Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim 

25th Dec 2018

...and this is where it finally feels like "Home"!!! 

Photo of Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim by Sneha Roy

Having your home-town at the foothills of the North-Eastern Himalayan mountain ranges certainly has its own perks. Imagine growing up, surrounded by lush greeneries, the mighty mountain ranges and the magnificent "Kanchendzonga" range just peeking up its head crown from behind! Cool enough, right? Well, just to break your mystery bubble, my home-town is "Siliguri" - the gateway of Northeast India! (quite grand, huh?) However, now that I have settled in one of the metropolitan concrete jungles, watching just the snow-crown playing peek-a-boo from the distant,(during a stay back at home)doesn't quite fulfill the purpose of the soul.

Hence, last December when I was back at home for a short duration of time, visiting Gangtok- the heartbeat of Sikkim, just seemed the right choice! *the most spontaneous plan*

Photo of Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim  1/1 by Sneha Roy
on the way to Gangtok from Siliguri ~ the green water of Teesta river being a constant companion

Gangtok easily serves as one of the most beautiful and popular weekend getaways from siliguri without any doubt. December is a crazy month for Sikkim surely, as tourists from all over the globe makes a visit there, making it quite crowded (specially Gangtok). Gangtok is about a 4 hours journey from Siliguri. We (my mom & me), started our journey around 3pm in the afternoon. We opted for the shared taxi option, which is easily available from Darjeeling/Gangtok Taxi stand @Hill cart road. "Shared Taxi" is a very economical and safe option for going to Gangtok. The roads to Sikkim is very good and hence comfortable. As soon as you cross the town boundaries, you will be greeted with fresh air, lush greenery, and the mountains-which will only appear to get closer by every passing turn. The clear crystal water of Teesta river flowing along with the winding roads, being a constant company to our journey.

Share Taxi Fare :- Rs 250/- per person(may hike to 3oo/- during peak season. *A little bargaining may help*

Tip :- Try getting the front window seat. They always provide the best views.

Through Great Smoky Mountains,And its valleys below,Spreading its beauty, for all to see,A very small Brook, continues to flow. ~~B.J.Ayers

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Sneha Roy
Day 1

It was roughly a 4 hours journey along with a quick tea-break in between. We reached Gangtok around 7 in the evening and headed straight to our hotel. After freshening up we left for the famous M.G. Marg, which was just a 5 mins walk from our hotel.

Hotel Name :- Central Ninamma Boutique Resort

Hotel Fare :- Rs 3,405/- (with breakfast)

Note :- It is advised to book your hotel beforehand (during the peak season). We were lucky enough to get a good hotel at a decent rate.

M.G.Marg can rightly be said as the most happening street in Gangtok. This beautiful squared boulevard, lighted up with sparkling lights, is filled up with great restaurants, pubs, bakeries, cafes, and shops. You can see everyone hanging out with a warm smile on their face and twinkle in their eyes. Hundreds of tourists and locals strolling around the road, occasionally sipping on a steamy cup coffee, or just idly sitting on one of the many side benches in the marg. MG Marg is undoubtedly one of the best places to buy little souvenirs and handicrafts items for your loved ones. This place has a whole "feel good" vibe which will hardly fail to lift your spirits up. After roaming around, we decided on "Baker's Cafe" to fill up ourselves with a light dinner. The place was swarming up with people (more since, it was the Christmas day). Well, to be honest the food was not as great as expected, but it certainly did not fail to give this whole happy,cheerful,festive christmas-y vibe - which all together made the experience quite good. After dinner, both my mom and me called it a night and retired to our cosy beds in the hotel.

Market Entry Time :- 8am - 8pm. Closed On:- Tuesday

Tip:- if you are planning for apparel shopping (winter garments) then it's better to purchase them from the adjacent market to M.G.Marg which provides the same quality but at a relatively cheaper price.

"....it's Christmas time in the city ❤ "

Photo of MG Marg Gangtok, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Vishal Gaon, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy
Day 2

Next day, we woke to to a beautiful clear blue sky accompanied with cotton clouds and the snow capped mountains smiling brightly at us. Now, this was a view I can never get tired waking up to. I honestly wouldn't even give a second thought for sacrificing my precious sleep at the early morning hours, if this is what I am greeted with everyday. (now, believe me this is hell a lot of commitment from my side)!

View from our hotel restaurant window

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

A fusion breakfast and bright little wild flowers to greet us at breakfast table.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

A lovely morning view and a wholesome complimentary breakfast - what a great start to the day! A day full of promises led ahead of us for sure. Mom and me headed straight to M.G.Marg after breakfast to explore the fancy street in its morning glory (and, also to click some brighter pictures, after last night's failed attempts :p)

Basking in the sun...err.. sorry to miss out on Bapu ji's head (totally suraj mama's fault!)

Photo of Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim by Sneha Roy

After a good stroll at M.G.Marg, soaking in all the vitamin-D that i have been deprived of all this life :p , and having a quick lunch of steamy thukpa and yummy momos at small cafe called "Rahul's", we went over to a tour operator office (located at the entry of M.G.Marg itself)and booked a taxi for a local sightseeing tour for the day.

Taxi Fare :- Rs 2000/- (*exclusive vehicle booked*)

Places Covered :- Flower Exhibition Centre, Enchey Monastery, Banjhakri Falls.

Note :- Sharing taxi is also available at a cheaper rate however, sightseeing in share taxi wouldn't give you the same freedom.

A steaming bowl of Thukpa and plate full of delicious momos on it..... these are a few of my favourite things!!!

Photo of Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim by Sneha Roy

"A flower a day, can brighten up your day"(at least it always works for me!) Imagine what a medium sized greenhouse filled with different varieties flowers could do! Certainly, no less than magic i guess! My mom has great interest in gardening and hence, visiting the "Flower Exhibition Centre" was a must. The exhibition centre is very close to M.G.Marg (in fact walking distance), and hence it was our first stop. This little place is a heaven for flower lovers - with a riot of colors and fragrances. One will find different varieties of colorful flowers all around you - specially a great variety of orchids. The best time to witness this place in its full glory is during the annual flower exhibition (held during April-May).

Entry Time :- 8:30 am to 5:00 pm

Entry Fee :- Rs10/-

Hello, Pretty ones!!!

Photo of Flower Exhibition Centre - Ridge Park., Arithang, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"There are so many beautiful reason to be happy; and flowers are just one!"

Photo of Flower Exhibition Centre - Ridge Park., Arithang, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

A riot of colors!!! The only riot I would like...

Photo of Flower Exhibition Centre - Ridge Park., Arithang, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"Happiness held is a seed, Happiness shared is a flower" ~ John Harrigan

Photo of Flower Exhibition Centre - Ridge Park., Arithang, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

After the Flower Exhibition Centre, we headed towards the Enchey Monastery. The distance between the above is a short one. I personally chose this monastery over the others because of its religious significance and interesting history. "Enchey Monastery" literary means "Solitary Monastery". Built during 1909, with an amazing view of Kanchenjunga ranges this, place will never fail to find your inner self, peace and solitary. One's search for peace, love and faith can certainly end here. It can easily be declared as one's "Zen Place".

Entry Time :- 7:00 am - 4:00 pm Entry Free :- None

Folk Lore story:- According to the local legends, Guru Padmasambhava (8th century Buddhist master), has restrained the spirits of Khangchendzonga, Yabdean, and Mahakala here.

The Flags represents the 5 elements ; Yellow- Earth, Green- Water, Red- Fire, White- Air, Blue- Space; balancing and co-existing in perfect harmony

Photo of Enchey Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

The "Solidarity Monastery" ~ Enchey Monastery

Photo of Enchey Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

...the spinning of wheels

Photo of Enchey Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

Banjhakri Falls , undoubtedly one of the most popular attractions of Gangtok. Literary coming from two words,"Ban" meaning Forest and "Jhakri" meaning shamans (in Nepali). The park intends in celebrating the traditional shamanic belief of the Sikkimese people. Banjakhri Falls is a magnificent natural waterfall, falling from a height of 30 metres from a spring, and its beauty can not simply be put into words. The roar of the waterfall, the clear crystal water and the bright sunlight dancing upon every drop of water as it splashes over the rocks, and the magic that all these together creates , can not be merely justified in a sentence. One has to witness it in order to bask in its charm and beauty. This is certainly one of the "not-to-miss" attractions of Gangtok.

Entry Time :- 8am - 6pm Entry Fees :- Rs 50/-

Fun Factor :- Do try out clicking photos in the traditional Sikkimese dress, which is easily rented out in the park at very nominal rate. (I got mine at Rs 100/- !)

"Waterfalls are exciting because they have power, they have rainbows, they have songs, and they have boldness and craziness!" ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

Photo of Banjhakri Falls and Park, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"Just let go - and fall like a little waterfall." ~ Bob Ross

Photo of Banjhakri Falls and Park, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

The Perfect Click...

Photo of Banjhakri Falls and Park, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"when in Sikkim, dress as the Sikkimese do..." ain't this pretty? pretty please...

Photo of Banjhakri Falls and Park, Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

By the time our local trip ended, it was already evening. The cab dropped us directly at the hotel which was followed up with freshening up, having a steamy cup of tea, some delicious chicken fritters, relaxing at the hotel lobby, and a simple dinner. Soon after, we called it a night with great anticipation for the next day.

Day 3

Next day trip was an early start. Today we were visiting the famous Baba Mandir and the incredible beautiful Tsomgo Lake! We had already booked our car (with the same tour operator) and the cab showed up at out hotel around 7:30 am. It is always recommended to give an early start while visiting Tsomgo Lake/Baba Mandir/Nathula Pass. After all, it is roughly a journey of about 2-3 hours(one side) depending on the weather and traffic and hence an early start certainly works as an advantage and gives you more time to explore. The morning was quite warm with a tinge of chilliness in the air. The world just seemed perfect. :) ????❤

Vehicle Fare :- Rs 4oo0/- (*exclusive vehicle*)

NOTE :- Both Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir (even Nathula) need Protected Area Permit (PAP). The permits are taken care by the tour operators themselves and needs to be processed a day before the journey.

Permit Cost :- Rs 200/- + Rs 20/- per person (may vary a little). The cost is mostly included in the vehicle fare.

Having steamy momos for breakfast on the way, whirling around the mountains, passing by hundreds of Rhododendron trees, smelling the nature and cold winds hitting your face - it was undoubtedly one of the most incredible 3 hours journey I had in my life.

....and so much to peace and prayer

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape" ~ Ruskin Bond

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"Ude, Khule aasman mein khwabon Ke parindey; Ude, Dil Ke jahan mein Khaabon Ke Parinday.. Oho, Kya Pata, Jaayenge Kahan...."

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"Having lived with deodars , I can understand God having a favorite among trees...."

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

When you finally reach Baba Mandir and step down from your car, you are firstly held awestruck by its beautiful surrounding and then firstly again you are hit by the strong cold wind gushing towards you! Yes, both together and the same freaking time! And, I think this only just adds to the charm of this place. Baba Mandir is situated at an elevation of 13,123ft! And hence, you can very distinctly feel the drop in the temperature. Baba Mandir is actually a shrine built in the memory of an 22 years old Punjab regiment sentry named, Harbhajan Singh, who had a tragic death while on duty. Afterwhich, Baba started appearing in dreams of his fellow regiments and asked them to built a shrine for him. The mandir is believed to have wish granting power and it is also believed the his spirit still protects the Indo-China border and the fellow soldiers. Baba Mandir is literary located in the lap of mountains. With high rising barren arid mountains surrounded on all sides and the clear sky is a literal heaven for all peace and nature lovers. The Mandir also has a small souvenir shop and a canteen up here.

Entry Time :- 8am - 2:30pm Entry Fees :- None

Popular Stories :- There are popular stories that Baba still makes his round along the border and even many soldiers have claimed to see a turbaned soldier doing rounds during the night.

Note :- 1. This is the New Baba Mandir, built on 11th Oct,1982. (The old mandir is further up the Nathang Valley with a difficult terrain, and hence the new mandir was built for the devotees.)

2. Nathula Pass lies further ahead to Baba Mandir and it about a 20 mins drive from here.

Our flag, our pride, standing strong and proud...

Photo of Baba Mandir, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"People come and go, the mountains remain. Mountains are permanent things. They are stubborn, they refuse to move." ~ Ruskin Bond

Photo of Baba Mandir, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

A mandatory selfie at 12,313 ft! Kyunki... daar ke agge jeet hai!!! :P ????

Photo of Baba Mandir, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

Tsomgo Lake is a 30 minutes ride down from Baba Mandir. It lies at an elevation of 12,313 ft height and is 49 ft deep. Tsomgo is a glacial lake and the name merges from two words, "Tso" meaning Lake and "Mgo" meaning head, literary meaning into "Source of Lake".

The first look at Tsomgo Lake (popularly known as Changu Lake) will literally take your breath away. If there is heaven on earth, then surely this has to be a part of that heaven! Surrounded by mysterious steep mountains, this humongous oval shaped lake lies in between with its beautiful crystal clear water. The innumerable pretty Buddhist flags fluttering in the wind, the mountains, the azure blue lake along with an indefinite blue sky, altogether can easily remind you of place that you may have only witnessed in your dreams. The lake is believed to change it color along with the season and remains completely frozen during winter (although a lot depends on the weather. For example, we didn't get snow around this time! *sad*very sad*). The snow garauntedly changes the whole picturesque of the place and gives the tourist a brand new changu lake with frozen water and snow covered mountains. However, neither time you can escape its charm!

Entry Fees :- None

Folklore Story :- Tsomgo Lake is believed to contain spiritual healing powers . During Guru Purnima, the Jhakris of Sikkim gather around the lake to benefit from the spiritual power of the lake.

Fun Factor :- Do try out the yak ride available at Changu Lake, or you may even just click a photo with a price of Rs 50/- per picture. There is also a ropeway cable here!

Note :- In case you get a little hungry or cold, there are a number of little local shops (located alongside the road of Tsomgo Lake) selling both warm food and warm clothes! Warm smile is always served complimentary!

"Kissed by the Sun"

Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

"So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

The fluttering flags, the cold winds, the warm sunlight kissing the blue water ~ Pure Bliss

Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

Ready for a Yak Ride? Yes, please!

Photo of Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim, India by Sneha Roy

With Tsomgo Lake, our trip came to an end! As we climbed down the hills, we bid adieu to Gangtok with a heavy heart, promising ourselves to come back again. Our driver dropped us at the Shared Taxi stand for Siliguri (we had already checked out from the hotel in the morning). We commenced our journey ahead from here, carrying a box full of pleasant memories which will be prized life long.

Important Facts to Remember:-

1. Sikkim being a border state, all foreign nationals need to obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP). They can only visit in a group of two or more.

2. Always book your Protected Area Tours with travel operators who are registered with Sikkim Govt. Tourism.

3. Sikkim is a litter free zone. Please do not litter or pay heavy fine.

4. Respect the culture and traditions of the region.

5. The weather of Gangtok is very unpredictable and hence it is in the best interest to carry a few winter garments despite of any season.

6. Many tourist attractions are high altitude zones, and hence it is suggested to have a health check up before you commence for the high altitude journeys.

"Take only memories, leave only footprints" ~ Chief Si'ahl

Photo of Weekend Trip to Gangtok~The Heart of Sikkim by Sneha Roy

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