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Kalimpong and sight seeing


We woke, admired the foggy view, had breakfast and set off for Kalimpong. We reached the Sikkimese/West Bengal border and stopped to get yet more stamps in our passports, this time for leaving Sikkim. We found a guy sat playing a Serangi on the steps to the building and sat down to listen. I brought my instrument I had bought 2 days ago and he set it up correctly, tuned it and played it a little. He wasn't impressed and tried to get me to swap it for one of his but I liked mine and his was bright yellow! He taught me how to play it properly (not like a violin as that makes it sound horrendous) before it was time to leave. I thanked him for his impromptu lesson and we set off again. We arrived in Kalimpong and pulled up at our hotel, the Himalayan retreat, which was a grand colonial building with awesome rooms that had high ceilings, lots of dark wood furniture and open fireplaces in each room. We met an Indian couple who had lived all over the world at different parts of their lives and now shared their time between California and India. We headed down to the dining hall with its 2 old gramaphones and a wind up, fixed mouthpiece telephone and enjoyed a good meal.After lunch we went for a walk into town to a Christian church that was locked and a Buddhist monastery that wasn't. As we walked in we got yellow holy water to drink (which no-one actually drank as it also smelt funny) and then we were inside a smallish monastery with suprisingly blank walls. We looked closer and realised they were being repainted and all the figures were in different stages of detail. It seemed the pictures were painted in reverse, with all the jewellery and clothing finished before the face detail and the hair. In the centre were a lot of wax sculptures and in the corner was a monk meditating. We span the prayer wheels outside before wandering back to the hotel for tea and bed.

We woke, had a good breakfast and went to meet Gee who took us to a cactus nursery. It was somebody's garden that they had completely given over to large polythene tents completely filled with cactus', some short and fat, some tall and thin, some hairy, fluffy, spiky, rotund and even some flowering. After we had admired all their hardwork in growing cactus' in one of the wettest parts of India we carried on to another monastery, this one being Gee's sect of Buddhism, the yellow hat sect. It was a very well maintained monastery with lots of religious imagery depicting stories with obvious meanings, rather than just the usual deities and auspicious symbols. A monk came to unlock the main prayer hall and showed us around, pointing out the three huge golden buddhas (just in case we might miss them). There was a throne for the Dalai lama if he were ever to visit, and above the prayer hall were his quarters. We spun the huge prayer wheel before heading further down the hill to a Christian church in a local style. It had a double layered, almost chinese style roof and a minimalist tower, and inside the altar was decorated with buddhist style carvings. All over the walls were pictures from the bible stories but the characters all had Tibetan faces and there were the Buddhist 8 auspicions everywhere. A strange blend of cultures and religions. We headed back to the hotel for lunch before going to a paper factory in the afternoon. The process starts from the wood of a particular tree being boiled in a huge pot before two ladies take out the stinking slush and separate it into bits suitable for paper and bits that aren't. Then the bits that are are put into a huge mincer and made into a slush with water. This slush is then sieved by 2 men with large flat sieves into thin, flat sheets which are piled up then squeezed in a press. The paper is then coloured before rolling them flat and smooth, then making it into books or cards or just left as paper. Of course we bought some before heading to the market for Dad to buy tea and Mum to buy a bag to take all her souvenirs home in. We headed back to the hotel and sat on the balcony waiting for tea. We were playing with cameras and showing Mum and Dad different things they could do with them. Then Amy accidentally deleted over 1000 photos! Not good! Amy quickly got on the phone to her brother to see if it was possible to recover them and he confirmed it was. Good news! Dinner was called and we headed down to eat before heading to bed.

Posted by SamAmy 01:35 Archived in India Tagged backpacking

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