By Sparkian Sulekha Chandra
Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds
Sikkim, the wonderland! I used to dream of visiting the northeastern states of India. Lo! I got the opportunity in March 2018 after the exams of my son got over. The trip was not planned, except that a desire to visit Assam was in our hearts. As the flight took off to Bhubaneswar where we had to attend a family function - the thread ceremony of the son of my very close friend Ritu - my husband asked me, “How about visiting Assam and coming back after a week’s time?”
My eyes lit up in anticipation. Soon thoughts of Cheerapunji took over my mind but it seemingly felt that the workload that we both have may not allow us to have an extended holiday and I replied, “Let’s first have a tour of Bhubaneswar and then decide. Soon the discussion caught speed and we started discussing the routes and plan. At such short notice, the flight tickets seemed expensive so we decided to take Tatkal train to Siliguri and further thought of visiting Darjeeling. Thoughts of tea gardens swept my mind of all other worries and workload.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Bhubaneswar and took the train to Siliguri on 29th March and dropped at JNP station on 30th March. I found JNP station as one of the cleanest stations. It felt pleasant as we came out of the train and walked over the bridge to reach the other side of the city. One can see lots of travel agents who provide tour plans and packages. We discussed with Sikkim Travels and then took a cab to Gangtok. There we directly went to the Sikkim Tourism office which is completely made of wood with has a wonderful ambiance, located amidst the sophisticated M G Road.
The staff provided us complete guidance about the trusted hotels and agents registered with them. We stayed at hotel Utpal. The same day we enjoyed at MG Road. It is very special as one side of the road is meant only for the public. The road is adorned with fancy light polls, seating arrangements, fountains, glamorously lit shops and flowers all around.
My son clicked very good pictures for us. He had to as I am very critical of photography skills. The next day we went to enjoy 12 viewpoints of Gangtok which included a Gandola ride wherein one can have an amazing view of the city. We went to the Ganesha Temple where we clicked pictures wearing a fancy local dress called Jainsem. We visited the Biological garden, Flower show to mention a few. We had a great time visiting these viewpoints and enjoying nature. It gave us an opportunity to keep reminding our son of significant details.
On 31st March, we chose to visit Yumthang Valley, the north-most part of Sikkim. We were advised to buy jackets and warm clothes as we had no warm clothes with us. Gangtok is fairly warm during the day. So, we went shopping in Lal Bazar. The next day, we went to the local sumo stand which accommodates up to 9 people and transports people to Yumthang on a sharing basis. My husband was disappointed as we were not allowed to hire a private cab. The local drivers are experts as far as the perilous mountain route is concerned. Moreover, all passengers were supposed to submit their individual close-up photographs with ID details and each car driver carried a stamped document which he produced to the defense personnel each time we crossed a check post. Taking pictures of check post areas is prohibited. We gladly started the journey by 11:30 am and reached the base of Yumthang called Lachung, by evening 6:30 pm. It is a six hours journey and in between, one gets to have lunch or snacks with designated hotels only as mentioned in the package and the driver is aware of all the details.
It was spine chilling cold when we got down and walked towards the Guesthouse. We got a luxurious room on the 3rd floor.
No sooner did we see the quilt than the three of us jumped in, to warm our feet even though each of us was wearing a double layer of socks. Our dinner was arranged in a nearby hotel called Starlit for which we had to face cold feet again. The cold water gave me pain in my fingers while I washed hands for dinner. The moon looked so close from there that one could take clear pictures with visible colors. By 9:30 pm, we were deep asleep. Before sleep, we discussed with fellow passengers who were staying in the same guest house, about the next day’s plan. They suggested that we should visit Kataw peak, instead of Zero Point, which borders Tibet to the north of Sikkim. We woke up at 4:30 am and laughed as we never ever followed such a schedule in Mumbai and wished if lifestyle everywhere could be so. The sun sets at around 5:45 pm and one can witness an awesome sunrise by morning 4:30 am. As we started by 5:30 am, all freshened up and ready to face the chill, I thanked God in my every breath to have given me eyes to witness the golden shine of snow-clad peaks. The lofty mountains grew more and more golden as we were moving up and crossing many others towards Kataw.
We interacted with Indian Jawans and saluted them. They were educating everyone about the dos and don’ts. There we saw a small temple in which a marble stone was installed bearing the name of a Jawan who lost his life while battling in defense of the border. We offered our prayers there and bowed down our heads with a feeling no less than what we feel in a temple. When we witnessed the kind of climate and other conditions that our soldiers bear with, our hearts are bound to get filled with deep respect and reverence for our nation and such heroes as it is not a cup of tea for any other common man to put up under such adverse weather conditions.
“The higher we go, the cooler it is.” My father used to repeat this each time he would take up science to teach us. While standing at Kataw, I realized that this aspect of nature is true for human life as well. The tranquility of mountains teaches us that as we progress and practice silence, we become lofty within and feel the peace which is as golden as the shining snowy mountains in the morning sun.
While my husband and I stood in silence, watching and appreciating the beauty, our son was having fun with a little puppy. We had a lot of fun playing with snowballs, lying down on the snow and clicking pictures, breaking stunning icicles and playing around and posing for more pictures.
After Kataw, we visited Glacier falls in our way towards Yumthang.
It took us 2 hours from there to reach Yumthang Valley. One can enjoy magnificent views of the snow-covered mountains while we drive and witness huge landmasses, amazing rocks, and lakes. No doubt, one tends to appreciate the driving expertise of the local drivers who drive without seat belts and without penalties. When asked about the leniency, the reason they offer is that their body moves a lot while driving on snake-like roads which gives them better control over the steering. They don’t even suggest passengers wear seat belts. Whilst we were busy in this curious talk we reached Yumthang.
We loved to feast on Maggi to keep ourselves light and filled. There, the local Jainsem attracted my attention and I wore it after paying a rental. It was fun when locals complimented me about it. The villagers serve Maggi, momos, eggs and other non-veg dishes to visitors during the day and return to Lachung by evening. The local markets keep a stock of warm apparel and traditional souvenirs for attraction. The green flowing river was the main attraction. One can witness cleanliness everywhere within sight.
We enjoyed 1st April at Yumthang and on 2nd April we went to see Changu Lake. We went directly to Thegu, a place located a little before Nathu-La (Indo-China border in Sikkim). Here, people visit Baba Harbhajan Singh’s Shrine. He was an Indian Army soldier who is famously known there as “Hero of Nathula.” Soldiers, who are posted there, believe that his spirit protects every soldier in the inhospitable high-altitude of Eastern Himalayas. We offered our prayers there and had “prasad”. We also saw that people visit this place in large numbers.
One can visit the War Museum and also buy unique traditional items from their gallery. They also give a certificate that you visited the place with date, signature, and stamp. While driving back towards Changu Lake, we stopped to play with snow and enjoy the serene, white environment. Our joy knew no bounds when it started snowing. My husband and son were witnessing it for the first time. I had enjoyed it a lot in my childhood when we were in Kashmir. We became careless about our red noses and cold feet as some extra energy came out through our enthusiasm. Our driver clicked our pictures and I recorded videos of the stunning snow-clad mountains.
Changu Lake is stunningly beautiful. Emerald green water with the white backdrop takes our mind to a different dimension and we naturally praise God for His supreme architecture and designing. One becomes thoughtless about work and worries and dives deep into appreciating nature and we end up developing a deep connection with each of its aspects. In my heart of hearts, I thanked all the people who built roads and discovered these places. Border Road Organization (BRO) is doing a fabulous job by constantly repairing roads and making necessary facilities available for travelers. Another lake called Manju Lake is completely frozen and gives the hypnotic invitation to walk over its surface but no one is allowed to do so for safety reasons.
We got gumboots for Rs 50 at a rental. Jackets are also available on a rental basis for a mere Rs200. Changu Lake has cable cars connected to mountains and it’s a view worth watching. One will always remember the spine chilling wind plus excitement one experiences because it gives a sense of triumph! The wind can simply freeze our nerves if we expose ourselves longer without shelter. Within a few minutes, we traveled back towards Changu Lake as the snowfall was getting heavier. The cable car service works only till 1 pm as weather conditions become adverse affecting visibility. We were fortunate to avail the last ride of the day. We made new friends there. The whole view of Changu Lake still occupies my mind.
We returned to Gangtok by evening and had dinner at a restaurant that offers authentic Sikkimese Thali. It was insightful to speak to the chef and the staff about the local cuisines and favorite dishes. We loved the “thali” and the traditional grandeur of the overall ambiance.
Our day concluded with smiles and beautiful memories. Travelling is a humbling experience as we get to learn things beyond books and imagination. Appreciating nature’s beauty is a divine opportunity one must avail. It is one earth-one birth, so we need to make the most of it by traveling to a destination away from your region. Kids must travel with their family often as traveling is not only a time of enjoyment, it is a rich learning experience to understand diversity through language, culture, food, climate, heritage sites, and geographical significance.
Do visit Sikkim and feel the ‘Incredible India’.
About Sulekha Chandra
Founder of Gyan Paradise, Sulekha Chandra is a youth mentor, corporate trainer, content developer, training and development professional with experience in Corporate HR.
She is a motivational speaker, author, editor and reviewer at various national and international platforms.
For more information, visit Sulekha Chandra on her facebook page @