Too touristy, honeymoon capital, very crowded’-Avoid Darjeeling. This was the response that we got when we started planning for our last leg of our North-East trip of Sikkim and Darjeeling. All this is true and with this, it is also true, which we discovered when we reached there that-
1. Apart from World famous for its tea, Darjeeling railway station is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Ghum railway station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is also the highest railway station in India, at an altitude of 2,258 metres!
2. Also, if you plan right- you can actually see the beauty of this place without too many people, and that is monsoon here my friend! Off seasons, are some of the best time to travel!
So, go ahead and visit this beautiful crowded town, because, everything looks pretty when the backdrop is of mighty Kangchenjunga!
We arrived from Pelling in a shared taxi and had booked this beautiful hotel in the morning itself through Goibibo app and got almost a 75% discount on the rate. Once we reached the taxi stand, a couple helped us in showing the shortcut to mall road where our hotel was situated which saved us 1k and also gave us a glimpse into how helpful and warm people are here!
We loved our hotel but still quickly deposited out bags there and got ready to take on this small quaint town. Had delicious lunch at super popular ‘Glenereys’. Service was slow and our next table did created quite a scene for it..but with that beautiful view with clouds floating just next to it..we were pretty happy with it being Slow!
Now, apart from visiting, the tea estates, do Visit the Tea tasting Bar at Nathumills, where not only you can buy the best of Darjeeling teas but also, you can try the premium tea in the Wine Goblet! Have a look yourself..Serving our national drink with Style! Try this Red thunder tea and Chamomile tea!
And, after covering all the touristy sights-the zoo, colorful monasteries, tea gardens, mall road, shopping…just sit in your hotel room and open your window and sip your Darjeeling tea… and you are rejuvenated..ready to face the world for next one month atlest!
Travel during off season and experience the place just the way how locals do it..everyday!
Lonely Planet describes Sikkim as the World’s last Utopias and it is exactly that..gorgeous and mesmerising and so untouched! Sale on flight tickets, long Independence weekend,love for monsoon and our constant travel Itch gave us one solution- Travelling to exotic North East and we decided Sikkim. So, both of us, corporate slaves managed to get 3leaves & voila, we got 6 days to explore this wonderland.
Get a cab on the Bagdogra airport itself from the govt. taxi counter which will cost Rs 2100 from aiport to Gangtok in 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take a cab to Siliguri in Rs 300 and bus from taxi stand to Gangtok. Tip: there are reserved and shared taxis for travellers on which you will depend a lot as buses are timely and few. If you are travelling to Sikkim, have a group of 4 people, that will help in reducing your taxi/travelling expenses. Alternatively, like us, after 2 days of travelling in reserved taxi(only for us), we started to use shared taxi, from the taxi counters which is in every district, though for sightseeing, travellers are only dependent on reserved taxis as all places are far from each other.
Day 2- Gangtok – Nathula Pass- Changsu Lake- Last night in Gangtok
This was the highlight of the trip, we left at 7:00 am to see our soldiers guarding our India-China Border. We went through the clouds and met the Indian soldiers above 14,000 ft. They spoke with us, proudly showed us the Indo-China border and even called the Chinese soldiers who were excited to shake hands with Indians! Benefits of travelling in off season. We also got lucky to see our soldiers doing the rehearsals for Independence Day celebration, they were dancing, singing, hosting the show and doing their job of guarding our country in that extreme cold. go to this place, and feel the pride and gratitude, all rolled into one! Tip: It will be very cold, take jackets, socks, caps to keep yourself cold. We had to rent a jacket in Rs 100, cos we were not dressed warm enough.
Day 3- Gangtok– Namchi- Ravangla- Jorethang
We stayed at Namchi to discover the South Sikkim, but I would suggest you go for a day visit to Namchi and stay at Gangtok or Pelling only, it was a little difficult for us 2 girls to find a cheap place to stay which is not shady! Namchi has some gorgeous sightseeing points and you can’t miss the Temi tea gardens, Taraveer, Namchi Helipad, Chaar Dhaam and Statue of Guru Rinpoche, which is the largest statue of a saint in the world. Try the delicious food at Juniper residency and great coffee at Creme.
We took the shared taxi from Jorethang taxi stand and reached Pelling in 4 hours and we discovered how beautiful West Sikkim is. If you are bored of crowded hill stations, than this place is highly recommended. Enjoy the waterfalls, quiet evenings, delicious homecooked food and ofcourse the scenic spots.
Once we discovered the public transport there, there was no looking back! In a fare of Rs 150 we were dropped to Darjeeling and we bade farewell to Sikkim! The journey was of course, slow, tiring, bumpy but with it gave us the time to sit with locals, here their stories, answer their questions on why 2 girls are travelling from Delhi on their own and become a part of each others memories!
For us, monsoon was the best time to go, it was off season, we got the best rates, the least crowd..it was magically green and I can never forget how it felt the clouds so close as our travel companions at all times! Culturally, it is a matriarchy society and thus, you will see lot of openness- restaurants, dhabas, bars managed by women there! It is a wonderful place to see another face of India, it will be a revelation for you..the way it was for us!
If you enjoyed reading through it and it helped you in inspiring you to pack your bag for Sikkim, than see this video made by my travel partner ! Enjoy the Last Utopia!
There is a vacancy in the team since some days now, HR has screened couple of candidates and now you need to meet them and choose the right candidate for your team who is within the budget, competent with the right attitude and temperament. Who says that only a candidate is under pressure during the Interview? And I realised it again, when coincidentally I had to fill 2 positions in my team within a month.
Choosing the right candidates and then the candidates finally choosing you in case the interview is successful requires expertise and the skill of conducting the Interview right. Below are 5 Must-Dos for conducting a successful Interview:
Prepare– Just like an interviewee prepares by going through the company website, Job Description, printing the CV and reaching on time, similarly, an Interviewer needs to invest some time in zeroing down the technical and behavioural competencies that he/she wants in the person they want to choose. Prioritise them according to Must Have, Should Have, Good to Have. Read through the Profile before meeting the candidate. A CV is there for a reason. Use it to understand the journey of the candidate before you meet him/her. Underline maybe the most relevant skills that matches with your requirement so that you remember to question them during the interview.
Use first 5 minutes to get the candidate comfortable and natural-Any interviewee, however confident, is putting up a show. They know they are being judged and the next 30 minutes will either get them That job or not. I always spend first few minutes on settling the person, offering them a glass of water, asking them how did they reach at the venue and then discussing their personal background. It helps them to become relaxed, spontaneous and real.
Talk about culture- I can’t stress the importance of this one. Every organisation has a unique culture. One of the company where I was working, a talented girl who was in my team left in 2 months, because she couldn’t adjust to the fact that this company was very particular about the work timings and how employees are expected to present themselves (being in sales and customer service). She was from a BPO industry with flexi-timings and no-formal culture, She had a hard time transitioning and left soon. When I started interviewing for her replacement, I made sure that I communicate the cultural aspects of the place. How employees are expected to be groomed in a certain way, how phone calls will get your work completed faster than any email or how escalations here are handled. This aligns the expectations of the candidates with the reality.
Allow candidates to ask questions during the interview- Traditionally, every interview consists of the interviewer asking questions from candidates like Where are you from, which projects have you handled, can you give an instance where you showcased a particular skill, why do you want to change and ending with do you have any question for me? Candidates are prepared for the last question and generally ask more about the role or company. I feel that instead of letting the candidate asking the question at the end, it should be during if not the start! As I explain the role at the start of the interview and go ahead and talk about how this role fits in the team etc, I encourage the candidates to ask questions, like, “I have given you an overview of how our department works, is there something that you would like to ask based on your understanding so far?”. or “So these are the main tasks for anyone in this role, is there anything that you want me to explain more?”. I am almost always is rewarded by questions which helps me describe the company, role and our expectations better. It definitely makes the conversation more relevant and the questions by the candidates gives a very good insight on their thought process and interest!
Listen more and speak less- Early in my career, I was interviewed by a gentleman who after asking me questions about my experience in hotel, challenges faced by me during my internship etc went on to share his own experiences, challenges and anecdotes. The ‘interview’ went on for an hour where I am sure he ‘shared’ his experience for almost 45 minutes! When I left I wasn’t sure if I had really spoken about my capabilities and how I am suited to this role. It was one of the most dissatisfying interviews that I went to. Fast forward to 3 years, and as I conducted interviews and screened candidates, the first ones- I remember babbling on and on about the company, about the role and literally telling how amazingly great this opportunity is for any candidate. Post completing 5-6 interviews for a particular position and meeting these many candidates, I wasn’t sure who to select as every candidate came across the same to me! I decided to sit through as an observer in couple of interviews conducted by some of my senior colleagues. As I sat observing the fellow interviewers, I recognised that listening is the key. I could sense that I never really listened to the aspirations, experiences and learnings of the candidates which they can bring to the table, because I was too busy talking about mine. Great interviews are also a lot about the connect that you build with the candidates. Listening plays an indispensable part in it. Listen to make effective decisions.
These 5 pointers are helping me in getting the right people on board! Why don’t you share your must-dos while conducting an interview?
Spectacular. Magnificent. Unreal and More~I can fill this blog with every adjective that I know of to describe what I have experienced, but I will try to keep this one brief and informative. When I decided to join this road trip of 10 days, I did a bit of googling and asked couple of questions, but still managed to get lot of surprises…so I am peppering this blog with all the information which I felt I should have known before!
Ladakh, land of high passes is a region in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh is the biggest city in Ladakh.
So Why Leh? Because it is a perfect destination to Escape. Escape from work pressures, pain of a broken heart, space from family members, daily grind and 24X7 connectivity! It all started with my search for a place to escape, a friend recommended this ‘Raw way to experience Leh Facebook page’ and I decided in an instant to be part of it! So find your escape here with the most stunning sights, in the simple conversations with warm locals and in the stimulating debates with the fellow bikers. This was my reason..what is yours?
Who did I go with? A group of 9 strangers who I first met on the day our Journey started from Majnu Ka Tila, New Delhi.
Travelling with friends and family is regular, travelling Solo is Passe… travel with strangers and see what magic happens!
Day 0: Left Delhi in a volvo from majnu ka tila with a 60ltrs rucksack, a sleeping bag (5degree-10degree), sleeping mattress and one shoulder bag.
We reached Manali at 12:00 pm and stayed at Brahma Guest house in Old Manali. Now, Old Manali is a little piece of heaven and after almost 14 hours of bus journey, we were rewarded with sunny weather, chilled beer, gurgling stream, feet dipping in freezing river, lip smacking food, cycling and shopping. You may stroll around the bazaar area or go for a walk in the forest area. Head up to the hot water springs at Vashisht, a small village 3 kms from Manali. There is also the option of heading up to Solang for adventure activities.Try some authentic Israeli and delicious Italian food. I definitely recommend People Cafe for karoake, live music and sushi, Chopstick for Thupka and momos, Sunshine Cafe for English breakfast and Lazy Dog for your Italian dinner.
We departed for Sarchu early in the morning at 6:30 am and crossed the Rohtang Pass and got our first glimpse of snow. Rohtang literally means pile of corpses due to people dying in bad weather trying to cross the pass.Though very touristy and dirty patches of slushy snow, we did not really went in there as we did not had those rented jumpsuits and rubber boots. I would suggest that if you are going in the peak summers, you better wait for Baralach La pass to enjoy the snow.
After crossing Jispa, enjoy this gorgeous view of Surajtal, the beautiful emerald like lake that lies just below the Baralacha la pass and is also the third highest lake in India. We made a pitstop at Zing Zing bar and enjoyed the community camping. This was the coldest place that we came across with temperature going below 5 degree, so carry your warmest jacket, woollen caps and gloves. We were lucky enough to enjoy the full moon night. Experience the sleep in tents under a blanket of stars on this night.
Day 3: Experience being at 17000 feet, encounter the jagged mountains and the winding roads that can only be in Leh
Zingzing bar – Patseo – Baralach La pass – Taglang La pass – Sarchu – Leh City
We left the Zing Zing bar at around 7:30 am for the rustic and remarkable city of Leh. Enjoy the high mountain pass of Baralach la with the view of snow hugging the sides of the road. Get a mandatory click at Tanlang La Pass which is known (though incorrectly) for being the world’s second highest motorable pass.
And then, experience the Gata Loops which literally took our breath away! These are a series of twenty one hairpin bends in the Manali and Leh highway, no photo can prepare you for it. This filled us with awe and wonder.
Day 4: German bakeries, Biker cafes, shopping and everything Ladakhi
We stayed at the Homestay Chandan guest house at the most happening lane of Leh City- Changspa lane. Enjoyed the Kasmiri kebabs and Tabak mass on Old Fort Road for dinner and a breakfast of fresh apple juice, Yak cheese sandwich and nutella pancake! After surving on Wai Wai noodles and dal chawal for the entire road travel, It was time to treat my stomach!
Day 5: Pangong Tso Lake and hospitality of Yokma house
We left the rucksack in the guest house and left for Pangong early morning with a smaller bag as we planned to stay overnight at Pangong. This iconic highest salt lake is divided between China and India. This place was an oasis of calm and such a brilliantly hued color palette. We stayed at a homestay-‘Yokma’ and our day here reminds me of delicious chicken curry, warm bottle of old monk, cosy beds, hot tea and the wrinkled happy faces of our hosts! And this place was as serene as it looks…
Day 6- 3 Idiots school, Rancho’s cafe and a night in the city
We left Pangong at around 11am after getting all typical shots of jumping and getting clicked in the midair, we reached Leh City to enjoy a relaxed evening with some bonfire, music and conversations! Check out the 3-idiot fame Rancho school too (Druk White Lotus school). They have 15 minute guided tours in the school for visitors to show you the shooting point and also why is it awarded by BBC for innovation. Reach there before 5 and carry some cash to buy ‘All is Well’ fridge magnets or other souvenirs from the school!
Day 7- Our Leisure and sightseeing day in Leh
This morning was supposed to be our leisure day after covering some 1200 kms and 17000ft in few days, but our overexcited group decided to do rafting on Zanskar river. Get prepared to change into bodysuits which are mandatory to wear to save your body from freezing water! So carry an extra pair of clothes and enjoy the 16 kms rafting as we did in Rs 1400 including lunch. On our drive back, we stopped at Magnet Hill. This was a bit of an anti-climax as we were expecting to see a car being pulled towards a hill, then we were told it is an optical illusion and nothing more! But this highway is beautiful, though my advice, do not go there only to see this ‘spot’.
Day 8 – Aaj hum upar, aasmaan neeche!! cheesy…but hell….yes!
After spending a night in the Leh City again, we left early morning for Nubra Valley with one change of clothes. On our way to Nubra we crossed Khardung la Pass, the highest motorable road in the world.Stop for a cup of tea or a plate of maggi at the highest cafeteria in the world.
Nubra, is a high altitude cold desert. We reached our guest house-Gharyok by 4:00 pm and got delighted to see our rooms right next to a gushing stream. It is like a small village nestled in the middle of nowhere. Walk to discover this quaint small place. We followed the path to a ‘Yak farm’ but couldnt find any Yaks..instead we found a gem of a place serving chilled beer in small private areas in an open ‘restaurant’ (no food though), think of it as Gurgaon’s Machan! Speak with the locals and they may just take you there!
Day 9: Exploring the desert of Ladakh-Nubra Valley
Next morning, we visited the Diskit Monastry. It is a long walk uphill, I will suggest hitchike or ride till the vehicles are allowed and then start walking. After your prayers, visit the tea room which offers tea to all the visitors. This place encourages you to be silent and will bring you sense of peace. It did to me.
Some last pointers:
1. This trip costed me Rs 32,000 all inclusive (including shopping, drinks and binge eating)
2. We all will have altitude sickness at somepoint or the other, diomox is a very popular medicine among Leh travellers which helps in acclimatisation. Couple of my co-travellers took it at the start of the trip, others when nausea hit them. I avoided it inspite of my asthma. I suggest speak with your doctor and only then take any medicine it. You may not need it all. Remember, the fear of altitude sickness is worse than altitude sickness! Keep your body hydrated, drink lots of water, wear good woollens and cover your ears! I followed it and remained healthy throughout.
3. Pack smart! Carry T-shirts for day time, warm jackets. Layering works best in this kind of hot-cold-hot weather. Keep gloves, lot of socks and woollen caps to cover your ears when its very cold at night and at high altitude. Carry 2 pair of shoes, so that you have a spare one in case one is wet because of snow or water. Travel light, you will be carrying your own bags there! Carry sunscreen, wetwipes, petroleum jelly, a very very good moisturizer(weather is VERY dry) and lip balm!
4. Carry Cash- ATMs you will find only in Leh city and Manali. Do not depend on ATMs.
5. Phone connectivity- Leh city have all postpaid connections working. Wifi availability is also good. Places like Nubra, Pangong have zero phone connectivity, be prepared for that.
6. Be prepared for No toilets! or err…well..weirdest of ‘toilets’ (if a ditch, a stone, a 3×3 tin or cloth covered corner can be called that) ..but have to say, the view and the ventilation was fantastic in every one..nice and open..if you know what I mean! Infact, I can probably write a separate blog on my toilet stories.. Cos we took the locals advise of staying hydrated pretty seriously and drank water as if our life depended on it..and that made us take a leak after every 45 minutes in the most adventurous of places! Anyway, so carry lot of tissues(you do not want a UTI here) and carry on
6. This is the first time when I went with these many strangers and a public group. It happened because of the comfor provided by Rayn Dalton whose initaive was to organise this trip, their page ishttps://www.facebook.com/kerryadventures/?fref=ts
Picture credits and inputs for this blog: Everyone who was on this trip, and let me repeat myself:
Travelling with family is regular, Travelling Solo is passe..Travel with strangers and experience Magic!
So you congratulate yourself for landing that dream job and getting all its perks with it- a cool hike, an attractive designation and your would-be boss who believes in you and feel that your hiring would complete their high-performing team. You have just taken a few days break, have shopped for the First-Day outfit and reach 15 minutes ahead of reporting time on D-Day. You are confident, excited and can see your new job teeming with opportunities.
This was exactly what happened with me almost 3 months back as I changed my job after almost 2 years and as I finished my first day which included filling umpteen forms, figuring out where restroom is, getting introduced to 50 odd people and ended up mixing names, faces, departments etc on Day 2 and coming week, I realized that my charged-up self is losing its battery power fast and this is a bit more complicated than what I expected initially.
So, on my 4th day, as I was sitting at my workstation, I ordered my 3rd cup of tea in the morning (It was 11:55 am, and my laptop was with IT department for sorting some configuration issue), and the pantry guy very sweetly informed, we deliver tea on the workstations only twice a day, rest is self service.
As I fumed and cribbed to myself, this wasn’t how it was in my last job, I realized that my frustration was not only cos I can’t get tea (though he still came and served it as an exception, considering my new status) but I was surprised at how disorientated this change was. Completely out of my comfort zone, surrounded by strangers who are suddenly colleagues, different location, processes, way of talking (retail conversation (my present) is very different from hospital conversation (my ex)), lunch breaks, shuttle service, team members expectations (1 person reporting to me resigned to me on my first day!)…all this and more made me question my own decision and as doubts creeped in, I also felt, If I deserved this? I felt like an imposter, google it, there is actually a syndrome on it! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
And finally as I stumbled through my first month and sat on the completion of my first quarter, I have few learnings based on my experience & , what to keep in mind when you are New:
Listen and Listen– In all your ‘get-to’know’ or orientation meets, follow the ratio of 90% and 10% where 90% is listening and 10% is speaking and that too, make them questions. This will allow you a better understanding of people, processes, culture and a deeper connect in a short time.
Stop talking about your ex-company– Very few people have asked me about my role in my last organisation & my accomplishment there. People are so busy in their transactions and life at their current role, that they are really not interested in your past. Take this advice- Get over your past and stop bringing it up in every conversation.
Take Initiative- Do not wait for people to say Hi to you first. Be the first person to wish people, ask them if they need your help, most of them will say no, but they will appreciate the gesture.
Acknowledge and Appreciate– As an outsider, there will be couple of things which will look good to you- the cubicle space, the well managed notice boards, office shuttle service, meetings maintains the time schedule- appreciate what you like in this new place. It is very easy to fall in the old habit of cribbing about how nothing works here and you will slowly get into it at your new job also, but when you have fresh insight, recognize the things which are working well.
Take one day at a time, Be observant and not Judgemental- Pressure of showing your mettle and that too fast may just frustrate you even more. Go slow and wear the lens of Observation and Not Judgement!
Recognize low hanging fruits– Financial year was about to end when I joined my new place and during my orientation, my boss and couple of sales guys vented out how, they missed going on an offsite this year because of a gap in my department, even budget will go on a waste and how I should ensure this offsite definitely happen in the next year, since now I am here. I asked my boss, ‘We still have 20 days left for the year to end, Can I go ahead and plan something quick to utilize the budget?”. He was surprised, but said, “Why not?”. It turned out to be a success and helped me earn some credibility.
Be patient– Every orientation meet with department managers gave me an insight on what all can be done, I ended up pages full of To-Dos, and what was urgent for one department turned out to be the last thing that should happen by another department! Take your time before any commitment and introducing something new.
Expect less– Do not expect people to invite you for lunch every day, for a walk post lunch, or even on the official watsapp group in the first week! Keep your expectations low, to avoid disappointments. I wish I had followed this one though. Get used to having lunch alone for a couple of days!
Make mistakes and get over it| But don’t repeat them– Purchasing something through a vendor who was not in the panel, not keeping the Admin informed about the lunch to be organised for a training, using wrong formats for attendance- my first month was a series of small goof ups but you need to take them on stride. Don’t beat yourself up and just keep a note of them to avoid repeating them in near future!
Be YOURSELF- The ghost of the person who you are replacing may come back to haunt you especially if the person had a strong personality. Do not talk too much about it, focus on your strengths, be true to your personality and there will come a day soon where you will not only be accepted but celebrated!
These were my pointers, why don’t you share your learnings of the time when you made that Big Move!