Adventure, Culture, India, Offbeat, Sikkim
Comments 43

Sikkim: The Lost Kingdom.

Sikkim blogs, west Sikkim, Sikkim himalayas

On a late evening, we sat on a steep cliff, drinking the local Sikkimese Beer. Sparse villages and farms lay scattered in the valley below. The River Teesta roared along intensely. The mountains echoed with hypnotic chants from a nearby monastery. We were lost in our thoughts, when the mist slowly rose, and revealed to us in all its snow-capped glory, the mighty Mount Kanchendzonga.

Places like these can’t be found on a map in Sikkim. Trying to find my footing down a path of lose pebbles, I had asked two school kids where our path would take us. They enthusiastically decided to lead the way in a direction where the coarse mountain paths turned into a bed of flowers, with bright red rhododendrons blooming along the slopes. The path culminated in a cliff, from where we would get our first glimpse in two weeks, of the Himalayas wearing a snow coat.

Sikkim rhododendrons, Sikkim photos, west Sikkim

Rhododendrons in bloom.

mount kanchendzonga, mt kanchenjunga, sikkim himalayas

A glimpse of the snow-capped Kanchendzonga range.

We spent our days in West Sikkim hiking to remote monasteries and villages, marveling at the isolation in which people choose to live and pray in these parts. In most mountain regions in India, village homes are clustered together and their farms further away, while locals in Sikkim build spacious homes surrounded by fields, often a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest neighbor. For the most part, we let the chants of Om mani padme hum and the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags guide us. But one afternoon, we trudged up a particularly steep forest path with a local guide, and trekked for an hour across the mountain, to reach a private monastery built by a Lepcha family in the solitude of the Himalayas. Unlike many temples, there were no donation boxes or information about the founders, who had spent years carrying each stone up the tiring paths. And it is people with the same conviction, who aren’t looking for anything but peace, that feel fulfilled here.

monastery in Sikkim, West Sikkim, Sikkim photos

There is a tranquility in these stones.

Sikkim buddhism, sikkim monasteries, West Sikkim

On an isolated hill in West Sikkim, a beautiful old monastery.

The roads in these mountains are steep, narrow, mucky and broken. On a treacherous journey up to Dzongu in North Sikkim, our taxi threatened to roll back down a slope multiple times and we hurriedly joined the locals in taking turns to push it up. Shared taxis are the fabric of life in Sikkim (hence most people opt for Sikkim tour packages), where no public transport ply the rough mountain roads. There are no timetables or location routes, and yet everything from people to documents to bottles of fresh milk efficiently gets ported from one end of the state to another. It was in a shared taxi ride to Mangan that we met Joon, a civil engineer who went out of his way to help us get permits for Dzongu at the district magistrate’s office on election day. He introduced us as old friends to the officer in charge, and helped us secure documents to hasten the process.

In the village of Dzongu, we met the Lepcha people, who have passionately protested the relentless damming of the Teesta River. To them, the elements of nature – the river, the mountains, the forests – are sacred. Our host family even chided me for asking if the vegetables they grow are organic, because that is the only way of farming they’ve known in Sikkim, much before the world gave food without chemicals a fancy name.

Sikkim monastery, buddhism India, buddhist monasteries

The mountains echo with hums of Om Mani Padme Hum.

On our way out of the state, I observed in fascination, the point where the Rangeet River from Darjeeling joins the mighty Teesta. Each charts a different journey through the mountains. Yet at one point, the Rangeet flows into the Teesta, and the colors of its waters, the intensity of its flow, and its humble origins are quickly forgotten. And so it is with Sikkim, the lost kingdom. The last state to be annexed to India in 1975.

Sikkim teesta, sikkim photos, places to visit in Sikkim

Confluence of the Rangeet River with the Teesta.

You can retrace my journey through the northeastern Himalayas on India Untravelled‘s trail from Darjeeling to Sikkim. 

Join The Shooting Star on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more offbeat travel stories.

Have you travelled to Sikkim yet?

This post is sponsored by esikkimtourism.

43 Comments

    • No roads are great in these parts 😉 I wanted to go north, but was told I’ll have to take a package and all that and go. Not a fan of doing that.

      Like

  1. Phew! I’m just out of Sikkim after traveling there for two weeks. Loved your take on it – since my memories are still fresh, I was nodding in agreement to whatever you wrote. 🙂 All I can say at the moment is that Sikkim is an experience.

    Like

  2. Deepika says

    I so want to visit Sikkim after reading this. East India and north-eastern India are next onmy bucket list

    Like

    • I didn’t see it. But heard you have to take a package et al to go there. Did you manage to go on your own?

      Like

  3. Great coverage, lucid writing & thank you for sharing. We believe that there is more to India than what meets eye. You have tabled one such beautiful place.
    ‘dod’ Rangers

    Like

  4. Makrand says

    The best way to understand Sikkim is to travel in shared jeeps. You get to meet local people of Sikkim and observe their daily lives. On one occasion while travelling from Pelling to Darjeeling, I had to change shared jeep in a smaller town (I forgot the name 😦 ). It was around 1 PM in afternoon and there were no jeeps available at stand. When I inquired at the counter they said if we get enough people then there will be one more jeep available. When I asked what if not enough people are, then the reply I got was : “Then you stay in the town for a day :)”.

    Like

    • Gotta love how patient and laid back people are in these parts! And I agree, shared jeeps are the best way to meet locals.

      Like

  5. Manohar says

    Loved your description of the experience in Sikkim. It reminded me of my journey in Sikkim last year. Feeling nostalgic. Will need to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim again soon. Thanks for sharing your memories and experiences.

    Like

  6. Lovely post… makes me want to go to Sikkim now. Life in villages is simple yet hard, and you find some of the most fulfilled people there.

    Like

    • It is! Though I hear June-August are months of heavy rain (and leeches), so a good idea to wait till September.

      Like

  7. I have been to this place; in fact Sikkim both north/ west and to Ladakh. It was one among the most peaceful trip of my life! Blissful…It seems like God must be residing around with all his charm and blessings. Wonderful place it is 🙂

    Like

  8. I always wonder at the ‘we’ that often figures on your solo trips. 🙂

    Like

    • Wasn’t travelling alone on this trip. Think you may have missed out a post on this blog that explains :p

      Like

  9. Pingback: Sikkim: The Lost Kingdom. | The Talking Sloth - Asia

  10. Pingback: Of Mountains Legends, Unknown Trails and Wild Beauty. | The Shooting Star

  11. Shubham says

    Hey! Been a silent admirer for long ! :))
    North Sikkim happened last year in a private taxi (i.e. white number plate one) no hassles with the package tour, i cant travel in a preordained way ! 3300/- INR per day for the taxi (Xylo). I arranged for the permits with the taxi fellow @ Rs. 100/- per person. We just have to be persistent enough, stayed at the super Forest Rest House in Lachung/Lachen (cant remember).
    The package thing is a sham to deprive real travelers like you from exploring and blogging !
    You are living the life i ve dreamt of 😀
    Keep Traveling n stay blessed

    Like

  12. @Shivya, was just imagining when I would get such a lovely opportunity. Sipping on beer and travelling lovely scenic locations truly appears like a dream to me. I hope to visit Sikkim in my next vacation. Will surely carry my camera along.

    Like

  13. Pingback: Jullay from Leh! | The Shooting Star

  14. Just stumbled upon this blog and really liked it …and kudos to you for living your dream . Wonder what your experience is traveling as a single woman in India ?

    Like

  15. My gangtok trip is best till date,been to yungthamvalley,lachung and katau though could not make up to gurdogmar.the serene beauty is still fresh in my heart,

    Like

  16. Sanket D. says

    Every time I feel a little lost in my own quest I come to your blog to read some of your stories and I want you to know it helps 🙂

    Thanks awesome woman! More power to you 😊

    Like

  17. Mohit Kumar says

    Well…..I love what you are doing…Following your heart and living the moment….For there’s nothing as like the joy of travelling…The moment of self-introspection and loving the silence within… Feeling that learning comes through experiences of life…

    About Sikkim…
    I was there last year during September, it was a random plan for me, after attending my friend’s wedding.I was travelling solo and that was a blessing for me. I reached Silliguri via a bus and then had the option of going to either darjeeling, duars or gangtok.I decided to chose the place depending on whichever jeep i get first, and i heard someone shouting “Gangtok”…!!!!

    I tell you the best thing about Sikkim is the people living in there. People who are doing small jobs still have a smile on their face for they are very much happy living with each other, people who believe that to be happy you dont have to seek after big things, rather happiness is found in small things in life, that happen to be in plenty. People of sikkim who welcome travellers like us with open hearts…people who believe like us that everyday is a Journey and Journey itself is Home…

    I wish to meet you in person for I admire what you are doing….
    All the best for your Journey ahead…
    Bon Voyage… 🙂

    Like

  18. Hamlets of West Sikkim are a treat for mountain lovers. I can still feel the fresh air and majestic view of snowpeaks from Borong village where I got happily lost while having a solo walk on the hill trails.

    Like

I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s