Gangtok Tales, The City of Snowy Peaks

Tripoto
1st May 2017
Day 1


Ever thought that roaming around is tiring? For me, it wasn’t until I encountered altitude sickness that I began to agree. I was on my way to Gangtok from Darjeeling when the height of 6,700 ft. caught up to me. I advise that you fill your tummy before you get in a car for Gangtok because if you aren’t full you are going to get super-sick. It is also going to take away the pleasure of watching the glorious scenes unfold before you if you feel ill.

SLEEP AND SHOPPING

After three and a half hours of journeying, I finally reached my destination. And whereas my Darjeeling’s home stay was a delight to stay in, in Gangtok I got a stinky room at that same price.

My whole day was all about sleep, sleep, and sleep. But even though my hotel room was stinky, it had a convenient location. It was just on the M G Marg. Since it is the market area, when the shopping fairy hits you, you can go and shop anytime.

That is what I did during my first day at Gangtok. Sleep and shopping. It was time to get some rest, as the next day I was heading out to see the North Sikkim, and it was going to be exciting!

On the way to Rumtek

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Timeless art of Rumtek

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Ban Jhakri cascading down

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Tashi View point

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

The Sikkim Zoological park looks like a haunted woods.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Pretty Pastels

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar
Day 2

On May 2nd, my guide Pravin and I set out for a long drive to North Sikkim. My first stop was at the Hill View Point, from here I saw the mighty peaks of K2 as well as Annapurna. It is a joy to see the highest peaks of the world laden with snow.

The Hill View Point was on my way to the Rumtek Monastery, which is one of the largest in Asia. It has the Dharma Chakra Center and is also home to the Golden Stupa. Vehicles do not go to the Monastery.

You need to walk half of a kilometer uphill before you see the face of the Monastery. Do not forget to bring identification with you because it is mandatory.

I was the first tourist to visit that day. Since it was off season and I was pretty early I had the monastery all to myself. You can see in the picture below the Hall of the Monastery. On the right-hand side, there is a signboard which reads – “Way to the Golden Stupa.”

THE STUNT

From here, I climbed and reached the Stupa. The Military Guards are at the doors of the Golden Stupa, and there will always be a monk inside. There is a signboard indicating No Cameras, but I sneaked in my cell phone.

Once you step into the room, you are going to think “What is this?” But then the monk comes in and switches on the light. That is when you see the glittering Golden Stupa. And by Golden I mean Golden, there are all kinds of riches in there. You can see it through the glass. Alas! You can’t touch it.

I took all kinds of risks to click a picture of the Golden Stupa. So, the picture is kind of blurry. But I couldn't post it because of the apparent security issues, but if you want a sneak peek then you can visit or just ask me to send the picture to you.  After my daring stunt at the Stupa, I went to the Nalanda Institute, which is one of the first in the world.

BAN JHAKRI FALLS

One of the top tourist destination in Sikkim is the Ban Jhakri Water Falls. Unlike the Monastery, the Ban Jhakri waterfalls were overloaded with tourists. 

Many of them were hung on tight harnesses, trying to cross the rope bridges across the waterfalls. And even though, I can dare a photograph in a Military secured zone, I shun water. So, crossing the rope bridge was a no-go.

But I did something interesting. I wore the traditional Sikkimese dress and clicked pictures with my sister. And as you can see I totally look like a typical Sikkimese Woman in the pic, don’t I?

CLOUDY PEAKS

It was past lunch time at the falls, and I was super hungry. We set out to the Tashi View Point because my guide told us it is where we could eat lunch. Sadly, the only thing available there was pineapple.
The view of Kanchenjunga from the Tashi View mount is stunning. Luck wasn’t on our side though, the clouds shrouded the peaks and even the afternoon sun did nothing to blast it away. Yet, I viewed all the other peaks that were visible to my glassed eyes.

THE HOWL

After seeing the best zoo in India, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, I wasn’t sure I would like the Sikkim Zoological Park. But mate! I was wrong. Where PNZP is man-made and skilfully organized, Sikkim Zoo is wild and untamed.

I loved the raw, untamed beauty of the park. You have to walk around in the woods to see the animals. It feels surreal. First on the list was the common leopard, then came the cute red Pandas followed by a leopard cub.

I was on my way strolling alongside my sister when I heard a deafening howl. We were on our way to see the Himalayan Wolf. But after following the directions, we reached a point where the road was blocked with a sign “Himalayan Wolf Under Treatment.”

That was when we heard the howl again. You can well imagine, walking through the woods on a snowy day and hearing the howl of an ailing wolf. It still gives me chills.

FLOWERY DELIGHT

A long day of sight seeing was coming to an end and my guide wanted it to be special. So he took me to the yearly flower exhibition that takes place in Gangtok. I have very little knowledge about flowers. But what can I say? They are pretty

ROPEWAY DARE

I have a long list of fears, and the top on the list is water, in the second place is heights. I even fear taking escalators. But it was a trip where I wanted to try new things. So, I took the chance and rode the ropeway.

The view of the mountains beside and the city below was astounding. You can see the picture of the city below. We rode until we reached Deorali, flying over the traffic and through the valley. And after riding 20 minutes on the ropeway, I thought “Heights can be beautiful.”

So, that is how my second day at Gangtok came to an end, with me fighting my fears. That is what traveling does friends; it frees you.

A view of the city from the ropeway

Photo of Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar
Day 3

North Sikkim was awesome sauce, and when I was wondering what I would do on the next day of my trip, I got a call from my guide. He was a kind friend, and he recommended we visit South Sikkim that day. According to him, South Sikkim was a lot more beautiful than North Sikkim; I had to agree because I hadn’t seen it. It was time to remedy that.

ADVENTUROUS ROADS TO TEMI

A three-hour long drive took me to the mountain where Temi Tea garden sits. India is diverse, you know? At one place there is black soil, and nothing grows, whereas at the another place conifers rise towards the sky.
Coming from a place where 40 degrees Celsius is a standard temperature, seeing this mountain felt like heaven. We drove higher and higher up the mountain, and then we came to the Temi Tea Garden. It was massive, and when you see the clouds kiss the vibrant green shrubs, it is heavenly. It is here that my sister stepped out and bought flowers, they weren’t from a high-end shop, but a street vendor. They were a pretty orange East-American flower (as the vendor named it).

After wandering through the valleys of tea gardens, and seeing the Swiss looking lands, we were on our way to another hill. Hill hopping is common here, so there we went to our next stop – The Samdruptse.

THE CLOUDS OF SAMDRUPTSE

I will tell you; I have never been up in the mountains. So, walking or breathing at such a height was a chore for me. It is a miracle that I did not faint somewhere in the valleys.
The height took its toll when we reached the hill of Samdruptse; I wasn’t able to control my breathing. On the internet, you might see that the height is 4,000 odd feet, but the actual height here is 7,150 feet. That is the highest I had ever been. You need to let your body catch up with the atmosphere before you get going.

The giant statue of Guru Padmasambhava is here. There is also a temple beneath, where you can find the stairs to the top. You can click pictures from the statue where the view is magical. You can see the clouds floating between the valleys, and in the midst of it all is the magnificent statue of Guru Padmasambhava

THE STUNT AGAIN

Other than seeing the huge statue, and greeting the clouds, I also did something daringly stupid here. Most of the monuments in Sikkim get heavy protection.

And before entering the temple, I sat outside one of the high steps of Samdruptse, as you can see in the pic. You know what happened? Don’t even get me started.

I was just sitting there, ready with my sunglasses on when the Army guard charged in. I had no clue what I did wrong, and he was there charging towards me like an angry bull. He yelled “Yaha Nahin, Neeche!” meaning “ Not here, Get down!” And if I had not been scared out of my wits I would have taken some time to admire that fine frame of an army man. But I jumped down as fast as I could and ran into the temple.

CHAR DHAM AND BABA MANDIR

I am not a religious person. I do believe in God.  And religion, not so much. So, when my guide turned the steering wheels towards Char Dham, I was like “Stop Right There!” But he said that it was one of the best places in South Sikkim, and as a tourist, I should not miss it for the world.

There we went to the place where I did not want to go. Arriving at the site did not elicit any excitement in me. I took a chance and went straight ahead to the ticket counter. When I saw it was all about temples, I skipped the tickets. Instead, I stood just in front of the Char Dham and clicked this splendid picture which encases all the four dhams (the four temples)

Again when my guide parked the car at Baba Mandir, I groaned, I thought we were done with temples. Apparently not. Yet when I stepped into the Baba Mandir a strange kind of peace descended on me. It was so peaceful in here.

There were two floors of the temple. The picture above shows the ground floor where you can offer your prayers. On the first floor, there is a priest who offers you holy water. I didn’t go close to him, but my sister did. The thing I loved about the Baba Mandir was its ceiling. It had the galaxy painted on it, and it looked marvelous, to say the least.

DANGER JUNKIES

If you ask me what I liked most about my trip to South Sikkim, my answer will be – The Roads! There are few places to visit in South Sikkim. But for a girl who has seen nothing except drought lands – the serene mountains were like manna for the starved.
We drove through roads which had stiff bends with no warning of what was coming from the other side. It was scary; it was thrilling. On our way back, I didn’t want it to end. From the look on my face, my guard knew my mood.

He proposed I get out of the car, and enjoy the view because it was the last I would get of the City of Snowy Peaks. Out I went, the clouds sailing up the mountains, me trying my hands (and legs) at rock climbing, and me sitting in a depressed pose at the valley divided by Teesta River, this adventure was about to come to an end.

À BIENTÔT

The next day, as my car went downhill, it felt like I was leaving a part of me behind. I was also taking so many parts of the places I visited home with me. It wasn’t a goodbye it was À Bientôt, until we meet again. So, I haven’t even deleted the number of my guides. “Until next time,” I said to them and until the next time it will be. Cheers to the City of Snowy Peaks.

This post has also been published in
https://artoftravel.tips

Temi Estate

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Trying to pose in the slopes

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Thousands of feet high at Samdruptse

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Sneaked a pic from under their nose

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Char Dham

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Baba Mandir

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Somewhere in Sikkim

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar

Somewhere above the Teesta

Photo of Temi, Sikkim, India by Ankita Sagar
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