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Friday, 20 November 2009

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best - Page 5

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Sikkim is the greenest state in India in more than one way. It is lush and vibrantly green due to its unique micro-climate, created by its location in the shadow of Mt. Kanchenjunga and between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Books have been written about the miniature biosphere created here, and the region’s multitude of different species. The cyclones of the Bay of Bengal reach up to the Himalayas and to Sikkim in particular; that, combined with the monsoon, means Sikkim receives more than its fair share of rain, but it is also ‘green’ in an eco-sense. For instance, plastic bags are banned so they don’t end up on roadsides and in rivers like in the rest of India. Shops use paper bags or newspaper to wrap things and shoppers can buy inexpensive re-usable bags in most places. In fact, Sikkim is definitely the cleanest state that I’ve been to in India.

Upon return to the Mayfair, I wandered up to the spa to book a treatment, but there were so many good choices that I couldn’t decide! The manager even gave me a tour of each of the treatment rooms, which were incredible (but I’m not sure if that helped my decision!). They have zero-degree massage tables and the best couple’s treatment room I’ve ever seen, with its own plunge pool and a huge bathtub for two. Eventually, I decided to have foot reflexology and also booked a ‘Cloud 9’ treatment for the next day.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongIn the morning I worked out at the gym and swam in the nice pool before another elaborate breakfast. Prakesh dropped me off downtown and I had a real Italian coffee at Baker’s Café overlooking the pedestrian mall and then found an internet café. Later on I met Pema again and he took me to his brother’s carpet factory, Dorje Contemporary. Dorje makes rugs in contemporary designs using traditional Tibetan methods. I got to see the weavers working three in a row on very large rugs. Everything is done by hand, from dyeing the wool and threading the loom to the weaving itself – with fine threads it is a great deal of work – and it can take months to complete just one project. He sells almost all his rugs in the US and they are one of the only exports that Sikkim actually has.

My ‘Cloud 9’ treatment was on a special bed that was a cross between a massage table and a waterbed. It starts with a 60-minute Swedish massage on a hard table that comes up above the water, but once the massage is finished the therapist pushes a button and the table descends; then I was floating for 30 minutes surrounded by warm water while the colors around me changed using color therapy. It was a very relaxing experience. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Cochrane Place, Christina Kay BoltonI haven’t seen these tables anywhere else, so this is a pretty advanced spa. The whole Mayfair resort is meant for luxury – it had a beautiful honeymoon suite with its own pool, a deck, a kitchen, living room, nice bedroom and bath with a tub built for two.

 

 

I had planned to go to Dzongu in North Sikkim for a couple nights to visit a Lepcha village and do a home stay there. The Lepchas are one of the original tribal peoples of Sikkim and I’m sure it would have been a fascinating stay, but I changed my plans due to the heavy rains and their effect on road conditions in Sikkim. As a result I ended up with an extra night in Gangtok, so I moved over to the other side of town to the Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongHidden Forest Retreat – a family-run lodge with a nice view over the valley. The retreat has 12 rooms, a restaurant, and a large greenhouse where they grow orchids. It is spotlessly clean and the staff is very friendly.

I went on a one last sightseeing trip to Tashi viewpoint, a Ganesh temple, and then to take the cable car above the city with long views to the hills beyond. For dinner, I invited my guide and his wife to my guesthouse, and it was fantastic: the best chicken momos I’ve had and an assortment of other local specialties like sautéed ferns. Breakfast was also a treat with porridge and brown bread with honey. The only problem here was that the walls were quite thin, and having a loud Bengali family next door meant I was up late.

Glenburn Tea Estate

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongThe highlight of my trip was my next stop: Glenburn Tea Estate . It is a unique retreat with incredible hospitality, comfortable lodging and an authentic feel. [There is a detailed article about it here.] I was welcomed by Neena Pradhan who looked after me the whole time and showed me to the Simbong Butterfly Room which was a pretty room decorated in pink with butterflies, antique furniture, a separate dressing area and a large bath. Dinner was an elaborate affair where all the guests get together for drinks and hors d’oeuvres beforehand and then are seated at the very large dining room table apart from those they came with so interesting conversations abound. The food is excellent and the multi-course meal surrounded by new friends is an event to look forward to each evening.

Breakfast was served under the pommelo tree and it is another nicely prepared and abundant meal. The many choices included: freshly squeezed juice, fruit, yogurt, granola, porridge, eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausages, potato cakes, toast, and Glenburn tea or French-press coffee (which is tough to find in India!).

(Page 5 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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