Gangtok: The Final Chapter

As the name suggests, this is the last blog from my north east travel diaries! Did I just catch you heaving a sigh of relief??!! Haha!!😜 I can’t forget this trip! I loved it so much that even talking about it makes me want to go back in time and relive those days!😍

The last day was the cherry on the cake! We were to go to an altitude of 14,500ft to see Changu Lake and Baba Mandir. We embarked on the journey at 8 am. The snake shaped roads gave us goosebumps and the weather couldn’t have been any better.💜 We felt we could literally touch the clouds! Our driver was one hell of a man, all along the way he kept telling us stories and urban legends of Sikkim.

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Changu lake, also called Tsomgo lake, is is a glacial lake in the East region of  Sikkim, some 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Gangtok. It is located at an altitude of 12,313 ft. The locals told us that the lake’s surface reflects different colors with change of seasons and they hold it in great reverence. The lake is surrounded by steep snow clad mountains, has a surface area of over 60 acres, which is frozen during winter. During summer the snow cover melts and forms the source for the lake. We were fortunate to see the lake cause we were told that the lake generally remains frozen till May!

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Manju Lake (enroute Baba Mandir)

The Sikkimese people have put up shops near the lake, one can buy souvenirs, or shop for jackets, sweaters etc or just enjoy a cup of tea and coffee while appreciating nature’s beauty. You can also take pics with the yaks there!📷

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Next on the list was Baba Harbanjan Singh Mandir, our driver told us that since everyone can’t go to the original Baba Mandir, they have made an exact replica at a lower altitude so that people who have breathing problems or are old to see the original one can see the replica!

We decided to take a chance and go to the original one! For those who don’t know much about Baba, he was a Major in the Indian army who died in 1968 near the Nathu La in eastern Sikkim. He is respected by soldiers of the Indian army and often called the “Hero of Nathula”. The army men have also built a shrine in his honour. Many believe that his spirit protects every soldier in the inhospitable high altitude terrain of the Eastern Himalayas.

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Top of Baba Temple

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The Indian Army has built a temple near the bunker were Baba used to stay while he was serving in the army. Once you’re near the temple, you’ve to climb 25-30 stairs to reach the bunker. There’s a golden idol of Babaji inside the bunker, his clothes are ironed everyday, his shoes are polished daily which many have claimed that he uses everyday!

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As the story goes, Harbhajan Singh drowned in a glacier while trying to lead a column of mules carrying supplies to a remote outpost. As the first casualty of the 23rd Punjab Regiment in that war, a manhunt was launched to find him. His remains were found after three days and he was cremated with full military honours. It is said that it was Harbhajan Singh himself who helped the army find his body. Through a dream, he instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a shrine in his memory.

Indian soldiers believe that in the during wars between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers of any impending attack at least the three days in advance. Even The Chinese acknowledge his presence and during flag meetings between the two nations at Nathu La, they set a chair aside to honour of Harbhajan Singh. People claim to have discovered him visiting the camps at night. It has also been claimed that the regiment still keeps an empty bed and other items of daily use. Some sources suggest that he continues to draw a major’s salary every month till date. Sends chills down the spine, doesn’t it?

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The velocity of the wind at that altitude was so high, I felt I fall down. It was quite a task not to feel dizzy there. Before reaching the mandir, I was really concerned about my dad falling sick, but it was my brother and I who were gasping for air and had to sit down! But after that it was playing with snow time!! Yay. I couldn’t enjoy Rohtang much cause my cousin threw a snow ball at me which hit my nose badly and I couldn’t breathe properly then. So I was all set to enjoy the snow here, I still remember my brother asked me to come and sit in the car cause my hands had turned BLUE cause of the snow! It was so cold and to think that I didnt want to wear a jacket to begin with makes me go hug mom who forced me to wear one!🙈

I was thrilled to be there, it was once in  lifetime experience for all of us. We stayed there for around an hour, soaking in the energy that the place has.🙌

The last place to visit was the flower show, sadly it turned out to quite  disappointment since it was off season and most of the flowers weren’t in the blooming phase yet we took a few pictures cause for me, nothing is unworthy of a picture!

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Looks like someone found true love! 😛

And with that, the final chapter of our wonderful, adventurous north east trip ends! It was an experience that I will never ever forget in my life. The picturesque views, the happy go lucky people, the cold wind, everything about north east is beyond beautiful. If you love travelling and north east should be on your bucket list!

I’m all ears to know how you liked my trip and the various adventures we did!👻

Keep travelling and keep discovering! Life’s too short to be whiled away!

Love,

Aakanksha😘

 

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Gangtok: Day 1

I think I have eaten your heads enough with my blogs about my trip, Hehe 😝 but just two more to go! Hang in there, the torturous ordeal is soon about to end! Haha! 😜

After reaching Gangtok, we were all so tired that we just checked into the hotel and crashed into our beds!
Gangtok city was a little warmer than Darjeeling and the roads were wider which is a given being a capital city. Once you enter the city, you do get the city vibes and oh the smiling faces! The best part about the trip to north east were the locals, I have never in my life seen people happy and chirpy all the time even at 5 am in the morning when I’m just struggling to wake up and drive all the way to the gym! 😤 The next morning we woke up to a gorgeous view. A pair of birds were sitting in our room’s balcony and all we could see were clouds and snow clad mountains! I come from a land of forts, deserts and palaces, yet when I see those I get excited like a kid, now imagine how difficult it is for me to contain my excitement when I see snow! 🙌

After golloping down the breakfast we were all set to set foot at Banjhakri Waterfalls! A  100-foot waterfall located in a landscaped park with forested area, is at a distance of about 7kms from Gangtok town. There are paved pathways and footbridge around the park which spreads across some 2-acres of land area, there’s also a man-made lake here with a dragon at the center. The entire park is themed on Shaman culture and you can see Sikkimese architecture visible all across the park. Ban Jhakri means ‘Jungle Priest’, according to a popular Nepali urban legend, the first Jhakri or Shaman acquired the power of mastering the evil spirits from the gods. However, he required to identify the right boys and teach the technique secretly in his forest cave. And after the training the boys themselves became Jhakris being able to cure anybody affected by evil spirits. Hearing this, I saw a ray of hope that my evil spirited brother👿 would be cured now! Sadly he wasn’t and still bugs me day and night! Hmmmphh 😭

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I’m the craziest in my crazy family, I guess the pic says it all!

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The temperatures suddenly drop when you reach the place, but you feel like you are in a different world. The chirping birds, the sound of water splashing over rocks, the wind teasing the leaves just makes you smile and forget everything and soak in the beauty of nature! We are family of nature admirers, so visiting such heavenly places makes us adore and cherish God’s glory! 💞

After clicking around 100-200 pics near the waterfall (oh you think that’s too much, haha you don’t know me at all then 👻), we left for Dro dul Chorten, which is a stupa in Sikkim.

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Inside this stupa, there are a complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Kangyur relics (Holy Books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels. The stupa is surrounded by Chorten Lakahang and Guru Lakhang, where two statues of Guru Rinpoche are present. The monks rotate the prayer wheels and chant along the recitation of mantras imprinted on wheels. It was such a peaceful place where you feel disconnected from the rest of the world. Everywhere I looked, I was greeted with spectacular views, young monks playing, sound of bells, a prayer area where around 200 candles were lit cleansing the aura of the place. After rotating the prayer wheel, we sat inside the prayer area. I don’t speak for everyone but when I’m inside a holy place, I feel more anchored and in sync with my soul.

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We would have sat there the whole day, had it not rained cats and dogs! It started drizzling and our driver called us back and within a few mins, I could see hailstones all around me. We decided to head to the hotel as we could barely see as the car windows were completely occluded by the mist. Kudos to the driver for driving like a pro on those hilly roads and taking us back safely to the hotel.

Unfortunately cause of the rain, we couldn’t see the other two places on the itinerary but as soon as the hotel staff told us that we were to a height of 14,500 ft the next day, my brother and I had the widest grin!

The next day turned out to be thrilling adventure! But more on that in the next blog so stay tuned! Please please come back for the next blog, I promise that’s the last blog of my north east trip! Then I would just bother you with some other blogs. Hehe 🙈

Love,

Aakanksha😘

 

Enroute Gangtok!!

If you have been following my blog, you’d know that we recently went on a trip to north east. I’ve already blogged about the first two days of the enthralling journey, if you haven’t read them yet and wish to participate in my adventure, here are the links of the blogs! (Day 1 & Day 2)

The next day we were to go on road journey from Darjeeling to Gangtok. My family truly believes that the journey is always better than the destination so it was a given that we would have a lot of stop overs enroute Gangtok! 🙂

After hogging on a resplendent breakfast, we went all set to enjoy our escapade. 😀

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I was totally mesmerized by the views on both the sides of the road, the dense coniferous forests, the weather were all so bewitching! It felt as if a fairytale had come to life. I had never seen a place so magical in my life, the only thing missing was a prince on a white horse to sweep me off my feet! Hehe. If only all wishes came true! 😂😆😍

P.S. Mom Dad if you are reading this and think that this is where I’ll say that this is my dash of humor, trust me, I seriously wanted the prince to come! Hmmphh.😠

After a few miles, when I looked to the right side, my jaw dropped and I quickly asked the driver to pull the car! My brother and I ran literally sprinted off inside this park which looked like a mystical forest. Lamahatta, as the place is popularly known, is located 23 kms from Darjeeling! A picturesque mountain village situated 5400 feet above sea-level, it is surrounded on all sides by pine forests and gardens with panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjungha. It is an ideal place for those who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and enjoy natural solitude, with its various beautiful species of flowers carpeting the landscape and the surrounding gardens.:)

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Trust me when I say that none of the pics taken do any justice to the beauty of the place.

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Tall towers, flowers everywhere, gigantic trees and oh the clouds!! I recalled the scenes of the movie, Tangled! Yes, that’s an animated movie and yes I have watched hundred it numerous times! I even climbed on one of the towers and pretended to be Rapunzel with my shoulder length hair. Don’t laugh, a girl can live her fable if she wants to! Hehe 👸

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After spending over an hour, we were back on track. Our driver told us there would be beautiful tea gardens on the way and he’d stop at one.

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We couldn’t see a tea garden in Darjeeling unfortunately as we had limited time and loads to see. Except for my mum, none of us really felt grim to not being able to see a tea garden, so at the mention of tea gardens, you can guess who was the most excited! The tea gardens were truly a treat to the eyes, mum posed like a little girl infront of the tea gardens. 👧

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We thought we were pretty much done for the day when we saw the milestone which read that we were hardly a few miles away from Gangtok! Just when I was about to close my eyes for a while, my brother screamed “River Rafting”! We weren’t able to raft in Manali due to an accident that had taken place that time. So we thought that River rafting would have been the best end to the road journey and we asked our parents if we could go for it. My parents’ exact words were “What do you mean that you want to go for it, what about us!!” Haha, my family is always up for adventures. 👪

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All geared up with the safety suits, we were ready to tick river rafting off of our bucket list. I just love being near water, be it boating, swimming, or just sitting near a beach gazing into the Sun so I was really enthusiastic! Boy, was it extraordinary or what! Water splashing all over us got back the kids in us. Laughing like maniacs and clicking pics, I’m sure the instructor thought we were crazy, but who cares, we were having the time of our lives! 💞🎉🎊

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Completely drenched and shivering, we got back in the car and were ready to head straight to Gangtok. I still remember no one spoke a word for the rest of the journey. We were just too caught up basking in the adventures, the ones we experienced and the ones we were about to come our way!

Keep watching this space if you want to know how our first day in Gangtok went!

Hope you’re excited to read all about it!

Love,

Aakanksha!😘

Darjeeling: Day 2!!

When the first day happens to be quite an amazing one, the expectations for a better next day are quite high! We all secretly wished that the next day turns out to be a great one but kept telling each other not to get the hopes up high, cause we didn’t want anyone to be disheartened. That’s what families are about, isn’t it?😍

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Peace Pagoda

The first thing on the second day was Peace Pagoda. Just like you, even I wondered was a pagoda meant. Thanks to my smart phone, I could google it and find out. This is just one of the advantages of owning a smartphone! Don’t worry, the blog isnt about the perks of smartphones, this was just directed towards my parents so that they buy themselves one! Hehe. 😜😂 Anyway back to the place, basically, a Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa; a monument to inspire peace, designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace. it was built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii (1885–1985), a Buddhist monk from Japan and founder of the Nipponzan- Buddhist Order. The pagoda was designed by M. Ohka, and it took 36 months for constructing it. The height of the pagoda is 28.5 metres (94 ft) and diameter is 23 metres (75 ft). It was a very peaceful place with statues of Buddha constructed in the circular fashion covering the outer walls of the stupa. The view of the place was spectacular, the coniferous trees, clouds everywhere just uplifted our spirits. There is a japanese temple just walking distance from Peace pagoda, where you can sit and silently pray. I really like sitting in temples and praying cause that way I feel cleansed.😇

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Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park was the next destination, which was at par with all the other places we had seen. Flora and fauna of varied species was a treat to the eye, and for someone who enjoys visiting zoos, this place should be on the itinerary. They were yaks, snow leopards, tigers to name a few. Personally, my brother and I aren’t fond of zoos cause we feel that animals and birds are meant to be free and not held captive. Though a pair of cute little red pandas resting on a tree outside the zoo made us smile!:)💜

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Me trying to photobomb my bro’s selfie!!

We headed to Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling next. It was established on November 4, 1954 to encourage mountaineering as an organized sport in India. The first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary sparked a keen interest in establishing mountaineering as a well-respected endeavour for people in the region which led to Jawaharlal Nehru establishing HMI in Darjeeling. Tenzing Norgay was the first director of field training for HMI. The place basically has a boasts of a huge museum wherein you can see who all have ascended Everest, K2 and Kachenjunga successfully, how they trained hard, what all they used at those heights, the newspaper cuttings, the letters written by them, their gear and what not. I was quite fascinated by how lack of technology back in the day didn’t deter them and the mountaineers worked with whatever they could manage. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed so I don’t have pictures to post here.:?

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The last time when I went on a ropeway was 6 years ago, so the thought that we would be hopping on one made me quite excited. The ropeway in Darjeeling is spread over a distance of 3 kms. The journey on the ropeway offered beautiful views of the hills and the valleys around Darjeeling. The impeccable tea gardens, clouds, the hilly roads, I truly can’t put the experience into words as to how stunning it was. One has to be present there to enjoy the beauty of the place. By the time we were back, I could feel elephants pounding in my stomach and hogged on two plates of momos.🍲

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Tenzing rock was the last place on the itinerary, it is a gigantic natural rock in Darjeeling is named after Tenzing Norgay, the man who created history by climbing the Everest first time along with Edmund Hillary in 1953. The right face is gentle and surface is easier for climbing whereas the left face of Tenzing rock will make shivers run down the spine. The steep and almost vertical rock comes up from far below and rises high above the road level. Tenzing Norgay himself used to practice climbing on this rock. Being the daredevil that I am, I held the rope and starting climbing but before I could climb up high, I was shot down by a native who said it is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted without professional help.😈 Just like my dad, I’m all up for adventures, and that’s what worries him a little cause he knows I don’t get scared that easy!💁💪

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I know I know Tenzing rock was the last on the list but can a girl’s trip be over without indulging in shopping! Hehe👗👜👚👢👠. In the middle of buying some souvenirs, it began to pour, my dad has something against shopping so the rain made it easier for him to discourage my mom and I but like I said, I’m always up for adventures, so here I was completely drenched alongwith my mom to bargain for some bells which, no points for guessing, got on my dad’s nerves. Hehe. What a day what an experience!😛

So this is how our second day ended, now we had to head to Gangtok the next day which I shall talk about in next blog!

New place and new adventures!!

Love,

Aakanksha😘

 

 

 

Darjeeling: Day 1!!

 

 

Monotonous jobs, boring lives and a soft tissue injury were enough for us to realize that a family vacation was long overdue!

After a dining table conference, dates and the destination were decided, before we knew it everything started falling into place and we were all set to let our hair down for a week!☕🍝🍜🍛

Our first stop happened to be Darjeeling ( we had got all reservations and tour done by a travel agency as none of us had the time to do it on our own)

Darjeeling is a town in the Indian state of West Bengal, located in the Lesser Himalaya at an elevation of 6,700 ft. It is famous for its tea industry, the spectacular views of Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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After checking in the hotel, I hurriedly looked out the window, which needless to say, was breathtaking, and made me eagerly wait for the next day!!:)

The first thing on our itinerary was the amazing Tiger Hills. After playing hide and seek for about 15 mins, I finally witnessed the sunrise, which no words can describe. The picturesque view where the clouds lovingly held the Sun in their arms, is something that I will never forget in the entire life! It was God’s glory at its very best!😍

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Sunrise at Tiger Hill!!
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Dad trying to capture the sunrise!!

Next on our list was the Samten Choling Buddhist Monastery popularly known as Ghoom Monastery. This was my time time visiting a Monastery and I’d be lying if I said it was an ordinary experience! The moment I stepped in, I felt as all the chaos within me had been put to rest. 😇The peaceful aura of the place beguiled me, the monks, the tea sellers, shopkeepers, everyone spoke in such hushed tones that for Delhiite like me, I felt I had gone deaf! If you happen to visit Darjeeling, this place should be on your must visit list.

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Ghoom Monastery!

IMG_3528Last on the itinerary was Batasia Loop, a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of ascent of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling. At this point, the track spirals around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop. The place like other places I had visited was ethereal, abuzz with activities, it was packed with tourists! At every tourist spot, the locals have shops where they rent the traditional attire or Kho at reasonable prices. They help you wear it and if you happen to be lucky like I was they give you a basket and even give tips to pose for pictures! I must have clicked around 50 pictures in that outfit which my brother still teases me about!😂;)😛

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Yes that’s me wearing KHO!!
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Batasia Loop/War Memorial

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I asked the locals if I could take pictures with me and they always obliged me! The kids going to school were so cute that at times I wanted to bite their rosy red cheeks! Hehe!😜😝

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Day 1 ended with a sumptuous dinner at the hotel and we went to bed thinking what the next day had in store for us!

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Keep reading this space if you want to know where we went and what we did on the second day, I assure you, it won’t disappoint you!😋

Love,

Aakanksha!😘

Shimla!!

When you come to know that a long weekend is right around the corner, you pack your bags & head for a vacation!   😀 Well,  that’s exactly what we did! We planned a trip with cousins to Shimla!! ❤

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Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh & acts as a hub for India’s tourism sector. Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas &  has an average altitude of 2,397 metres (7,864 ft) above mean sea level. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters, and moderately warm during summer making it a favorite tourist destination.

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There are a lot of things to do in Shimla. For shopaholics like me, The Mall Road is heaven on Earth! 😉 The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It’s a must visit if you want to buy souvenirs for family & friends at reasonable prices. It also has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, Post Offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is also situated there.

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Christ Church situated on The Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.

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The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, housed in the Viceregal lodge, is a residential centre for research in Humanities, Indian culture, religion, and social and natural sciences. We went for an early morning tour of the place so we couldn’t see it completely as it opens for tourists at 10 am. 😦 So if you plan to visit this place make sure you plan according to the timing. The Vice Chancellor was kind enough to let us in & check out a few remarkable archives that had been preserved since the British rule.

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Our next destination was the Jakhu Hill which is 2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8000 ft. Jakhu Hill is the highest peak an offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the Hill, is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is also the home of countless playful monkeys waiting to be fed by all visitors. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other master pieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemerin Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We couldn’t capture the pics at the hill as the battery died! 😦

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Since it was just a 3 day trip we couldn’t explore all of Shimla & for that we’d be visiting the place soon but I can assure you that it’s truly a magnificent place & a must-visit!! 🙂

Hope your enjoyed reading my travelogue as much as I loved writing it! 🙂

Much love,

ASP 🙂

Chail!!

Chail is 44 km from Shimla. The area is away from the bustling life of the state capital Shimla. Chail is also considered as the hiker’s paradise.

We stayed at Chail overnight to break the journey to Manali. We reached at 11pm and were to leave in the morning after breakfast. Our stay was booked at the heavenly Chail Palace. The Chail Palace is well known for its architecture. It was built as summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj, on the land allotted to him by the British for former’s assistance in the Anglo-Nepalese War. The cricket ground and a polo ground which is there at an altitude of 2,444 m was owned by erstwhile royal family of Patiala. It is the world’s highest cricket ground.

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Built in 1891, Chail Palace or Maharaja’s palace is set in approximately 75 acres and has a truly regal setting with spectacular views. Chail Palace has a wide variety of cottages, suites and rooms with different tariffs to accommodate every visitor who wishes to savor this majestic hill station. It is now owned by Himachal Tourism.

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We had booked two cottages and a suite. The cottages had a beautiful view overlooking the Himalayan range. The elders stayed in the cottages which meant that we got the suite to ourselves. 😉 Sadly, we forgot the DSLR at the cottage so couldn’t take any picture of our suite. But we had a gala time without the supervision. 😀 Our room had a jacuzzi which led to arguments between the girls and boys as to who would get to use it first! 😛

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We woke up early in the morning with sounds coming from the roof of our suite. Stepping into the balcony, we saw 5-6 monkeys jumping happily on the roof! 🙂 After getting ready, we headed to the dining area where we were served breakfast. We clicked a few pictures and then rushed back to the vehicle & left for Manali.

I think I can say that though our stay was too short but we felt extremely royal at Chail Palace. 😉

Much love,

ASP 🙂