A TRIP TO PARADISE OF BOTANISTS- SIKKIM
Have you ever imagined walking through the snowfall and never be tired of it? Have you ever fallen in love with the cold and the snow that covers the beautiful landscape? Have you ever seen so many colours and the prettiest of flowers, all in the same place? Or have you ever wanted to come out at night to eat ice creams with your girlfriends without the feeling of insecurity to haunt you? Make it a dream come true by visiting the attractively mesmerizing hill station-Sikkim-which will leave you awestruck with its magnificent beauty and would soothe your eyes as you surrender yourself to its spellbinding greenery! In a world of mental and physical pressure, Sikkim could be an appropriately suitable escape from the pollution of cities and judging eyes of your neighbours or colleagues and family members.
Sikkim is a North Eastern state of India, bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It is also known as a “brother” among the “seven sisters” of North East India (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya- yet other places which would leave you breathless). The state has a dramatic landscape which ranges from India’s highest mountain, Kangchenjunga (8,586 m) to the landscape of Yumthang Valley with its beautiful spring flowers. For nature lovers, Sikkim is a must-to-visit place as it is home to glaciers, alpine meadows and thousands of varieties of wildflowers. The state has a rich history of kings and lords and monarchs ruling over it. It also has a history of freedom fighters and revolutionists fighting for the rights and justice of the state and its people. This is one place which many tourists like to visit for some peace and to spend some quality time to with their loved one. One such plan was made by my family in the winter of 2014. It was a four day trip with a family of my father’s friend. This trip was one of the best things that happened to me in the fall of 2014. The place is etched in my heart and mind and will always remind me of the splendid journey I had. Sikkim is not just a place, it is a feeling! Go climb the mountains, ride the Yak through the snowy paths and explore its mouth-watering dishes!
Here are some of the best places you can visit in Sikkim and Gangtok (Directly from my travel journal to your laptop screens)-
Day 1- The excitement of “changing landscape”!
We took a train from Tinsukia (in Assam, since I am from Assam) to New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) in West Bengal (which took us two days and one night). From there we went towards Sikkim. My father’s friend, who stays in Sikkim, came to pick us up from the train station. It took us around 5 hours to reach our booked destination. On our way we stopped at a Dhaba to have lunch (the name of which I don’t remember now, but all I could remember is that there was this cute dog who kept on coming towards me and sticking closer to my legs). I remember how exciting it was when we kept moving upwards towards Sikkim. It was a change from plains to mountains. The tress became denser and greener, the roads became narrow and we were more frequently encountered by the Teesta River which became distinctively clear as we went higher. On reaching Sikkim we went to Mahatma Gandhi Marg (MG Marg) which is a Gangtok tourism road. This area is free of litter, smoke and vehicles, and is a pedestrian zone only. Locals would immediately ask you to stop smoking if they find your smoking in this area.
In the evening we took a local tour of M.G. Marg and later had dinner at on the rooftop of the hotel we were staying at, called, Hotel Golden Pagoda. They have a beautiful Dinner hall. From the rooftops one could see the mountains and little lights shining from them. The best time to visit MG Marg is in December when the “Gangtok Annual Food and Culture Festival” takes place (when many different food stalls are set up at the Titanic Park in MG Marg). While there are various restaurants and cafes in this road, some of them are very well popular among the tourist. They include:
- PUB25- A popular pub which plays some truly amazing music. The service is very well as its staffs are very attentive. You can also entertain yourself by reading the funny anecdotes about beer and drinking attached to the walls of the restaurant.
- Baker’s Cafe- They serves some yummy pastries, patties, momos and other snack items. Do not forget to try its coffee!
- Golden Dragon- It has a lovely dinning environment and spectacular market view. We went there for breakfast, but the food was so good that we went back for lunch and dinner.
- Chopsticks- It has a scene of a family restaurant. The service is welcoming and warm. It’s a very good place for a proper family dinner.
- Allen’s Kitchen-If you want to listen to some lovely music with some delicious food on your table, than you should visit Allen’s Kitchen in MG Marg. This restaurant provides a wide variety of food. Also, the owner, himself, takes care of customers so personally.
DAY 2- EXPLORING THE LOCAL BEAUTY
The next day after a warm breakfast we decided to go for a local tour of the area. We heard a lot about Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok and so we made sure it is the first place we visit in Sikkim. We booked a cab from MG Marg to Rumtek Monastery, which took us around 30 minutes. Rumtek Monastery, also known as Dharmachakra Centre, is a Tibetian Buddhist temple. Once you are at the base gate of the monastery you realise that it is true of all the facts told about it. From the base gate it requires an uphill walk (about 15 minutes) to reach to the main monastery. This monastery is one of the largest monasteries in Sikkim and has a unique infrastructure, which resembles the infrastructure of the original one in Tibet. This monastery has one of the finest architectures in the world. Once you visit this place, you get a sense of peace about yourself as you just let the silence surround you. Also, there are vantage points from where you get to see some beautiful sites of the whole Gangtok!
After a two hours stay in Rumtek monastery, we came down to the town and I had thupka(a local soup dish) for lunch. We toured around MG Marg the whole evening as it is a very convenient place for evening walk and shopping. The place is very clean and is a paved street with shops lining both the sides. There are benches fixed throughout the road where you can sit down and talk when you are tired of walking. If you get hungry, there are ample of options you can rely upon. The whole street is lined with restaurants, bars and cafe. In the evening, we went for some shopping and ate some amazing local street foods (the names of which I don’t remember). After a long day we came to our hotel rooms and freshen up for one-amazing-night. At around 8pm we all got dressed up for dinner and went to Allen’s Kitchen where we were served some amazing starters, beverages and sweet dishes.
DAY 3- A TOUR TO 3,753 METRES HEIGHT
The next day we backpacked for Lake Tsomgo also known as Changu Lake which is located at an elevation of 3,753 metre. The Lake is associated with many myths and legends and is referred to it by the Sikkimese as “sacred”. The Lake is covered with snow in winters. On our way to the lake, there was an instant change in the scenes and temperature. Soon we realised that the streets were covered with snow and we were driving through the clouds! We stopped our cars for a while and clicked some photos and experienced the much awaited snow fall. The landscape was covered with snow, even the houses and shops (though it was very sparsely populated). The place had a beauty of its own. The cold was freezing but satisfying. I still remember a story that my father told us which still fascinates me. It goes something like: A long time ago the mountains had wings and would fly away to anywhere they wanted and would settle there. The people went through a lot of trouble for this behaviour of the mountains. They complained to Lord Vishnu, the regulator of the Universe. Lord Vishu decided to cut off the wings of the mountains so that they can settle in one place. Though today the mountains cannot fly, but the love of the mountain and its wings was eternal. Therefore, the cut- out wings took the form of clouds and still hovers near the mountains.
After playing for a while in the snow we started off to descend from the mountains. On our way back we stopped at a shop where we ate hot soup and tea. It was the best combination in the cold weather. On our way back we stopped at Gonjang Monastery which is as beautiful as a mystery! I would strongly recommend a visit to this monastery and pray for the good will of one’s loved ones.
DAY 4- LACHUNG, LACHEN AND YUMTHANG VALLEY
Most part of our Day 4 was in the villages of Lachung, Lachen and Yumthang Valley. Visiting these villages is a onetime experience. There was thick snow in the mountains and we spend much time playing in the snow. From there we made our way to the “zero point” where we got a spectacular view! Standing in this point one can understand about “God’s creation”. This is a place where you are so close to nature and you get a sense of belonging and acceptance that you wish to stay a little longer and than a little more. But then your father calls you back to the car because it’s already time for you to leave, and as you leave you become so emotional because you know you are going to miss this place. All the way back to hotel all I can think about how much I was going to miss this place, and it was indeed a magical experience.
Thus the last day of the trip came to an end. Soon I found myself backpacking to leave for my home. But Alas! That one trip left me with so much of emotional attachment with the place and with such peace and tranquillity in my mind! It is true that “Wonders do come in small packages!” and thus to witness this you must visit the second smallest State in India-Sikkim- and let its prismatic beauty and mesmeric charm work wonders with you!
Here I have attached some photos of my trip to Sikkim:
Way to Tsomgo Lake
Its beautiful scenery (way to Lachung)
Wearing Sikkim’s traditional dress known as “The Kho”
June is a wonderful time to be in Sikkim. While most of your trip should move as per plan, you should always be prepared for surprises. For more info join traveller club and find your trip partner on eChutti.