If Mumbai is the City of Dreams then Gangtok is the City of Dreamers; you’ll pretty much find all kinds of people there but mainly Tourists just like us from all over the world. Sikkim is known as Asia’s Switzerland and it definitely lives upto the promises; my experience made me feel like I was in Heaven; a little part of me died when we had to leave Sikkim but I know in my heart that I’ll go back there time and again, that’s basically how it makes you feel; you’ll fall in love with the City of Gangtok instantly and the beautiful picaresque sceneries of Sikkim will be in your heart forever.
We (Me with my Parents) went there in the time of March’14; it was my Birthday (21st March) trip and that was all I ever wanted for my sweet 21st Birthday because I love the Hills; the beauty of Sikkim left me fully satisfied.
20th March, Day 1; Destination NJP: It’s always nice to travel by trains because you get to see so much and personally it appeals to me more than the whole flight experience especially when you’re going to such a beautiful place like Sikkim but there’s no direct train route so you have to make a rest-stop at NJP (New Jalpaiguri) or Siliguri. You can book your tickets online or via a travel agent just like we did; if you’re from Bardhaman then I’ll recommend you to go for Mangalam Travels (firstname.lastname@example.org or 9475001656) the owner at first might come as a bit arrogant but he is a nice person and you can trust him, he gets the job done. Now, a travel agent might come as a bit expensive but while he does the hard work, you can just sit at home and relax so I say the extra expense is worth it. If you want to travel by flight then you can do that as well; there’s an Airport at Bagdogra (NJP) and you can get direct flights from Dumdum (Kolkata) Airport; after reaching Bagdogra you can hire a private Helicopter to roam around Sikkim; to know more just Google it.
There are many trains to reach NJP from Sealdah or Bardhaman or from any other place; for details visit the official website of Indian Railways. I thought of a day-train because you can experience the beauty on the way; there’re many things to see for eyes’ pleasure like the ‘Farakka Barrage’ so I booked tickets for ‘Haldibari Superfast’ (Another reason was that the whole trip was planned in a hurry so I didn’t get tickets anywhere else; actually that’s the only reason) I’d say among the day-trains ‘Satabdi Express’ is the best but you have to plan the tour about 1 month prior to the date to get the tickets. There’re plenty of night trains but all you can see is nothing but darkness around; no view; but if you’re good with that then go for ‘Uttarbanga Express’ or ‘Kanchankanya Express’ or ‘Darjeeling Mail’; they’re all good.
We started our journey on 20th March’14; the train left the station at 11AM and reached NJP at about 8PM; I loved the whole experience but suggest you not to go for ‘Haldibari Superfast’ if you’re in a hurry to reach NJP because it does take a while. The NJP JN is not a bad place to spend the night at all; there’s a waiting room in a pretty good condition but we decided to spend the night at a Hotel because we had a long journey ahead of us in the next-morning.
We stayed at Bikash Bhawan; it’s quite near the station and a good place to stay at;
However if you travel by a night-train then you’ll reach NJP by the morning and then you can hire a private or shared car to get to Gangtok (Sikkim’s capital); it takes about 5 hours (More or less) However you cannot travel there by the night because of the dangerous spiral roads.
21st March, Day 2; Destination – Gangtok: After spending the night at Bikash Bhawan we went back to the NJP JN in the morning around 7AM to hire a private car to reach Gangtok, the fare is about 2000 bucks if you want to hire a private car but you can also go for a shared car which will cost you about 250-300 bucks per head; it’s quite cheap but might be a bit uncomfortable. The roads are spiral and quite dangerous, towards the end the road condition is at its worst. I puked twice even after taking meds so I suggest you not to have an empty stomach on the way because that leads to nausea; keep your mouth busy; carry chewing-gums or candies with yourself. A girl tip – Do tie your hair tightly in a bun and it would be the best if you cover it with a cap or anything of that kind because the dusty roads will take a toll on your hair especially if it’s dry or chemically treated. Do wear a mask as I previously stated the roads are dusty and polluted; Sunglasses are a must have. Keep the windows down but if you’re claustrophobic just like me then these things might come in handy. On the way the Tista will follow you at all times.
We reached Gangtok around 1PM; we had previously booked two rooms (One for me and one for my parents) at Canaan Lodge which is situated at Kazi Road, Gangtok.
The private car will drop you in front of the hotel but if you get a shared one then you might have to spend around 200 bucks extra for cab fare to reach your desired hotel because it’s next to impossible to walk on the roads although the distance is not much but with luggage and backpacks, trust me it will be tiring because of the ups and downs and the shared car cannot go beyond the Taxi-stand, it’s a rule and surprisingly illegal.
Gangtok is a beautiful city with the minimum crime-rate and the maximum cleanliness; it’s situated at East Sikkim around 150KM away from NJP and it is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in India. If you have the fear of heights then after visiting Sikkim you will not have Acrophobia anymore, that’s a promise but you have to spend at least a month there. It is an expensive place to be, so be prepared to spend a fortune because from food to water to lodging everything is more costly than other places in India. It’s a romantic city so it’d be the best to roam around with your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife but if you have the soul of a traveler just like me then do go alone; parents might come in handy when it comes to spending you know; it was my Birthday trip and I wanted to celebrate it with the two most important people in my life. Gangtok, Sikkim is one of the best Honeymoon destinations in India if you prefer the Hills.
Usually the richest people in Sikkim are called “Kazis” and they live at the Kazi road, hence the name – Kazi Road. Our hotel was just in front of the Old King’s House.
Kazi Road is definitely The place to stay at while in Gangtok; the iconic M. G. Marg is just below it and the view is spectacular; all the main offices like The Secretariat’s Office, Sikkim Legislative Assembly even the Ropeway, they’re all on Kazi Road. There’s a taxi-stand nearby as well.
We had booked two rooms and for the obvious reason I got the room with the best view. If you’re lucky enough you can see the amazing ‘Kanchanzangha’ range right from your window but sadly I wasn’t lucky enough.
You can also get a room at a hotel after reaching Gangtok but the chances are not very impressive especially when it’s season so I say it’s better to pre-book.
After our lunch at the Hotel (The food was delicious) we went for a little sight-seeing by hiring a private car which takes around 1500 bucks.
We roamed around a few unimportant waterfalls and a little bit of heaven;
First we went to the Gangtok Flowers’ Exhibition; it was nothing less than Eden Gardens, there you’ll find a huge range of different kinds of Orchids.
You can hire a professional photographer to take your pictures because they know what’s best for you; they usually charge 50 bucks for a picture; it’s worth it.
From there we went to Ganeshtok, which is a View Point; you can see the breath-taking view of the city of Gangtok from the very top.
Another delight on the way was Tashi View Point; it’s towards the end of the City of Gangtok.
We ended our day’s journey at the iconic M. G. Marg; it was raining at that time, perhaps that made it look more beautiful; for a moment I forgot it was my Birthday but a sudden tap on my back by my Mum reminded me of my existence and we celebrated my 21st Birthday just with the view (Later did plenty of shopping)
M. G. Marg is a little piece of Amsterdam; you’ll meet all kinds of people there from all over the world, it has a different charm (Positive vibe) altogether; the night-life is pretty awesome and it definitely is The most happening place at Gangtok. Plenty of pubs/bars, shopping destinations, food plazas; you just cannot get bored.
There is another unforgettable thing about Gangtok which is its Street Fashion; it’s pretty much everywhere. Due to an exposure to all kinds of different cultures throughout the year Gangtok experiences a style of its own when it comes to fashion and if you consider yourself to be a Fashionista then Gangtok is The place to visit. From the Rockstar look to the StreetBoy or the School-girl to the Happy-Go-Lucky; you can even spot a lady holding a brand new D&G (Fall/Winter) handbag or a Man in Hugo Boss; shouldn’t come to you as a surprise. Because of the variants of tourists in the spot the fashion has become the central-idea of the city; it’s something that holds them together. The positivity around is intoxicating; the food, the people, the mixed-cultures from all over the world all together make an attempt to make you fall in love hard and fast. “Nathula Pass” is a great place to shop and you can visit the place by hiring a private car; all kinds of branded, non-branded things are available there. Gangtok is almost transitional because it holds so many cultures in its heart and that makes it a unique place to be.
22nd March, Day 3, Destination- South Sikkim (Namchi, Temi Tea Garden, Char Dham, Shriddhi Sai Baba Ka Mandir): On our 2nd day at Sikkim we planned to go visit the stupendously beautiful Tsomgo Lake (It means “The Source of The Lake”) but Government didn’t give us the permit to visit (We even went to the tourism office) due to the heavy snowfall so we hired a private car for the tour of South Sikkim which costs about 3500 bucks; you can get a shared car as well which will be a lot cheaper but if you’re the nagging kind just like me (“Bhaiya stop the car I have to take pictures”, “Bhaiya stop for a while I want to roam around a bit”, Bhaiya stop the car I feel like I’m gonna puke”, ”Bhaiya stop the car I’m hungry”, “Bhaiya stop the car I need to go to the washroom” – Yes I can be annoying at times) then a private car will be the best for you. If money ain’t a matter then you can experience the best of Sikkim only by hiring a private car at all times. You can personally hire a driver for all the days you’ll be over there and the total cost will be around 20000 bucks (Depends on the places you’ll visit) I personally feel it’s for the best and so we did. We got the cutest driver ever. His name is Puran Roy, he is 29 (Single and extremely handsome) and he lives in South Sikkim; also a good photographer as he clicked most of my pictures!
If you’ve got a boyfriend/husband who claims to be an excellent biker then this might be The chance to prove it as you can hire a sports bike (R15 V2 or Pulsar 220 will be the best) to roam around Sikkim for the best experience; for this experience you can contact a local and rent his bike for the days you’re there. Will not cost you more than 10000 bucks including the patrol expenses but I should tell you, it’s dangerous but quite adventurous.
No matter where you go in Sikkim, the Tista will be just by your side; maybe a few thousands feet down but it will be around!
On our South Sikkim tour we first visited the Temi Tea Garden; the tea produced there is considered to be of great quality in India as well as in the world. The temperature was around 5 degree Celsius when we visited the place.
There’s a café just beside the Garden where you can have the tea produced in the Garden; do try the Momos there as I did and definitely the best ones I’ve ever had.
Next we visited the tallest Guru Padhmasabhava temple of the world (135 Feet) and the view from top was a spectacular one and you can also see the Char Dham (Situated in South Sikkim) from the top of the Temple.
Before visiting the most important tourist destination in South Sikkim we stopped at the ‘Shriddhi Sai Baba Ka Mandir’
I had my lunch with the local food “Fela” which is just like fried Momos; it was just yum!
Next stop was The Char Dham; indeed an experience of a lifetime. If you visit Char Dham at South Sikkim then you won’t have to visit the places respectively as they mastered the art of imitation. They charge a few extra bucks if you carry a camera with yourself (Depends on the camera) which is a big turn off. The Char Dham are…
After visiting Char Dham we went back to our Hotel; I must say the spiral roads of South Sikkim were far better than the roads in the plain lands of the big cities in India. The CM of Sikkim and the famous football player ‘Baichung Bhutia’ both reside at South Sikkim; perhaps the reason behind that.
23rd March, Day 4, Destination – Lachung (North Sikkim): The main attraction of North Sikkim is the Yumthang range but it’s quite a long journey from Gangtok and due to the dangerous roads it’s impossible to travel at night so in order to reach Yumthang one must make a rest-stop at Lachung. You can hire a private car which will cost about 12000 bucks or you can go via a travel agency’s contract (Shared Car) which takes about 1200-1500 per head (Food and Lodging). The roads are beyond painful and there’s no way to fix them due to heavy rainfall during the whole year. Make sure you hire someone experienced; probably the most dangerous roads of Sikkim lead to Yumthang but all I can say is it’ll be worth it in the end if you go during December-March; you’ll get a piece of Heaven.
We started our journey to Lachung around 1PM and reached there at around 7.30PM. On the way you’ll see way too many waterfalls; the view around is outstanding!
We stayed overnight at Silver Green Resorts. It’s awfully cold there; you can rent a room heater but it’s a remote area so there’s not much electricity so it might not work at all. Do carry enough warm clothes and possibly dry foods as well because the food quality there is definitely not upto the mark.
The morning arrived with this view from my room…
I was at a loss for words; couldn’t wait to get to Yumthang valley to touch the snow with my hands and to play with it and so we did; after breakfast we started our journey at 7AM to Yumthang valley and it took us barely an hour to get there but I swear it was the most beautiful one hour of my life, snow all around covered the roads and the trees and for a moment I felt like I were in Narnia. We stopped a few times to play with the snow or just to enjoy the view. It was the very first time I experienced snow in my hands and it felt magical.
The roads were in pretty good condition as it’s a military area. You’ll find a Helipad nearby and a few base camps of military people as well. Do carry Gum boots if you want to have the best experience in snow; you can rent them at the resort as well for only 50 bucks.
We stopped for a while before Yumthang valley for coffee; there’re plenty of stalls there; had a snow-fight with a few Nepali girls, then we went to Zero Point (14000 feet) and the pictures will tell you the rest, the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had and the memories will stay in my heart for the rest of my life. At zero point had snow-fights with pretty much everyone around!
I even made a little snowman!
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We stopped at Yumthang valley for a while to take some shots; there you’ll find the Tista as well surrounded by snow floating on its own.
I did not want to leave Yumthang valley, cried a bit but eventually we had to. We had our lunch at the Resort then we went on our way back to Gangtok around 1PM and we reached there at about 8PM.
25th March, Day 5, Gangtok: I was sad since the morning because we had to leave at night but decided to make the most of the day. Went to M. G. Marg for a while; saw a few Helicopters roaming around then decided to have a ride on the Ropeway; Mum and Dad both bailed so went with someone I had met during our stay. The view from top was a great delight especially it gets better when shared with someone special. If you’ve got great company then don’t mind taking more than one ride. It costs about 70 bucks per person.
After our lunch at the Hotel we went for Siliguri to catch our train.
We came back by a night-train (Kanchankanya Express) as we had no other choice; in the last minute it was almost a miracle that we even got confirmed tickets for both our arrival and departure.
From the beginning to the end the whole experience was something to live by; As long as I shall live, I shall live with the beautiful memories, the moments spent at Sikkim. There were so many little things that I cannot express in words (I might fall short) that will remain in my heart forever. On our way from Lachung to Gangtok two little kids just waved at me saying goodbye; filled my heart with happiness. I personally feel that the chinky girls (Not an offensive term) look the best wearing sharees as I saw a few did and they looked absolutely beautiful. Almost every guy looked like Keanu Reeves or Robert Pattinson to me (Yes they’re quite handsome and cute); too much paleness it almost made me miss the Sun and I was dying for something tanned (Silly face) Please don’t be an idiot with the DSLR (They’ve seen plenty of them) trying to capture everything in the memory cards instead try to capture them in your own memory slot; experience the beauty of Sikkim with your own eyes not via an expensive camera lens and do treat the people with a bit of respect (They deserve it) as I saw pretty much everyone who go there consider them to be inferior just because a large amount of people are drivers and they do not come from money. They’re hard workers and the best kind of people you’ll ever meet; they risk their own lives just to get you to your destination so don’t ever look down upon them. Do not litter; keep the city clean. Do spend around 15-20 days to visit almost everything that Sikkim has to offer but I personally believe if you stay there for that long you might not want to come back at all.
There’re plenty of other things you can do in Sikkim like Paragliding and there’s a water park near Gangtok as well. You can study at Sikkim Manipal University or visit the various training centres; flirt with the Black Cats or kiss the clouds or go trekking or go to the Namchi Rock Garden or you can just marry someone over there and settle down; life is peaceful there; well if you go there once, you’re gonna wanna go there again and that’s a promise.
By Anamika Dutta©