Sikkim the wonder – Kanchenjunga and Tsomgo lake. Missed Nathu La by few km.

There was a loooong weekend – five days including Saturday and Sunday. But this was Deepaawali time.
Yet we decided to freak out to some dreamy place. We means – myself and my beloved wife.
I should have planned well in advance. (to save few bucks on ticket). Nevertheless do it now I said and scrambled to finalise the plan.
Plan is finding the spot, booking the hotel and ticket. (Most important was to agree with my wife or make her agree with my plans) Never easy but I managed.
I opened my ” to visit ” wish list.
Lush green, thick forest, snow clad high mountains always attract me like a magnet pulling the metal.
After browsing several travel blogs, and images, I (read we)  zeroed in on Sikkim. I had never visited our own north east so far. It was on top of the list.
Sikkim itself is filled with beautiful spots depending on your interest and time of visit. I listed down many spots in and around Gangtok, mostly east part.
If you want to see thick snow, go there in winter, jan – feb. if you want see lots of flowers/ Orchids and some snow then be there in march April.
If you do not have leaves, go there when ever you have long weekend. I fell in this category.
Thus we visited Gangtok in third week of October 2017.
By the way, October is not bad time. Very nice weather, not too cold, no rains, no haze. (of course no flower too)
I booked flight from Delhi to Bagdogra (West Bengal) and a Hotel in Gangtok near to city centre. (Le Primula)
From this airport you can take a pre paid taxi or shared cabs to Gangtok. Prepaid taxi cost us Rs2000/- plus . Shared Taxi would cost Rs.500 to 700/- per head.
Not all the Taxi can enter Gangtok city. They need to have permits. Otherwise you will get dropped at  taxi stand (Deorali), outskirt of the city and from there you will need to take another taxi. Our taxi had the permit.
The road is unpredictable and not so good. Generally it takes 4 hrs. It took us 6.5 hrs with a break for lunch.
By the time we reached our hotel it was 1830 and dark already.
We quickly checked in and rushed to MG Road.
I had seen pictures of MG road and read about it. It did not disappoint us.
Wow, very nice, clean neat paved road. This type you can see in many European cities only. Here a small city of our own country shows what we can really do if we want to.
No littering, no rubbish, no plastic. No shop keeper gives you a plastic bag.
Believe me I have not cleaned up these pictures using photoshop. They are actually clean. No vehicle is allowed here on this road.
You will still find some papers / wrappers  here and there. I am sure it is due to people like us from big and dirty  cities.
I took pictures of MG road on some evening as well.
Look at the picture below.
The foot path is retained intact as foot path despite the road available for people. No shop owner has “occupied” the foot path for his extended shop. Every one uses the dustbin. This was on Deepaawali day.
There are many places to eat. Lot of pure veg hotels as well.
Generally entire Gangtok city is quite clean in relation to Gurgaon (where I stay) No litter, no rubbish, no torn posters, banners, cut outs. There are some. But quite clean.
In the whole MG road, no smoking, no spitting, no litter.
In most places in Sikkim this is generally followed. Really Very good.
II Day
When checked in the hotel person Mr.Bishu offered us the “view room”. It was in fourth floor. No lift. (BTW no fan, no ac in the room – just not accustomed to)
Ok, We took the room and and assumed that the view could be of Gangtok. It was dark any way we did not bother much.
Next day morning we got up and just peeped out.
Behold – this is what we viewed. Amazing view of mount Kanchenjunga !!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were lucky to get the very good clear view.  Next day morning it was like below. No view. All clouds.
View room was worth.
The joy of viewing a majestic snow clad mountain is immense. It can only be experienced, not be explained.
Todays plan was to visit Tsomgo Lake, Baba Harbhajan mandir and Na Thu la pass.
I went to near by taxi stand and booked an Innova. In Sikkim, some far off places, only bigger cars are allowed. Small cars are not. Tsomgo is one such route.
Tsomgo lake is also called as Changu lake. It is a glacial lake at 3780 mtr altitude.
You also need to obtain permit to visit Changu lake and Nathula pass. So do not forget to carry copy of valid photo ID and two passport size photos.
The hotel guy or the driver can arrange the permit in half an hour. However to obtain permit to go to Nathula pass, you need to apply one day in advance.
We missed Nathula pass, unfortunately. We did not know the one day advance story, though we knew the permit requirement. Any way next time ……………

Nathula pass is open to Indian public only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Tsomgo lake to Sarathang lake – 12 km.
Sarathang to Baba Harbhajn mandir 4 km
Sarathang to Nathula pass 5 km.
Gangtok to Tsomgo lake – 40 km – takes 1.5 hrs.

Left the hotel at around 0800 hrs. You need to cross the entry point before 1000 hrs. You can come back only after 1400 hr. This is to manage the smooth traffic to & fro. Army manages the whole area. So be punctual.

On the way at a place called ” 15 miles” we had break fast.

Look at the place here, quite clean, no litter. The shop keepers have kept the place neat and tidy. No plastic and rubbish.
Here you can buy some momento and have some food.

Below is beautiful Tsomgo or Changu lake.

Below is another beautiful lake called Sarathang lake, but not much known.

Below are the pictures of Baba Harbhajn singh shrine. There is legend on the “shaeed” soldier.

I copy the below info as gathered through internet.
 Baba Mandir – “Baba” Harbhajan Singh (August 3, 1941 – October 4, 1968) was an Indian army soldier who died near the Nathula Pass in India. He was revered by the soldiers of the Indian army who have built a shrine in his honour near the Lake at an altitude of around 4000 meters / 13123 feet. Legend has it that he appeared in a dream a few days after he went missing while patrolling the border, and expressed a desire that a monument be built his memory. His fellow soldiers then built a monument that has over the years acquired the status of a pilgrimage centre. Believers leave a bottle to be collected a week later to be used for its healing powers.
Harbhajan Singh was born into a Sikh family on August 3, 1941 in Punjab (India). In June 1956 he enrolled himself as a soldier in Amritsar and joined the Corps of Signals. He was later granted a commission and posted to the 14 Rajput regiment. During the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war he served as an Adjutant of his unit. Later he was transferred to 18 Rajput. It was with this regiment that he met his end on October 4, 1965 in Sikkim.
The Mandir has two approach able road one via Gangtok the other is via Rongli.  This temple has gained popularity in the last few years due to its history and belief of the followers. According to army folklore was a stickler for discipline and is known to admonish those who do not toe this line. A camp bed is kept for him and his boots are polished and uniform kept ready every night. The sheets are reportedly crumpled every morning and boots muddy by evening. Legend also has it that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers three days in advance. Every year on September 14, a jeep departs with his personal belongings to the nearest railway station, New Jalpaiguri, where it is then sent by train to the village of Kuka, in Kapurthala district in Punjab. As per train rule the train reserved seat never left blank, but for Baba reservation is done to travel him at his home town every year with soldiers to drop Baba at his home town

Shiv mandir at a distance.

I witnessed playing and singing national anthem – filled my heart. I salute those brave guys at borders.

Army soldiers memorial.

There is a small but good army museum. Here below the picture. No picture is allowed inside.

On the way back we stopped at Tsomgo lake and  spent more time. There is a very nice rope way. Do not miss it.
Very nice panoramic view of Tsomgo Lake from rope way.
At Rope way top spot, beautiful view of Kanchenjunga in the background – here below.
If you want, you can enjoy an Yak ride. We did not, some how, felt pity looking at them.
All the visiting places at Sikkim closes at 1600 hrs. Be aware.
III Day
Local sight seeing.  We hired a small cab for the day. The Driver Phurba was a gentleman who took us around.
 I really appreciate him. Even he had provided a dustbin in his cab. He knew the visiting travellers would need it. Otherwise they will throw the garbage just on the road. What an awareness and action.
We can imbibe a lot from him on “Swachh Bharat”
1. Rumtek Monastery
A well known monastery in Sikkim. Could not get good frames. However I show some here below.
The young student monks in a friendly game.

2. Bhanjakri water fall.  Just enjoy the pictures.
3. Flower show. There was a small flower show. But quite good. I have lot of pictures. I will show only two.
4. Ganesh Tok or Ganesh Temple. We could not visit Hanuman Tok.
5. Plant Conservative.

Oh, it was lush green all over. But time was not right to enjoy varieties of Rhododendron flowers.

6. Tashling view point. We were supposed to view grand Kanchenjunga from this spot. However weather gods were sulking. Hence no view.

7. Bhakang water Fall. Small one but quite nice.
8. Gonjang Monastery. Small but quite serene inside.

Look at the young student monks playing around.

9. There is a rope way in Gangtok city also, but not very impressive.
By this time it was end of the tour for the day.
IV Day
1. Fambong Lho Wild life Sanctuary.
There are many wild life sanctuaries but some are far off. Fambong Lho is not known to many locally. I do not know why. We somehow managed to find the route. People go there for birding.
It is at a height of 1900 mtr and above. We hiked to go up quite far, few KM on foot. Since the time was not ripe, we did not see any wild life nor bird. We went up above 2000 mtr.
It was a extremely good hiking. We almost recharged oxygen pack I must say. Very clean fresh air. Those who stay in cities that too near Delhi, like us, we instantly know if we are breathing a good quality air.
Lot of lush green, thick forest, fresh air, wow it was fantastic hike.
I could spot a strange caterpillar, few wild flowers. Here are the pictures, enjoy.
2. Zoo
Zoo was not very impressive since not many animals. Very few.
Nevertheless, this area is too with a lot of green, fresh air.
3. Tsuklakhang Temple or Monastery.
This is a beautiful Monastery, earlier belonged to Royal family only. Now open to public.

Students in the monastery playing around. Quite innocent lives.

V day
We flew back to Delhi.
North East. A great place. We from other part of India – do not know much about our own country, specially north east.
I want to mention that I did not see any poor guy begging around.
I hope, wish and pray that these beautiful places remain so and not become concrete jungles in the name of development.
Only negative point is the road. It can surely be better.
In fact Gangtok can be a model as to how development and natural treasures can co exist.
I forgot to show you picture of Teesta river, which originates in China, crosses India and reaches Bangladesh. From Bagdogra to start of Sikkim, you see this river.
Here is a picture of Teesta.

Published by wander through lens

An avid trekker, traveller, who finally freed himself from a corporate cobweb. Loves lush green, snowy mountains, blue sky and crystal water.

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