Tsomgo (Changu) Lake

Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 ft. Located in Sikkim at Gangtok – Nathula Highway only 40 km, from Gangtok, the Changu Lake is one of the most spectacular landscapes of Sikkim.

ROAD JOURNEY

The road to Nathu La passes the lake on north side. Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas. It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The pass, at 14,140 ft forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.

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The Chinese border crossing is only some 5 km east-northeast in a straight line, but some 18 km by road. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo.

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We stopped on our way at a village market for some coffee and snacks, and for toilet. Sikkim is the first state in India to have toilets in every village.

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Jaya & I visited our son Babai for three days. On Monday, March 17 we decided to visit Tsomgo Lake and hired a cab through hotel. We asked the hotel on Saturday to arrange for the trip and the inner line permit needed to visit there.

THE LAKE

Tsomgo Pokhri Sanrakshan Samiti, a community based organization formed for conservation of the Tsomgo Lake with support from WWF-India, and others sell picture postcards as entry ticket. The charge is nominal – Rs 10 only.

With a depth of around 48 ft and spreading over 1 km, the magnificent Changu Lake romances with its picturesque surrounding.

The water of the lake comes from the melting of the snow of its surrounding mountains, which is why this lake never dries up.

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This azure blue lake remains completely frozen during winter.

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In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake. Changu Lake is also the place of origin of Lungtse Chu River. This lake is also home to Brahmini Ducks and a favourite stopover to other species of migratory birds.

FAITH & LEGEND

The lake is highly revered by the local Buddhists and Hindus as a sacred lake. Changu Lake is shrouded in myths and legends. It is said that in ancient times, the Lamas (Buddhist Saints) used to predict the future by observing the lake’s colour. If the water of the lake had a dark tinge, they predicted the future to be dark and gloomy, full of unrest. The faith-healers of Sikkim, popularly known as Jhakhris also visit this lake during Guru Purnima to offer prayers.

A small bridge just at the entrance of the lake will take you to a viewpoint cum cafeteria, from where you can view the complete lake and its surrounding mountains.

YAK RIDE

You can trek along the lakeside in deep snow during winter or even take Yak rides along the coast of the lake. The yak is a long-haired bovid found throughout the Himalayan region of south Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. Most yaks are domesticated. The yak may have diverged from cattle at any point between one and five million years ago, and there is some suggestion that it may be more closely related to bison than to the other members of its designated genus. Yaks are heavily built animals with a bulky frame, sturdy legs, and rounded cloven hooves. They have small ears and a wide forehead, with smooth horns that are generally dark in colour. Domesticated yaks have been kept for thousands of years, primarily for their milk, fibre and meat, and as beasts of burden.

We preferred Yak ride. It’s our first experience and we enjoyed the ride although initially the sight of the mighty Yaks with their huge horns was a bit scary.


VILLAGE MARKET

There is a small rustic market before entering the Changu Lake which sells yak cheese, trinkets and local curios to the tourists. You would also get snow boots and gumboots on hire from here.

There are few eateries too selling Momos and tea in this area. We had some hot soupy noodles at one of the eateries before leaving Tsomgo for Gangtok.

Surprisingly, there was a wall painting of Che Guevara in one of the walls in the market indicating great popularity of the  Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader.

Tsomgo lake falls in the restricted area and hence an inner line permit is required by Indians to visit this place. Foreign nationals are not permitted to visit this lake without special permission. is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.

More photos are on Flickr.

Rain Holiday today in Baghdad

For the last few days, we were having some rains in Baghdad. The city witnessed torrential rains yesterday.

Torrential rains are quite uncommon in Baghdad. There were a few such occasions last year too.

The city is not equipped to handle torrential rains and there were water-logging in many areas. The water on the roads made street movement difficult.

Last night, it was declared a public holiday in Baghdad due to heavy rains in the city causing a lot of inconvenience to the general public. In India we are used to heavy rains during monsoons and cyclones. So, we don’t get any such public holiday because of rains. We have to manage through the flooded streets and traffic blockades there.

As the holiday is declared for Baghdad only, all our branches elsewhere are open. Therefore,  Ibrahim and Mustafa came to office today for providing support to non-Baghdad branches. I also walked down to office for some time during the day.

Sometimes I feel great to be in Iraq as I can have the luxury of enjoying rain holidays.

It’s a public holiday today in Baghdad, but we are in office

Today has been declared as a public holiday in Baghdad to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, the seventh of 12 principal Shiite imams, who died in 799. Shiites walk for hours, and often for days, from across the country to reach the mosque in Kadhimiyah, known for its twin golden domes. The mosque was built atop what were believed to be the tombs of Imam al-Kadhim and his grandson – Imam Muhammad al-Taqi, the ninth of 12 principal Shiite imams.

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims converged on the golden-domed shrine as security forces tightened security after a wave of deadly attacks across Iraq. Many of the main streets in Baghdad were closed in recent days to prevent attacks on the pilgrims, who travel on foot.

The traffic restrictions caused hardships to many of my colleagues. Many of them couldn’t come to the bank yesterday. The working hour was reduced by one hour since Sunday. Yesterday, it was decreased by two hours so that all the employees could reach home safe and in time.

The holiday has been declared today only in Baghdad province. Therefore, all our branches outside Baghdad province are working as a normal business day. So, the banking system will be fully operational today. The branches need support from head office as well as some transactions need authorizations. All routine checks are to be carried out to ensure the transactions are booked and recorded properly. So the back office is open today.

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An empty Baghdad road

I am in the office to supervise the back office work and for authorizing the required transactions. I stay in the office complex and hence it’s not a problem for me. Mustafa stays close by and so he has come. Ibrahim also can manage to come to office walking, so he too has come today. The vehicles are not allowed on the road today in Baghdad. As the Baghdad branches, and Head Office are closed, so the volume of work is much less today.

“If you have a work instead of a job, every day is holiday” ― Paulo Coelho

Happy World Environment Day to everyone! Today is also World Environment Day. Let’s make it everyday.

From a dusty day to a cloudy morning

This week started with a dusty morning yesterday. It became hazier as the day progressed. Later in the afternoon, the dusts settled down to a clear sky. Little did we know then that there would be a sudden change in the weather from a hot, dusty day to a cool, cloudy, wet morning!

I was waked up at 4.00 am by the night’s silence killing thunders and intermittent lightning splitting the sky here and there and lighting up my windows. I could also hear the music of rain as it was raining mildly then. I opened my windows; a gush of fresh, wet winds swept through my room brushing my sleepy eyes. I love the smell of rain-wet earth. It takes me back down my memory lane, when as a child I used to play in rain water filled ground, in mud in gay abandon. There was a fun then even getting slapped by my mother as she had to wash and clean those soiled, muddied dresses. Mothers are the God’s best gift to the humanity.

This fresh coolness was weighing more on my sleepy eyes, much better than the air-conditioned air inside. I closed the window and went to my bed to be woken up by the alarm at 6.00 am.

Yesterday was dusty and this morning started with thunder and lighting. It’s a welcome contrast. It reminded me of a line from a poem of Rabindranath Tagore –

When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.

White clouds across Baghdad sky

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White is the color of fluffy clouds fluffing their way across the sky…

Since the morning, billowy white clouds are lazily drifting across the sea-blue Baghdad sky today. It made the morning beautiful, bright, and quite pleasant.

“The first thing I notice is the sky, so full of blue and the kind of brilliant white clouds that make you ecstatic to have eyes. Nothing can go wrong under this sky…” ― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

The birds are also seen enjoying this weather as Baghdad is getting ready to welcome yet another ultra-hot summer.

Two pigeons are enjoying and playing on our roof.

Summer has arrived

Summer arrived

The moment the date palm trees bloom, it is a warning sign to all from nature that – the summer has arrived. It is now the start of a new season, a new cycle. Slowly, the now flowered dates will develop, grow, and ripe as the summer reaches its peak. In Iraq, summer is very dry, and hot with day time temperature shooting beyond 50 degrees Celsius. I like any blossoming as it heralds a new life, a new hope despite all odds. It’s a harbinger of new beginning!