Flirting with snow leopards in Sikkim

Today is our second and last day in Sikkim, the day when we were supposed to visit Tsomgo Lake but couldn’t because the roads are closed. We were both feeling unenthusiastic about the day’s itinerary because of this, to say the least, but it can’t be helped. After breakfast, Mr D brought us to the botanical garden followed by a monastery. The monastery was more interesting than the garden, which just reminded us of our own Chinese Garden back home.

 
According to Mr D, families would send their children to the monasteries where food, lodging and education would be provided. As spaces were limited, it wasn’t that easy to enter the monastery. Those who stayed in the monastery did not study only Buddhism as they also followed the national curriculum. It must be almost exam time as a lot of the students were walking about the monastery with books in their hands.

 

Lone student on the rooftop who clearly wanted some solitude

Front of the monastery

 
The path leading to the monastery was pleasant; we saw walls covered with wild flowers and some animals reared by the residents in the area.
 

Wall covered with flowers

 
Look carefully at the chicken on the right. What’s it trying to do??

Two chickens roosting and one trying to look between its legs

Puppies gambolling about while the chicken preens its feathers

 
This is so cute. All the animals stopped what they were doing and looked in the same direction after a series of loud barks from the left.

 
Lunch was at Kim Ling Chinese Restaurant, which is run by a Chinese family and claims to be “the only authentic Chinese restaurant in town”. I think this is the tastiest meal I’ve had so far on this trip. Not because Indian food isn’t nice, but because we’ve been mostly going to places for tourists which don’t serve real Indian food.

Kim Ling Chinese Restaurant

Braised prawns with mushroom and bamboo

Stir-fried green vegetables which were a bit bitter

Ma Po Tofu

Fried bee hoon

 
Next, a visit to the Himalayan Zoological Park, which is known for its immersion exhibits. This zoo boasts of a naturalistic environment that gives visitors the sense they’re actually in the animal’s habitat. While this can provide an indication of how the animal lives in the wild, it also means that you don’t necessarily get to see the animals outright, as explained in the sign below which also urges visitors not to be disheartened if they don’t get to see any animals (-__-)

 

 
Due to the immersion concept, all the enclosures in this zoo are really big!

That's a lot of room for a few red pandas (unless the rest are all hiding somewhere)!

Getting misty, which obscured the view from the zoo's observation tower

The snow leopard appears!

 
I’m not sure if it was a quiet day but we saw very few people in the zoo that day. Maybe because we were the only ones at the snow leopard enclosure, the zookeeper beckoned to us to join him during feeding time.

 
We climbed up to a small landing and then down another ladder to a separate part of the enclosure, where we saw the snow leopards looking very docile.

 
The zookeeper couldn’t speak much English, but he managed to tell us that the two snow leopards in this enclosure were siblings, Ravi and his sister Malika. The two refused to eat while we were there and kept drinking water while darting dirty looks at us.

Looks like a docile giant cat (minus the dirty looks of course)

 
On the way out, we came across the red berries again. Mr D was with us this time round and told us that the berries were edible, so we had some. The berries were refreshingly sweet with a tinge of tanginess. I would have eaten more but couldn’t get past how hairy the berries were. I know it’s normal but it still felt like a lot of hair..

 
After what felt like a long day, we returned to the hotel feeling let down. The day’s itinerary was a sorry substitute for the lake, even though we perked up considerably when the zookeeper allowed us to go near Ravi and Malika. Unfortunately, dinner at the hotel didn’t help to improve our mood.

 

My very tiny chicken steak

Hubby's Southern fried chicken. I've never had Southern fried chicken before but something tells me this is not it...

Salad

Banana fritters with chocolate sauce. The one with custard was definitely tastier but not available tonight

 
We were not the only table tonight and there were two ladies who looked as downcast as we did. A conversation was struck up and we learnt that the two ladies’ North Sikkim itinerary had been cancelled as the entire northern part of Sikkim was closed off to visitors because of the earthquake. The two ladies complained that they had wanted to cancel their trip but were not allowed to by the travel agency and had to postpone it instead. Unfortunately, the postponement did not help as North Sikkim was still under reconstruction and deemed unsafe for travellers. It was a sorry sight in the dining room that night as the four of us lamented over our Sikkim itinerary. At least we still had Bhutan to look forward to. Tomorrow Bhutan!

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