Sikkim 2015 - A week in the lap of eastern himalayas


Day 5 (21st Oct)

After having a comparatively bland day yesterday, I was hoping for a good day for the sightseeing. But I guess it was not meant to be. I woke pretty early today and immediately peeped out of the window but was really disheartened as it seemed to be a cloudy day as well. Got out of the bed and then went for a small morning walk outside. After about half an hour came back to the hotel and got ready to leave as we would be heading out to the capital tonight.

Left Ravangla at 8:00 in the morning and headed to Samdruptse. It took about 50 mins to reach the hillock where the monastery is built. About Samdruptse Hill [Taken from Wikipedia]:

The world's largest statue (at 118 feet) of the Buddhist Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim, is on the Samdruptse hill (The Wish Fulfilling well) opposite Namchi. It was completed in February 2004. It is also said that the Samdruptse hill is actually a Dormant Volcano. Myths say that the buddhist monks have been going on top of the hill and offering prayers to the volcano to keep it calm.

We could not get a clear view of the area as it was very cloudy on the top of the hillock as if we were walking among the clouds. I wish we could have got a view of the valley from here but it was not to be.

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After walking up the hill and coming back, we were feeling very hungry. There were a few food stalls in the parking area so we ordered egg chow mein and egg fried rice for ourselves and veg momos. The chow mein and fried rice were very tasty. This was the best dish which we have tasted in the entire Sikkim trip. We were so busy eating that I forgot to click any pictures of the dishes :)

After spending around 1.5 hour in Samdruptse hill, we started for our next destination to Namchi. It took us about 30 mins to reach Char Dham (also known as Siddhesvara Dham) in Namchi. In between we passed by Bhaichung Bhutia’s stadium, which is under construction, in Namchi. The Siddhesvara Dham is built on another hillock from the Namchi town. It was inaugurated in the year 2011. About Char Dham [Taken from Wikipedia]:

Siddhesvara Dhaam is a unique pilgrimage tourism venture of the Sikkim Government developed as “Pilgrimage cum Cultural Centre” having a 87 ft statue of Lord Shiva and replicas of four Dhams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. The four most revered Dhams of the Hindus Jagannath, Dwarika, Rameswaram, Badrinath have been replicated in this fantastic complex to benefit the devotees and tourists. The dream project of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling which was conceived by him and started in the year 2005 stands promisingly amidst the breathtaking surrounding of Solophok hill, befitting the mythological setting behind the establishment of the original Dhams.

It was spread across a large area. We got down from the vehicle in the parking area and we walked to the ticket counter there. This is the first place where while entering we were searched by the guards. The sun was paying hide n seek with us. But we roamed around the whole area and spent almost 2 hours here. It was spread across a vast and expansive area. Some construction work was going on and the existing temples and statues were being given a fresh coat of paint.

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While coming out of Char Dham, we noticed a counter where we could get the “Mahaprasad”. We purchased four packets of the Mahaprasad each costing Rs. 100, from the counter. They were sweets made of ghee, which tasted really nice.

After spending quite a bit of time in Char Dham, Namchi we moved on for our next destination, Temi Tea Estate. This is a Tea Estate where you can get a breathtaking view of the valley on a clear and sunny day; which in our case was not be. It was cloudy when we reached there. There was no sun and the valley was totally covered in clouds. Nonetheless, we moved inside the tea garden and prayed that the clouds be cleared for us to get a good view of the valley.

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We hoped against hope that we might get a cloud free day today, but I was disappointed today as well. As I have seen so many beautiful pictures of the valley overlooking the tea garden, but we could not get a glimpse of the beautiful view. :(

Moving on, we were supposed to stay at Singtam today. Our driver was supposed to go to Gangtok and get an early permit for Lachung today itself. And according to him starting from Singtam will cut down our journey by one hour. But he informed us that early permit will not be possible so we have to get the permit on the journey day itself. So, we decided to move on towards Gangtok and stay there for the night after having our lunch at Singtam. We stopped at Singtam, near a Durga Puja pandal. And at that time bhog was being distributed, so a few of us stood in the queue and had our lunch with the bhog :D Singtam is a typical Sikkim town but comparatively bigger and bustling with people, than the other towns we have visited so far. It was very chaotic and we did not like the ambience of the town. After having our lunch, we roamed around the town. Teesta is just flowing along the town or rather Singtam is built around Teesta.

We started from Singtam at around 3:00 in the afternoon and reached Gangtok within 1.5 hours. We were finding it a little difficult to find rooms in the first few hotels we tried while entering Gangtok but they were all full being a tourist season and some hotels were out of our budget as the price being quoted was pretty high. After negotiating and failing with a few hotels, we reached Hotel Tathagata, where they said that they could give two rooms for just one day and that’s really what we wanted to hear :) We negotiated with manager and finally we got two double bedrooms for Rs. 2200 each. The rooms were very spacious, the bed could accommodate three normal sized adults easily with space to spare but a fourth would be a tight fit as we found out at night :D

Meanwhile, after settling in and freshening up, we all cousins went out to MG Marg in Gangtok. It takes around half an hour of walking from our hotel to reach MG Marg. We moved around the place looking for subway but alas it is closed down now and instead there is restaurant now. We sat on the benches with ice creams and devoured them slowly taking in the people, chaos and everything else :p

Here's a small clip that I captured of MG Marg on my mobile phone:

After about two hours it started drizzling, so we hurried on to a cab and reached our hotel. We ordered for mixed fried rice and chili chicken for dinner, it was tasteless, meh. Set the alarm for the next day and prayed for the permit issue to be sorted so that we can safely reach Lachung and fulfill our dreams for which all of us chose to go there :)

to be continued...



Day 6 (22nd Oct)

Today we all woke up a little late than usual as today we do not have any sightseeing plans. But the weather is still not very clear. But we were not worried about the weather today. We were supposed to leave for Lachung today. But our driver told yesterday that he did not get any early permission and he had to get that permission on the journey day itself as it is the tourist season. So, we all got ready and we were supposed to start from Gangtok at 8:00 but it is already past that and there is no news of our driver and permission. A lot of calls to his number went unanswered. We got a little tensed whether we will get the permit or not. But finally he arrived at 9:15 and told us with a smile that there was a lot of rush but he got the permit. Yayy…. :D

Very swiftly we brought our luggage from our rooms and got our luggage loaded on the top of our car and we started from Gangtok at 9:30. He first took us to North Sikkim Taxi Stand as he said he need to enter the details there and get some photocopies of our permit.

Finally, we started for Lachung at around 10:00 from Gangtok. In the meantime we were feeling very hungry as due to tension of permit we did not had our breakfast. But our driver said, we need to get out of the city as soon as possible as it might get very crowded and we were already late but he said he will stop the car at some point on the way for our breakfast after getting out of the city. So, we had to make do with biscuits for the moment.

As we were getting away from Gangtok and getting up and down the hills, the views were getting just fantastic, beautiful. After travelling for around 1.5 hours, he stopped our car at dhaba which had Bengali food and he said it is the last Bengali dhaba along the way. Since most of our team members did not like the local cuisine much so got down from the car and ate our late breakfast.

After about 45 minutes, we again resumed our journey. The roads were comparatively in a better condition with a few stretches where the roads are bad and in some stretches road works is going on. In between we also spotted three bikes fully loaded with luggage and the riders all geared up. They were returning to Gangtok I guess. A glance at the number plate told us that the bikes were all WB registered. I wonder if they were any members from of this forum :)

We crossed the town of Mangan and from Chungthang the road divides into two, from left one goes to Lachen & Gurudongmar and from right we can go to Lachung and Yumthang Valley. We took right and immediately came to a halt. There was a huge caravan of army trucks passing through. We waited there for around 15-20 minutes until all the army trucks were gone. But we were not complaining as the views were just fantastic.

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An unknown waterfall along the route

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One of the numerous hairpin bends

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It took us around 4.5 hours to reach Lachung and then 5 minutes more to our hotel. Our hotel had two floors and we got two rooms on the ground floor. Our hotel was fully made with wood and this is the first time we were staying in a house made of wood. After we reach our hotel, the owners told us to have our lunch as it was already a bit late. Although we had a late breakfast but we were very hungry. And we didn’t need any more coaxing for lunch :D Although it was a simple veg meal but the food was heavenly. The owners told us that they grow all the vegetables themselves as well as the poultry.

When we reached our hotel, we could hear a sound of river flowing through near by. After having our lunch we set out to explore the area. After about walking for 5 minutes we came to the origin of the sound.

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The moment we saw this, the photo session started. My brothers got busy working their 3G connections overtime with selfies and updates. And yes I got 3G on my Vodafone connection but it was not very strong and was not very stable. On checking the maps, I came to know that this is the Lachung river flowing through right besides our home stay.

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It was so cold near the river that my fingers were going numb because of the wind. My cousin brother, aunt, my mother and my brother (left - right)

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At 4:30 we went to army canteen nearby as some of our relatives who previously visited Lachung, bought some very good jackets at a very attractive price. And that was the excuse needed by the ladies in our group :) But when we went there, the stock of the clothes were very limited and most of the items were sold out. But nevertheless, we still spent quite a lot of money there :D

After returning from our shopping expedition, we mostly stayed within our rooms as the temperature dropped quite a bit after sunset and also, it started raining. The owners called us for dinner at about 7:30 and it was still raining very heavily. We were tensed whether we would be able to go to Zero Point tomorrow or not. We were not in a very good mood but the owner told us that since it is raining here, it must be snowing up there at Zero Point. And the weather will clear up by tomorrow morning. We felt a little comfortable but still we were not very convinced. Anyhow, after dinner we went to our beds and switched off our lights. I had the “Sunday Suspense” audio clips on my iPod and went inside the heavy woolen comforter and started listening to “Golokdham Rahasya”. But my mind was somewhere else, worried about the weather outside, thinking whether we will even be able to reach Zero Point :(

to be continued...


Day 7 (23rd Oct)

Woke up at around 3:00 in the morning. And “Sunday Suspense” was still playing. I guess I slept while listening to it last night. The only constant sound in our room, was of the Lachung river, flowing just behind our home stay. Although I wanted to check if it is still raining outside or not but could not gather the courage to leave the warmth of the comforter :D as it was very cold. Almost freezing. After about half an hour, I got out and peeped through the window but it was very dark outside and I could not see anything, but it was not raining :D

I immediately went back and woke my cousin brothers up and broke the good news to them. But they just scolded me for waking them up so early. Slowly, everyone woke up and we all got ready by 5:30 in the morning. It was very cold outside but it was a very clear weather and we could spot snow on the top of mountains which was not there yesterday when we came here. Now we will be able to play in the snow yayyy… and this is why we chose to go to Zero Point. When we decided to go to Zero Point, most of the people said that we won’t get any snow at this time of the year. And our home stay owner also confirmed that the tourists who visited yesterday also came back disappointed. But that is not the case today. It was a chilly but lovely morning today. We started for Zero Point at 6:00 to the army check post for our permit verification and we thought we could be among the first few to pass. But how wrong we were. There was a traffic jam, everyone was trying to get their cars parked but space available was not much. But every other driver tried their best and all of the drivers parked their cars. This is what impressed me really how cooperative they are. Everybody make way for others in minimum space unlike in our cities where we literally fight for an inch of space.

Anyhow, our driver parked our car and went in line to get our permit verified and stamped. We waited there for around 15 minutes. After that we started towards Yumthang valley. The sun was shining and everyone was in a very good mood. With each turn, we were going higher up in the mountains and views were just getting better.

On the way to Zero Point & Yumthang

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After about 30 minutes, the snow line started. There was hint of snow everywhere, on the sides of the road, on the trees and as we move along the snow only increased. We reached Yumthang valley in about 1 hour, but we did not stop there as we would stop there while returning. Our driver informed us that some of the tourists are not going for Zero Point from Yumthang as they got so much snow here in Yumthang, they feel there is no point going further. But that was not the case with us and we moved forward.

After another 10-15 mins, we reached a place where there were lot of cars in a queue. Our driver went out to see what is the matter. After sometime he came back and told us that we cannot go further. There is so much snow, that the tyres are skidding and it would be very dangerous to move ahead in this situation. He informed us that we are about 3-4 kms from Zero Point. We came down from the car and saw that the snow has become a muddy puddle and it is really slippery. So, unfortunately we had to abandon our plans of reaching Zero Point and we returned from that point but we were not disappointed. There is literally snow everywhere. Our driver stopped our car in a relatively safe and secluded place and then all of us got down from the car and started playing with snow.

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After spending quite a lot of time there and playing with snow to our heart’s content, we came back to Yumthang Valley and it was choc a bloc there. Second thing which hit us after reaching Yumthang is hunger and finding a place to eat was a priority. Our driver pointed us to an eatery and we ordered for noodles and it was fantastic as usual. Back here the same noodles never tasted this good. I wonder how they prepare this.

After satiating our hunger, we started exploring the Yumthang Valley. By now, the clouds were back and the sun is long gone. It was very chilly out here. And as this was the last place before we return back to our hotel, we had decided to spend a lot of time here.

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But after exploring for half an hour it started drizzling and we then had to return back to our car. The driver told us that we will have our lunch and we will immediately start our return journey if it rains, as it might cause landslides. So, came back to our home stay had our lunch and started back for Gangtok as per our original plan. It started raining very heavily thereafter.

We were already sad that our trip is officially over. We could neither have a last look at the snow covered mountains nor we could go to the Lachung river. We started our return journey amidst the rain.

Meanwhile as we did not have any prior reservation at Gangtok, we decided that it would be good if we could reach Rangpo today itself so that we could start a little later for NJP next day. It was raining cats and dogs till we reach Singtam. After that the intensity of the rain decreased to a slight drizzle and when we reached Rangpo, it had completely stopped. We reached Rangpo at around 6:30 in the evening. After settling down into our hotel, we ordered Domino’s Pizza to celebrate the successful completion of our trip :D

Day 8 (24th Oct)

We started pretty late for NJP today at around 10:00 in the morning. The journey through the Sevoke road is very refreshing every time. We reached NJP in a very good time as we did not face much jam. We booked two rooms for ourselves in a hotel just besides NJP station. After lunch, the ladies went out to do some shopping in the famous Hong Kong market. Our reservation was in Darjeeling mail. At around 7:30 we left our hotel and bid goodbye to the hills for now. With a heavy heart we boarded the train as we would be returning to our normal life from tomorrow. And until that time, when we will again go out to some other places to take a break from our mundane daily lives and take away with us some memorable moments.

Day 9 (25th Oct)

It was pretty uneventful journey. Our train was almost 1 hour late, when it reached Sealdah. We boarded a local train to our place and we reached our home by 9:30 AM.

Dear Bcmtians, this is the end of our trip and my travelogue. I would like to thank the moderators for approving my thread and all other members for their encouragement.

I would like to conclude my log with a beautiful quote:
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang