Located at an altitude of 1650 m (5410 feet), Gangtok, Sikkim is one of the most sought after and favourite tourist spots of the North East India. With its beautiful and scenic landscape, snow-capped view of the Kanchenjunga Peaks, vibrant culture, intricate artistry and pristine beauty, Gangtok can be a land of surprises for the new traveller. I travelled here with my family to celebrate the New Year of 2013 and had a time full of happy memories. Here’s how you can plan a road trip with your family to this fabulous town.
Start of the journey:
Start driving from Hong Kong Market on Hill Cart Road, Siliguri along the National Highway No. 31A to Gangtok Border. Total Distance: 112 km. Total Journey Time: 2hrs 18 min. The only problem is that as you enter the state of Sikkim, you will have to change taxis as the taxis from the other state are not permitted inside. The taxi charges are high and be prepared for a considerable bargain. We had to change the taxis and the cost was approximately Rs. 5000/- for a Tata Sumo.
From Gangtok Border to MG Market, the drive is another 106 km and the journey time will be another 2hrs 12 min. The MG Market bus stand is the termination point of the journey for the day.
**You can save on considerable amount of money if you use your own vehicle for the trip. See the cost comparison at the end of the article.
Day 1: Venturing into the MG Market:
You can halt at your convenience at the MG Market vicinity. The MG Market is the prime location of the Gangtok town and the private and government taxi services converge here. The taxi stand extends over a slope which goes towards the hotels. There are lot of budget hotels and lodges near the MG Market and expect anything between Rs. 1500/- to Rs.3000/- per day for a comfortable stay.
The market has all the facilities available and there are lots of convenience stores along with medicine shops as well should you encounter any health problems on the way. The evening can be spent around in the MG Market. The market has a huge alley with a paved stone pathway which gives the feel of a European architecture. It is stuffed with variety of gift shops, handicrafts stores, souvenirs, electronics store, woolens and leather. Be prepared to spend some money as things are a little costly here.
Day 2: Flower Exhibition Centre and Ganesh Tok:
The second day can be started by visiting the Flower Exhibition Centre. Come February and this place will be full of flower enthusiasts from across the globe. The flower exhibition centre displays some of the rarest and beautiful varieties of Orchidsand that forms a prime attraction for the visitors. The park outside is splendidly landscaped with patios and walkways. Do not forget to take a photograph here from the local photographers. They take your address and deliver it to your hotel. Spend about an hour here and prepare to move to the next destination.
The Ganesh Tok is the temple of Lord Ganesh located 4.5 Km from the Flower Exhibition Centre. The temple as the name suggests is located on a small hill top with a scenic and picturesque view of the hills all around. The bottom of the temple houses a small market place which is bustling with crowd to purchase local handicrafts and souvenirs. Try your hands on the local dresses of the State. The dresses are available for rent and the photographers will be rushing towards you for that valuable click. I suggest go for it. You will never repent this experience.
Day 3: Gonjang Monastery, Tashi View Point and Do Drul Chorten Stupa:
Gonjang Monastery is a Tibetan Monastery located 3.5 km from the MG Market. The third day can be visited here having a mesmerizing view of the skyline. The monastery displays the Tibetan Architecture at its best with the walls, roof tops, doors and passages painted in vibrant colours and in with intricate artwork. It also houses a small institute to preach Tibetology. The open area in front of the monastery has a glass paneled room with several hundreds of lamps inside it. After the prayers, these lamps are all lit together, giving a fabulous luminescence from afar. The left end of the staircases at the entry has a round bell inside a room again intricately painted. The monastery faces a picturesque landscape and is an ideal place to delve oneself for a ‘mindfulness meditation’. Every picture that I was able to click here was worth a thousand words as it portrayed the diligent artwork done by the monks in the monastery.
Tashi View Point is at an altitude of 6000 feet and located at a distance of just 3.5 km from the Gonjang Monastery. This view point gives the majestic view of the Kanchenjunga peak, the highest peak of the Himalayas. The spot forms a favourite place for the tourists to click photographs. The view point also has an observatory tower called the Tashi View Point Observatory Tower. The observatory also houses a small souvenir shop where you can shop for the local gift items and souvenirs. The base of the view point houses several small eating joints and it will be ideal for you to stuff yourself before you proceed for the next sight.
The road ahead of Tashi View Point leads to the Sikkim Legislative Assembly and it is 5.3 km from the view point. TheRope Way Ride also terminates here, starting from the Deorali Market Area. Do Drul Chortun Stupa is another 1 km from the Sikkim Legislative Assembly House and 2 km from the Deorali Market Area. The main Stupa forms the centre of the monastery premises and is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels with mantras inscribed on them in Pali Script, the official language of the Buddhism. This Chorten is visible from almost all parts of the Gangtok City. The Chorten was constructed in the year 1946 by the Tibetan Lama Trulshig Rinpoche who practiced and preached the Nyingma order of Buddhism. After the sightseeing, you can come back to the Rope Way and ride down to the Deorali Market or you can also choose to ride down there. Again, the prices for the ride are very high.
Day-4: Sales Emporium of Gangtok and the Mayfair Resorts Mahjong Casino:
The Sales Emporium of Gangtok exhibits the richest elements of the Tibetan arts and Culture. A training institution, art museum gallery and exhibition all put together at one place, this emporium is a two storied building showcasing the Tibetan Works of Art such as Woodwork, Thanka Paintings, Handloom weaving which includes weaving carpets, rugs, shawls, etc., bamboo work, furniture work and local herbs and medicines put up for both demonstration and sale. You can enjoy and witness the Tibetan artistry unfolding itself live as you move around the various halls of the building. Artisans, painters, craftsmen, weavers and students from the local area all come together to put their talents into action and what transpires is elegance and nothing less. You can be sure to leave with a heavy baggage as you move out of the emporia.
Mayfair Gangtok Casino Mahjong is what I will suggest you must visit during the evening and not before that, as the rhythm build up after 7 p.m in the evening. Planning to ask for a suite here will be beyond your imagination and especially during the New Year Season, it shoots up to 50-60 grand. The Mayfair Resort is atop a small hillock and is towards the left from the entrance junction. The resort flaunts a magnificent entrance with a fountain at the centre, a white stone Buddha statue on the left, an ultra-modern spa, a banquet hall and a lounge on the top most level.
The Casino Mahjong is a separate entity on the right side of the entrance road. As a rookie, one can try their hands on the Roulette. There are other card games such as the Blackjack, rummy and jackpot machines inside. The entrance is usually a make or break point for the visitor. The tickets are heavily priced between 4-5 grand and that segregates the genuine players from the rest. However, the food and drinks are on the house and apart from gambling, you can enjoy some live music here. Photography is not allowed inside the casino, but you can click abundant pictures in the resort.
Cost Comparison on Road Travel:
The table below tries to show you the basic comparison of a road trip and does not cover the entire package. The idea is to give a brief overview of a road trip while you make your plans. The following parameters have been taken into calculation and can form a guideline for you to plan your trips. You can add some more parameters to make your results more accurate:
The vehicle under consideration is taken as Tata Sumo for making the calculations.
The average kmpl of the vehicle on the hill road is taken as approximately 6 kmpl. The calibration changes for your own vehicle.
The road taxes are based on the data provided by thePlanning Commission Report data and is figurative approximation.
The other factors such as stay in hotels, your personal expenses will change according to group size, duration of stay, viewpoints added or removed etc.
The rates of the fuel prices have been taken that of the current prices of Diesel in Kolkata.
This trip was originally published on Pack-'Ur'-Bags.