East District (Outside Gangtok)

Situated about six kilometres away from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway, this place offers an astounding view pltashiview2of the Kanchendzonga snowy range. On the opposite hill, the Phodong and the Labrang monasteries can be seen. A resting shed and a small cafeteria situated at Tashi View Point provides shelter and other amenities to the tourists. A park above the View Point is a good place to enjoy a picnic.

Situated about five kilometres uphill from White Hall on a bifurcation road of the Gangtok Nathula Highway, is a temple of God Hanuman at an altitude of 2195 m (7200 ft).  From the temple, the snowy peaks of Kanchendzonga present a panoramic picture. As you offer your prayers, the statue of Lord Hanuman gazes down at you. The temple of Hanuman is flanked by a small tePlace to see: Hanuman tokmple of Shirdi Saibaba.

A short distance before the stair case leading to the Hanuman Temple is the cremation ground of the erstwhile royal family of Sikkim. The creplhanuman8mation ground has stupas and chortens each marking the place where the mortal remains of the departed souls were consigned to the flames.

Situated about 7 Kilometers from Gangtok on the way to Ranka,
these waterfall is a popular picnic spot. BanJhakri is plbanjhakri1a mythical magician whose wife was a witch who used to eat children. But Ban Jhakri himself was a protector of children. Different masks of Ban Jhakri have been put up at this spot. An Energy Park using Non-
conventional energy like solar power also co-exists here. There are exhibits especially educative for children like slides,swings that generate electricity when you use them and this is used to power a demonstration bulb or a speaker.

plbanjhakri3

[/su_tab]

[su_tab title=”Kanchendzonga Amusement Park”]Situated midway between Ban Jhakri Falls and Lingdum Monastery Kanchendzonga Amusement Park((03592-210780, www.ktcranka.com) is a nice place to visit and enjoy games like dashing cars, 4 D Ride simulator, Musical Fountain, swimming pool, bowling alley, snooker. For overnight stay there are traditional huts available.plamusement2

For those interested in Buddhism, a visit to Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery at Lingdum which lies on a bifurcation on the
Gangtok-Rumtek road towards Ranka can be fruitful.
It is the seat of the incarnation of Zurmang Gharwang Rimpoche. Built  in 1997, this monastery is palatial in size. Travel: Lingdum monasterybudfeslingdum1Places to travel: Lingdum Monastery

The monastery is at a distance of 23 kilometres from Gangtok. In fact it is located on the hill facing Gangtok.

budfesrumtek1The present monastery was constructed by His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa in 1960s. Gyalwa Karmapa was the sixteenth Karmapa and came to settle in Sikkim in the late fifties when the Chinese invaded Tibet. He passed away in 1981.

The Kargyugpa Sect of Buddhism has its origins in Tibet in the twelfth century. It is said that after the first Karmapa spent many years meditating in a cave, ten thousand fairies came to congratulate him and each offered plrumtek12a strand of haplrumtek17ir. These strand of hair were woven into a black hat. This black hat came to be passed down and is still at the Rumtek Monastery. It is said that unless held with the hand, or kept in a box, it will fly away. It was worn by the Karmapas on ceremonial occasions.

The monastery is certainly the largest in Sikkim and is an example of fine Tibetan architecture. The Main Monastery is three storied and has a large prayerhall on the ground floor lined with small tables which the monks use to keep their religious books to read during prayers. The prayer hall is intricately decorated with Statues, wall paintings, thankas and tubular silk banners. On the first floor are the living quarters of the last Karmapa. The top floor has a terrace and a small stupa. The monastery is surrounded by a courtyard and the living quarters of the lamas. A flight of stairs from just outside the Main Monastery Complex takes you to the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist studies. You are greeted by a huge painting of Lord Buddha just outside the Nalanda Institute: for the Buddhists gods loom large in art as they do in belief.

Just adjacent to it is a small hall that has a stupa that contains the bone and ashes of the Sixteenth Karmapa. The stupa is surrounded by small statues of all the earlier Karmapas. On the same level as the Nalanda Institute is a small two storied building, in which the Gyalwa Karmapa used to reside during the summers. A few metres ahead is an aviary containing the most exotic birds. The Gyalwa Karmapa had a special liking for birds and dogs and I have fond memories, as a child, of playing with his dog during one of my many visits there.

About half a kilometre uphill from the aviary is a hermitage in which monks go into complete seclusion for meditation for periods upto 3 years.

A fifteen minutes walk downhill from the Main Monastery takes one to the old Rumtek Monastery, which was first built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed due to a fire and had to be reconstructed to its present state.

The main puja or dances of Rumtek also called the Tse-Chu Chaams are held on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calender around June. Dances called the Kagyat are also held on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calender in the Old Rumtek Monastery.

After the XVIth Karmapa passed away in 1981, the search began for his reincarnation. But it was almost ten years later that a boy who met the requirements was traced in Tibet. Ugen Thinley was recognised as the XVII th Karmapa by the Dalai Lama. Ugen Thinley escaped from Tibet in 2000 and is presently staying in Dharamshall in Himachal Pradesh.

Half a kilometre before the Main Monastery is the Shambala Tourist Resort((03592-252240 or252243)  which provides modern amenities in typical rural settings with tourist huts built in traditional Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali style.The Martam Village resort ((223314,236843) 10 kilometres ahead of  Rumtek is located in the tranquil countryside and offers accommodation in nine thatched cottages built in traditional syle but providing all modern facilities: a good place to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

This temple lies on the road between the Nathula and the Jelepla pass. There is a touching story behind the establishment of the temple.  Harbhajan Singh was a sepoy in the Punjab Regiment. In October 1968, while  escorting a column of mules carrying  provisions, he  fell into a stream and dplbabamandir3rowned. A few days later he appeared in the dream of a colleague of his and expressed a desire that a monument in his memory be built. His colleagues in the regiment considered the dream to be auspicious and felt that if they fulfilled his desire he would protect them from agression and mishap. The temple was thus built and has over the years acquired the status of a place of pilgrimage. Visitors leave a bottle of water which they then arrange to collect a few days later. It is said that drinking the water is wish-yielding.

Although long dead,  it is understood that the splbabamandir2epoy has been promoted to the rank of Honorary captain and his salary is even sent to his home in Punjab. Once a year arrangements are made to send him on leave to his home town. A berth is booked in a train and his uniform placed on it. A soldier from the regiment accompanies.

There is a souvenir shop which also issues computerised certificates certifying  your visit to this place. Just adjacent is a cafe.

A lake at 3753 m(12,310 ft)! Impossible you will say but it is a fact. Changulake is situated 35 kilometres from plchangu1Gangtok on the Gangtok – Nathula highway The stretch of the route just below Karponang, 15 kilometres from Gangtok was particularly dangerous. Its steepness resulted in many mules slipping to their death into the ravine below. Karponang is at an altitude of 3000 metres: an ascend of 1500 metres  fromGangtok in less than 15 kilometres. Slightly less than 10 kilometres  away from Karponang is 15th Mile or Kyongnosla which lies on a saddle on the Chola Range and from where a panoramic view of part of Gangtok and other surrounding hills can be obtained. The road has less gradient and the vegetation adopts an alpine nature. About a kilometre ahead of Kyongnosla and about five minutes walk from the roadside is the TsetenTashi cave which is about twenty feet high and so named after a naturalist of Sikkim who was also the Private Secretary to the Chogyal.

Changu Lake, which is hardly 20 kilometres away from the famous Nathula Pass and about 400 kilometres from Lhasa, falls in the restricted area and hence an Inner Line Permit, which can be obtained from the Police through the Tourism Department or travel agent, is required by visitors to visit this place. Foreign nationals are also permitted to visit this lake. Photography is now allowed and in fact parts of few Hindi films have been shot here.

plchangu14Its cool, placid water harmonises with the scenic beauty around which is doubled by its reflection in the lake. A small temple of Lord Siva is constructed on the lakeside. Primula flowers and other alpine vegetation grow around the lake, which has an average depth of 15 metres, lend a pristine beauty to this place. A footpath along the lake takes one to a resting shed – a walk of about half a kilometre. During the winter months the lake becomes frozen. The lake itself derives its water from the melting snow on the mountains around. The lake has a few rainbow trout and if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse at them.

Rides on yaks and mules are also offered at the lake site. Tea and snacks are available at the  shoppingcompex  about 200 metres before the lake. It has a pay and use toilet.  Some of the stalls even keep offer jackets, snowboots and gumboots on hire.

personal4Because of the high altitude, heavy woollens are required to be worn here throughout the year. There is no facility of accommodation for the tourist. It is advisable to visit the lake before noon as usually during the afternoons the weather becomes inclement. Those with breathing problems should avoid exerting themselves too much because of the scarcity of air at this altitude.


plchangu17

Nathula at 4320 m (14400 ft) remained as the major pass connecting Sikkim to Tibet till 1962. It was through this pass that trade between the two countries used to be carried out with trains of mules carrying wool, gold, rock-salt and borax and taking back essential items of daily use from India. From Nathula, Yathung the erstwhile famous tradepost in the Chumbi Valley in  Tibet is just 30 kilometres away. During clear weather, the road winding down the Chumbi valley can clearly be seen and on the eastern horizon looms the Chomolhari peak that is situated in Bhutan. The Chinese soldiers are also visible a few metres away from the barbed wire that marks the border plnathula1between the two countries. The exchange of mail takes place every Thursday and Sunday with the Indian postman crossing over to the Chinese outpost and meeting his counterpart to carry out the transaction. An engraved stone also known as the Nehru Stone  marks the visit of the Late Prime Minister of India Jawarlal Nehru to Nathula in 1958. The Nathula border was quiet during the Indo-China war in 1962. However because of a dispute over the demaraction of territory by barbed wire firing took place between the armies of the two sides in 1965.  In  Sept 1967 there was a major confrontation in which many lives on both sides were lost. A memorial has been built in honour of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in this battle.The trade route through Nathula was reopened on 6th July 2006 for a few items.plnathulachomolari

The Kailash Mansorovar Yatra to Tibet has been opened through Nathula from June 2015.

Kailash Manosorvar is the Hindu pilgrim site located in Tibet, China. For many years the Government of India in association with the Government of China has been organising visits to this area during the summer months for Indian pilgrims in batches.  Till now the journey involved an arduous trek which begins from near Almora in Uttarakhand, then a day journey by bus and finally the two day trek circum-ambulating.  Total journey up and  down takes 22 days.

In contrast the route via Nathula takes about 19 days up and down  and the entire journey is done by road except the two day trek around Mount Kailash . Pilgrims who because of some reasons cannot take the Uttarakhand would prefer to take the Nathula route.

Pilgrims desirous of visiting Manosorovar lake have to apply to Ministry of Home Affaris.  Those desiSelection is done after a medical test done in Delhi.

The Nathula pass can be visited by Indian tourists only on selected four days a weekplnathulasign.  Those desirous of visiting can obtain details from the website kmy.gov.in Travel Agents in Gangtok can arrange to get a pass to visit Nathula and also arrange a shared taxi .plnathula5

Set amidst a thick forest this lake is situated in the South East corner of Sikkim a few kilmiters away from Rhenock. plrhenocklamphokariBoating facility is available at the lake. Aritar is also well known for the oldest Dak Bunglow (Rest House) in the state. This place is also well known for the popular Lampokhari festival held during spring. If you have the time visit the Aritar Monastery closeby.

bud-aritar

 

 

The Vishwa Vinayak Mandir at Rhenock depicts the Hindu God Ganesh in different manifestations. It is an imposing and marvelous structure inaugurated in 2016. Particularly interesting are the Statues showing the churning  of the Ocean. A must visit place. One should include it in the itinerary while visiting Lampokhari.

20161121_150710 20161121_145932 20161121_145049 20161121_144147 20161121_144034

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A holiday in Sikkim to many normally means a visit to Gangtok, Nathula Pass and for those with a little more time, a stay at Pelling or a trip to the Yumthang valley – all terribly crowded with tourists during the season time.

But for those who want to beat the tourist rush and venture into the off-beaten path there are many other places to see. The Pakyong area is one such destination.Tourists visiting the Rhenock and  Aritar area from Gangtok can take the Pakyong route where there are many lesser known but interesting places of interest which you will not find in any guide book. Visitors can also visit these places enroute to Gangtok from the Pakyong airport which is located a few kilometers from Pakyong Bazar. You can even throw in a few easy treks in your itinerary.
Pakyong has gently undulating hills in the range of 4000 ft to 5000 ft  above mean sea level and a  climate that is very mild and  salubrious  throughout the year. It is well known for its flowers like Orchids, Gerbera and Gladioli which is supplied to the flower marketsin Sikkim and other places in the country.

The places one can visit are:

KARTHOK MONASTERY

The Karthok Monastery  close to the Pakyong Bazar is considered as one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. It is just 3 kilometers uphill by road from Pakyong  Bazar. You need to take the road from in front of the Pakyong Police Station.  It belongs to the  Kathokpa sub sect of Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. The monastery has been completely renovated and retrofitted and looks as though it was newly constructed.   Stop over for a few minutes to catch a view of the airport on the way to the monastery.

VIEW POINT & CAVE, BOJAY TAR

A further 3 kilometers uphill from Karthok Monastery is  the View Point. Located within the Oasis of peace park  the View Point at Bojay Tar offers breath taking view of the theRanipul valley below. The view point is located on the top of a small cave which you can explore after taking in the scenery.

SHIVALAYA

Shivalaya is about 10 kms from Pakyong on the way to Rorathang. It was established as a place of worship in 1872 when there was only a stone in the form of a Shiv Linga.Taksari Chandrabir Pradhan thereafter constructed a small temple. Shivalaya is now a full fledged concrete structure temple housing the statues of Lord Shiva and other Hindu deities.  While all major Hindu festivals are celebrated at this temple, newly married couples come here to seek blessings for nuptial bliss.  There is also a Vedic Pathsalya(school) within the premises of the temple where Sanskrit and Vedas is taught.

PACHEY KHANI KOTHI

It was the house of one of Taksaris who were the official minters and earning huge profits from mining copper. What is unique about this wood and stone mansion is that it has 52 doors and was locally called BhavanDokhaKothi. It is a private property but you can ask the  caretaker to show you around.

ABANDONED COPPER MINES

In the days yore, trading was done in Sikkim by barter. Towards the last quarter the nineteenth century, Sikkim began minting its own coins. The Durbar of Sikkim authorized  some businessmen  to mint coins. This triggered copper mining venture in Sikkim.Pakyong was rich in copper deposits and huge swaths of land were dug to mine the copper which was converted to coins. Later copper was exportedThe minters were called Taksaris. However by the beginning of the twentieth century the mines were exhausted of copper and it was no longer economically viable to further carry out operations. PN Bose Dy. Superintendent Geological Survey of India visited the mines in 1891 and wrote this about the mines in the Gazetteer of Sikkim compiled by HH Risleyand published in 1894.

The ore is got out by manual labour, no machinery or even blasting being resorted to. The tools generally used are an iron hammer and an ordinary wedge or chisel (cheni), which is held by a strip of split bamboo twisted round it. Small picks are also sometimes employed

The lights used are torches made of thin strips of bamboo about a foot long, which burn for a minute.

 This necessitates presence of two men, one to hold the light while the other chisels out the ore.by of strip of split bamboo twisted round it.

The caves which were dug still exist and can be visited: a reminder of the important role they had in the history of Sikkim. One cave is located in Packeykhani as depicted in the map.

For visitors interested in this part of Sikkim’s past, a day or two exploring the mines would be worthwhile. As the caves are not properly demarcated, it would involve interacting with the locals and asking for directions –  a good way to get exposed to the way of life of the area.

NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ORCHIDS

The weather of Pakyong is very conducive for the growth of orchids and it is no wonder that a full fledged National Research Centre for Orchids under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research has been established here. Propagation of local orchids, tissue culture and development of new species are prime activities of the Centre.

SERENDIPITY PRIVATE MUSEUM
Pakyong has a rich history and was the hub of mining of copper and minting of coins during the second  half of the nineteenth century. The house of one of the minters also called Taksaris still exists in Pakyong Bazar.  Named  Serendipity, it is the  home of  a descendant Narayan Pradhan.  The living room of this house which is about 180 years old has been converted into a museum. Visiting here is like getting caught in a time warp: there are artifacts on display that hark back to a bygone era.  Postal stamps, coins,letters, photographs, statues and other family heirlooms are placed in every space available in the living room.  Serendipity is open to the public .

CHANGEY MONASTERY

A few kilometers from Pakyong Bazar and perched on a hilltop, this Nyingmapa sect Monastery revered by the locals. One should visit the monastery just before the Loosongfestival  in December when it becomes live with Masked dances and reverberates with the sound of trumpets, drums and cymbals. It is also the perfect location for catching a majestic view of the surrounding areas.

YAAKTEN & JHANDIDARA

A few kilometers away Pakyong Bazar  is  Yaakten a delightful  village with seven or eight homestays. Homestays here charge between Rs 800 to Rs 1000 per person on twin sharing with all meals included. Yaakten is the take off point for the trek to Jhandidara. If you want to make the best of your stay here, then you should commence your trek early morning while it is still dark. The climb is moderate  on a bridle path and in about an hour you reachGarhidara the highest point of this trek at an altitude of about 6800 ft.  A  three storied concrete watch tower is located here but it has been surrounded by tall trees and therefore you cannot get much of a view. Just adjacent to the watchtower is an altar with small statues of the Hindu deities Ram, Sita and Laxman. There is a plan to construct a temple here. During Ram Nami (ChaiteDasai).which falls in the month of April, this area becomes live  with worshipers from surrounding areas Temporary shops, mostly eateries sprout up here. A gentle downhill walk of about half a kilometer on a ridge reaches you to Jhandidara. Nestled on top of the spur of hill,  it offers a commanding view of the Khanchendzonga range in the west;Jaluk, Jelepla and Nathula in the east. In the southerly direction, the towns of Rhenock and Rongli can clearly be discerned.  The eastern sky slowly lights up and the snow-clad peaks become crimson and then glistening white. As the sun rises, the crowns of smaller mountains are brightened up one by one and then slowly the probing rays enter the deepest of the valleys and the gorges revealing verdant forests soaked in hundreds of shades of green. The walk downhill back to Yaakten takes a littleless than an hour.

MACHONG  LOOSING AND ROLEP AREA
Pakyong to Machong is about 25 kilometers taking about an hour to cover. Machong again is the home to a famous monastery belonging to the Nyingmapa sect.  Another place worth visiting is Loosing which is about 10 kilometers downhill from Machong  and on the banks of the Rangpo River.  If you like you can stay in one of the homestays and spend time fishing, swimming and walking around. From Loosing you have to drive back uphill to Machong and continue to Rigep now famous for a newly constructed Makhim temple belonging to the Rai community. If you have time you can participate in the puja which is held twice a day: 6 am and then 6 pm.

A further 5 kilometers away is Chochenpokhari. Until a few years ago a beautiful lake existed here but over time the water drained away resulting in a dry basin.  This notwithstanding  it is still very picturesque  and presents an awesome sight.  The paddy fields a round the lake present a stunning vista changing colours from deep green during the monsoons to golden hue in autumn.  Just about half a kilometer above the road is  Dhungkaney a small cave that is sacred to the Buddhists. The next destination is Rolep which is about 10 kilometers away.

Rolep  likeYaakten has many homestays on the bank of the river Rangpo Chu. The river is teeming in trout and other aquatic animals – an ideal location for fishing. Rolep is the take off point for the Baudha Dham also called Takuney by the Buddhists and reaching there involves a   3 kilometer trek. The path is lined mostly with maple, magnolia and oak trees. Butterflies of many hues flash like living jewels dancing from flower to flower. The first two kilometers is characterized by a gentle climb. Stretches of the path pass through deep gorges and along cliff slides which hardly receive any sunlight. You also encounter large patches of cardamom fields.  After an hour you reach the confluence of the Changu Khola and the Gnathang Khola.  After negotiating a footbridge across the Gnathang Khola the steep one kilometer climb to the cave commences.
All of a sudden the facade of the cave adorned with prayer flags becomes visible through the thick foliage. It is believed that Guru Padmasambha visited this cave and Buddhists rever it on the same footing as Taksam in Paro Bhutan. Hindus also come here to worship Lord Shiva The looming structure  infact consists of three stories. The ground level has a cave about 8 ft high and 15 ft wide with a depth of 10 ft.   Small statues of Lord Shiva and Guru Padmasambha have been placed in the cave.The second level has cave with a narrow entrance that opens into a natural hall which is used as a meditation hall. At the roof of the cave  a triangular depression in the rock has led to the formation of small pond. Legend has it that if the water in this pond dries, it foretells bad omen for the state. The walk back to Rolep takes about an hour.