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Friday, 20 November 2009

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best - Page 4

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Sikkim is the greenest state in India in more than one way. It is lush and vibrantly green due to its unique micro-climate, created by its location in the shadow of Mt. Kanchenjunga and between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Books have been written about the miniature biosphere created here, and the region’s multitude of different species. The cyclones of the Bay of Bengal reach up to the Himalayas and to Sikkim in particular; that, combined with the monsoon, means Sikkim receives more than its fair share of rain, but it is also ‘green’ in an eco-sense. For instance, plastic bags are banned so they don’t end up on roadsides and in rivers like in the rest of India. Shops use paper bags or newspaper to wrap things and shoppers can buy inexpensive re-usable bags in most places. In fact, Sikkim is definitely the cleanest state that I’ve been to in India.

It was disappointing that we didn’t get to hike in Yuksom, or even see the mountains from there, but I think I just made the trip too early (I was in Yuksom Oct. 6th). Usually by early October things are clear, but you can never be sure – especially now with climate change, so it’s best to go in late October or November. Even early December should be fine for clear mountain views, but it will be quite cold by then so bring many layers and be sure to go before the snow starts.

Luckily, the downpours stopped just before we left after lunch, so we didn’t have to drive in them, and halfway through the journey the mist separated enough to get some nice views of the medium sized jagged peaks mysteriously shrouded by passing clouds.


Gangtok

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongUpon arrival in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, I checked into the Mayfair Gangtok , which is a brand new 5-star property, making it the most luxurious place I stayed in Sikkim. Its rooms are gorgeous and the service and facilities are excellent.

 

 

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongI had a nice dinner at the huge and elaborate buffet and retreated to my relaxing room with its comfy bed, large bathroom (with both a bathtub and a walk-in shower) and private balcony outfitted with a couch and lounge. The resort is outside of town, so it is very quiet, and it looks over the hillside with views up to the Rumtek Monastery.

In the morning I was met by another large buffet including masala dosas (large south Indian crepes filled with spicy potatoes) cooked to order and an array of other popular south Indian and continental breakfast items. Then Arthur introduced me to Pema Wangchuk, editor of Sikkim Now (a local English daily newspaper) and my guide for the next couple days in Gangtok.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongWe drove up to Rumtek Monastery which is the most important monastery in Sikkim and is a scaled-down reproduction of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. A number of years ago there was a large and violent clash here between two different factions of Buddhists vying for power over the successor Karmapa (and also supposedly who is then in charge of the many riches the monastery holds). For that reason you need to bring your passport in order to be let in, and there are actually Indian soldiers with guns to make sure that doesn’t happen again. It is a beautiful monastery, though, and seemed peaceful to me.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseong

 

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongWe walked up to an older monastery nearby and then took a scenic drive on the outskirts of town. Gangtok is a beautiful city set on a hilltop amidst the larger snow-capped peaks beyond it. It also has a sidewalk that winds up the hillside for over 10 kilometers and is separated from the road by a high metal guardrail – though this may not sound that important if you haven’t seen the chaos of Indian roads, it is. Gangtok is also very clean and has a pedestrian mall in the downtown area where you can do all your shopping without having to worry about any cars. There are many hotels and restaurants on the pedestrian strip as well as lots of benches, so it is a good place to hang out.

We stopped in town for lunch and then proceeded to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology where we visited the stupa and their museum with many priceless Tibetan artifacts. Many Tibetan items and much of their gold were brought to Sikkim before the Chinese invasion of Tibet and held in safe keeping by the king of Sikkim. When the Dalai Lama and many others escaped years later the king returned their treasures. The gold was used to help the huge number of refugees who had lost everything, but many of the artifacts were put on display here as part of the museum’s collection.

(Page 4 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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