjeeling tea, as the road trip climb further it is Sikkim tea!

IMG_2863.JPG Considered the lifeline of Sikkim the river originates in the Himalayas and flows all through Sikkim downwards to Darjeeling and West Bengal. The drive skirting the banks of this mighty confluence of the river is memorable.

IMG_2803.JPG The water under Teesta Bridge due to a dam built distance away had turned into an emerald green, my driver who takes this route daily was saying how the water changes colors constantly depending on the dam flood gates.{CONT}

(cont.)-3/4

My intent to explore the North East was a curiosity to the unfamiliar, Sikkim is always the window, the path to that route, it’s most popular with tourists and quite surprisingly crowded which was why I wanted to travel out on a road less traveled! Even the travel agencies recommend commencing Sikkim as a first destination before other NE states.

IMG_0384.JPGFrom Siliguri a road trip to Darjeeling, a sort of a breather there for a day or two and another road trip from there on to Gangtok. It takes 3 to 4 hours gradual gradient drive from Darjeeling, the backdrop dramatically changes from dull grey of Darjeeling town to the more fertile riverbank of the Teesta.

IMG_0387.JPG

We are regulars to Goa come rain or shine, just 7 hours road trip, it’s proximity to Poona makes it an ideal getaway. Poona has a growing no of residents owning 2nd homes in Goa and are fast edging out neighbouring Bombay who were the earliest to invest in properties. Delhites are the next wave migrating to Goa and I foresee a mass exodus in the future.

As for us owning a slice of this paradise in Goa has been lost opportunity, we contend ourselves to a home away from home. Gone are the days we would check in at some sterile Hotel reservation and not savour the sights and sounds of Goa. A chance recommendation by Rajan Eklahare who owns TheJungle Resort at Amba, to shift to Olaulim Backyards in North Goa, made us fall in love  with the concept of Home Stays. We have never stepped inside the confines of a Hotel ever since and even though we have listed out numerous  home stays in Goa, Olaulim Backyards has been our 2nd home for all seasons.

Most Portuguese HOMESTAYS , some over 200 years  old are often restored and staying in these HOMESTEADS bring back nostalgia and great experience of Portuguese heritage. Arco Iris is one such luxurious, elegant , over a century old restored homestay in South Goa. The present owners have painted five of the spacious rooms in different pastel colours of the rainbow to which Arco Iris derives its name. After Holy spirit Church in Margao, continue straight via Gogol towards Curtorim .  Facing Arco, a narrow road leads right upto a seasonal lake when filled up makes up a picture perfect postcard and birders haven. Home cooked Goan and Portuguese cuisine is meticulously supervised by owners  Bennita and Ganesh reflecting the true spirit of homestay.

Indophiles Carole and Norman came to Goa on a holiday and never returned to their country of origin. Their homestay Casa Susegad is a reflection of their love for Goa and everything that Goa stands for. Irish born Norman succinctly puts it as, ” Blissful state of mind, that’s what Susegad and Goa stands for “. 

Susegad is in South Goa, Salcete (pass Margao, then Loutolim) is a sleepy town just as the rest of Goa is. The drive is equally laid back through picturesque rice fields and surround hills. Finding Casa Susegad was easy I kept referring it to the Blue House belonging to Norman and Carole. We were greeted by Casa’s menagerie of Dogs, Cats and smiling welcoming hugs of the warmest couple I have ever met this side of South Goa.​

​We wasted no time opening cans of beer at the cosy bar of Casa Susegad, I commented to Carole,that it reflects a true English pub and wondered if she misses home. Casa is truly such a comfortable homestay where the owners are privileged to have the best of both worlds and yet consider it their Home before their country of origin, “Good Karma” as Carole declares.

Casa Susegad has five rooms all within the confines of the main house and surrounds the large swimming pool. Spacious grounds even a walking track up the gentle slopes in front of this Portuguese house appears so appealing, lush and green cover all around. The Dining room is large and full of photos and memorabilia and so very British. The cuisine served here is a bit of Portuguese, Goan and Indian food, great desserts and a lavish spread. Don’t miss the large portraits of the Portuguese owners of Casa Susegad at the entrance on either side. Mi Casa Tu Casa , is home away from home in Blissful Susegad, Goa.

%d bloggers like this: