This one is going to be an experiential blog and a motivational one for those seeking courage for their solo trip. If you are specifically looking for an itinerary blog around Sikkim then click here to redirect to a more specific one.
I love travelling, honestly I do, and the only thing that keeps me from exploring this beautiful world is lack of company to do so and I resent this feeling.
Finally with the push from my sister, I booked my tickets and planned for 1 week solo trip to Gangtok in Sikkim. The before hand research included places the visit and bookings in the hostel.
I combated restless nights, anxious feelings, churning stomach and the thoughts of giving up and cancelling the trip, it was way out of my comfort zone. Finally the day arrived and I boarded the shared taxi from Siliguri to Gangtok along with 8 other unknown passengers. The driver seemed good to talk to and I felt relaxed knowing that the journey looks safe. I interacted with my fellow passengers who were of different age group and were surprised to know that I am travelling alone. The friendly interaction with them proved helpful in getting my reservations done for Nathula pass in days to come.
The 5 hours journey from Siliguri to Gangtok was pretty interesting where we crossed Sevoke road looking out for elephants, entered Rangpo, the border town of Sikkim and West Bengal and drove alongside the turquoise Tista river. I reached Gangtok at 3 PM and took a private cab to my hostel ‘The TagAlong Backpackers’. The check-in counter was inside the Travel Cafe and I was greeting by a lady coming towards me dancing merrily. I could feel the positivity of the place.
Soon I was shown to my bunk bed in a 4 bedded female dorm. The hostel looked empty and gloomy so I went to travel cafe downstairs and got to know that the hostel people cannot accommodate my visit to Nathula Pass tomorrow since the permits are made a day in advance and only till 12 PM. Luckily, the passengers I was travelling with from Siliguri got their permits done from other agent. I worked with them and got my permit by 9 PM. Meanwhile, I interacted with one of the localite in the cafe for travel card information that led to our interesting conversations and a start to my interactions with strangers. During this course of 1 week, I met at-least 50 new people from all walks of life, from different places, work fields, of different age groups and I loved each and every one of them. Because, I knew I am not getting judged or even if I am, I don’t care. Because, they restored my faith on strangers and on me. Because, they made me feel comfortable out of my comfort zone. Because they helped me in breaking my bars of introvert-ism.
It was the very first day in the hostel and 2 hours later, I was a part of birthday celebration of one of the solo traveler, I was sharing pizzas with 10 others and I ended up playing badminton with 15 more. I guess, I was lucky that those bunch of people decided to visit Travel Cafe that evening from TagAlong 2.0 and the interactions got so interesting that they took me to their hostel for supper! That was the beginning of shedding my inhibitions of interacting with strangers and the beginning of socialization and travel tales.
The first night proved to be bit challenging at the hostel as I was battling to sleep amidst the high note noises from the common room, people having party there and being a non smoker, it was a hot pot! I cannot forget I slept with a pepper spray below my pillow since I was the only girl there and rest of the people were high. Nevertheless, I got up at 6 on the second day of my trip, got ready and headed for Deorali Taxi stand from where I was suppose to get into shared Traveller arranged by the agent for complete day trip to Nathula Pass.
We were 11 people in the traveller, 2 of them I knew from my Siliguri Gangtok Journey and rest were strangers to me. The Itinerary included Nathula Pass, Chango Lake and Baba Harbhajan Singh temple. I really wanted to do Zuluk as well and for that I had to convince my traveler people. It was not an easy task of convincing 10 people because we had to pay extra for covering 1 more point but in the end all agreed with lot of negotiations with driver and fellow travelers.
Our First stop was Nathula Pass, which to be honest was bit disappointing in terms of the crowd. But you can see China’s buildings, soldiers right 1 meter in front of you. The border area is separated with barbed wires and I think the closest you can get to China border from India.
Our next stop was Thambi View point from where we could see the Zuluk valley and the silk route. Silk route and Zuluk is an offbeat destination in East Sikkim and it was once used for trading of silk between India and Tibet. On the way to Thambi, we saw Kupup lake, a high altitude lake famous for its elephant shape. We also crossed Nathang Valley from where you can see Doklam Plateau which hold an important place in India, China and Bhutan’s territory and is a much disputed piece of land.
From Thambi view point we headed to the old temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh. Baba Harbhajan Singh is also known as War God of Sikkim. The folklore goes that he went missing and died while bringing back mules from Nathula pass. He appeared in dreams of a soldier giving information about location of his dead body which later turned out to be true. It is said that he still is guarding the Indian Border and is said to have appeared in dreams of the soldiers intimating about the attacks.
The weather took a turn in the afternoon and the whole valley got covered with low lying clouds. I witnessed most amazing reddish golden winter sunsets on the way to Chango Lake. From Chango Lake we headed back to Gangtok where I got down at MG marg, also known as mall road of Gangtok and undoubtly the most happening place in Gangtok. My hostel night was fun with meeting new people and lot of interactions.
On Day 3 I decided to chill in tagalong 2.0 and headed there for breakfast. In the cafe area I got into talking with new set of people and we decided to visit the famous Ranka and Rumtek Monasteries of Sikkim. I got to witness the buddhist afternoon prayer at Rumtek and the monastery is casted with a hilltop view of Gangtok. Adorned in the brightest colors and the peaceful vibes, Rumtek is definitely a must visit monastery in Sikkim as it is the oldest in Sikkim and holds historical importance. Our route to Ranka took us through some rough patches and through thick forest. Ranka is beautiful, it is one of the newest and with a very differently architecture. On the way back to Gangtok we visited Ban Jhakri falls as well. We ended our day with a sumptuous meal at The Dragon Wok where we tried Bento Box which is assimilation of sticky rice, curry and sides of potato, wedges and shrimp sticks. On my return to the hostel, I met new group that has arrived from Mumbai and indulged in some crazy interactions and laughter that went on till wee hours.
On my 4th Day, I decided to spend sometime alone. I had my breakfast in the Travel Cafe, pondered on the thoughts and went to Hostel 2.0 for my lunch. I got invited for conversations by ‘now known’ travelers and that’s how I got included in the plan of visiting Tumlong to witness a local festival. The evening was well spent with music, bonfire, Tongba and delicious food. The plan was random, and the company was so good!
Next morning, I rushed to 1.0 and packed the bag and left with other members for Tumlong. Tumlong is a small village tucked amidst the giant mountains roughly 30 kms from Gangtok. The two famous monasteries of Tumlong are Phadong and Labrang. We crossed some beautiful bridges and waterfalls and made it to Labrang Monastery by 4 PM. As luck was on our side, the local dance of Gutur Festival was still going on. We saw the depiction of life after death through the dance of Masked men or ‘Keyged Dance’. I must say, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality at the monastery where they ensured that we are not left without having tea and snacks and good time. Our home stay was nothing less than a luxury experience with the Host Sonam herself taking care of your arrangements. She even got the Tongba for us in the authentic bamboo mugs, fresh baked muffins from her bakery and local dishes. Morning, she took us for a walk in her farm and a little hideout place between forest where I could have spent the entire day observing my thoughts and nature, if only I had time.
Day 6, we left for Gangtok, explored the mall road area and retreated to my hostel to get a sleep before 3 day trip to Lachung, Lachen and Gurudongmar lake. Since the day 1, I was hooked to the idea of visiting Gurdongmar lake which is at the elevation of 17,800 feet and is one of the asia’s highest lake. Folklore goes around this lake narrating that the shores of this lake never freezes. Once the village people who use to reside near the lake prayed to the Guru for water and he blessed the place giving the boon of flowing water even in the harsh winters.
I found 5 people from hostel itself who wanted to do this visit and we booked a private Innova keeping comfort in mind. The journey was good and we bonded over tea breaks and maggie plates. I knew the weather forcast showed snowfall, but I was hoping it to be delayed by a day or two. Turned out, it was so apt for the first time in my life. We reached Lachen and it started snowing that continued till the morning resulting in our vehicle being stuck in snow . No vehicles could go any further and we had the permit only for a day, thus we had to return back to Lachung hoping if only we could see the Yumthang Valley. We reached Lachung by afternoon, and I knew, this is the max we can go this day as well. But I wanted to make the best out of my trip, Gurudongmar didn’t happen, Yumthang didn’t happen but what stayed with me was my attitude for this trip. Despite the utter disappointment, I took the charge to make it a fun memory and with the little push everyone agreed for a walk-turned-out-to-be-dance moves with the backdrop of perfect snow-clad mountain. I realized and learned, you gotta make the best out of what you have got, and I am hoping to keep it for the rest of my life.
Next morning as well, we just drove for 2 kms, until we could not go any further. The child in me played the snow ball game and the dance and that painted a beautiful memory. We had fun amidst everything that could go wrong, that went wrong. This was also, the beginning of times when I stood for myself and for the right things and grow past it. That’s what travel is, isn’t it? Unknowingly teaching you hacks of life, shaping you up for what more to come in life.
I sure will be visiting Sikkim again, this time just for Gurudongmar and the momos 🙂
Happy Exploring 🙂