Sikkim – a different way

Sikkim is an anomaly in India, at least that I’ve seen so far. There seems to be people who look like they’re from all over who come in all shapes and colors with facial features from all the way down south to Eastern Asia. I slept the entire bus ride and woke up a little before Siliguri. There, I caught a jeep ride to Gangtok. It was a stuffed ride – with 3 people in the back, back seat, 4 of us in the back seat, and 4 in the front seat. This is all through twisty, bumpy, sometimes narrow, roads without a siderail to prevent you from falling to your doom. This was something I used to be really scared of, but for some reason, (thankfully) I was ok this time. Foreigners need to get a stamp and permit to enter Sikkim. The driver joked that at the border I should just speak Hindi and not say anything at all. The woman next to me laughed with me but then said, no really, you should get the stamp. When the time came he was happily frustrated saying it would take an hour to get all the paperwork done. It took a half hour, but as we were getting it done I spoke with him a bit and he became much nicer. Once you speak Hindi, things get better. I’m now invited to his tea plantation in Siliguiri on my way back. He called a cab for me that would take me from the bus stop to look around for a hotel. It was kind of far off so that was helpful.
I don’t have much patience, so I settled on the third place, cheapest, but still expensive, and pretty crappy. I took the day to wander around the city and figure out next steps. Problem: I’m alone, and foreigners need at least two to travel around for permits and for groups. Problem 2: it’s raining and wet and cold. This isn’t supposed to be like this right now, but it is. What to do? Kya karoo?
Today, while unsuccessfully trying to get a van to Yoksum, I ran into a kind of travel agent who I spoke to yesterday. He has no work so we sat in a café, walked up to the two monasteries, and had a local food lunch. He’s thinking of going to Ruksom tomorrow as well so maybe he’ll join and we’ll trek together. Trekking is little to none because of the weather, but that’s ok. This gives me the opportunity to travel my style, meet people, locals mostly, and just relax. Pune, and then New York will be quite a big change and quite hectic.
I had to buy a jacket and poncho. If I go trekking I’ll have to buy shoes too. The food has been amazing as well. Tonight I went to a Tibetan restaurant and ate Bhathuk. The manager, who is probably no more than 22 asked where I was from and we had a small talk. He barely knew English but I’m not sure how much of my Hindi he understood. He showed me a newspaper after telling me that it rained and snowed here a few days ago. Lunch I have no idea what I ate, but it was super yum. I’ve been spending time in cafes and trying to figure out other options; there aren’t many. In the Tibetan place I used my Hindi to help out some Thai folks who wanted to eat the food they saw in the photos on their way up the stairs. An American woman from Ithaca joined them later. Apparently they had been traveling to the fun tourist destinations for trekking and said it’s been cold and rainy the entire time. While feeling bad for them it made me feel a little better about being in Gangtok for a day longer than desired. This is definitely not what I imagined it would be, however, it’s not bad. I had to remind myself of that today while feeling sad, lonely and sorry for myself. It’s still pretty amazing, and somewhere where I never thought I’d be; at the Indian China border in the middle of the mountains – I can’t really complain!
After spending almost 3 hours in one café writing (every time I thought I would leave it started pouring again), I went to get my computer, to the Tibetan restaurant, and then to another café to continue writing. I met the sweetest boy, who was the waiter who spoke way too fast in Hindi. His wife was waiting for him and he kept cracking jokes about working hard and how cute his wife was. I couldn’t really imagine that happening in any other part of India, especially because he’s 22 and she’s 27. He definitely knew how to make a lady smile by saying I looked no more than 25. He finally got to leave and then a few minutes later the management regretfully kicked me out as they all had to go home and were hungry. Back in my room, I write, and wait for tomorrow.

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