Sikkim Travelog – Part 1

As the readers of this blog know, we love travelling. But like most travellers we have travelled more in other countries than in our own. This realization led us to choose Odisha in Jan 2012 – a trip we have been planning to write about for the past 1.5 years 🙂 And Sikkim in April 2013.

We chose Sikkim because Tantric Buddhism fascinates us. We wanted to learn more about its origin and practices. And of course, who can forget the Himalayas – Kanchenjunga, the tallest peak in India can be seen from Sikkim.

Travelling to Sikkim from anywhere other than West Bengal or Assam is arduous. There are no airports or railroads in Sikkim. The nearest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal. From there, it is a backbreaking, monotonous 4-hour ride to Gangtok in Sikkim. It is certainly not an elder or child friendly trip.

“Why are there no airports in Sikkim?” we asked our driver. Oh! We are getting one in 2016, he said proudly. At least, that’s the plan. Oh, then it won’t be before 2021 – we thought uncharitably. We know how governments in India work.

We stayed at the “Mayfair resorts and spa” at Gangtok – an excellent heritage hotel that we strongly recommend. We were welcomed with a ceremonial Khada scarf – a Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Not unlike the Pon Aadai (shawl) presented to esteemed guests in Tamilnadu.

Tibetan Buddhism is the main religion in Sikkim. But the hotel also has an exact replica of the deity at the Pashupathi Nath temple in Kathmandu. We were interested to note that the Lingam had 4 busts of Lord Shiva on it.

The city of Gangtok itself seems unimpressive and doesn’t look prosperous, despite claims that Sikkim is one of the most prosperous Himalayan states in India. Armed forces are omnipresent, making you realize that you are in an Indian state that China claims is part of Tibet – which they have forcibly annexed already. Certain parts of Sikkim are closed to foreigners unless they obtain an inner line permit.

We visited the Changu  – a scenic Alpine lake. Though the distance from Gangtok is only 43 Kms, it is a 3-hour ride through mountain roads. The roads are awful and dangerous due to falling rocks and landslides. Only a very experience driver should even attempt to drive from Gangtok to Changu. Surrounded by the snowcapped Himalayas, the lake was serene and beautiful. But we can’t say that about the shore which had tourists jostling for space. Our kid would say that the best part of the Sikkim trip was the Yak ride along the lake. The animals are bi-colored, woolly and docile. We were tempted to bring one home – till we stepped into a pile of yak doo.

Tourism is supposed to be one of the main revenue generators for Sikkim. But the infrastructure around the Changu lake  was abysmal. There was not a single toilet, decent or otherwise. Except an ambitiously named “Cafeteria” which served tea and maggi noodles, there were no restaurants either.

“Why are kids schlepping their school bags in the fag end of April? Don’t they get to enjoy summer vacation?” we asked the driver. “In Sikkim, only winter vacations are given”, said the driver. “Schools will be closed in the months of December and January”.

After returning to the hotel at 3 PM we attempted to go shopping. The Dalai Lama Trust Fund Foundation came highly recommended as a place where we could buy authentic Sikkimese handicrafts. We were left fuming when the concierge at the hotel told us that the shop downed its shutters at 4 PM. Really now, who closes shops at 4pm in 2013, especially in a tourist spot?

To read the next post in this series, click here.


  1. Quote
    rajagopal sukumar (subscribed) said May 13, 2013, 10:02 am:

    It was a fantastic trip. Your posts have captured the highlights extremely well with your trademark humour. Good work Priya.

  2. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment. Now, start working on the photo blog 🙂

  3. Quote


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