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Sikkim – The Unexplored Paradise

Maharam
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Sikkim – The Unexplored Paradise

In our thirst to experience a bit of monsoon glory this year in India, we decided to travel and explore lesser known places of our country. As the Chennai summers get hotter every year, all we needed is to seek a break from the intense heat. Thus we decided there is nothing better than a quick vacation to the mountains to escape from severe heatwaves and to get a taste of rain, that’s how our trip to North East part of India was planned.

Even though common perception suggests that travelling to the hills is a bad idea during the monsoons due to the slippery roads and the landslides, we decided to go ahead and marvel at the sight of the wonderful state get drenched in rain. On contrary to the common perspective about our travel in monsoon season, we focused on the fact that it might be a wonderful time during monsoon especially because the tourist load would be far less, and everything would be half the price.

Going by the weather forecast for the month of Jul, we restricted our trip only to eastern and southern part of Sikkim because of the flood alert in the neighboring areas mainly North Sikkim.

When the trip was finalized, my kids took a backseat due to nauseated misery experienced by them during their past hill stations travel experience. However, me and my hubby decided to move ahead to explore the unexplored, as we were not ready to miss out an amazing trip.

Having a Club Mahindra Membership has a striking advantages at times as it makes the stay extravagant and blissful making one’s dream vacationing turn to reality. Once the stay is booked all we had to do is to book our flight tickets (12,000 Rs per person) in Spice jet to nearest airport Bagdogra in West Bengal as unfortunately Pakyong airport in Gangtok is closed due to unpredictable weather condition.

This time we were very firm to explore on our own and were even prepared to stay indoors and watch the rain as it pours down on far away hills, keeping in mind the worst scenario of weather forecasted in coming days. We were all set to expect the unexpected.

Here goes the itenary

Destination : Gangtok – Namchi - Darjeeling

Duration : 06 Nights/ 07 Days, 1 week from 7th Jul 2019 to 13th Jul 2019

Travel members -2

Day 1 (7th July) Chennai – Bagdogra

Flight Spice Jet Departure 5.55 @Chennai; Arrival 8.15 am @ Bagdogra

Flight Timing 02hrs 20mins Non stop

Apart from booking for the flight and stay, we researched nothing about Sikkim. We were in a broad perspective to accept any challenges if at all by the Mother Nature. All our excitement shattered within the minute we boarded the flight, as we could not find even a single tourist in the flight apart from us. To our surprise we just could see patients all around who were returning back to their home place after treatment in Chennai. We realized but were not ready to reveal our disappointment, as we knew we had selected the place at the wrong time for travel.

The flight was on schedule and we arrived at Bagdogra Airport right on time at 8.55am. We collected our luggage and exited the airport, but didn’t expect a chaotic mass of taxi drivers, tourists, and travel agents. We booked a Innova right there for INR 4000 and were not ready to bargain. Luckily the car was well maintained decorated luxurious with good conditioned ac and the driver was well experienced person to drive in hills and was friendly too. However, I would suggest one to book in advance so to ensure we are in reliable hands and have someone who can be held accountable if something goes wrong.

It took around 5hrs to reach Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. To our surprise there were lots of tea gardens on the way right from the start. We asked the driver to stop the car and went to the tea gardens which were so beautifully planted. Seeing our enthusiasm driver also shared interesting stories all the way which made the whole journey worth to enjoy without feeling tired. Unlike most of the travels to hills where I used to tightly close my eyes to avoid sickness during travel, the experience this time was completely different since I could not take my eyes off the scenic beauty and the sight off the fabulous Emerald coloured Teesta river flowing all the way which was an absolute treat to eyes. The road from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok was pretty decent, and we had a comfortable journey with just a few bumps along the way. The weather was very pleasant for sightseeing and as we approached Gangtok we received a warm welcoming monsoon shower which we were longing for in Chennai. Although there were landslides in few places luckily it didn’t lead to congestion/ blockage of the roads.

We reached the Royal club Mahindra Gangtok at 2pm. The location of the resort is beautiful surrounded by hills and greenery all around. Every room in the resort offered stunning vistas of the mountain. At the resort we were wwelcomed in traditional sikkimise style along with a refreshing herbal tea.

We experienced heavy rainfall and were unable to cover main attractions of Gangtok, especially the high altitude ones as we were advised that road transfer could be quite difficult during this time since rains can bring about flooding. On the other hand, we decided to take this wonderful opportunity to bushwalk through the serene wilderness, exploring the region’s bucolic scenery. Since the resort is 8km from the city we decided to walk all the way with an umbrella in hand not to just block the blessing shower but to enjoy the blessing in shower. It was a different and relaxing experience for us unlike our previous trips, to explore on our own.



It was really nice meeting the locals and interacting with them as almost everyone in Sikkim are familiar with Hindi. We had chai break in one local shop along with noodles, watching a nail biting local football match. The players were playing their heart out as the sky above opened up and the enthusiastic crowd kept cheering for the players who were enjoying the real thrill of the game in the rain. I could see passionate group of people, lively and on the move at all times and their love for football seems like a fire which could keep burning across generations.



The influence of Buddhism is felt in nearly every corner of the state. The fluttering prayer flags arranged from left to right in a specific order of colors- blue, white, red, green, and yellow and each color have a meaning attached- red is for Fire, blue is for Sky, yellow is for Earth, white is for Clouds & winds and green represents Water. The flags are hung on mountains and peaks, on temples and homes. After a peaceful walk we returned back to the resort enjoyed the variety of dishes spread in the Buffet and hit the bed.



Day 2, (8th July) Gangtok - Namchi
I woke early morning to the sound of the rain drops falling on the tinned roof top which created such an intimate and romantic atmosphere that was so unique!
We checked with the travel desk for the sightseeing spot around. Due to continuous rainfall we had to skip the attractions like Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake as the approach road to them were supposed to be dangerous. Instead, with help of travel desk, we booked a cab to Namchi where we had our room booked for 3 days, covering main attractions on the way.

There were some gorgeous waterfalls in Gangtok on the way, the view of it were breath taking. One of the advantage of the visit in monsoon is the lively waterfalls during this season.

Ranka Monastery

This monastery is usually part of every Gangtok visit since it’s centrally located in the city. In Just 1 hr travel time we reached this colourful monastery in serene surroundings.
The serene mountains and the calm vibration of the temple simply washed away our tiredness. There is a beautiful large fresco in the entrance square just above the steps, one needs to climb to enter the main sacred chamber. This Monastery captivates by sheer elegance and the prayer wheels sets the sombre mood.



One would be amazed to see the majestic architecture which is considered to be one of the best architectural monastery in Sikkim. Nearby lies a 2-storey building with classrooms for the young lamas to study in. Whenever there is a break, the courtyard gets filled with monks wearing beautiful robes coloured in red and saffron. Visitors are allowed to click pictures with the monks who stay in full energy. This place has so much stories and history associated with it. There is a huge temple with large paintings and little stories of the early Tibetan gurus that have been depicted on the walls. Overall its good place situated like a jewel in a forest with a mesmerising view to interact with the monks and see the golden stupa. There are restaurants and a gift shops on the premises for relaxation.

Banjhakri Falls and Park
Our next visit was to Ban Jhakri waterfall located in a landscaped park, 7 Km from Gangtok city.The name itself has an interesting history. Ban means 'primitive' and Jhakri stands for 'shaman'. According to Nepali folklore, Shaman is a priest having magical powers who drives away evil and brings good. The Shamanistic practices are depicted through figures in this park.



By the time we reached the falls we were very hungry. At the entrance, we found shopping stalls and eating points beside other recreational places. Unlike other places where we need to look for good hotels around to fill our stomach, In sikkim one can go in any local shop and can order for momos and yummy noodles along with local chai and the combo will never disappoint us. Entry ticket is necessary @ nominal price of Rs.50/- per person for this lovely gushing waterfall amidst lush greenery. The place is well maintained with rest place especially for elders. Trekking is suitable for kids and senior citizens. There's just one flight of steps after which one can walk almost a plain slope to get to the falls.

The waterfall cascades from a height of 40 feet and plunges down with a strong force. Over the water streams, are bridges leading to viewing points that provide opportunities for taking spectacular photographs. Around the waterfalls lies a landscape of themed gardens depicting Jhakri culture.A must see for all travellers visiting gangtok. The waterfall is sparkling clean and safe to stand in knee deep water . The view of the water flowing from the top is just amazing and there is a small boating lake ,few bridges with adventure activities . It's also an eco park which has ample place to relax and enjoy the environment.
Enroute to Namchi
Travel time : 2.20 Hrs
Namchi( meaning Sky High), is the beautiful capital of South Sikkim endowed with the mystical beauty of the mighty Himalayas. Home to some of the most stunning Buddhist monasteries, temples, verdant forests, and wildlife Namchi is beauty personified beyond words. The quaint town exudes an aura of peace, prosperity, and love.
We reached Namchi club Maindra resort at 3pm . We had booked the resort for 3 nights. The resort location was too good, and housekeeping was excellent. The rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable. Our room was on the topmost floor and we had a spectacular view from our balcony. We refreshed and started to walk around the beautiful place.All we could see is greenery everywhere,nowonder how this tiny landlocked Himalayan state becomes India’s first fully organic state. There were vibrant flowers all around which added their color to cheer up the place ,that we kept stopping to click their pictures.



My usual perspective of travel is to research less and see more. I feel the excitement of any trip lies in the spontaneity. Likewise I knew least about the places in Namichi except for the details of our booking for 3 days in the resort.



In a few miles walk Wow! Just wow! How can I describe the divine scenic beauty that awaits one on the path! Never before had I ever come across anywhere as beautiful as the places we viewed on this day. A glimpse of Shiva Murti located on a high hill emerging out of clouds and then getting lost in the cloud again. I can very well recollect the feel, It was like God giving you a darshan before moving on to do other things. We checked with the locals who said that the Shiva Statue Chardham or Siddheshwar Dham located on the Solophok Hill was the biggest attraction in Namchi. The locals adviced us to visit the place the next day as it was already late evening and the place was almost 5 kms from the resort. Since we were really tired after the long walk and a mesimersing sightseeing around, we had a really quick dinner and went to bed!

Day 3 (9th July) , Chardham Complex @ Namichi
Woke up early with an excitement and stepped out to enjoy cloudy weather which made the entire garden in the resort look so beautiful. We went to a local restaurant near by and tried my hand in cooking yummy noodles.It was definetly a fun experience.
We arranged a local cab to the heavenly place. We lost our heart at the breath taking sight of Lord Shiva amidst the mountain. All the way to the temple I was in total awe seeing the beautiful scenic view of greenery and mesmerising movement of white clouds .
In around 10 mins time we reached the divine place. At the center of the Chardham complex is the towering Shiva statue that measures 87 feet and is situated on the peak of the hill. The statue is situated at the western end of the hill facing east.
There are 4 shiva temples placed all over India in 4 corners. One in Rameshwaram, Puri , Dwaraka and kedarnath. It is believed that if we visit Namchi chardham it is equivalent to visiting the four temples placed all over India in 4 corners. It basically has all these models of these four temples and devotees are always swarming in.



It is surrounded by the 12 Jyotirlingas – or 12 prominent Shiva temples spread across the sacred geography of India. Each Shivalinga here is an exact replica of the one that exists in its original place.
We loved the time we spent at this divine place, especially on my birthday. We expected it to be too good, but it was well beyond our expectations – both in terms of quality, size, and upkeep.

Also, there is the lovely vegetarian restaurant on the premises where we get the special food that is cooked without onion and garlic. We ordered for a vegetarian meal and it was a real feast .

After the divine darshan we went back to the resort and shared chocolates and sweets with the locals out there. The joy of celebrating the special day in a new place among the new set of people is totally a new and unforgettable experience for me.
I felt this birthday was a bit special one never thought that it could be that amazing, nothing was preplanned and it all instantly happened with God’s abundant blessings.

Day 4 (10th July) - Sightseeing @Namichi
Samdruptse monastery
Samdruptse which literally means ‘Wish fulfilling Hill’ was just 5.6 km from the resort. The locals believe that the hill is actually a dormant volcano and the Buddhists lamas have been regularly offering prayers so that the volcano doesn’t erupt. They believe that nothing fatal has happened so far because of the powerful prayers. The Buddha here was in different avatar- An angry looking Buddha and prayer flags with different colours along the full stretch of road which is really a delight to watch.



We spent some time looking around and were awestruck to see mammoth-like 45 mt statue of Saint Guru Padhmasambhava. The face of the statue is coated with gold which glitters in the sun. There is a beautiful garden around it. We had walked around the platform starting from the left and made a full circle. The view of mountains and forest from here was absolutely magnificent. The entry fee here is Rs. 30 per adult. We took a cable car down to the Rockgarden (small garden amongst rocks ) down the valley. The entire stretch to Samdruptse, had blooms of rhododendrons and orchids all very pretty to see. After the tiring walk we returned back to the resort and had an exquisite dinner.

Rose Garden
Our first stop was to Rose garden which is 1.1 km from the resort. The place has roses of several colors and varieties and also several other flowers. I could feel the freshness of nature along with the smell of various varieties of roses. The view from there is breath taking and one can take up some time and visit the restaurant out there. It is worth a visit to rose garden if you're a flower lover.

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Express your comment on this article

 
Jayaseelan
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Wow!!! Wonderful Sikkim. I had been experiencing that I, myself travelling in and around the Sikkim via your fabulous narrative. I felt the chillness, experienced visitation and traveled ups and down over the hill by expressions. Wonderful sharing experience. You are a real narrator. All the best in future and expecting more good experiences and guidance to mesmerize mother land (tourist spot).
Thanks.

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