In my previous posts, I covered my first few days at Sikkim where I’d gone with a group of friends.
As our initial plan which was to go to North Sikkim during the last few days in the state fell through because of the area being closed as a result of landslides and rain, we decided to cover places around Gangtok at length in the last 2 days instead.
A couple of our friends left on the morning of our 2nd day at Gangtok while the rest of us after gorging on the free buffet breakfast at our hotel, hired a cab and covered a couple of other places.
To start with we first went to Ranka Monastery. It was a beautiful monastery and extremely calm and serene. Photography was allowed in and around the monastery plus there were less people here as compared to the crowd in Rumtek Monastery which was a big plus. After chatting with some of the monks here, we had lunch in the snacks shop within the campus. I didn’t like the food much it was too spicy and extremely watery. We had ordered a couple of Sikkimese dishes, however after eating here I ended up becoming apprehensive of trying any more of the dishes such as Thukpa, Gundruk etc. (only to be pleasantly surprised by delicious Thukpas etc. in Bhutan shortly after! :D)
Next we went to this place where some fun activities were happening on the way such as river crossing etc. Paragliding also takes place nearby but the activity turned out to be extremely costly so I decided I’ll go to Rishikesh later sometime and do it there 😀
By the time we were done with all of this, it was almost evening. To end the day, we went to Ban Jhakri Waterfalls. These waterfalls turned out to be much better than the Bakthang Falls, we’d gone to on our first day here. A lot of photographs were clicked and time was spent here. Always remember to take a change of clothes when you come visit these waterfalls. We had unfortunately not taken any so I had a tough time on the way back getting used to the cold. Thankfully didn’t fall ill though as that would have been the worst thing to happen since that would have been a massive mood as well as trip spoiler.
On our third day there, we were planning to go to Nathula Pass. So as soon as we’d reached Gangtok, we’d asked our hotel to help us all get a permit for visiting the place so we could go there later (If you plan on going here, keep in mind that the place is closed for tourists on Monday and Tuesday). Once that was taken care of and we’d all got our permits, on our third day at Gangtok, we hired a cab and the driver drove us to Nathula Pass. It was very cold up there at the top and we even encountered a traffic jam in between, because of which we had to wait for a while on the way. However, we managed to reach Nathula on time.
As cameras and mobile phones aren’t allowed to be taken up till the pass, we had to leave ours in our cab itself. Because of the extremely high altitude, some of us including me were feeling a little weak and having mild breathing issues while climbing the steps to reach the pass. Unfortunately, we didn’t encounter any snow as we had gone there during September and during that time the temperature usually isn’t very low.
After climbing the stairs, we could finally see the Indo-China border with soldiers from each country guarding their land.The soldiers at Nathula Pass are very friendly and many Indians there even shook hands with the Chinese soldiers at the border as there’s no ‘no man’s land’ here.
After looking around, we went to the food stall that is built here and had hot momos, samosas and tea. The cold made the food taste even better! Just outside the food stall, one could buy a certificate to prove that you visited Nathula Pass (I’m going to add this to my CV :P). We all bought these to keep as souvenirs 😀
On our way back from Nathula, we had planned to cover Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir. First we went to Baba Mandir, it’s a newly built temple with a Shiva statue nearby. This is said to be the highest location for any Shiva idol and stands at an altitude of 13,000 ft. Sometime during the time we had stopped here, it also started to rain and since none of us had got our umbrellas along, we ended up getting a little wet 😀
Our next stop was at Tsomgo Lake. The Lake is pretty and there are a lot of Yaks with their caretakers around. We all either took a ride on a Yak or posed with one. Three of the Yaks that we met here had fascinating names – mine was called Chiring and the other two were Bullet and Siddhu. I usually hate climbing on top of animals because I feel bad for their suffering but I heard that the only way the caretakers earn and can feed their Yaks here is via these rides. Anyway, after the ride I ended up feeling guilty and gave quite a lot of extra money to the caretaker to give the Yak some food 😛
After visiting the lake, we came back to our hotel, stopping at a stream flowing on the way.
The rest of the day that was leftover was spent roaming around M.G. Road and then packing for the next day’s journey. The next morning after a filling breakfast I bid goodbye to these fellow wanderers with whom I had spent some memorable moments in Sikkim, they were visiting Darjeeling next, after which they would proceed to their homes. I, on the other hand left for Bhutan with three other friends, we got into a shared taxi and left for Jaigaon. It took a lot of time for us to reach and the entire journey was very hectic but Bhutan more than made up for all that! But then, that’s another story 🙂