Gangtok and beyond- The rest of the Sikkim Series.

Photo of Gangtok and beyond- The rest of the Sikkim Series. 1/4 by Malvika Sharma
Photo of Gangtok and beyond- The rest of the Sikkim Series. 2/4 by Malvika Sharma
Photo of Gangtok and beyond- The rest of the Sikkim Series. 3/4 by Malvika Sharma
Photo of Gangtok and beyond- The rest of the Sikkim Series. 4/4 by Malvika Sharma

While the heavy rain back home was adding to the traffic woes and triggering a whole bunch of runny noses, I was enjoying the almost perfect mountain weather. The days were sunny and the evenings pleasantly nippy in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. The city itself was a pleasant surprise. The houses lining the street were not posh, but were all well maintained, freshly painted, with their balconies lined with flowering plants. The roads were not wide, but there were bounded by a well kept, covered and aesthetically designed side walk for pedestrians. The traffic was extremely streamlined and everyone drove in their own lanes. There were dustbins at reasonable intervals and there was next to no litter on the streets. Was it not for the quintessential 'Mahatma Gandhi Marg', I would have thought I was in another country.

The MG Road is the city's epicentre. Its a well maintained, pedestrian-only shopping paradise. The avenue is lined with shops selling merchandise ranging from expensive brands to export surplus, Tibetan antiques to plastic Chinese toys. I have spent my fair share of bunked dissection hours in Janpath/Sarojini Nagar, but never have I street-shopped in a more delightful place than MG Road. The government has taken special steps to make MG Road a pleasant place so tourists can empty their wallets and make the state richer. The numerous fountains, flower pots and benches all along the street just add to the shopping experience. Not to mention that there are some amazing eateries along the way. I especially loved the Roll House which I frequented for my daily fix of cheese rolls and momos.

About an hour's ride from the city is the Rumtek monastery. As far as places of worship go, Buddhist monasteries are my favorite. They always have a serene atmosphere and at the same time, they present a rich burst of colour. The reds, blues, yellows and greens of the walls and the murals are just incredible. Rumtek is now tied in the first place with Thikse monastery, Leh on the official 'Best Monasteries Mana Has Been To' list. We reached Rumtek in time to catch the morning prayer. I found it quite interesting, unlike a little monk boy seated in the back of the prayer hall, trying desperately to stay awake.

One of my favourite aspects of the trip was the visit to Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake. The original plan was to go to Nathu La but a week's worth of snow can play spoilsport to the best laid plans. We could only go up to the lake, which is about 10-15km short of the pass. The lake itself is at 12,400ft and it quite a sight. We had to trudge through quite a bit of snow, politely refusing yak rides to get to the half frozen lake. I had to trudge along even further to leave behind the horde of loud Bengali tourists. I eventually went around the bend and reached an isolated stretch where the snow was undisturbed, the noise was far away and the mountains were serenely reflected on the glazed surface of the lake. I might have gone further if I wasn't scared of sinking into the snow. I spent some time on that isolated spot, taking pictures and just breathing it all in till my dad found me and called me back for some warm grub. Maggi, momos and snow. Yes, life is good.

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