Monthly Archives: June 2013

FYI – The post this week is a bit shorter because we only stayed in Gavangla for one night and there wasn’t a whole lot to do there. I was going to pair it up with the next city we visited, but it would have been WAY too long. Without further ado…

On the fourth day of our trip we took a shared jeep from Gangtok to Gavangla (also pronounced Ravangla or Rabang). I don’t have a photo of the jeeps in this batch of photos (look at the first photo of the Gangtok post), but I will do my best to try to explain what they are. The jeeps look like vehicles you would take on a safari, but without an extended ceiling. There are three rows of seats that would normally fit 3 people in each row; however, since it’s India they cram as many people as possible into each jeep. For this particular ride, Luke and I were in the first row, which thankfully only had 3 of us in it (all of the other rows had 4 people…I think one may have even had 4 adults and a child). I was originally going to sit in the middle, but quickly found out that the gear stick was right between my legs meaning the guy would have to reach between my legs to shift gears while driving in the mountains. Luke obviously would have none of that, so he switched with me right away. The trip was about a 3-hour ride on a mountain road with several hairpin turns. The roads are about 1.5 cars wide, so each time we came close to a turn the driver honked his horn to let anyone on the other side of the turn know we were coming.

After our 3 hour, car-sickening ride, we finally arrived in Gavangla. If you are planning to travel here, I would only stay for a day, not overnight. It’s a super small town with not a whole lot to do. However, if you do decide to stay overnight Hotel 10zing has cheap rooms and great veggie momos and chomein to eat!

2013 Gavangla

2013 Gavangla

In the early afternoon we decided to take a hike to the Sakyamuni Complex – the main site in Gavangla. We knew the general direction of where the complex was, so we decided to just start walking. There were many times on our search for the complex that we were unsure of where to go, but figured as long as we were going up and continuing to walk in the right direction we would run into it eventually. We were right…we turned a corner and there it was! The complex has a 41-meter high massive Buddha statue. If you look closely you will see that the eyes of the Buddha are covered. This is because the Buddha was not blessed yet. We were there on March 5th and the Dalai Lama was coming on March 24-26th to bless the statue and remove the blindfold.

2013 Gavangla

2013 Gavangla

2013 Gavangla

After looking around and taking some photos and video, we headed back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon and night. We relaxed, drank some tea, played cribbage and ate until it was time to go to bed.

REMINDER: Every Monday throughout the summer I will post photos and stories about the different places we went to during our two month trip this past March through May. If you’re interested in seeing some cool photos and learning about our experiences, please check back weekly or keep an eye out on Facebook for my posts. With that being said, I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures and you also learn something new from our experiences. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or send a message to me via my contact page. As a little disclaimer, remember that our experiences may be different from others and our stories are taken from our perspective, which may or may not be an accurate depiction of the Indian culture.

Luke and I wanted to ease our way into the Indian culture (we had heard it can be very overwhelming), so we decided to start our adventure in the less hectic far northeast corner in a state called Sikkim. After spending the day sightseeing in Abu Dhabi, we jumped on a plane headed to Delhi, and then boarded another plane to Bagdogra. You’d think after 3 plane rides, almost 48 hours of traveling with our backpacks and not having a shower we’d be ready to find a hotel and call it quits, but we decided to torture ourselves a little more with a 5 hour taxi ride into the mountains! (For those of you who know me, you know that this is my worst nightmare…motion sickness to the max!) You may be thinking this wasn’t the best decision, but we did one thing right…we paid quite a few extra dollars (still only $36) and hired a private taxi.

2013 Gangtok

Our taxi ride to Gangtok was our first glimpse as to what India was going to be like. We saw some pretty interesting things – cows roaming freely in the streets among traffic, several people sitting on luggage on top of jeeps already packed with 12+ people, monkeys running into the road and wrecked goods carrier trucks that had fallen off the side of the road and down the mountainside – on that first ride into the mountains, but things only got crazier as the days went by.

2013 Gangtok

2013_Gangtok_0003

Luckily we had pre-booked a very comfortable guesthouse (with a shower, western style toilet and rooftop terrace) called Tashi Tagey in Tadong. Even though this was an expensive guesthouse to stay at compared to other places we could have stayed, it was well worth the extra money after our long journey. Our hosts (one is in the photo below) were very kind and also great chefs. They cooked us some amazing Tibetan dishes, such as veggie momos (my absolute favorite), veggie thenthuk (pulled noodle veggie soup eaten at monestaries) and homemade chili sauce (the best chili sauce I’ve ever had), and even shared some of their recipes with us! Besides great rooms and food they also had great tea – this is the place we started our daily ritual of having a cup(s) of tea at every meal.

2013 Gangtok

2013 Gangtok

2013 Gangtok

2013 Gangtok

One thing that amazed us about Gangtok and Tadong was that all of the buildings were built on the side of a mountain and there was no sign of any that had fallen down. We talked to our hosts about this and they said that about 10 years ago there was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit the area, but nothing was damaged. A few days after the quake, a couple buildings fell down, but they didn’t slide down the mountain. Each building fell flat on top of itself like a stack of pancakes. This amazed us because the mountainside was SO steep. There’s a photo below of Luke walking up the stairs in one of the ally ways. If you weren’t driving in a car, this is how you get to and from streets that are parallel to each other. Between the steep stairs and high altitude, we were definitely gasping for hair by the time we got to the top.

2013 Gangtok

2013 Gangtok2013 Gangtok

While in Gangtok and Tadong we had the opportunity to visit an organic farmer’s market. (From what we were told, Sikkim is a pesticide free state in India.) At the farmer’s market we found everything from fruits and vegetables to containers for in the kitchen and toys for the kids. The different colors were so beautiful and the smells were mouth-watering (most of the time anyway).

2013 Gangtok2013 Gangtok  2013 Gangtok

On our 3rd day in the area, we decided to hire a taxi to show us some of the local sights. Our tour took us to Tashi viewpoint and several monasteries in the area. Unfortunately for us, it was foggy on this day, so we couldn’t see the Himalayas from Tashi viewpoint. However, some of the photos still turned out kind of cool with the fog giving them an eerie kind of feel.

2013 Gangtok

At many of the monasteries we visited, there were many prayer flags and prayer wheels. From what we could tell, you were supposed to spin the prayer wheels in a clock-wise direction as you walked down the path. I didn’t get a photo of this (I was too scared to), but at the Romtek Monastery there were soldiers walking around with automatic weapons. I found this kind of ironic because it was such a quiet, peaceful place.

2013 Gangtok

2013 Gangtok

This last photo (even though it’s not the best) I just had to put at the end of this post because it is so true! Everywhere we went in Sikkim we saw signs related to nature, the future and how our actions effect others. It was a good reminder for us that money isn’t everything and nature shouldn’t be taken for granted. We need to take care of our surroundings and be conscious of how our actions effect other things (including people) around us.

2013 Gangtok

Before I start writing about our adventures in Abu Dhabi and India, I just want to say that I’m hoping to make a weekly (maybe bi-weekly) blog post about the different places we went to during our two month trip this past March through May. If you’re interested in seeing some cool photos and learning about our experiences, please check back weekly or keep an eye out on Facebook for my posts. With that being said, I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures and you also learn something new from our experiences. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or send a message to me via my contact page. As a little disclaimer, remember that our experiences may be different from others and our stories are taken from our perspective, which may or may not be an accurate depiction of the Indian culture.

As some of you may know, Luke and I had an amazing opportunity to travel for 2 months after our teaching contracts in Korea were finished at the end of February. After much debate and research we decided to go to India. We felt we could see a great deal of the country in two months compared to making several small trips to different areas for shorter periods of time. Lucky for us it turned out that we had an 18 hour layover in Abu Dhabi before our next flight. We took advantage of our long layover and ventured around the city for the day.

Since we only had 16 hours (we had to be back to the airport 2 hours before our flight), we decided to take a city tour with Big Bus Tours. All we had to do was take a short taxi ride to the nearest bus stop, show our prepaid ticket and jump on the bus. We had a map of all the places the bus stopped and got on and off as we pleased. Some of the stops included Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi Mall, The Souk – Central Market, Marina Mall, Sky Tower and our favorite, Sheikh Zayed Mosque (photo below).

Abu Dhabi 2013

2013 Abu Dhabi

2013 Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and can hold 40,000 worshippers at one time. It has 80 domes, about 1000 columns, 24 carat gold plated chandeliers (one of the largest in the world) and the world’s largest hand woven carpet. Needless to say it was beautiful! Before entering the mosque all women had put on an abiya. We also had to take off our shoes before going inside the actual building.

2013 Abu Dhabi

2013 Abu Dhabi

2013 Abu Dhabi

One thing that amazed us about Abu Dhabi was how green everything was even though we were in the desert. We learned that each day they take water out of the Persian Gulf, bring the water to a factory where it goes through the process of desalination (taking salt out of water) and then distribute the water throughout the city. There were also tons of water sports (like jet skiing and boating) in turquoise blue water down by the port. Below is a photo of a boat coming into the port near Marina Mall and a water park near Ferrari World.

2013 Abu Dhabi

2013 Abu Dhabi

 

I had the opportunity to be the second photographer for Ilana Natasha Photography at Ashley and Zach’s Wisconsin May wedding. Ilana and I played soccer together in college and recently reconnected at the WPPI Photography Conference in Chicago. I had so much fun working with Ilana and gaining experience in this photography niche. Ashley, Zach and their families and friends were so much fun to work with. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to second shoot for. Congratulations Ashley and Zach! I wish you the best in the future!

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

2013 Wisconsin Wedding

 

 

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