Wednesday, October 05, 2005
From one Himalayan land to the next, we have just spent 6 days in Sikkim (state in Northwest India). Just to give you some facts about Sikkim…apparently it was regarded as one of the last Himalayan Shangri-las because of it’s remoteness and spectacular mountain terrain. Tibetan lamas (priests) first introduced Buddism in the 15th century in Sikkim, and for this reason, the hills are filled with ancient monasteries. Sikkim borders Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. In fact, Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion and Sikkim remained a princely state until 1975, where it then joined Indian rule.
Enough factoids…so, we basically from Bhutan went to Siliguri (West Bengal) and from there, caught a shared jeep (this basically means, as many people that can fit into a Tata Sumo jeep and you can bet someone will be definitely sitting on your thigh) to the capital city of Gangtok. In Gangtok, we toured and visited the Rumtek monastery, the flower gardens and the Namgyal Institute of Technology (apparently it contains one of the world’s largest collections of Buddhist books and manuscripts). The next day, we took a day trip to Tsomgo (pronounced Changu) Lake, which is at a height of 3780m and is 18 km from the Chinese border at Nathula. It was absolutely beautiful and cold!! We rode a yak (yes an actual yak) around the lake and ate some more mo-mo’s and veg. Chowmein. The next day, we did a trip to North Sikkim to Yunthang Valley and then spent a couple of days in West Sikkim in the city of Pelling. Here we caught a glimpse of the magnificent Khangchendzonga mountain range-it is 8598m..the third highest in the world (that’s the snow covered mountain in the picture above). It was pretty amazing! And it was actually pretty damn cold..I know my tolerance is rather pathetic..but even Tarak was freezing in our hotel room..of course there was no heat.
Anyway, it was crazy because even though we were in India, Sikkim seemed more like Bhutan in that it was less populated, cleaner and it was extremely tourist friendly. There were travel/tourist agencies everywhere and a bunch of Europeans..especially Germans (man, they go everywhere..first Croatia and now Sikkim). There were also all of these environmental friendly signs..promoting to keep the roads clean, not to spit (tobacco, as many people do) and all of these super cheesy road signs like “if you are married, divorce speed”….and “be gentle on my curves” (they meant the road) and “slow driver, long life” and my favorite “good driver seldom hurt” (I swear to God that is exactly what the sign said). We wished we had more time in Sikkim to do a 10-14 day trek, but we wanted to get back to Gujarat for Navratri…can’t miss dandia/raas!!. Maybe we will come back to do a trek???