I visited Sikkim in May for a break from the summer at South India. Me and my parents booked a flight from Bangalore to Bagdogra in North Bengal and opted to go by road to Gangtok from there. The flight journey was 3 hour 50 minute. We took the highway to Gangtok and drove along the Mahananda river by the side. The view of the inter state started there on and the temperature dropping down. We drove via the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary which is in the army area and is home for the Bengal tiger , rhinos and elephants. We saw the theesta river which flows via Kalimpong and is famous for water activities like white water rafting.
We reached Gangtok after a drive of almost 4 hours. Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and is situated at an elevation of about 5500ft above sea level. Hence it has a cool climate throughout the year. The spoken languages in Gangtok are hindi, english, bengali and goorkha basha. Gangtok city overlooks the Ranikhala river which meanders in the valley below the city. Mount Kanchenjunga and its ranges can be seen from the east of Gangtok city. We stayed at the Central Shangri La hotel for 3 days to finish our visit in and around the city. Our experience at the hotel was nice however, the locals suggest staying at the Greendale hotel for pure vegetarian tourists as the place seems to be great and has an awesome Kanchenjunga view!
On the first day we visited the Banjhakri waterfall. On our way there, we saw a rattle snake and the locals told us the black cobra was a common visitor to Gangtok! 😀 The Banjhakri waterfall was a wonderful start to our trip. It was a beautiful sight and the park around the waterfall is scenic. There were buddhist flags with prayers tied on trees and pillars all round the city. I also chanted “Om Mani Padme Hum” and spinned many prayer wheels wherever I saw them.
We next visited the Bagdum waterfall and wore the traditional attire of Sikkim. In Sikkim, men wear Bakhu and women wear Honju. It was a colourful piece of clothing and i just loved wearing the honju! We next stopped by the Rumtek monastery which was a spiritual and soothing place. The prayer wheels and the temple was just so beautiful. There are many monasteries in Sikkim and each one of them is peaceful.
The next place we stopped by was the Ganesh Tok. It is at an altitude of almost 6500ft and the temperature dropped down even more. Strict use of wollens is a necessity in the city. The Ganesh temple was beautiful and we prayed to Lord Ganesha for everyone’s well being. We next visited the Himalayan zoological park which was right opposite to Ganesh Tok. Black himalayan bear, leopard and blue sheep were among the many animals that were there. Blue sheep was not really blue 😀 The security there told us that there’s a particular time of the year when parts of the wool look deep blue in colour. Biologically , contradictary to their name, the blue sheep are neither blue nor sheep 😀
We also visited the Do Drul Chorten, Deorali which is one of the stupas in Gangtok. It was built by Rinpoche. After that we drove to the Hanuman Tok which was at an altitude of 7200ft . The temperature dropped down little by little and we were almost freezing. The temple was serene and we observed that all the places were maintained by the army. On our way back we visited the flower show complex and the Gangtok ropeway. The view of the city was just so beautiful, justifying it being called the land of peace and tranquility.
The water consumption is free of cost in the city and the electricity upto 50 units is free. But if the consumption of electricity is beyond 50 units, the people have to pay the cost for 50 units as well as the consumption beyond that. The fine people have to pay if they spit or litter is Rs.5000/- 😀 Hence the city, as we observed, is really clean.
We next visited the Tsomgo lake, also called the Changu lake. This place is pure delight! It is an emotion and the inability to comprehend the beauty of the place due to loss of words itself defines the experience there! It is pure bliss and I just wanted to stay there , making snow angels and building snow men. The Tsomgo lake is at an altitude of almost 12200ft and the temperature was the least. We were advised not to jump around or run in excitement as we might get a headache due to the sudden drop in temperature and our bodies have to get acclamatised to it. I couldn’t contain my excitement and joy, obviously, and made my parents click a million pictures and record a zillion boomerang videos! We took loads of selfies and just got lost playing in the snow , reliving childhood. Pure joy indeed! My parents had hot parathas and I had hot omelettes to enjoy the cool climate.
We next visited the Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. It’s seen as a temple because the people there worship Baba Harbhajan Singh, the Indian army captain, giving him the importance of a deity. The view at this place is scenic and the importance of this place is immense. There’s an interesting story behind this temple.
We then visited the Nathula pass which is at an altitude of about 14000ft . This place has strict rules and we get permits only if we’re lucky of if we have friends or family in the army . We can also visit the place if we have recommendations from Government officials. The entry fee is Rs5000/- and only 50-60 vehicles are allowed for visiting per day. The application procedures start around 7am in the morning and the applications are handed out only for the visitors for the day. Pre bookings aren’t allowed or encouraged. Also, one of the locals told us that the place was previously maintained by the army and has been maintained by the police since the last 6-7 months.
Momos and thukpa are the native food of the people in Sikkim . They even make stuffed parathas and are damn good. Thukpa is like noodles with soup and is spicy , making it the best food to savour for the chill weather. We visited MG Road which had many vegetarian restaurants and shopped for fridge magnets and other souvenirs, to take back a piece of this place to ours and make our memories last forever.