09.06.2010 33 °C
Up and in the car by 5am as there is a strike on here today and we don't want to get stuck by the roadblocks! We drove along winding roads through the mountains all the way to our hotel in Richenpong which took about 3 hours. It was a little Tibetan themed place on a mountainside with stunning views of the steppe fields across the valley and the air was peaceful. We sat ouside our rooms under the thatched room with some white furry moths and ate our packed lunches. Amy got into bed after as she still wasn't fully recovered and Sam and his parents went to explore a monastery and the king of Sikkims brother's house. It was a nice walk from the village along a country path to the King's brother's house and when we got there it was a picturesque 2 story house made of wood. We weren't allowed close as the 2 gardeners came across, banned us from taking photos and said we weren't allowed to look round. Apparently the money from the government for being a 'tourist attraction' hadn't come through so no foreigners were allowed. We walked back towards a monastery hidden in a forest of prayer flags where we found a Buddhist prayer session going on. It was a tiny monastery and the hall was packed with monks, with the younger ones having to sit in the aisle. We stood outside and listened to the chanting, interspersed with rhythmic music. It was very serene and peaceful. We walked back and on the way met Amy, looking much healthier and happy. We all enjoyed a nice meal before heading to bed.
We left Richenpong in the morning for a 6 hour drive to Gangtok, stopping for lunch at a picnic spot with a lovely view down into a valley below. We arrived mid-afternoon and Kate, Sam and I decided to go for a little explore. Armed with a photo of the name of our hotel in case we get drastically lost we headed off up the hill. We walked up lots of steps, past children playing hop-scotch and with a tin-lid on the end of a stick, past lots of houses and little streams of rubbish being carried along the open sewers and we arrived at a main road at the top. We walked along the road, admiring the people as we went and decided that we'd walked far enough just as we got to a stadium. We went for a closer inspection and a girl of about 15 intercepted us on the way and asked if we'd like her to show us around, of course we would. She showed us the football pitch which looked a little worse for wear but we can't complain before the monsoon! She then took us to the rear of the complex and showed us the sports hall where some men were doing martial arts, the table-tennis room and the room where she was playing badminton in a few minutes. We thanked her for the tour and set off on our way back. We came across a little monastery with a few child monks sat on the wall and as we approached one of them came and opened the gate and waved us in. Three children showed us around the main room with Buddha and lots of ornate painting and hangings. It was as beautiful as monasteries always are. We said thank you and Sam took a couple of photos of the monks before we re-traced our steps to the hotel. We reached a point with an orange house which we'd noted as a landmark on the way up and as we looked for the way down, I glanced across the road and a man in the shop opposite pointed down the steps, he was looking out for us