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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Many Things to do in Pelling,(West Sikkim) And Product Review

  Pelling is  a small town in the district of West Sikkim,and very often finds place in a tourists bucket list for several reasons.Firstly the altitude being 7050 feet, the difficulties of the very high altitude of North Sikkim can be done away with.Furthermore its plentiful natural beauty with  its waterfalls,lakes and excellent views of the mighty Kanchenjunga , in fact makes it irresistible for a second visit too.

 The natural beauty of Pelling,the ruins recounting the   chequered history of Sikkim,(when it used to be an independent kingdom),the adhering religion of Buddhism which flourished with the reigning royalty or the very environmentally conscious people who have striven to maintain Sikkim in its present form ,all add for a memorable experience of Pelling.As a matter of fact , even the roads to Pelling ,laced by the prayer flags give the vibes of an reassuringly beautiful place.

There are a good many number of places to visit in Pelling but we had to cut down our list of places ,to spend  enough time at only the very recognized ones.


                                     
                                       THE SINGSHORE BRIDGE

THE SINGSHORE BRIDGE bridge is the highest bridge in Pelling and the second highest gorge bridge in Asia. This engineering marvel is at  a distance of 25 km from Pelling and is  a must visit in Pelling .the bridge is
built over a deep gorge of a depth of about 200 m .



A walk across the bridge can be immensely pleasing on a pleasant day. The place is not crowded ,moreover one can also enjoy some snacks at the shacks at the end of the bridge.
                                      

                           
    

                                            THE  ALPINE CHEESE FACTORY AT DENTAM
                                          
  The  cheese factory is not to be missed either. Located amongst beautiful surroundings in the village of Dentam about 25 km from Pelling,this place is delightful for many reasons.One can learn and see the cheese making process here, apart from getting your hands on some much needed refreshments like ice creams and lassi. One can also get some freshly made cheese to take back home just as we did.You will love the place for its excellent view,and do not forget to click the cardamom plants adjoining the place.

The cardamom plants adjoining the cheese factory

He was too happy to pose for my camera

                               


                                                   THE PEMAYANGTSE MONASTERY
                            



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Your visit to Pelling can be termed incomplete without a visit to the Pemayangtse Monastery.It is
one of the most prominent monasteries of Sikkim.A monastery established by the Buddhist monarchs
of the neighboring Rabdentse, Pemayangste is a place visited for many reasons.Be it the monks in their maroon robes,who exude devotion and discipline,or the gentle humming sound of the monks chanting hymns,it is a place which has the calming effect on one's mind like any other Monastery in Sikkim.
The monastery is located only at a distance of 9 km from Pelling,and can be visited along with a visit to the Rabdentse Ruins very close by.



                                      THE RUINS OF RABDENTSE
                                
Sikkim has for long been an independent mountain kingdom ,with Nepal in the east,Bhutan in the west,Tibet in the north and India  in the south.It is only as late as 1975 when Sikkim became an Indian state,and ended its monarchy only in 1982. Until then the kingdom was ruled by the Chogyals (the Buddhist priests).The capital was set up by in 1680 and continued to be the Sikkimese capital till 1793.It was then shifted to Tumlong after frequent threats from the Bhutanese and the Nepalese forces.This place has been abandoned since then,and only the ruins remain today.The chortens or the Buddhist place of worship are the most noticeable part of the once thriving fort.It is a place worth visiting but only if one is ready to walk uphill for a km through a very dense foliage. The ruins of Rabdentse is very close to the Pemayangtse Monastery,which is a monastery built by the Chogyals ruling from Rabdentse.










                                         THE KHECHEOPLARI LAKE


The calming Khecheopalri lake is at  a distance of 30 km from Pelling. The many legends and the strong beliefs associated with this place make this visit a very special one.


 To know more,read here

Khecheoplari Lake, of Wish Fulfilling And More (SIKKIM)

                                         

                   THE SHANGHAK CHOELING MONASTERY

I shall highly  recommend this place for a visit ,if not for religious reasons,for the calmness which is infectious here.The panoramic view from the monastery or the balming effect of the surrounding shall remain etched in my memory for quite sometime.The place is located in Upper Pelling at on a ridge atop a hillock.



  READ HERE----  The Shanghak Choeling Monastery, Pelling (West Sikkim) ,and Product Review

View of the monastery from our homestay

THE KANCHENJUNGA WATERFALLS

 Yet another majestic waterfall like the many others in Sikkim.Located about about 23 km from Pelling,this waterfall is a must visit,if you are a nature lover.










PRODUCT REVIEW

Here I would like to mention that before I started on my trip to Sikkim this summer,I was sent a pack of OiOils,which I found to be very useful on journeys (especially with children).This is India's first and only three -in -one all natural mosquito repellent,made out of 100% essential oils and ZERO chemicals.The pack consists of two sprays out of which one is a pocket friendly one ,and can be easily carried with us.
   It can be sprayed  6 to 8 inches away from the skin or sprayed evenly on the skin with the palm.
The essential oils include Lemon Grass oil,Citronella oil,Clove oil and more and can be sprayed on fabric ,skin or in the room too.






                                     FEW OTHER TO DO OPTIONS IN PELLING



The population of Sikkim is  a good mix of the Lepcha (the original people of Sikkim), the Bhutia (the people originally from Bhutan) and the Nepali. So over the years the food of the state has integrated to what we find it today.The sel -roti is a deep fried rice bread made in many households all over Sikkim.Generally had with spicy non -vegetarian fare ,it is sometimes also enjoyed with the humble potato .Do not forget to have this at many of the shacks in Pelling.




Go for a walk with your family ,along the roads of Pelling,and walk up to the picturesque Helipad if you haven't visited it yet


                               Drink steaming hot tea to rejuvenate yourself at the many places in Middle Pelling.


Stop by the roadside to get the sweetest variety of organically grown corn off the cob.


Stop beside the Rimbi river and spend some time on its banks .


Take a lazy stroll,gazing at the mighty Kanchenjunga,or simply feel the freshness in the air by sitting on one of the benches by the roadside.



                                              


The places mentioned above take 2 day tours to visit.We had stayed three nights in Pelling ,and could visit the places comfortably.


Pelling is at a distance of 115 km from Gangtok by road,and takes 5 hours approximately.The roads are in very good condition and the journey is a joy to be experienced.

                                           







Friday, 18 May 2018

The Shanghak Choeling Monastery, Pelling (West Sikkim) ,and Product Review


   The monastery was the very first thing that our home stay owner had pointed to ,through the window of our room.And she had good reasons to do so. It was in Upper Pelling that we had booked our rooms,where nature had been bountiful already. Blessed magnanimously by the sacred
Kanchenjunga,which bordered the landscape,the monastery was solely an embellishment on this
very magical setting.



 



Shanghak Choeling Monastery from the home stay


  There have been places in my travels where I have experienced nature in its very raw form.Exactly
the way  it was created.Pelling was undoubtedly one of them. My entire journey from Gangtok to
Pelling, left me in awe at the surreal beauty of the valleys.The varied species of flora and fauna and
the houses perched at such amazingly beautiful locations are only few of the many things that I shall
remember Sikkim for.


Once the monastery was spotted,the very first thing in our itinerary in Pelling was to climb up the pitch road to the place early next morning.For me, the added incentive other than the early morning
feel was to get nature close at hand.That was something I had always missed while I travelled by car.






We did not regret our decision even for a moment.The early morning rays and the disappearing mist,
buds of wild flowers ,which had bloomed on our way back ,besides the overwhelming presence of the Kanchenjunga kept us going.

It was love at first sight.


 




Prayer flags ushered  our way to the monastery,a very soothing white blue and yellow this time.Every time I saw these flags I wondered extensively about them and convincingly answered my
unanswered questions in my mind.There was some mysticism about them which could always
capture my attention.But this time I decided to ask the young monks sitting in the sun.They answered
in understandable Hindi that the flags are put up to mark some event in the family ,even in
someone's death,and the writings are Buddhist mantras.

   The monastery was no less significant either.Though closed at that  time,it looked stunning in the
vibrant colours on its exterior.The chortens covered in moss were in sharp contrast to the main structure of the monastery .They seemed to narrate the untold story of this place,about when and how this place was established centuries ago ,and more.



 


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Little about the history of the place 

  A board there told that this monastery was founded in 1642 by Lama Lhatsun Chempo Namkha Jigmee ,one of the three  pioneer lamas of Sikkim .It was renovated twice later,once in 1714 and again in 1966.Shangak Choeling meant the place of divine teaching and the place preached the Vajrayana Buddhism ,also referred to as Tibetan Buddhism.

Vajrayana Buddhism as I understand is the tantric form of Buddhism and is also believed by some to have branched out from Mahayana Buddhism.

Very interestingly ,we learnt later that the monastery is known for its secret spells ,and the only people allowed to enter are only men  from the Bhutia and the Lepcha community.

For reasons unknown the monastery was destroyed by fire several times and rebuilt time and again.



Read Here

My experiences at the Gurudongmar Lake,North Sikkim

Yumthang Valley, (North Sikkim) . A Place I Would Love to go Back to Someday

1642, I wondered ! Pelling would have been a dense forest  then. I could perceive all the single minded devotion and the absorption required for the teaching and learning process.The monks  could be seen carrying on  their daily chores unperturbed by the surroundings.






 Our inadequate knowledge about Buddhism and the complete lack of information at the monasteries
barred us from learning and understanding a little more about the place.Nevertheless we
experienced a sense of fulfillment from the divinity the place radiated.


A resting place on the way up


I shall highly  recommend this place for a visit ,if not for religious reasons,for the calmness which is infectious here.The panoramic view from the monastery or the balming effect of the surrounding shall remain etched in my memory for quite sometime.

Product Review

Here I would like to mention that before I started on my trip to Sikkim this summer,I was sent a pack of OiOils,which I found to be very useful on journeys (especially with children).This is India's first and only three -in -one all natural mosquito repellent,made out of 100% essential oils and ZERO chemicals.The pack consists of two sprays out of which one is a pocket friendly one ,and can be easily carried with us.
   It can be sprayed  6 to 8 inches away from the skin or sprayed evenly on the skin with the palm.
The essential oils include Lemon Grass oil,Citronella oil,Clove oil and more and can be sprayed on fabric ,skin or in the room too.








HOW TO REACH

Pelling is at a distance of 115 km from Gangtok by road,and takes 5 hours approximately.The roads are in very good condition and the journey is a joy to be experienced.

   The  Shanga Choeling Monastery in located in Upper Pelling ,which is little less crowded than Middle Pelling . Our home stay was a very short distance away from this place,one can  also opt to stay in Middle Pelling and drive here ,coupled with a visit to the picturesque helipad.Though we had walked up the road to the monastery ,vehicles regularly run on the pitch road.

There are a whole range of hotels available in upper Pelling too ,and one can go for  that ,for a calmer experience.


Sunday, 13 May 2018

Khecheoplari Lake, of Wish Fulfilling And More (SIKKIM)


    I quietly follow the people walking before me. A prayer flag is seen somewhere while an unnamed
stupa peeks in from the bushes.I am not much inquiring about whose stupa it is, rather I am absolutely in bliss with the serenity it lends to the surrounding.I see some writings engraved on stone at regular intervals,probably some Buddhist mantras. Stacked stones are seen all along the way and I am yet to interpret  their underlying significance .

And then appears the lake.

  Prayer wheels along the jetty lead us to the front of the lake.We stand in silence watching people
feed the fishes .The only sound that is heard is that of the chirping birds and the occasional ding of
the bells at the lakeside.We gaze speechlessly at the edges of the lake lined by prayer flags as Sikkim
continues to entrance us endlessly by its magical beauty .The lake is not a very big one in terms of its
size but the legends associated with it are many.


 










                                   THE LEGEND BEHIND THE LAKE


  The shape of the Khecheopalri Lake is in form of a footprint which is believed to be the footprint 
of Goddess Tara,Lord Shiva or even Lord Buddha.Legend has it that a lepcha couple once found a pair of conch shells in the lake ,following which  a spring arose from the ground thus forming the
lake.The lake is considered sacred for this and many more reasons ,hence it is worshiped in Nag
Panchami and Maghe Purne (April and May).Needless to say,the lake is a wish fulfilling lake for the
Buddhist and the Hindu community.


  So sacred is the place that not even a leaf is seen floating on the lake.Every time a leaf falls on
the lake ,it is picked up by a bird  immediately.



  In an effort to conserve the sanctity of  the lake and the ecology around it ,local authorities have
  strictly prohibited fishing,any recreational activity or boating on the lake.








READ HERE

Yumthang Valley, (North Sikkim) . A Place I Would Love to go Back to Someday

My experiences at the Gurudongmar Lake,North Sikkim




  Back in the car ,I find myself engrossed in my thoughts. For once I  forget to gaze out of the window and I contemplate on the lake.Did I miss the boating  on the lake for once ? Or did I look around for the fancy eateries and rue  over their absence? Instead I had felt it rejuvenating to spend sometime and soak in the nonchalant vibes of the lakeside.Was it only religion that the authorities had in mind when they barred so many activities around the lake? Was it religion and its beliefs or elemental rationality , I pondered.






A shrine by the lakeside

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HOW TO REACH

Pelling is a small hill town in the district of West Sikkim .
The Khecheopalri Lake is at a distance of 34 km from Sikkim.
There are few homestays and other stay options near the lake,but it is better to stay in Pelling to get a wider choice.
The Khecheopalri Lake is best visited on a day tour from Pelling.
Though the lakeside does not have any shops or eateries,there are few stalls serving very basic Sikkimese food near the parking  area.



A monastery near the lake.


A stupa on the way to the lake

Friday, 11 May 2018

Yumthang Valley, (North Sikkim) . A Place I Would Love to go Back to Someday










    Early morning,6.30 ,we had hit the road already.We head for the Yumthang valley and Zero

Point.The morning mist slowly reveals the beautiful scenery around.My eyes look around for the

bright red in the landscape through the morning haze.With just a few blooms appearing occasionally,I

explain to myself  repeatedly that I have yet not reached that place where the rhododendrons bloom

en masses .Red,purple and violet,I relay my  latest gained knowledge of the varied colours  of the

rhododendrons to the people in the car.We were driving through the Shingba Rhododendron

Sanctuary of North Sikkim.I soon realize that I am a bit early for the bloom.The correct time for

them is actually a month later when the entire valley turns to a red plethora of the state flower.

 





   I gaze steadfast outside the window of the car as the harsh chill outside reminds me that we are

ascending to an altitude of about 12000 feet. Zig zag roads with rough edged  boulders lie on either

side.I look around with a little wonder, that there could be beauty in such chaos.Nothing seems to be

in order except the serpentine road,that we are driving on .In spite of the elements being the same ,every

place could be so different,I perceive.The road to Rohtang was so unlike this and Kinnaur had a

totally different character.We  drive through a flat land with sharp peaks rising all over the place.



   The purple primulas vie for attention in the otherwise brown landscape,with the pine trees

growing in isolation dotting the landscape.Piles of hard snow lay under the trees in patches.

With absolutely no trace of habitation,we drive on to what seems like eternity.Till a place comes

where we see many cars parked in rows alongside. We see many warm clothing and knick-knacks

were being sold.We had reached the the market place of the Yumthang valley.The river Yumthang(a

 tributary to the renowned river Tista of North Bengal.) meanders through the ranges carving out the

valley bathed in shades of green.
     
 It is time for some quick breakfast in the asbestos roofed rooms in the Yumthang market place and

get ourselves ready for the snow at Zero Point. Zero Point is the place after which the civilian road

ends,before the Chinese border.

 Maggie,momos or bread omlette,the choice is very obvious,at such a remote place.

 READ HERE-  My experiences at the Gurudongmar Lake,North Sikkim

 



  Meanwhile, the bells ,chimes and the  items of feng shui at the stalls remind me of

Mcleodgang.,but every moment my thoughts get disrupted by the commotion of the tourists

around.Local Sikkimese girls pull out jackets and gum boots of the correct size from sacks ,as they

rent them out for the snow at Zero point.

In the intervening time ,I hastily click some memories of the valley

quite apprehensive of the weather on the way back. An array of prayer flags flutter in the breeze

along the river bank creating the best ever frames for me.


 

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   With this short break ,the journey continues.The landscape turns to white as we ascend further.The

snow seems to be quite clean ,probably there was snowfall last night.Kids,and adults run out of their

vehicles on impulse to play in the snow.








It had been only fifteen to twenty minutes on the snow,when my kids run back to the car.They had

frostbite,in spite of the gum boots,little breathlessness is felt too. However the coffee sold there helps

to get back things in place.

We board the car,and get ready to descend,though there is a long queue of cars.It is practically a

traffic jam on the mountains.However there are lots of goodies sold right beside the road to keep

ourselves busy.The quintessential Maggie or the boiled chana made the Sikkimese way,with

steaming hot coffee.

   


We had risked an overcast sky all morning ,and and experienced light snowfall while returning from

Zero point.Under such circumstances we assumed it be more suitable to come down soon.I returned

with a heavy heart at not having a good sight of the rhododendrons.Though I had a memorable time

at Zero Point ,on the snow. The kids had enjoyed playing in the snow too.The rhododendrons would

bloom a month later,somewhere in the beginning or mid May,but the snow at Zero point might reduce by then.

You can't have the cake and eat it too.Can you?



A plant found above the tree line,having  very good smelling leaves,used for incense usage by the local people.Our driver picks up some branches to carry back home.


Zero Point



Loved this in the cold


How to reach
 We started for Yumthang valley after a night halt at Lachung.Yumthang valley is about 25 km from

Lachung and takes about 1.5 hours by road.Yumthang valley is at an altitude of 11800 feet and is

home to the Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary,also called the Valley of flowers.Towards mid May the

entire valley bursts in a riot of colours for the rhododendrons. Since we could not get snow in

Yumthang,we had to proceed till Zero Point which is another 1.5 hours drive from Yumthang,with an

additional rupees 300 per person.Zero point is at an altitude of 1500 feet and 23 km from Yumthang.

It   is the place after which the civilian road ends and hence the name.

The air gets rare there and it is not advisable for kids below 5 years or elderly people to go there.

When in Zero point keep your activities to the low to restrict breathing difficulties.

FEW TIPS

Tourists are not permitted to North Sikkim without a permit by the Tourism Department of Sikkim.It

can be issued by submitting 3 passport sized photographs and photocopies of  photo identity cards a

day before.You can get it done through any travel agent.In our case it was done by our hotel manager.

Since the roads thee can be very challenging,only Sikkim government registered vehicles are allowed

though private vehicles are also allowed..

The North Sikkim trip
 
Start from Gangtok - night stay at Lachen - visit Gurudongmar Lake-back to Lachen - lunch at  

Lachen- leave for Lachung - night stay at Lachung -visit Yumthang Valley and Zero point -lunch

at Lachung - back to Gangtok.



MORE ABOUT THE PACKAGE

This is a 2 night and 3 days package and is charged per person,at the rate of Rupees 3000 per

head(rates vary slightly between travel operators).This includes food and lodging and vehicle

charges. Vehicles leave from Gangtok on a sharing basis.One can even book the vehicle for yourself

if you are traveling in a bigger group.If you wish to visit Kalapathar on the way to Gurudongmar

Lake (we did not opt for this considering weather conditions) or Zero Point after visiting Yumthang

valley,(as we did), you shall have to make an additional payment of Rupees 300 to the driver at the

spot.The trip is undoubtedly little hectic,moreover children below 5 years and adults above the age 
  
of 60 are not allowed to the Gurudongmar lake.