Solo travel was on my mind since a very long time- not because I cannot get along groups, it’s just to experience how it feels to be completely on your own, in a new place, avoid the “groupism” that we usually tend to get into and explore the place however you want. We all are so used to have that safety blanket of family, friends and known faces around us that unknowingly, we develop a fear of the world outside this safety circle of ours. But, once a while, if we step out and explore what is beyond, we will see that world out there is not so unsafe after all. And even if it is, we will learn to deal with it our way!
So, once I knew I can get a week off from my work in April, I started exploring on all the options I have. It had to be somewhere in the mountains to escape the summer. Few hours of browsing on places most friendly for solo travelers and I could shortlist two options – Himachal Pradesh or Sikkim. The factors I considered to select these places were - safe for female travelers, fit my pocket, good food, stay and transport options and of course, most important, places to get out of this concrete jungle and unwind. Finally, Sikkim got lucky as it offered me cheaper flight options – Himachal Pradesh, be good next time! ;)
Sikkim does not have an airport or a railway line yet, Bagdogra airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway station in West Bengal offer their services to be the entry point to Sikkim. There is a pre-paid taxi stand arranged by Sikkim tourism to take you from Bagdogra to Gangtok – but if you have done your research well, then you know that this is where you can save up some money – so, I go straight out of the airport and there are a bunch of taxi drivers waiting for customers and I strike a deal with one of them for one third of what pre-paid taxi would have charged me- a great start!
It is a 5-hour drive from Bagdogra to Gangtok. 2 hours into the drive, you arrive at a bridge dressed up with bright and colorful flags with religious hymns printed on them and you know you are entering the Tibetan land. These flags follow you all through Sikkim and they are the first memory that come to my mind when I think of Sikkim – flags in red, yellow, white, green and blue flying high all along, to bless and protect all those who are travelling on these steep and curvy roads.
Though it is the smallest state we have, Sikkim has a lot to offer in terms of tourism – a fortnight in Sikkim and you will still not be able to see all of it. 80% of Sikkim has mountainous terrain which means lot of travel time to reach one place to another. (That also means you get to spend more time in the company of lush green trees, fresh unpolluted air, deep valleys, soothing sounds of a flowing stream, stress-free and smiling local faces – Is there any chance of getting bored during the travel then? No way!!) Also, most of the tourist attractions close by 5 PM due to early sunset and as you travel to higher altitudes, the timings are much more restricted. One must surrender to the nature when it comes to Sikkim, nature has drafted the rule book and without a choice, everyone must abide by it.
There are 3 places I visited that were just out of this world, highlights of the entire trip for me and I would go all the way back, any number of times, just to relive those moments.
1. Tsomgo Lake (conveniently called Changu Lake)
Located at 12000 ft., Tsomgo lake is a glacial lake which is mostly frozen, except for the summers. It takes about 2 hours and a mere 250 rupees in a shared taxi to reach this beautiful and serene lake. One needs to take a permit to go here as it is very close to the Indo-China border at Nathula Pass, I was lucky that my hotel could arrange the permits for me a day ahead.
You are already in the constant company of the mountains, but as you start ascending and the snow-clad peaks are in the view – it is a totally different high!!