Time to move on! Lachung is waiting!!

 

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Though the classrooms were way dark and pretty cool, we, at least I managed to grab some good sleep that night. My darling friend Shweta woke me up early in the morning around 4.30 AM and when moved out of the room to the open ground, that was one awesome scene with the twinkling stars up above the sky, the moon throwing some bright light and the tips of the surrounding mountains shining dim in the moon light. But, I couldn’t get a chance to capture that awesome scene as it was extremely difficult to find out my camera in that dark cosy classroom 😦

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It was a sunny day and the weather was clear. We packed our rucksacks and left for breakfast. Before moving on, we quickly cleaned up the surroundings and set on to the track for Lachung, our next base camp at around 7.30 AM. Lachung is a small mountain village located at an altitude of 8600 ft and a distance of about 110 kms from Gangtok and 25 kms from Chungthang. And we gonna trek this 25 kms in a single day. Though excited, we were a bit scared too. Scared not because of the distance, but coz of the off-road route which we gonna follow!

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The way to Lachung is through quaint villages, scenic spots, and waterfalls. The first leg is of 12 or 13 kms. It’s almost a road trek except for one or two shortcuts. We stopped at a roadside tea spot around 10 AM where we got some buns and tea as refreshments. After relaxing for a short span of 20 minutes, we resumed our trek towards Lachung. They told us that the next leg is of another 12 kms but it’s only at the end of the trek we realized that it is nearly 16 kms.

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The second leg is far more beautiful than the first leg, as there were lots of streams which cut right through the roads, some lush green agri fields probably of some millets or fodder, yaks, Rhododendrons, waterfalls and the beautiful Teesta River running all way along with us. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trek as the short hikes through the forests were spine chilling, because of the narrow margins and rough terrain.

DSC_0245We could see more and more number of army people and their vehicles as were nearing Lachung. Before 1950, Lachung served as a trade point between Sikkim and Tibet and after the Chinese annexation, this has been shut down. The Indian Army now has a forward base at Lachung. Finally at around 3.30 PM we reached our base camp at Lachung. A hot meal was served to us and it felt so good to have something hot after a long trek.

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We had lots of fun before having our dinner and retiring to our beds. Lucky enough to get a bed to sleep, but not in the sleeping bag 😀 .  Stay tuned to see what’s waiting for us in Lachung!!

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Gangtok – Land of Monasteries

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The last part of my Gangtok trip and also the most beautiful part which am gonna cherish through out my life 🙂

Sikkim is justly famous for monasteries. Red-clan Lamas, flickering butter lamps, colorful prayer flags (worth mentioning that these represent the five elements of nature – earth, sky, water, air and fire) and the melodious chanting are the part of the ambiance which this state offers us. Gangtok is also an important Buddhist place and is land of some 200 odd monasteries. Here are some important ones which I covered as a part of my trip.

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Enchey Monastery:

This is the oldest monastery (approx 200 years old) of Gangtok and is located 3 kms northeast of the city. This is the seat of learning for the Nyingma order (Vajrayana Buddhism), the 4th oldest belief of Tibet. It was established by Lama Druptob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric art. And the legend is that he came here flying from Maenam hill in south Sikkim. The Buddha, Loketeswara and Guru Padmasambhava are the important deities worshipped in the monastery.

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Rumtek Monastery:

The biggest monastery in Gangtok and is located on the outskirts of the city (around 23 kms) is on a hill, the seat of The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery demonstrates the best of the Tibetan architecture and is an almost replica of the original monastery in Tsurpu in Tibet. The main building is three storied and the complex also has the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhist studies, the Dharma Chakra and the Golden Stupa. The monastery houses the Black Hat and some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world. Perhaps, this is the only monastery which has got a high range of security on its’ premises.

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Ranka Monastery:

Also known as Lingdum monastery, is located about 20 kms from Gangtok. A relatively new monastery located in a vast area. This is the seat of Zurmang Kagyud lineage of Buddhism and follows the direction of the 12th successor of the lineage Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche. This turned out to be my favorite of all the earlier monasteries which I saw as this one was extremely peaceful and the view is just breathtaking. And there are many young lamas undergoing training here. This monastery is full of wall paintings, murals and scriptures which are placed orderly inside the main sanctum.Desktop3

The last monastery which I visited was the Tsuklakhang Palace or Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel and monastery is a Buddhist palatial monastery in Gangtok, and it has a lot of young lamas who studies there. This has a large depository of Buddhist scriptures and literature.

There is also a center for Tibetology in Gangtok where in which we can see their scriptures, statures of Buddha and many more. In all, Gangtok is not just a place to enjoy nature but also a place to learn, to know about one of the oldest religions in the world. Importantly, we can find all the different sects of Buddhists and their traditions here.

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In all, these monasteries took me to an altogether different world. A world of faith, belief and peace!! Thank you Gangtok. C u soon again!

I take this opportunity to dedicate this post to one of my new friends “AHEN”, who is eagerly waiting to visit monasteries and meet some Bikkhus!!

Gangtok – a beauty galore..

Sikkim became the 22nd Indian state on Apr 26, 1975. Bordered by Nepal, China’s Tibet Autonomous region, and Bhutan on three sides and West Bengal to the south, the state has cultural influence from all these regions. Gangtok, the state capital is in the South East region of Sikkim.

My day out in Gangtok..

The best way to start a day is having a short trek in the woods. Everyone would love to do that.. Then, how about a trek to a good view point early in the morning? Yes.. It was around 4.45 in the morning when we set out for a short trek through the woods from the place where we stayed, to Ganesh Tok, one of the best view points in Gangtok. Located about seven kms from the city gives a view of the spawling city and across the hills, the snow-capped peaks of Khang-zeng-donga and Mt. Siniolchu are easily visible behind the spread of humanity. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha here. A good paragliding site in Gangtok. The Himalayan Zoological Park near Ganesh Tok is one of the best places to see the Himalayan fauna.

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Though the trek is a bit tough as it rained on the previous night and there was no proper track leading to Ganesh Tok, we enjoyed it thoroughly as it was still dark and the cool breeze was so soothing.

Tashi view point is the place from where one can get a clear view of the mountain Kanchendzonga  and Hanuman Tok is yet another view point, where a temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuma.

Done with the trek.. What next? Obviously food.. 🙂 🙂

Gangtok is an excellent place to try Sikkimese cuisine which has distinct links to Tibet. Dumplings called momos with various stuffings and different noodle broth collectively called Thukpas are common delicacies. As we walked down the MG Road in the heart of the city, the aromas of different dishes hit our noses. A special mention should be made about Thukpa, also known as Gyantuk, a Tibetan import is one that should not be missed when one visits Gangtok.

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I would suggest Hotel Tibet which is located just opposite to the Cafe Coffee Day on the MG Road to try these delicacies as I found the food here very tasty and yummy. Also try the different kinds rolls and especially the Sel roti with Aloo dum, a famous local delicacy in Roll House.. And am posting the pic of the best Roll house as one can find a roll house on every street of Gangtok.

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How about a walk around?

The first thing which will strike everyone is the traffic on the narrow roads. But what amazed me most is the vehicle density and the efficiency of the traffic police of Gangtok, who are perfectly enforcing and implementing the traffic rules and managing the traffic. Police men and women are extremely well in handling the things without being rude or offensive. Really impressed! Honking is an offense. So be careful!

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MG Road truly resembles a European setting, complete with shops and restaurants, bars and pubs, pretty gardens in middle of the paved walkways, colorful flowers, benches to relax and garbage pins placed everywhere and especially the locals following the rules strictly and politely saying the visitors to follow the same. Truly Gangtok is the most cleanest city!

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The Lal Bazaar is a must visit in Gangtok. Clothes, shoes, jackets, fresh vegetables (organic), fruits, flowers, eateries.. what not, one can find everything here. Do visit the Kanchendzonga mall in the Bazaar.

What r u waiting for? Pack ur bags now.. And stay tuned as I am gonna bring out few more things..