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Sikkim

GANGTOK, SIKKIM

Being the capital of the north-eastern state of Sikkim, Gangtok is a popular Buddhist centre. It’s also a famous hub for people hiking and trekking through Sikkim’s Himalayan ranges. It’s got lush greenery and a rugged terrain. The nearest airport, about 124 kilometres away, is in Bagdogra, West Bengal. The nearest train station, 148 kilometres away, is in New Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, West Bengal. You could hire a vehicle and reach your destination in a few hours.

Why Sikkim is just the place for you.

1) Sikkim isn’t a restricted area anymore.

The people here are very friendly and tolerant towards tourists, and there are hardly any complaints registered in the police stations. The public toilets are hygienic and well maintained.

2) FESTIVALS!

Apart from the major religious festivals of Diwali, Christmas, Dusshera and Holi, the diverse ethnicity of the town enjoys several local festivals. Losar, the Tibetan new year, is celebrated with great gusto. The Maghe sankranti, Ram Navami, Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are some other festivals, some distinct to local culture and others shared with the rest of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

3) Scenic beauty

Located at a distance of merely 35 km from Gangtok, Tsomgo lake is one place you must not ignore. It is surrounded by rugged mountains all around.

Monasteries like Enchey Monastery, Rumtek Monastery are also worth visiting. Enchey Monastery is located on a hill top with a picturesque view of the entire town and the Kanchenjunga peak. Whereas Rumtek monastery marks the largest monastery of Sikkim.

One more place that could blow your senses is the Nathu La pass, an important corridor between India and Tibet before1962.  It is one of the highest motor able roads in the world and offers enormous view of the Chumbi valley

4) The mouth-watering delicacies!

The ones popular here are momos (steamed dumplings containing pork, beef or vegetables), thukpa (noodles in soup), Wai-Wai (packaged noodles either eaten dry or in the soup form) and other noodle-based dishes like chow mein, thanthuk, kakthu, gyathuk and wonton. Others include shah-phaley (patties with spiced, minced meat in a crisp, conical case) and the Gack-ko soup. Restaurants offer a wide variety of traditional Indian, continental and Chinese cuisines to cater the tourists. Churpee is a hard cheese made from cow’s or yak’s milk. Chhang is a frothy local millet beer traditionally served in bamboo tankards and drunk through bamboo or cane straws.

5) Cheap on the pocket

Alcohol is cheap because of low excise duty in Sikkim, so beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are frequently consumed by both locals and foreigners.

6) Gala time all throughout

The residents are addicted to music and it’s usual to catch the sound of Western and Bollywood music being played in homes and restaurants. Nepali songs are also famous. Football, cricket and archery are the main sports.

When to visit?

Winter: It actually depends on whether you like this weather or not. The winters here are extreme, especially early in the morning and at night. Fog, in February, causes visibility issues, but it makes the area look like a fairy tale. The temperature stays around 4 degree Celsius, and, even though snowfall’s not a problem in Gangtok, the passes to places with higher altitudes, such as the Tsomgo lake , get blocked because of it. The Changu Lake, never completely frozen, is wonderful. You’ll just need permits from the Gangtok Tourism Centre. It’s not as crowded as in the summers, and the hotel rates get cut because of this.

Spring: The months of March and April are great. The pleasant weather, punctuated by a slight chill and clear skies, is perfect for sightseeing and adventure sports. The Tulip Gardens, known for their beauty, are in full bloom. But, like the summers, the fares soar dramatically.

Summer: The average temperature in May and June is around 22 degree Celsius. It might get warm in the afternoon, but, on the whole, it remains rather comfortable. Water sports are popular. But, due to an increase in demand, hotel and taxi fares face a constant increase.

Monsoon: From July to September, it’s obvious to see continuous showers and a dark, cloudy sky. Gangtok is known to receive the highest amount of rainfall in Sikkim. July faces the heaviest rain. Landslides take place, cutting most routes. But, they’re usually cleared in a few hours. The best festivities take place in these months. It’s a good time for strolling, lazing around in cafes and perhaps a bit of shopping. Bird watching and visiting waterfalls are the best tourist activities available. As it is in the winter months, the prices dip because of the low demand.

Autumn: The months of October and November constitute the autumn season. It’s one of the best times to visit Gangtok; the pleasant weather makes it possible for you to have an action-packed day. You’ll have to carry a few sweaters if you’re going there in November; the weather starts becoming colder.

Which places to go to?

The Nathula Pass, 54 kilometres east of Gangtok, is a mountain pass in the Himalayas which connects Sikkim to Tibet. It’s a branch of the ancient Silk Route. It’s one of the most popular places to go to, but you’ll need a pass from the Gangtok Tourism Centre. It’s an exceedingly crowded place though, so you might prefer to go some other place. On the other side, the Gonjang monastery, located near the Tashi View Point, is good enough, besides having the plus point of not being too jammed. The Flower Exhibition Centre, a must-go spot, houses several species of exotic plants, including orchids, anthurium and lilium. Walk through the Ridge Gardens and take the stone staircase going down to the left to get there.

The Seven Sisters Waterfalls are also well-known. The Tsomgo Lake, Hanuman Tok, the Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple, the Ranka Monastery, the Banjhakri Waterfalls, the Ganesh Tok View Point, the Himalayan Zoological Park, the MG Marg Market and the Menmecho Lake are some other tourism spots.

A few handy facts

  • Gangtok’s STD code is 03592.
  • Gangtok’s elevation is 1,600 metres and its total area is 35 square kilometres.
  • Nepali, English and Hindi are widely spoken and understood. Other languages include Bhutia
  • (Sikkimese), Tibetan and Lepcha.
  • Gangtok’s population, as recorded in 2011, is 1,00,286.
  • There are more than 400 hotels to choose from.
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Shiveka Bakshi

Shiveka is the youngest bohemian traveller to be featured on Spirit Bohemian. She is a class VII student from Delhi and she says that she waits around the year for her annual vacation. Sikkim story is a one of the summer sojourns she happily shared with us.

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