Cheuk is determined to find the
missing Shangri-la since we’ve come this far into the Himalayas.
So we secure enough police permits and entry visas to visit
Sikkim, three hours away from Darjeeling.
The jeep ride up to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, takes us
through some spectacular hillside landscape. The closer we get
towards Gangtok, the more Chinese the landscape and less Indian.
I jokingly say to Ajay that his people are looking more like my
people as we approach our destination. It is only noon by the
time we hit town but the dark and gloominess of the rain made it
feel much later in the afternoon.
We check into a quaint hotel perched on the mountainside that
looks like a Tibetan monastery. It would have been a spectacular
view except we couldn’t see much through the thick fog. Between
the rain and mud, we don’t feel much like shooting. I found a
cool little Nepalese frontier bar call Cooks Inn where we hung
out, chilled over a few brews and call it a night.
We get up bright eyes and bushy tail to catch a flight back at
Bagdogra airport. A landslide stranded us by the side of the
road waiting for the earthmovers to clear the rubble. We paced
and sat in our cab helplessly for over three hours. Our flight
had left for Kolkata by the time we arrived at the airport. We
had no choice but to stay the night at the Cinderella Hotel in
Siligiuri. A whole day was lost.
We’ve got five hours to kill before our connecting flight to
Delhi. The Tangra Chinatown is not far from the airport, so we
decided to check it out. Tangra is full of Chinese tanneries.
The air is polluted and it’s dirty and wet everywhere. Jessica
Yeh, a York student home from school gives us the tour. Her
family owns one of the big tanneries in town. Mr. Yeh treats us
to authentic Hakka meal at the Kimfa before our flight. After
breathing the stench for a few hours… I’m not sure if I’ve any
appetite left. But surprisingly, the food was delicious,
especially the Lime Chicken. Mouth-watering free-range chicken
soaked in preserved lime then steamed.
Delhi is an embassy town, cleaner, less congested and Sarada’s
hometown. Ajay calls her and folks in this town “puppies”, short
for Punjabi Yuppies. Baba Ling booked us into the
Intercontinental, a 5+ star hotel. He must think we’re some
Hollywood crew or our fixer guy is loaded. It’s the most
luxurious accommodation on this whole shoot. Hope it’s not gonna
break Cheuk’s piggy bank!
Baba is obviously the more ambitious one compare to the
laid-back Nini. He’s currently building the new Nanking, a more
upscale gourmet palace nearby but closer to the high-end embassy
crowd. It is obviously Baba’s homage to Ling senior who ran the
old, more humble beginnings from the Nanking. We’re given the
grand tour of the construction in full swing before returning
back to the Imperial Garden for a feast -- a great meal to end
our passage to India.