The tiny thumb shaped state nestled in the Himalayas and under the protective shadow of its guardian deity, Mount Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world, is usually overlooked by tourists as a travel destination, and this is the reason its beauty remains unpolluted and undisturbed.
This little jewel of India is a pleasant retreat from the fast paced monotonous lives of the cities. It’s a destination for lovers of wildlife, trekkers, sports enthusiasts or just plain tourists seeking a serene getaway to soothe their souls.
To reach Sikkim I took the Rajdhani from New Delhi and reached New Jalpaiguri station in West Bengal. From there my excitement grew when I hired a taxi that took me to Kalimpong, East Sikkim. And being a gourmet I went straight to a dhaba to have the famous sikkimi steamed dumplings. My trip had just begun and this is all I wanted to eat throughout my trip. Here I nested in a guesthouse for the night, and the next morning I continued my journey to Gangtok, the state capital. Gangtok has all kinds of hotels- luxury and economy, and being a student I prefer the economic ones.
The easiest and the most comfortable way to travel in Sikkim is to book a car with the numerous travel agencies in the capital with a tour guide. I did the same and hired a Mahindra Maxx. The guide took me first to the Ganesh tok and the Hanuman tok from where one gets a bird’s eye view of Gangtok. Next, we went to the Do-Drul Chortan (stupa). Around the Chortan, there are 108 Mani Lhakor (prayer wheels). These wheels are turned by the devout Buddhist while chanting ‘Hail to the jewel in the lotus’, to invoke the Bodhisattva.
After that we visited the Jawaharlal Nehru botanical garden, which has an exotic display of plants. And, the Himalayan Zoological Park where we can see the famous red pandas, the barking deer, spotted deer and bears in a semi-natural habitat. This place is also known as the Bulbay.
56kms from gangtok is the Nathula Pass between India and China. It is one of the highest motor able roads, and is richly covered by a variety of alpine flora.
At the end of the day, though I was quite exhausted after the travel and after taking in the enchanting beauty of the place, I went to the M.G. road, the local mall road for street shopping and to buy souvenirs for my friends. I bought a few miniature turning wheels called Mani Lhakor, and a few traditional Sikkimi dresses called chomu. After I was satisfied with myself, I went back to my cozy room for a good early night sleep, as we had to start off early next morning toward the most spellbindingly beautiful part of our trip- North Sikkim.
The journey was from Gangtok to Lachung was a memorable one with numerous waterfalls and cascades snaking across the roads and wildflowers blooming all around us with a rich riot of colors.
The north offers an exquisite experience for the lover of nature and alpine scenery. The Yumthang Valley alone is enough to satiate the most demanding, with its panoramic Valley of Flowers. After visiting this, we went to the Indo-China border for which we had to take a tourist permit. The place is similar to the silent valley with no living being in sight except us. The Teesta river originates here and snakes it way downward, and dipping our feet in its cold water was so soothing that I forgot all my troubles and wished to remain there forever more. We went further up to the Guru-Dongmar Lake, which is the highest and the coldest part of the state. And the place is so beautiful that there I am short of words to compliment its beauty. It can be only seen and felt by those that visit the tranquil Lake.
While our return trip, we went to the hot springs and was amazed to see how natural water could be on the two extremes at just a few miles away!
After returning to Gangtok, the next evening, I packed my luggage to go to the wild Wild West Sikkim!! This is a place for the adventurous, because this is where all the treks to the Himalayan wilderness begin. Whether it is white water rafting down the frothing waters of Teesta and Rangit, or trekking through the beautiful and dense rhododendron forests, the west zone has it all. And I an Adrenaline junkie couldn’t have missed it!!
The peaceful South district followed the thrilling part of my trip. Here some of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim are located. I enjoyed the trek down to the sacred cave of ‘Shar Chok Bephu’ the most. Then I went to the Sunset point from where I saw the majestic Kanchanjunga peak’s beauty enhanced with the last of the sun’s rays. The view was simply breathtaking. There couldn’t have been something more beautiful then the mountain peak, that I was sure of.
With all the four zones covered my trip had come to an end, it was really difficult for me to bid farewell to this heavenly kingdom of Mother Nature. But alas I had to bid adieu.
The memory is forever etched in my heart and with a last look at the Kanchanjunga, I closed the door of my car, and left.