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Published: August 9th 2017
Geo: 27.3292, 88.6169
The Tibetan culture is strong in Sikkim, the people here live a more slower life to that of the bustling cities of India. The locals cast the traditional Saree's away for a more western and labeled look. Nestled among the steep and green hills of Sikkim lies the "Capital" Gangtok.
After taking a bumpy and squished in five hour shared jeep ride we finally arrived into Gangtok, though it was dark. It was a tad warmer than Darjeeling but it is at a lower altitude.
We nestled into the New Modern Central Lodge at a cheap price but the room we got was along a main road so there was a lot of noise, especially the car horns.
After an early rise from the noise Irma and myself finally got our act together for some breakfast. We went to a local hotel restaurant across the street where they had trouble getting our order right.
There is a few things to do in Gangtok where you can spend a couple of days.
After breakfast we walked just up hill to the Flower Exhibition Center where there was a small greenhouse with all of the local Sikkimese plants and fauna, it was quite nice to
see the colors.
From there, just across the road was White Hall which was nothing, it's mentioned in the lonely planet as something to see but there is nothing to see, it houses offices.
We then proceeded up hill more in search of the Enchey Monastery, we finally found it but not before asking people every 200m. Along the way we stopped and talked to a local lady who was living in Canada and had come back so she could help build her house. We stopped and chatted with her for about 45 minutes and observed teenagers, male and female, and old people help build the house. In other countries they have boots and spirit levels, here they have sandals covered in cement and using the old fashion plum line and water level.
We reached the top of the hill just in front of the monastery in a small park and rested for about 30 minutes where we watched the locals doing their daily routine. It was a nice day for observing the local culture of the Sikkim people. We eventually entered the monastery where we just had a look around. We walked back downhill to our accommodation. We then grabbed some dinner
at a fancy restaurant in a hotel and we asked a man from Belgium named Costa to join us for some food, we had met a few hours earlier at the monastery briefly. Costa was a freelance photographer who was working in Kolkata and was in Gangtok for a little break.
A problem in Gangtok is that everything closes by 9pm including accommodation, we almost were locked out on the first night we arrived, not knowing this, and when we got back from dinner they were closing the doors to the hotel.
We have been taken it slowly in Gangtok, by that I mean we have gotten out of bed by 9 and finished breakfast by 11am, then we take our time to get to places and take our time to look around, and before you know it the days gone. But I find Gangtok to be a really nice place, it kind of has the feeling of an alpine town, it's the cleanest place so far and there seems to be more wealth.
After having my first proper shower for 2 weeks, not using a bucket of hot water, we grabbed a late breakfast and then proceeded to look for some different
accommodation, our accommodation was on a main street so there was a lot of noise and the room was freezing, so we checked into a more pricier but more comfortable hotel, with a TV. We then went to see the other side of the town, so we checked out the local market. The market was nice, down the bottom level is all the fruit and veges and on the second level are all the clothes, shoes and gadgets. It's nice to walk through a market without being hassled into looking at their shops. All the clothing and shoe shops are quite cheap and it's a shame I don't have room in my bag to buy things cause I would have bought a few pairs of shoes and some clothing. O'well.
We then caught a taxi to Do-Drul Chorten, another monastery on the South side of Gangtok.
Here we observed a ceremony for three people who had died, one of them was Bhutanese and there were people from Bhutan also involved. We talked to one of the men from Bhutan who explained to us about the Ceremony and about the Buddhist Religion. During the singing in the Pooja Ceremony they use horns and
drums which attract the spirits to the ceremony and offerings, from there the spirit wonders for 49 days to see if he is dead.
Just down the road is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology which houses all kinds of artifacts including scrolls and statues. It also has a small part that explains Buddhas lifeline from Birth to Death and the way to Enlightenment. I am starting to learn more about this fascinating religion and it's many gods and rituals.
Just a bit further down the road we took the Gangtok Ropeway up and back down which gave us some great views of the town and the hills surrounding. Then it was back into town for dinner.
The next day nothing really eventuated, we grabbed a really late breakfast and then i was on the Internet for 2 hours, Irma got a massage and i went back to the hotel to watch some TV. by 4pm we took a walk up to the Palace Monastery which was OK, nothing to much to see. And before we knew it it was time for dinner where we went to a Tibetan restaurant for some average food and some average service.
The following morning we woke late again,
a running theme in Gangtok. We booked a share taxi to Pelling and then took a taxi around for a few hours and went and saw Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok and Tashi view point. They were all OK but nothing special in my opinion, but we couldn't hang around for too long cause we were due to catch a share taxi to Rumtek.
We were told to come at 3 and catch the taxi but when we got there it was full and we had no ride, we waited and we finally got a taxi, but it was crammed, as they all are. I was next to a massive man with some horrible body odor on a seat meant for one person. But it was only for about 30 min. After an hour we arrived at the Rumtek Monastery where we showed our passports and Sikkim permits at the gate for entry. All the accommodation is inside the Monastery. We stayed at the Sungay Guesthouse. It was quite nice and we met two people, A Spanish and Swiss duo who were riding their bikes throughout Northern India and had just come from Pakistan. They gave me some great advice about the
Everest base camp trek. I couldn't believe they were cycling the steep roads of Sikkim.
In the morning we had to rise early to see the monastery as we had to get back to Gangtok by noon to catch our jeep to Pelling. After a nice breakfast we walked just up the hill and took a look around the monastery for a about an hour. Here they keep the seat of the Karmapa who is in Exile. They also house a "Black Hat" which is meant to be woven from angels. You can't see the hat but a monk showed us some video footage on his High Tech Blackberry.
Then It was time to leave for Pelling.
I have quite a few photos and things to talk about so I'm going to do two Sikkim Blogs
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