I can't tell where the canvas stops.
on Why Did the Tofu Cross the Road (India), 31/Oct/2010 19:37, 34 days ago
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Trip to West Bengal and SikkimAbout month after being back in country after my trip to Canada, myself and five other brave volunteers embarked on a journey to North-East India. We fought the cool temperatures, crazy jeep rides and endless restaurants with horrible service to get a taste of Buddhist serenity, the Himalayas, and a glimpse in to Tibetan culture. To sustain ourselves we gorged on kurkure, momos and wai-wai and some how made it out alive.The Cast:Jen R, Jen G, Nancy, Joyce, Terri and myself.KolkataOur first and last stop for most of the gang. Kolkata was still sweltering from the last of the summer heat as we walked and shopped in New Market. We rose to the challenge of taking the city buses that seemed to crawl to our destination.mmmmm guavas.SiliguriThis town was just a stopping place to get us to our next destinations. This is the end of the line so to speak... the Indian rail can't go any more north due to the rocky terrain. It's here that you can rent jeeps to take you to Gangtok or Darjeeling. In order to save money on our jeep ride Jen R and I sent the Filipinas to negotiate our fare to Gangtok. This is because if you look really fast Filipinas could be mistaken for North Indians and therefore will not be overcharged as tourists. Jen R and I are basically giant white women so we hid around the corner until the negotiations were done. It took all of 20 minutes and we were on our way. Little did we know then just how bumpy and twisty the jeep ride would be... and it was the first of ten.In the crazy jeep!GangtokThis quiet city tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas was just what we all needed after the hustle and bustle of the larger cities. Right away I noticed that Sikkim was not like the India that I knew. The streets were clean, the cows were non-existent, the dogs were liked and well fed and there was a bar in almost every restaurant. As a plus, no one gave us a second glance as we toured around... unlike the unwanted glaring I am used to receiving in Bhubaneswar. We were in heaven. We spent our time there seeing the sites of Tibetan monasteries, gardens and mountain view points, (via the crazy jeeps) and shopping in M.G Marg.Prayer flags that line the way to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.Prayer wheels that are believed to say a prayer with every rotation.Namgyal Institute of TibetologyJoyce stopping to smell the roses at Rumtek Monastery.M.G. Marg "A litter and spit free zone."Houses on the way to Lake TsongmoSome men tried to sell us Yak rides around the lake. (poor Yak!)Jennisa and I at Lake Tsongmo.Landscape at Lake Tsongmo.View of the mountains from our hotel in Gangtok. (Hotel is called Kanchen Residency. Great price, good food and excellent service.)PellingPelling was even smaller and quieter than Gangtok. It is a sleepy town with not too much going on. We took a tour and covered the sights in a day. Again, it was a nice break from the busyness of a typical Indian city.Khechuperi Holy LakeRice fieldsCoronation Throne of Norbugang (park)DarjeelingDarjeeling was a last minute addition to our trip and I'm really glad the group soldiered on and voted this in to our itinerary. We were only there for about thirty hours but we made every effort to see the most of it...splitting up so that each person could see what they wanted. I ended up on my own and had a great time walking the streets where I stumbled upon a view point for the mountains and a Tibetan Refugee Camp. Our one morning there we rented a jeep to take us to Tiger Hill, unfortunately you could not see ten feet in front of you that morning... let alone the mountain range. We all woke up at 4am to watch the sunrise over the mountains...too bad they did not want to show themselves.Back to the bustle of an Indian city.DarjeelingTibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Darjeeling(Facts)View walking back from the center.People crowding around our indoor viewing area onTiger Hill. Alas, Kangchenjunga did not show!Relaxing with a little tea tasting.KolkataOn our return trip to Kolkata we had a day to kill before our night train back to the Bhub so Jen R and I hit South City Mall to live it up in western luxury. This mall was amazing! They had western stores galore, coffee bars and even vegan gelato! Jen and I spent our time browsing (because we couldn’t actually afford anything), putting on perfume samples and chatting over coffee. We even splurged on Thai head and neck massages which was nice after ten days of those crazy jeeps!Somg from title:Danny Callahan by Conor Oberst