Since I was a child the mountains have always beckoned me and to be honest nothing is more uplifting for me than to be in the midst of the mountain’s sanctum. So when an opportunity came in the form of a blog travel collaboration to visit the Himalayan state of Sikkim in the north eastern part of India, I lapped it up with my open arms.
Sikkim is perched on the top of the Himalayan foothills and it borders Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet.
The alpine landscape of Sikkim is truly spectacular and it comes packed with bounties such as the Kanchenjunga, which is just shy of the Mount Everest when it comes to the altitude.
We had our flight tickets booked for Bagdogra, the nearest airport from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok and just one day before our flight, in came the news from our hotel over there that we better postpone the trip. Due to some serious political disturbances in Darjeeling in the neighbouring state of West Bengal, taxis and buses have virtually stopped plying from the airport to Gangtok. In simple words, even if we reach Bagdogra, we may get stuck there and chances are very high that we will never be able to reach the Himalayan state. For me the news did not matter much as my desire to be in the midst of mountains was far stronger than anything else. I agree that holidays are fun when they are properly planned but on this occasion I was in no mood to play safe and I had full support of Sarmistha. So, on 19th of June we took our flight to Bagdogra and reached on time. As expected nothing was available to Gangtok and for a brief moment we wondered if our fate had a better hand but then came this helpful driver who needed little persuasion from our end to get us to Gangtok. Let me point out again that he was the only guy available in the entire airport and it was us who found him. We were always told that Sikkimese people are very good and heart and our driver was a true personification of this image. We were booked at the Saramsa Resort located in a quaint suburb of the capital city surrounded by majestic hills all around. As we stepped into the resort we were greeted by its friendly and courteous staff and given a traditional Sikkimese welcome.
I will be writing a review on the Saramsa Resort in an upcoming post scheduled for Friday so keep an eye out for that one as well.
One our way to Gangtok the other day we build an excellent rapport with the driver and decided to hire him for every trip during our stay in the city. We arrived on 19th evening and on 20th we had a very interesting city tour planned. As we drove through the hilly roads meandering through the alpine meadows full of pines and rhododendrons, we were transcended to a whole new realm. Our first stop was the majestic Rumtek Monastery located around 25 kms from town. The monastery has tremendous significance to the Buddhist community from across the globe and it is largest of its kind in Sikkim. Built in 1740 and located in a altitude of above 5000 feet, the view from the shrine is simply spectacular. The day we visited the monastery there was a light drizzle and the whole atmosphere was foggy and misty. Somehow I find the Buddhist shrines very spiritual and mysterious, and atmosphere on that could not have been more exemplifying. As we walked towards the shrine and the fog dissipated the monastery came into view and the whole experience was so uplifting. There is a large community of Buddhist monks in the monastery and the whole atmosphere is very tranquil and peaceful. The monastery is adorned by a golden stupa that is supposed to contain the sacred relics of the 16th Karmapa.
The item on our itinerary was the Do Drul Chorten Stupa and I had a very different reason to make it to this site.
It is said that the place where the stupa is located was once haunted by spiteful and evil spirits who brought harm to the locals.
Then in 1945 came a Buddhist monk from Tibet by the name Trulshik Rinpoche and he set up the stupa and purified the region of the evil spirits. With such an interesting history there was no way that I would have missed this spot. By the time we reached the stupa the sun was in the western horizon and as the light flickered through the fluttering Buddhist prayer flags, a strange feeling completely engulfed me. I looked at Sarmistha and she seemed to be completely engulfed in photography. So it was just me who experienced something and I wondered if I am more receptive to unworldly things!! The stupa has 108 prayer wheels and me and Sarmistha took turns to rotate each and every one of them. As we came out of the shrine we could see locals serving piping hot Momos and we were not in a mood to miss them. To be honest, I have tasted the best Momos in Gangtok and it was quite an experience gorging on the local delicacy as we drove towards Banjhakri Waterfalls, our next destination of the day.
As we approached the falls we could hear the roar of the falling water body and it was possible to virtually stand under it. We were however not looking forward to getting drenched and just sat near it for a while, feeling totally relaxed and rejuvenated. Maybe it was the clean and fresh mountain air or the exhilaration of the day that we were incredibly hungry by now and headed towards the bustling M.G mark of Gangtok.
The taste of the Momos that we had earlier were still titillating our taste buds and we headed straight to a restaurant called the “Taste of Tibet” that is rumoured to serve the best Momos in town. Now we did not anticipate a crowd on a weekday at 3 in the afternoon but we were wrong. Yes, we did not find a place and had to settle in for an uneventful lunch in a typical Chinese restaurant.
Our first day in Sikkim was almost coming to an end and our driver suggested that we also try the rope way over the city. He mentioned that the views are really incredible from up there and he was definitely not wrong. It cost us Rs.250 (approx. $4) for two for a return trip lasting for about 10 minutes and views were spectacular. However I must add that the cable cars get overcrowded and you will have to struggle to get a place by the window. After the ride we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel and on the way planned out trip for the next day to Namchi in south Sikkim.
We were really excited and looking forward to the sojourn that will take us through some spectacular landscapes of this Himalayan state. I will be writing a post on this trip as well and I promise it will be fantastic read as well.