Sandwiched between the kingdoms of Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east lies a small stretch of rugged land just 115 kilometres by 65 kilometres - the Indian state of Sikkim. On its northern border towers the plateau of Tibet whereas it shares its southern border with West Bengal which is another state of India. On the world map it is just a speck with an approximate latitude of 27 degrees North and longitude of 88 degrees East but its small size of 7096sq km belies its richness of culture, customs, heritage, flora and fauna all telescoped into one. By travelling a few hours within Sikkim one can traverse from sultry tropical to temperate and then to alpine climates-and from almost sea level to 18000ft. Although Mount Kachendzonga at about 28000 ft is the highest point in Sikkim, there are places like Melli at 1100 ft which have a lower altitude than say Hyderabad (1700 ft) and Jaipur (1400 ft). A couple of hours of travel can take you from the almost the rainest region on earth to a cold desert where clouds do not dare to venture and where it hardly rains. No wonder Sikkim is a bio-diversity hotspot - Sikkim has only 0.2percent of the area of India but has 26 percent of its biodiversity- species of flora and fauna -wild animals like marmots and the red panda, a wide range of flora from primulas to orchids. The pristine and unspoilt natural beauty includes alpine landscapes and thick luxuriant tropical forests, rivers in torrents and peaceful lakes - a true Shangrila and a veritable kaledioscope.
By travelling a few kilometers, one can leave a city like Gangtok with all modern amenities and reach a quaint village that seems anachronistically from a different age and having names like Bringbong and Passingdon.
Sikkim is a nice place to be in. It is not dogged with the social problems and economic problems like discrimination against women being faced by other states. Crime is negligible. Although Sikkim is a part of North East Council, it does not share its border with anyone of the of the other seven North Eastern Statesand mercifully the state is not troubled by insurgency that has come to be associated with the other North East states. There are hardly strikes and bandhs in the state. Even when there is an All India Strike, life in Sikkim goes on as normal. Sikkim also has been the first state to ban the use of plastic carry bags and use of fertilizers and pesticides as a step towards becoming an organic state.With a literacy of 82%, the Government has also launched a Total Computer literacy programme.
Every year new destinations keep being added - Chardham, Kanchandzonga Amusement Park, TathagataTstaletc and this has resulted in increasing the number of tourists visiting the state.
Sikkim was earlier a protectorate of India with a monarchy government but in 1975 it metamorphosed as the Twenty Second state of the Indian Union. The population of the whole state is only 5,40,000 as per the last census- less than a populated colony of Delhi. It is well connected to the rest of the country by rail and air through Siliguri about a 100 kms away from Gangtok.
Surrounded by three countries, Sikkim has a 220 kilometres long border with Tibet, 100 kilometres with Nepal, 30 kilometres with Bhutan and 80 kilometres with West Bengal. Because of absence of habitations on both sides of the international border there is hardly any infiltration.
Within the state there is a good road network and more roads are being constructed at a frenzied pace. It is possible to reach Gangtok from places as far flung asLachen and Okhrey within four hours making hardly any place in Sikkim remote. There is a good and reliable shared Taxi- Jeep facility from all places in Sikkim to and from Gangtok. Language communication for outsiders also poses no problems. Although Nepali is the most widely spoken language in Sikkim, everyone seems to know Hindi and English. In spite of rapid development, Sikkim continues to be a small place and everything about it is simple including the names of its four Districts: North, South, East and West. Everyone seems to know everyone.
Sikkim is located in the eastern part of India and therefore the time seems to be slightly skewed as Indian Standard Time(IST) is infact the local time of Allahabad. . It dawns early (as early as 3.30 am in June) and also becomes dark early (as early as 4.30 pm in winter)