The idea for this post came up while I was suggesting places to visit to one of my close friends who was planning for a vacation at Sikkim. I guess these kind of posts is a typical featured items in a commercial travel websites, but it's always good to have one personal version documented at a place and hence this post ! :)
Here're top-10 noteworthy experiences from my trip to Sikkim. Some of the typical things may not be featured here.
1. Evening stroll at MG Marg, Gangtok
|MG Marg, Gangtok|
Gangtok will be your base location for most of the travel destination at Sikkim. After tiring day-time sighstseeing, an evening stroll at the MG Marg would be a rejuvenating experience. Unlike MG Roads in other cities, this one is completely vehicle free !
2. Experience Spirituality at Rumtek or any other Buddhist Monastery
There're dozens of monasteries in Sikkim which offer serene and peaceful atmosphere to visitors. One of the significant and some-what controversial monasteries is at Rumtek, which is one hour drive from Gangtok. The monastery is actually the seat of 17th Karmapa, who's currently at exile Dharamshala(Himachal Pradesh). Indian Government has prevented him from taking up the throne for the fear upsetting Chinese sensibilities.
3. Tasting local cuisines - Momos and Thupka at low-brow eat outs
|Low brow eat-out in Rumtek|
While traveling away from the cities it would be difficult to find proper fine-dining restaurants. You may have to compromise with Maggi, Bread Omelettes etc. But it will be a good opportunity taste local cuisine like Momos and Thupka especially in chilly weather !
4. Spend some time with locals, especially with Kids
|Had a nice time with these kids at Lachung|
One of the highlights of the Sikkim is innocent and down-to-earth nature of the people. Do take some time of from your busy travel schedule and strike a conversation with them. Many families have one of the members working in Tier-1cities but still you will find them rooted to their value system and have high regards about their culture ! And kids will always remain kids :)
5. Sip a cup of tea with majestic view of Teestha Valley at Singhik
|Tea at open terrace cafeteria at Singhik|
In search for a cup of tea during our journey to North Sikkim, we had a stopover at some random place called Singhik. There we chose to have a cup of tea at a terrace hotel which offered view majestic of Theestha Valley. The atmosphere was so peaceful that we could hear the gushing of water which was kilometers away ! This unplanned visit turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.
6. High on Tea at Temi Tea Garden
|High on Tea at Temi Tea Garden|
Tea Gardens are always a treat for landscape photographers and when it coupled with clear weather, snow capped mountain - it turns out to be double icing on the cake. We experienced the same by being high on tea at Temi Tea Garden with clear view of Kanchenjunga in background.
7. Spend a night at Pelling Helipad
|Experiments with light painting at Pelling Helipad|
We concluded our west sikkim trip by doing a quick-visit to helipad at Pelling. Since it was a new moon day there was hardly any natural light. Our guide pin-pointed cluster of lights in surrounding areas which were actually Darjeeling, Keylong etc. As per our guide, on full moon day many enthusiasts camp at the helipad to get an uncluttered view of moonlight Kanchenjunga. Since we didn't have an iota of light to view the peak, instead used the opprotunity to experiment with light painting :)
8. Experience sub-zero temperature and 360 degree snow at Zero Point
|360 degree snow at Zero-Point|
Yumasongdeong, famously known as zero-point is the last point beyond Yumthang Valley where civilians can visit and experience snow at sub-zero temperature. Not sure about the reason for the place beeing named zero-point, may-be there's no trace of civilization ? Zero-point is not featured in regular tourist itinerary for some unknown reason. One has to pay extra money to the vehicle drivers for getting to this point.
9. This is India, that is China at Nathu La Pass
|With Indian soldiers and posing with AK-47s which they had kept at static display|
Can you imagine that one can get 2.5 hours ahead of time by taking a one step ? Yes, you may not be able experience it in person but it's technically possible when one crosses Nathu La pass in East Sikkim. Historically, the place was part of silk trading routes between the two countries and now you will find Chinese and India armies stationed at the international border. The friendliness of the Chinese armies depends on the personnel posted during your visit. When I had been there they used to show grinning face to Indian tourists but the staff deputed at present have shaken hands with Indian tourists who have been there recently. On the Indian side, do take photos with our jawans and with AK47s and bazzokas which would be kept for static display. Also, get a certificate of visit to Nathu La by paying a nominal amount.
10. Watching Sun Rays kissing the tip of Kanchenjunga at Pelling
|Witnessing this from comfort of our hotel at Pelling|
Last but not the least is experiencing sunlight striking the tip of mighty Kanchenjunga peak Pelling. One has to get up as early as 4.30 am to witness this daily spectacle. We were lucky to get a room with an open terrace and the timely tea served by hotel staff made this an experience to cherish for lifetime !