Namchi is the capital town of the district of South Sikkim. Nestled in the lap of Himalayan mountain range, at an altitude of 1315 meter, Namchi is known for its natural beauty. As we planned for a weekend short trip that summer we chose Namchi for its breathtaking scenic beauty and comparatively less crowd than other hill stations. We went off the beat by choosing Pipalay, an unspoilt mountain village located in proximity to the town of Namchi.
Where to Stay
Not so known and not so developed Pipalay is a wonderful place to stay if you are fond of majestic mountains, rippling rivers and fountains and lush greenery. A small cottage surrounded by tall Shaal trees on the bank of gushing river Ringit was our abode during the short trip. The view of the mountains and the river right through the cottage window is simply amazing. The sound of the river amplified by the silence of the mountains all around makes you feel in harmony with nature. In the night flood light from Rothak Power station on the other side of Ringit created a magical aura.
As you search over internet you’ll find some standard hotels in Namchi. These hotels are mostly located in the township of Namchi. Though they do not promise high standard of service and wide range of amenities they surely offer cozy and comfortable accommodation. But for a completely unique experience I recommend Shephard’s Vacation Home (Ph: 09002503151) where we stayed for 3 days and 2 nights.
How to Get There
We reached New Jalpaiguri early in the morning (7 am). Darjeeling Mail was right on time. However, there are other trains like Kanchanjanga Express, Testa Torsa Exp, etc.
We took breakfast in the railway canteen and then started for Namchi at about 9 o’clock. The hotel’s car was waiting outside the station. It took nearly 3 hours (by car) to reach Jorethang, the nearest commercial and transport hub. From Jorethang we took right turn towards Namchi.
It took 20 minutes more to reach to Rothak Power Station on Ringit. The hotel’s car could not go further as the only way to reach the cottage on the other side was a narrow, hanging bridge made of wooden boards some of which were missing along the way allowing through holes scary glimpse of the wild streams running some 40 feet below my feet.
What to See
The scenic beauty of the place itself is a treat to the eyes. But there are some other things to see as well. Even though ours was a very short trip the owner of the hotel planned our itinerary in a way so that we don’t miss the main attractions of the place. The next morning of our arrival we started for Namchi sightseeing.
Our first destination was the Buddhist shrine of Samdruptse. The awe inspiring 45m high statue of Guru Padmasambhava watching over the hills is a must see. Inside the temple below peace and quiet prevail all around. The place is dotted with manicured plants and blossoms to add to the beauty and serenity of the place.
Namchi Rock Garden
On our way back we stopped at the Namchi Rock Garden. It is actually a view-point from where you get awesome view of the surrounding mountain range. The blue-green mountain wearing a veil of mist – the spiral roads carved along the green slopes – smoke coming out from small cottages down the mountain village – all contribute to form a beautiful landscape to watch at from the Rock Garden.
After spending half-an-hour enjoying the scenic beauty we started towards Namchi town. We made our way through the bustling Namchi Bazar (town’s market). Local men and women wearing multicolored costumes, hues of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers in the market make it a vibrant place. We reached the plaza in the center of the town. The commercial hub of Namchi town is a well planned and nicely decorated plaza housing shopping arcade, eateries, restaurants and entertainment center and of course ATMs of leading banks. So you can shop freely if you have the debit card with you. From fashionable clothing, accessories and jewelry to a variety of dry fruits, handicrafts and trinkets – Namchi Bazar has a lot of things to offer.
It was nearly 4:30 in the afternoon. The golden rays of sun was telling us he was about to set and we need to hurry otherwise we’ll miss two man-made wonders of Namchi.
We drove to Chardham at Solofok, a sacred pilgrimage (which was under construction at the time of our visit in September, 2010) consisting of replicas of four famous Hindu pilgrimages – Rameshwaram Dham, Jagannath Dham, Dwaraka Dham, Badrinath Dham. There is also a beautiful temple featuring a huge statue of Lord Shiva sitting on top of the temple.
On the way back a surprise was waiting for us. The driver took us to Assangthan Helipad located on the top of a hill. It’s the perfect spot to get a 360 degree view of the valley below. We enjoyed awesome view of the setting sun from there.
Some other places that we missed in our Namchi trip are Temi Tea Garden and Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary. The lone tea estate in the entire state of Sikkim offers scenic beauty and lush greenery to behold. The wildlife sanctuary gives you an insight about the rich flora and fauna of the region. You’ll see some beautiful birds and can catch the glimpse of red pandas here. However, to cover all the places conveniently you need to extend your trip to a few more days.
What to Eat
We reached Pipalay in the afternoon at about 1:30 pm. We were too hungry to go outside and decided to take our lunch at the hotel’s restaurant which was not fully developed at that time – there was no menu card, no pricing list and no options to choose from. For a bowl of plain rice, daal, chicken and salad in lunch and rice and egg curry at dinner we were billed Rs 2000! And we took our lesson. When you are staying at a remote or underdeveloped area it is better you have your meals in the nearest town during sightseeing in day time and pack your food for dinner while getting back to the hotel in the night. There are restaurants in Jorthang where you can have Indian and Chinese at reasonable price. By the way, don’t forget to taste Momo at Namchi Bazar. You’ll relish it, I bet.
When to Visit
The best time to visit the place is from March to October. Though we found the weather little hot and humid during the day in September, nights were lot cooler. Mountain has a different charm in monsoon but that can be dangerous too with muddy and slippery roads and landslides. So if you are not so daring avoid visiting the place in June, July and August when Namchi sees huge rainfall.