MOUNTAIN AND SEASCAPE DIARIES
REAL THRILL WHILE U ON SOUTH SIKKIM --GOA ,seascape diaries as reading stuff for the travellers --Sift through the following places to find the weekend holiday haunt that suits your mood and money power --

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SOUTH SIKKIM'S SOLITUDE----

Your first stop from New Jalpaiguri station is the picture-perfecttown of Rabangla,Teesta giving u company for some time.As u reach Rabangla,would be greeted by the beautiful view of the Kanchenjungha,Narsimh,Pandim and Kabru peaks.

Taking in the chill,u climb up some 450 steps to the local monastery.U soak in the silence as evening prayers are being offered at the hilltop shrine.

The next day,u travel to Legship,some 13kms from Rabangla.Legship is known for its temple,situated by the river Rangit.Its hanging bridge is another attraction.

U head for Borong next.On your way,u can stop at the ancient Ralong monastery.Built in the 12th century,it now has a newer building,recently opened as a branch of the Rumtek monastery.

Borong is a hamlet situated amidst greenery.There's just one hotel there - the lone Wild flower Retreat - which has a few cottages located amidst lush vegetation and wild flowers.The first thing that strikes city slickers at Borong is the absolute silence-brolen only by occassional birdcries and the murmur of the breeze blowing through the trees.The aroma of wild flowers fills the air.

U move to Namchi next - the district headquarter of south Sikkim.The view of the Kanchenjungha from Namchi is splendid -be it at sunrise or sunset.From Namchi,U can visit the shrine of Samdruptse,where a 135ft statue of Guru Padmasambhava stands tall against the skyline.The statue is quite a sight in the pristine surroundings.Namchi is fast gearing up to become a tourist hotspot,given the panoramic views of the Kanchenjungha and Samdruptse it offers.

If you're looking for that perfect week to spend with family in the solitude of the hills,i would strongly suggest South Sikkim.

SEASCAPE DIARIES ---

Wayfarer - A rain-soaked Goa entices with its enchanting forts and lovely beaches ---

Baga is around 10kms west of Mapusa and extends out of Calangute beach and is less crowded.Baga is also more scenic with a hillock on one end and a quaint retreat house atop it.

Baga is known for popular nightspots in Goa like Mambo's,Tito's,Fiesta,and Cavala.At Cavala ,the relaxed buzz of guests,live music and great food and wine at this ivy-clad hotel is just what u need.Designed by Goan architect ,Lucio Miranda,Cavala,is a refreshing Portuguese-Goan style building -with its red laterite facade,tiled roof and wrought iron balconies.The best way to experience Goa is hiring bikes.

ANJUNA beach --

Eight kilometres west of Mapusa,Anjuna is a rocky beach with a stunning view of the horizon.The little bazaar at the approach is as endearing for the trinkets on sale as the women selling them.'Buy something.Make my day'.they call in a rustic tone and the most amusing European accent,picked up from foreign tourists.

You next stop is VAGATOR---

a 20-minute ride from Anjuna.Vagator has dramatic red cliffs plunging down towards the shore and is split into two by a seaside headland that holds the parking lot.As u face the sea,on your right is North Vagator Beach(Big Vagator) and on your left Ozram Beach or Little Vagator.

The other view on your right as trekking point -laziness be damned - Chapora Fort.The ride to Chapora is like straight out of a movie.Verdant hills,lush fields,clouds turning from white to grey and even a double rainbow .Located 10kms from Mapusa ,Chapora Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1617.The view of the sea and nearby beaches during the uphill trek is worth every breath you expend going up.The fort is in ruins but you can still see the heads of the two tunnels that were the supply and,probably also escape,routes for besieged defenders.On your way back,you hit Curly's ,a little shack on Anjuna.

NOTE - GOA CONSISTS OF 39 SEA BEACHES

READY RECKONER----

Getting there : There are no direct flights to Goa from Kolkata.You have to fly in via Mumbai.By road it takes about 11.5 hours to reach Goa from Mumbai ,a distance of

almost 600kms.

Where to stay : Accommodation options are varied,ranging from luxury to budget hotels.

Best time to visit : Goa enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year but the best time to visit is between October and February.May is the hottest month and should be avoided.

Web watch : visit http://www.goatourism.org for more informations.

TRAVEL TRIVIA ----

Sorpotel is a traditional festive dish of Goa served at weddings and during Christmas.Derived from the Konkani word "soro"which means alcohol.It's made of pork heart,liver and meat cooked in a thick and very spicy sauce flavoured with "feni"

PARADISE FOR EVERY POCKET ---

DESTINATIONS -----

PURI ---

Travel :Rs.900(up-down).Hop onto the Puri towards train.You can also drive down ,which will cost you more if you are renting a car.

Stay & Food : Rs.2400 for three days.The New Marine Drive area(towards the lighthouse)is a good place to put up if you are eyeing a budget holiday and decent rooms are available for Rs.800 a day.

Food : Rs.1000.A trip to Puri is incomplete without a bite of delicious goja.Pack some up and savour it on your way back to home.Also try chhnapora.

Sight-seeing : Rs.700.Some of the top picks are the Jagannath Temple,Sakhi Gopal,Konark Temple,Chandrabhaga Beach,Dhabalgiri,Udaygiri and Khandagiri.When In Puri,shop for seashell handicrafts or saris.Splash about during the day and take a walk along the beach in the evening.

GANGTOK ----

Travel : Rs.1200(AC 3-tier).From Kolkata - The Darjeeling Mail,Uttar Banga Express,Kanchenjunga Express and Kanchan Kanya are some of the options.Volvo buses(A.C.sleeper bus; Rs.500)and the state-run buses are also available.

Stay & Food : Put up at a hotel for as little as Rs300 per night.And there are a range of more splush options for all budgets.Add another Rs100 per meal ,if not less.

Sight-seeing and shopping : The scenic Gangtok has a lot on offer.There are stupas,monasteries and waterfalls.Check out the Rumtek monastery and Enchey monastery.

Woolens,bamboo art and stone-studded wristlets are some of the must-buys.Make a day trip to Chhangu Lake,with cash to spare.

GOPALPUR ----

Travel : Rs.600(up-down from Kolkata).Board a train to Behrampur,16 km from Gopalpur.You can also fly to Bhubaneswar and then travel by road

Stay & food : Rs.2400 for four days.You can put up at one of the sea-facing hotels.Charges vary between Rs.300 and Rs.800 per night.Try the fresh seafood.

Sight-seeing : Rs.500.The beach is the main attraction at Gopalpur.Frequent visitors say boat rides are a must.Also do make it a point to visit the lighthouse for a bird's eye view.Don't expect to find much else to do - except relax.

MANDARMANI ----

Travel : Expect to pay about Rs.120(up-down by train from Kolkata).Catch the Shalimar Digha Express.If you are renting a car or driving your own vehicle,costs will be higher and it will take you around four-and --half-hours.Buses also ply from Esplanade.Charges vary between Rs.76 and Rs.160

Stay & food : Hotel rooms come as cheap as Rs.300 and go up to around Rs.2800

Sight-seeing : The beach is the main attraction.Try your hand at beach volleyball,cricket,football and complete relax

VISAKHAPATNAM ----

Travel : Rs.1800 (up-down from Kolkata;AC 3-tier,overnight).Flights (Rs.9000 approximately,return)are also an option,but won't leave you with much to spend.

Stay : Rs.5000 for four days.In Rushikonda,which is the quieter side of Bisakhapatnam,there are plenty of guest-houses and  hotels.A stay at the AP Tourism lodge overlooking the sea at Rushikonda is a good option if booked in advance.Hotels and cottages are available for Rs.500 a night to Rs.2000.

Sight-seeing : Rs.2000.Hire a car(Rs.1000) to take you to the Borra caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations,and hill station Araku valley.Visit the different beaches like Lawson's Bay Beach,Ramakrishna beach and take a tour of the submarine museum.

Food : Rs.2000.Food is a little expensive.A meal at a restaurant (for one) would cost Rs.200-Rs.250,while street food is  cheaper but not always available.The spicy Andhra curries are a must.

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