Well, what should I begin with, there is so much to do in Sikkim that any amount of days would be less !! It’s a beautiful place with Snow Capped Mountains that will leave you awestruck and breathtaking landscapes that will compel you to do some soul searching !! Sikkim is derived from the word Su-Khim which means New House and it is the abode of the Mountain Gods as it is situated in the Himalayas.
I have decided to make this blog in a pointer format, so that it is EASY for you to follow my itinerary. I am also going to make this blog in two parts, so that it is not too long and draggy as there is a lot of information.
– OVERVIEW OF VOL 1:
- GETTING THERE.
- HOTEL & TRAVEL.
- Nathu La Pass.
- Baba Mandir.
- Tsongmo Lake.
- WHAT TO EAT.
- NIGHT LIFE.
- GETTING THERE:–
-Now this is kind of difficult as Sikkim does not have an airport, since it is situated in The Himalayan Mountains but getting there is completely worth the effort.
–Bagdogra in West Bengal, is the closest airport to Sikkim, So I suggest you book your flight to Bagdogra.
-You can hire a taxi or a private cab from Bagdogra to Gangtok. It’s a 4.5 hour long drive but the road is beautiful so you will love it. This will cost you around 2,500 to 3,000 depending on the season. You can pre book your taxi from travel agents. I will put down a few contacts at the end of this blog.
-They also have a helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok which lasts 35mins. (that’s insane,right?!)
- PERMITS: –
-It is necessary to obtain an Inner Line Permit for foreigners to travel in Sikkim. The permit lasts for about 30 days and can be obtained on the spot. When entering and exiting Sikkim, your passport will be stamped much in the same manner as when crossing state borders.You will need to fill in an application form and provide a two passport photos (carry more, just incase).
-The permit can be obtained when crossing the Sikkim state border by road in Rangpo or Meili. It is also available from Sikkim travel desk in Darjeeling located inside the Old Bellevue Hotel (opposite to Glenary’s restaurant in Chowrasta district), and from Sikkim Tourism Center in Siliguri located at the S.N.T. bus stand.
- HOTEL & TRAVEL:-
-I stayed at Hotel Hill View Resort which was located in the main market in Gangtok. The hotel was still new and pretty much under renovation when I stayed there but the rooms were spacious. Don’t book any meals here, instead head down to the Market and have some amazing street food. The other hotel here is called Golden Crest, which also very nice. (links below.)
-If you plan to go with family, Hill View is not a good option as it has a slope you have to walk down to enter the market.
-Getting around in Sikkim is easy, you can book your own Sumo or cab and just do different road trips each day. The distance between places can be long so make sure you pick a good weather to travel to Sikkim like early winters or monsoons. You can also contact local agents within Gangtok to book you on shared vehicles that take you from one point to another. If you are booking a taxi, make sure you bargain.
On the first day I was given an Innova and we traveled to Nathu La Pass, Tsongomo Lake and Baba Mandir as it’s all on the way and very convenient to club together.
I highly recommend booking through a local agent as they get you your permits and your vehicles arranged for each day at a very nominal price.
*Note that these are protected areas since it’s am army base. You will require a valid Protected Area Permit to visit. Permit is issued by the Sikkim Tourism Department in Gangtok. You can get it through a registered tour agency or ask your hotel to get it. You will need photo ID proof (PAN card not accepted) and two passport size photos each. Apply one day prior atleast.
- Nathu La Pass lies on the Indo-Chinese border and only Indians are permitted to visit this place. It is not open all around the year. It is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays and shut in the winters. (re opens in May) Nathu La Pass is breath taking and the roads are very dangerous and narrow. Going to Gangtok and not visiting Nathu La is like going to Agra and not visiting the Taj Mahal. The Nathu La Memorial has a banner which says ,“When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today”. This will surely make your heart cry out for the soldiers who lost their lives at war. This place is a pristine white snow covered landscape, so quiet and pure that it will leave you spell bound. It’s the perfect way to start your trip.
- The next place to visit is the Baba Mandir which has a very interesting story to tell. Major Baba Harbajan Singh of the Indian Army passed away while escorting a mule column as he slipped into a fast flowing stream and drowned. After which, he came in one of his colleagues dreams and expressed the desire to have a samadhi built in his memory. It is to be believed that he cautions soldiers about future wars and dangers by coming in their dreams and also slaps soldiers who fall asleep while they are on duty. The soldiers have also built a seat on Nathu La pass for his spirit and they give spiritual water at the temple which is meant to heal the visitors from any kind of physical ailments. This story is really fascinating and it makes you “want to” believe in life after death.
- After this, I headed to the Tsongmo Lake (pronounced as Changu Lake) which was my favorite part of the entire day trip. The lake is beautiful and so clean that you can see your own reflection in it. It is a sacred place for the Hindus and Buddhists and it is believed that the birds do not let one leaf also enter the lake surface. This lake is frozen during the winters which makes it even more scenic. They have yak rides here which I did not participate in as I felt bad for the poor animals. You should grab a hot cup of simmering coffee, just sit at the edge of the lake , close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the water OR you could click a dozen of pictures here ! You will LOVE clicking selfies here!!!
Make sure that you leave early because it gets dark very soon in Sikkim and the roads are slippery and steep.
That will bring you to the end of the day long trip, after which you can head back to the hotel, rest for a while and then head out to the market for some hot noodle soup known as Thupka. The food here is a blend of Chinese and Indian ingredients, which makes it hot and spicy.
- WHAT TO EAT:-
-You must eat delicious momos stuffed with meat (also known as ‘Dumpling’).
–Thupka or noodle soup.
–Gyathak is a pasta/ macroni soup.
–Phagshapa is a strip of pork fat stewed with radishes and dried chillies.
–Wai Wai Noodles and Maggi noodles.
Vegetarian joints are also available in the market. (inside monastries the cafe’s serve pure veg food)
Surprisingly, the shopping in Gangtok is very good. You will find showrooms of brands like Adidas, Nike, Biba, Fab India and many more. You will also find a lot of boutiques selling “Bangkok Mall” type clothes. You will get very fashionable and good quality bags, shoes and umbrellas. The locals are very well dressed and have a great fashion sense. The young teenagers even dress up to go to college. The drivers also have amazing hair do’s with colored streaks and spikes. This is because all of them are highly inspired by Korean Sitcoms and have a lot of things imported from China.
Now many of you do not know this, but Sikkim is the only State that is permitted to legally build a live casino in Indian Land. (Goa has machinated casinos which can be built on international waters like Deltin Royale.) The Casino Mahjong is situated inside the luxurious hotel called Mayfair Spa and Resort. It is a 20-30 min ride from the main market in Gangtok and you can easily travel in a taxi. So all you Poker and Roulette Lovers in India, do not forget to carry your ID proof. They have around 15 live gaming tables with 7 poker rooms. The entry fee fluctuates according to season. I will link the official website of the casino at the end of the blog. Thank me later for this one!
Now proceeding to one of my favorite stories out of the Sikkim Diaries. As some of you know that I was out on a family trip in Sikkim and me and sister were literally dying to go explore the streets by ourselves. So we decided to take a walk down the market and then meet my brother at this pub/ lounge called Pub 25. We had checked out the menu a day earlier and decided to stop there for a few drinks the next evening. On our way to Pub 25 we crossed a dimly lit red lighted bar which was on the first floor of a building. They were playing some really upbeat and loud music. I told my sister that we should go and check it out and she instantly discouraged me saying I was out of my head. I reminded her that she wanted to do something YOLO on this trip and this could be her only chance, given the fact that we had our entire family traveling everywhere with us. She skeptically agreed and so we climbed up the stairs and went to this place called, Zomsa. Well, this was my favoritest (is that even a word?) discoveries in Gangtok. This place had karaoke going on and was super packed with the locals who were in their 20’s going crazy singing Bollywood songs. It’s kind of funny watching people from Sikkim singing Jumma Chumma De De but they all were so extremely talented that I was pretty embarrassed with my own singing skills. I made a lot of local friends inside Zomsa and we had a lot of fun here. To top it all, the drinks were extremely cheap. And by cheap I mean really really cheap, the Old Monk was for 25 RUPEES. (YES, I JUST MADE ALL YOUR EFFORTS OF READING THROUGH THIS BLOG WORTHWHILE, DIDN’T I ? )
After Zomsa, my “new & extremely well dressed friends” suggested I should visit this nightclub called Plurr located 15 mins away. We danced our way along the night until 1am and returned back to the hotel tired and worn out.
Cafe Live and Loud and Lounge 31a are other awesome places to go to that provide hookah too.
Hill View: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g659796-d1958136-Reviews-Hill_View_Hotel-Gangtok_Sikkim.html
Golden Crest: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g659796-d7949330-Reviews-The_Golden_Crest-Gangtok_Sikkim.html
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