Sikkim Diaries: A Bunch from the Flower Exhibition in Gangtok

flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

Gangtok is a beautiful city surrounded with lush greenery and dotted with colorful flowers.  However, if you want to see a variety of flowers under one roof, Gangtok Flower Exhibition is the place. Well, plucking flowers is definitely prohibited, but I picked up some for you…with my camera, of course. 😀

Here are my picks from the exhibition.

bromeliads, flowers, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flowers, flower show, gangtok, sikkim

purple, flower, flower show, gangtok, sikkim

red flowers, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flower, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flowers, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

dianthus, flowers, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flower, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

orchids, yellow flower, flower exhibition, gangtok, gangtok sightseeeing

yellow orchids, flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim, flowers

flower exhibition, gangtok, sikkim

flower, flower exhibition, gangtok, gangtok sightseeing

For more information on things to do in Gangtok, view my post, Sikkim Diaries: Getting Around in Gangtok.
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Sikkim Diaries: Getting Around in Gangtok

gangtok, hills, mountains, morning view

Gangtok is the capital of the state of Sikkim in north-eastern India. But for me, it is a city of flowers. Everywhere I looked around I saw flowers blossoming along the roadside, boulevards, and fences and balconies along the houses. Colorful flowers, green hills and people in fashionable clothes make quite a view to enjoy in Gangtok.

gangtok, sikkim

I was there during the second week of May, 2016. With pleasant weather and abundance of hotels and transport, Gangtok serves as a perfect base for exploring various scenic places in North and West Sikkim. For more information, travel photos and itinerary, check out:

We returned to Gangtok after Gurudongmar trip and stayed there for one night and two days. Gangtok sightseeing comes in packages such as 3-point, 7-point, or 10-point tours for half-day or full day. We booked a 7-point tour package, which covered the following places:

  • Rumtek Monastery
  • Shanti View Point (There is nothing much to see here. However, we enjoyed Momo sold here at reasonable price – Rs 40 for a plate)
  • Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
  • Do-Drul Chorten
  • Suicide Point (Don’t be afraid! This is just another view point. 😉   :D)
  • Flower Exhibition
  • Handicrafts & Handloom Center (You’ll find a variety of Tibetan handicrafts including mask, clothing accessories, carpets, wall rugs, bags, and many more at authentic price.)

It was a half-day tour. We started at around 9:30 in the morning and completed by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The post-lunch session was meant for a ropeway ride and shopping at the main market at MG Marg.

Rumtek Monastery

More than an hour drive from Gangtok, Rumtek Monastery is a must see. The monastery is a center of Tibetan Buddhism offers beautiful and quiet surroundings where you would love to spend some time watching the rituals by the little monks, listening to their chanting, and praising the colorful architecture of the monastery.

Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim

Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok, Sikkim

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, architecture, tibetan architecture

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, stairs, blue flowers

rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim

rumtek monastery, gangtok, tibetan art, murals, painting

monks, rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim, buddhist, rituals

Oh yes! Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by this handicraft shop once. You may find something interesting to buy.

souvenir shop, rumtek monastery, gangtok, sikkim

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Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

If you want to delve deeper into the Tibetan culture this is a place to be.  The institute conducts different programs to promote research Tibetan history, religion, art and culture. Exquisite silver accessories and beautiful thangkas caught my eyes as soon as I enter the museum.

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Do-Drul Chorten

A Tibetan Buddhist shrine and a peaceful place for prayer Do-Drul Chorten is situated right beside the Institute of Tibetology. The snow white stupa is surrounded with prayer wheels.  I peeped through the window of the prayer hall to find that young priests were chanting and learning their part.

do-drul chorten, tibetan buddhist, shrine, gangtok sightseeing, gangtok

Suicide Point

I don’t know why this beautiful place has a terrible name like this! But I loved walking along the canopied trail that took me to the spot from where I could see green slopes all around and a winding river stream deep down the gorge.

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stairs, prayer flags, suicide point, gangtok, sikkim,

hills, mountains, view point, suicide point, gangtok, gangtok sightseeing

Flower Exhibition

This is a must-see in Gangtok. A variety of flowers with their scientific names and descriptions are displayed in a greenhouse-like place.

flower exhibition, gangtok, gangtok sightseeing, things to do Gangtok

Ropeway

After the day-trip we came back to hotel for lunch. I could see the ropeway cable cars moving up and down sitting right at our hotel’s dining room. By 3:30 pm we set out again for a ropeway ride and walked to the station near Butterfly Bridge.

gangtok, streets in gangtok, sikkim

However, we had to wait for nearly two hours at the ticket counter as there were only two cable cars with a capacity of 24 people each. By the time we boarded the cable car the sun was about to set beyond the hills. 😦

gangtok from ropeway, ropeway ride, gangtok things to do

However, it’s a short 15 minute ride which offers colorful panoramas of the city, Gangtok.

gangtok, ropeway

gangtok, rooftop, ropeway ride, sikkim, things to do gangtok

MG Marg

With a lively atmosphere, numerous shops and restaurants, MG Marg is the pulsating heart of Gangtok. Sikkim government’s Tourist Information Center is also located here. From beautiful accessories to delicate handicrafts to fancy umbrellas there are many things you can buy as souvenirs.

mg marg, market, gangtok, sikkim

Well, if you don’t like wasting money in shopping, just sit on a bench at the plaza and watch people and activities around you. People-watching is a nice time pass, isn’t it? 😉   😀  mg marg, market, gangtok, main market, gangtok shopping

See you soon… 🙂
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Sikkim Diaries: Waterfall-breaks on the Way to Lachung

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

This is the second part of my North Sikkim tour photo series. If you have missed the first part, click here to view the photo-essay on my journey to Lake Gurudongmar.

We reached Gangtok in the afternoon, on May 7, 2016, and headed for Lachung the very next morning. The shared taxis/rental cars for Lachung are available at Vajra taxi stand, just outside the city. Unfortunately, a technical fault was detected in our car right after we started from Vajra. It took some time to get it repaired. Therefore, it was a delayed start from Gangtok at around 12 pm.

mountain roard, sikkim, lachung

The weather was fine and the views were great. The rows of white and colored prayer ‪‎flags, with the sublime mountains in the background, added a pristine charm to the ‪‎landscapes.

prayer flags, gangtok, lachung, sikkimblue prayer flags, Gangtok, Sikkim

Unfortunately, the road condition is extremely bad in North Sikkim. It was a rough ride throughout on the broken mountain roads, but the torturous journey was compensated with breaks like these… 🙂

waterfall, lachung, north sikkim

Our first stop was at Seven Sisters’ Waterfall.

seven sisters waterfalls, lachung, sikkimseven sisters waterfalls, lachung, sikkim

There was a natural pool at the bottom of the falls.

natural pool, waterfalls, lachung, north sikkim

And we could see big boys were having fun in the water.

waterfall, natural pool, lachung, sikkim

swimming, waterfall, natural pool, Lachung, North Sikkim

This part of the Himalayas is green and verdant year-round as it receives sufficient rainfall to boost the streams and waterfalls. We stopped as many times as we could to take in the beauty of the hills and rivers on our way.

mountain road, road trip, hills, river, sikkimhills, mountains, sikkim, himalayas

And took pleasure in small things as well…

blue berry, berries, fruits, hills, sikkimThere were quite a few waterfalls on the way up to Chungthung, a small town, after which the road bifurcates. One goes to Lachung and the other leads to Lachen, the gateway to Gurudongmar, the iconic lake in North Sikkim.

waterfall, mountain road, sikkim, lachung

However, the last and most notable was ‘Bachchan Falls’, which is popularly called so because of its appearance, tall and lean like Big B. 😀   Well, I don’t know if this waterfall is really called so by the locals. I didn’t see any signboard there, indicating the name of this waterfall.

bachchan falls, waterfall, lachung, sikkim

My Sikkim diary will continue. Please don’t forget to share your thoughts on this journey if you like it.

Before I stop for now, here are a few more beautiful moments captured on the way…

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

hills, river, mountains, lachung, sikkim, landscapegreenery, woods, hills, lachung, sikkim

bridge, mountain road, sikkim

waterfalls, mountain road, lachung, sikkimwaterfalls, lachung, sikkim

river, stream, lachen, lachung, sikkimriver, stream, lachung, lachen, sikkim

waterfall, lachung, sikkim

And a selfie is the way to go when there is no one to click your pics. 😉

selfie at waterfallTake care. See you soon.

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Sikkim Diaries: Visiting a Piece of Heaven Called Gurudongmar

lake, Gurudongmar, Lachen, North Sikkim

Gurudongmar was on my bucket-list since 2011 when I planned with my friends for North Sikkim travel for the first time. Unfortunately, due to a devastating earthquake in Sikkim in the same year, we had to cancel our trip. Nevertheless, visiting Lake Gurudongmar was my destiny. I finally made it after 5 long years. 🙂

Selfie, Lumia 540, Gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, at approx. 17,800 feet above the sea level, the holy lake is about 3.5-hour drive from Lachen, a small village where tourist can halt for the night.

We started early, at 4 am. It was a terribly bumpy ride on the rough mountain roads till the army check post after Thangu, which was our only halt during this hectic journey.

mountain roads, north sikkim

north sikkim, mountain, desert, road

26641876673_f105988cca_hThe road gets better from here, offering a smooth ride, which is a rarity in North Sikkim. 😛   😀  mountain, road, desert, north sikkim

North sikkim, lachen, gurudongmar, landscape, mountains

As we were nearing the lake the landscapes changed drastically without any trace of trees and plants. It looked more like a desert with dune-like formations visible at the horizon. Exalted and overwhelmed, one of our group members commented that the landscapes reminded him of Ladakh. 🙂

road, gurudongmar, north sikkim

mountain, desert, north sikkim, gurudongmar

Whatever it might look like, the mountain desert looked outlandish and fascinating to me. I was spellbound with the sights of such exotic landscapes.

way to gurudongmar, north sikkim, himalayas

mountains, himalayas, north sikkim

snow, mountains, north sikkim

We saw herds of yaks grazing on the fields, totally indifferent about the tourist vehicles that were running past them.

yaks, north sikkim, mountain desert, himalayas

27150318012_3e53ac0ac2_hFinally, we reached our destination, Lake Gurudongmar, at 7:30 am. That’s how the holy lake looked like in the morning light – still, calm, and unspoiled.

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim, reflection

The first few moments were speechless in silent admiration to such divine beauty.

gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

There is a temple on the bank. I didn’t find time to enter as I was too busy in absorbing the beauty of nature all around.

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, himalayas

prayer flags, colors, north sikkim, gurudongmar

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim

Gurudongmar, north sikkim, landscape

And of course, posing for the camera with the lake on the backdrop. 😉

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, nature

However, amid this clean and clear environment, the taxis/rental cars were the direct agent of air pollution. These rental cars are so poorly maintained in Sikkim. I wonder why the local administration is so indifferent about them while it is so strict about keeping Gangtok clean.

environmental pollution, north sikkim, gurudongmar, mountains

In addition, there are the “litterbugs” who never forget to throw off their disposable belongings anytime, anywhere. If you zoom into the picture (below) you’ll see the discarded water bottles. Is it not the responsibility of the visitors, too, to keep the environment clean?

mountains, gurudongmar, environmental pollution, north sikkim

Our Tour Plan

We were lucky to have the weather in our favor during our tour from May 7 to 12, 2016. Our North Sikkim tour included 2-night 3-day Lachung-Lachen package. We stayed at Hotel Meylong in Gangtok and booked the Lachung-Lachen tour package through our hotel. You can check out my review of Hotel Meylong on TripAdvisor for more information.

Our North Sikkim tour plan was like this –

Day 1: NJP (New Jalpaiguri) to Gangtok (We reached NJP from Kolkata at around 9am by Padatik Express)

Day 2: Gangtok to Lachung (Night stay at Lachung)

Day 3: Visit Yumthung Valley and Zero Point – Back to hotel at Lachung for lunch – drive to Lachen (Night stay at Lachen)

Day 4: Visit Lake Gurudongmar and drive back to hotel for lunch – return to Gangtok by evening

Day 5: Gangtok sightseeing

Day 6: Visit Changu (Tsomgo Lake), Baba Mandir and Nathu La pass and return to Gangtok

Day 7: Start for NJP after lunch and reach there by 7:30 pm and board the train to Kolkata

Some Important Info

Please note that if you are an Indian citizen, you should carry your Voter ID card/PAN card/driving license as photo identity proof along with 4-5 photocopies of the same document and an equal number of passport size photographs for Lachung-Lachen tour. You may need to submit these documents to get the travel permit. However, you cannot rent cars on your own and arrange the tour directly. You have to go via a local tour operator or your hotel’s travel desk. They will arrange everything for you.

Finally, don’t forget to pack an umbrella if you are visiting in the May-June season. You may need it anytime. 🙂

To be continued…

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A Short Trip to Namchi, South Sikkim: Traveler’s Diary

Namchi, Valley, Sikkim, South Sikkim
Namchi Valley

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

River Ringit, Namchi, Sikkim, South Sikkim
River Ringit, Namchi

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.

Namchi, Rock Garden, Sikkim, Namchi Sightseeing
View from Namchi Rock Garden

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.

 

Shephard's Vacation Home, Namchi Hotel, Hotel in Namchi, South Sikkim
The cottage on the banks of River Ringit

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.

The bridge on River Ringit, Namchi, Sikkim
The bridge on River Ringit will take you to the cottage

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.

Padmasambhava, Samdruptse, Ravlong Monastery, Samdruptse, Namchi Sightseeing, Sikkim
Padmasambhava, Samdruptse monastery, Namchi

Samdruptse

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, Namchi Sightseeing, South Sikkim
Namchi Rock Garden

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.

Namchi Bazar

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.

Chardham Temples, Namchi Sightseeing, South Sikkim
Chardham Temples, Namchi, Sikkim

Chardham

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.

Assangthan Helipad

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.