India’s Beautiful Treasure – SIKKIM
Plan – Sikkim
It was after a long time that I realized I have turned into a workaholic idiot. As soon as I realized it, I wanted to come out of it and started to think deeply on priorities. Later, as nothing could solve it so easily, we planned a short trip to North Sikkim.
Bagdogra Aiport – WB
The plan, preparation, decision everything was so sudden and swift, within a span of week. We booked our flight tickets to Bagdogra, the nearest airport to Sikkim. Bagdogra Airport, (IATA: IXB, ICAO: VEBD) is a defense airport and in spite of warning and continuous announcements, our citizens would still like to put our country’s security and integrity to risk and pose for selfie, would video graph the airport and do whatever they like. While in our return journey, I even saw a group of people who looked like teachers from Guwahati, were posing for selfies, multiple times.
As we landed, we headed towards the prepaid taxi service counter by West Bengal Traffic Police / Tourism department of West Bengal. We hired a taxi to Siliguri. Siliguri is a city in the northeast Indian state of West Bengal, heading towards Sikkim. We were dropped at SNT (Sikkim Nationalized Transport) bus station. But, considering the time limit, we opted to hire another taxi to our hotel. We were damn hungry and wanted to eat something. The taxi driver stopped in front of a vegetarian restaurant, ‘Laddoo Gopal’. We ordered Plain Paratha and veg chowmin; both of them were too oily and just because we were too hungry, we had no option but eat.
Siliguri – WB
On our way, the driver discussed that they carry most of the vegetables from Siliguri for the entire family and relatives whenever they drive from Siliguri, as Sikkim Government has banned selling of vegetables in Sikkim, that are grown using chemical in WB state. Sikkim has introduced organic farming and Government has announced fixed price for each vegetable.
At around 8 PM we reached hotel, New Orchid, Gangtok. It was raining heavily. The taxi driver told us that we will have to get down at the taxi stand and tourist vehicle is not allowed inside the town / city. Initially the local taxi driver agreed to drop us for 100 INR (the usual fixed rate in Sikkim to drop off from taxi stand to any place within city limits of Gangtok) and later asked to pay him 150 INR. As it was raining heavily, and we were tired of the journey he utilized our mental state and put extra 50 into his pocket.
Sikkim Tourism Formalities
As we reached hotel, we were welcomed with the warmth of Sikkim culture. Then, we enquired about travel agencies and booked our travel facility to Nathu La Pass and Yumthang for 2 days. We will also have to get the required permit for entries to these, as these are restricted areas. As Sikkim is surrounded by 3 different foreign countries in the border, the entry and photography are restricted. More information on this can be found at –
July 05, 2018 – Nathu La Pass – Road Trip – Sikkim
We were asked to be ready by 8 – 8.30 AM in the morning to travel to Nathula pass, as the entry will be halted by 10 AM to Nathula due to multiple security and safety reasons and you will have to be back by I think around 4 PM. We were waiting in the hotel reception area and were told our vehicle is ready. So, we boarded the vehicle and I asked Prasad about our permit. Then, suddenly the travel agent came and told it was confusion of being the same room number in 2 nearby different hotels that, we were asked to board the wrong vehicle. Then, we were asked to board the right vehicle with the vehicle number in the permit. Finally, all set to Nathula.
Beautiful Nature and Drizzling Rain – Journey – East Sikkim
As we headed towards Nathula, we were mesmerized by the natural beauty of Sikkim – the drizzling rain, greenery all over and the beautiful road heading to Nathula. The road was surrounded by green belt and looked very beautiful as it was drizzling.
Brief Info – Nathu La
Nathu La (Nathu means “listening ears” and La means “pass” in Tibetan) is a Himalayan mountain region in East Sikkim district. It connects Sikkim (India) with China occupied Tibet. The pass is at 14140 ft above sea level. the pass is 54 km east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Only citizens of India can visit the pass after obtaining a permit in Gangtok.
When we entered almost the mid-way, we were asked to stop by the Army. When we enquired, the driver told us that the China vehicles were entering the border for trading purpose (goods exchange spot exist between the two countries in a common spot). So, all the other tourist vehicle will be requested to stop for security and other border protocol. But, trade is limited to specific types of goods and to specific days of the week. Now, the frequency/number of days have been increased recently. Also, this route now leads to Manas Sarovar as well.
Then, we headed further and reached Baba Mandir – It’s a memorial and temple honoring Indian army soldier, folk hero & saint Baba Harbhajan Singh. The view is beautiful and a place for “Bhakti”, patriotism. It is very well maintained. The view of Shiva statue and the surrounding scenery is fabulous. From there Nathu La was around 4-5 KM and since we were only 2, we were asked to accompany another 5 (as total full capacity of the vehicle was 7 seats). We opted to travel with another 5 members’ family and finally reached the vehicle parking area of Nathu La. On the way, the driver told us one of the tourists entered China from Nathu La border without even realizing while he was photographing and did not even realize when he was caught by the China army. He thought they were Indian soldiers. He said, not sure why tourists behave such stupid and create trouble.
Fabulous Border scenery
We enjoyed the beautiful scenery by climbing up few steps ahead towards China border. The altitude varies and it’s important we take long breath in as Oxygen availability is minimal in high altitude. As we were roaming around, as the driver mentioned, few tourists did not even know that was friendly border between us and China, even though Chinese flag was hoisted on the other side. Prasad had visited the same places 10 years ago, he said, now the crowd is more, and knowledge is less 😉 People were discussing of throwing bottle on the other side and getting it back in the name of entering China. They were so careless about the protocol.
And I felt, this is why it happens in India that, people cross borders, army and Government struggle to get our citizens back by following lot of protocols, the so-called ideologists shout about support for Dalits, humanity etc. Never think of humanity for Army but just keep blaming. If a local citizen can understand all these, why can not a tourist citizen understand?!! We also saw how hard army men were struggling to restrict photography, selfies etc. in that area. We were told after recent development in Doklam (more here –
https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/where-doklam-why-important-india-china-bhutan-1198730-2018-03-27), photography has been completely banned. Really saddening that, people need to be educated in proper sense, and not in terms of double graduation 😛 It comes by self-learning and practice, not by preaching or speech!
On our return journey, we had booked for Dal Rice Sabzi in a small hotel when we were climbing up. That was a local thali, the tastiest food we had in Sikkim. It was very taste and below is the picture of it. That looked like locally grown organic vegetables and tasty meal, with mountain water. The toilet arrangement was so neat and clean. We thanked for the great food and looked like the owner was surprised by the comment that food was good. For such a simple tasty food, nobody usually says good is what we felt by her expression.
During entire journey, we never saw people overtaking from left, violating traffic rules or any such mishaps. BRO (Border Road Organization) had beautiful nice quotes throughout. Earlier, when I first read BRO quotes, as many were warning quotes of a kind, I thought, BRO refers to brother in short 😉 Sikkim drivers are very much skilled, and everyone maintains gap between vehicles, overtaking vehicles will be given side or extra space, army trucks always make way for others.
We had planned to roam around Gangtok city in the same evening after we reached our hotel at around 4 PM from Nathu La pass, especially MG Marg. As I entered MG Marg, I was surprised by the cleanliness in the city. MG Marg (Road) is one of the main shopping and cultural activity streets in Gangtok. We roamed around till the end and headed further towards a city rope way. But when we reached there, it was already closed. We were told that the closing time is around 4 – 4.30 PM!
The city is really well planned. There is foot over bridge connecting different parts in Gangtok, so you need not worry about crossing the tiny roads during peak traffic. Everyone is calm and quiet. It’s a fabulous evening walk for anyone. What we noticed here is everybody follows rules, and nobody is interested to break rules. Hence its well-arranged, organized and disciplined. People reach on time to work place, children strictly follow rules, keep their surroundings so clean!
We had delicious authentic veg momos in Roll House in MG Marg. As we got it by Googling for best place to eat momos, we could not get direction. When enquired with a local pan shop owner and found it in a gully road isolated from the main road. As we entered we asked for veg momos but they were over by then. So, we opted Soya Paneer. In few minutes, the shop was fully crowded, and we were told its very famous and everyone visits it due to its authentic taste, even though its pure vegetarian!
Later, we bought some tea powder from Golden Tips outlet. Then, we experimented some desserts, coffee and delightful pizza at Chef Baker’s MG Marg. They were all deliciously yum!
My prayer is – please keep the city clean and beautiful as it is 😊 If you are a visitor, please follow the rules and regulations, abide by rules and be a nice citizen. Prasad showed me a picture where it was very lonely in 90’s when he visited and tourism in India has grown to such an extent that everyone is behind money and enjoyment. Nobody bothers about local culture, the nature, food, habitats etc. I advise my friends or colleagues to not carry plastic and throw garbage on road when they tell me about their weekend trip plan, but they just laugh at me. I never felt anyone took it seriously and we have the result in front of us.
July 06 – Journey – Gangtok to Lachung
As the road to any beautiful destination in Sikkim is a hilly region – takes lot of time to travel travelling in night is not advisable and no one takes risk. So, we started to Lachung at around 9.30 AM in the morning. Prasad had visited these places 10 years ago and he was explaining every moment in enthusiasm by recalling his last visit on the way about old bridges, falls etc.
7 Sisters’ Falls
We stopped at Seven Sister falls – It’s a popular waterfall located on the Gangtok- Lachung Highway, around 32 km away from Gangtok. Its very beautiful falls and great view.
As we went ahead, we stopped for food, where its again a bit costly food for a high way side hotel. The journey was very beautiful amidst the forest and hill station.
Some old memories
< To be continued . . . >