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.

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A Bunch of Flowers from the Hills of Sikkim

blue snowball bush, sikkim

Flowers are perhaps the most beautiful creation of Nature. And you’ll find them aplenty on the hills. During our stay in Pipalay, a beautiful village in Namchi, South Sikkim I did try my hand on nature photography. There were wide variety of flowers and foliages. Some were known to me and some unknown. Some dazzled in vibrant colors while some were too small to go unnoticed, but when they blossom you can’t ignore their collective beauty.

There was this red Zinnia in the garden of Shepherd’s Vacation Home (the cottage where we stayed during our short trip). I zoomed in with my Sony Cybershot DSC-W190.

zinnia, red flower

I found this tiny crimson beauty in the bush behind the cottage and the yellow one too…

small flower

cassia, senna, sikkim

The pink and blue ones bloomed at the feet of the Holy Statue of Samdruptse in South Sikkim. Can you tell me their names?

pink flower, Namchi, Sikkim

snowball bush, sikkim

The monastery at Samdruptse has manicured gardens where purple and white cosmos were bountiful. They looked like small butterflies amidst the green blades of grass.

cosmos flower

This ‘unidentified’ pink blossom along the garden fence also caught my eyes. And this time I badly felt the need of a DSLR

pink flowers, Sikkim

On our way back to Pipalay (from Samdruptse) we stopped by Namchi Rock Garden that offers mind-blowing view of the mountains all around. Bonus was a variety of foliage that adorned the small garden. I thought this magenta one is worth sharing.

foliage, Namchi, Sikkim

You might also love the following combination of red and green sprouted along the stairways of the Rock Garden.

green and red flower, Sikkim

Cobweb in the Woods of Sikkim: My Photography

It’s been quite a long time since I have been to the hills of Sikkim. Have thought so many times of writing about our Namchi trip and have let it go every time, because so many things (about Namchi, Sikkim) are on my mind and I’m unable to sum it up! But then, today when I was reading this post How to Photograph a Spider’s Web on DPS it just kindled my memories.

We stayed in a cottage by the river Ringit. Ours was a beautiful small red-brick cottage that was surrounded by tall Sal (iron-wood) trees. And one fine morning I set out in the woods with my camera and captured this ‘Charlotte’s Web’ through my lenses.

cob web, spider's web, Namchi, Sikkim

This little arachnid seemed to be very smart to have woven its web high on the branch. And I only had Sony Cybershot DSC-W190 which doesn’t offer too much of optical zooming facility. 😦 Still I did as much as I could to capture this fine ‘work of art’ with my digi cam.

Photography, Spider's Web, Cob web, Namchi, Sikkim

Hope you like it! Please don’t forget to leave your valuable comments, friend… 🙂

Waiting Never Seemed So Exciting and Fun!

MajesticMisty… and sometimes Mysterious – that’s what mountain is to me.

Majestic, because of its greatness.

Misty, because of smoky clouds hovering over it.

Mysterious, because you never know what’s in store in its every bend.

The thought of exploring mountain vales simply excites me. And in India, it is none other than the Himalayas, which is synonymous to mountain.

Sikkim
Sikkim Image courtesy: Sukanya Chakraborty

It has been quite a long time that I have last visited the hills. It was the Queen of Hills, Darjeeling where I had been once when I was in school. The memories of the hill town are still vivid. Now I am a working woman who got busy with her 9 to 6 job. And in the monotony of everyday’s routine my mind often seeks escape from the bleak surrounding of concrete jungle. My eyes are thirsty for a glimpse of the mountain with its snow capped peaks turned golden in the soft morning sun; green slopes brightened with blooming rhododendron and rippling streams running down the picturesque valley.

Well, I am lucky to have found friends who think the same way as I do. What we needed was to sit together and decide where to go and when, because ‘leave’ is a very important factor especially for professionals working in private sector. Our timings had to match. Finally, ‘Sikkim’ was the unanimous choice. We settled with a beautiful place called Namchi in Sikkim while it took quite a few days to finalize the time, which is end of September, this year.

The next few days went in searching for hotels and trains and booking tickets. Then we had a lot of discussion about packing … what to take and what not. The excitement of traveling to a new place is not new to me. But this time it is doubled as I have actively took part in booking hotels and trains which was my father’s department when we traveled together with family.

Now that we have finished with all of the initial arrangements the only thing that remains is the ‘wait’… wait for the day we are going to board the train for Sikkim…wait for the time we reach our destination, Namchi … wait for the moment we set foot on the hills, once again. Waiting never seemed so exhilarating, desirable and fun!