Showing posts with label East Sikkim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East Sikkim. Show all posts

Sunday, February 3, 2019

All about planning a trip to Nathula Pass




Sikkim was one hell of a trip for us (husband and me). While searching for Sikkim tour places, Nathula made it to top priority list. Since there were a lot of surprises and changes in plan,  I wasn't sure if  we would be able to make here as Gangtok to Nathula pass taxi fares were high. At last we found a travel agent in Gangtok Gandhi market, who made necessary arrangements at 1000 INR per person. (It varies between Rs 700-1000 depending on the season.) Booking a whole taxi costs around Rs 2500 which is recommended for a group or family travelling together

P.S- Visitors are required to fill up a form with details which is submitted by the agent at the border authority office. The forms are queued up for next day and signaled for 'permit'.  Hence one must apply for the same a day before the intended visit.

For altitude sickness and breathlessness, it is recommended to have popcorns. Buy a packet or two from vendors at the taxi stand.



The shared taxis (usually Tata Sumo or Bolero) ferry ten people in one go. We left sharp at 9 am with 8 more people as co-passengers. The breathtaking views on the old Silk route of 53 km from the taxi stand to Nathula Pass left us speechless. The views changed from emerald cover of mountains to tree tops wrapped in fluff of clouds. The rapidly changing landscape compensated for the little challenges on the curvy road. Narrow roads along with solo bikers slowed us down and we got stuck at a check post for half an hour. Yet our excitement throughout the journey remained on a high.


Be prepared for road blockages or broken bridges that happen due to avalanche and the only people who take responsibility to repair the damages is Indian Army. Roads are a lifeline of Sikkim as well as strategically important due to proximity from China. Hats off to our Army who rapidly come into action and keep everything moving.

P.S- Due to this bridge construction, entry to Nathula was stopped for two days. Luckily the roads were opened just a day before we inquired. Do get in touch with Sikkim tourist information center before you make booking for Nathula.



Our stoppage on the way where we were greeted by a furry lot. 

Enroute Nathula

The driver would usually stop midway for a short break. Advisable to to relieve yourself or fuel up with food during the break, since the facilities vanish as you near Nathula. Your driver would have a collaboration with these tiny eating joints, where you are required to place your order for lunch in advance.

(Food is quite costly; one plate of fried rice was Rs 180 and a humble thali of rice, daal and dry veggies was priced at Rs 200.  But its okay. Given the harsh terrain where logistics support is negligible, that's how they make a living)

Vegetation started thinning and temperature dropped gradually as we sped through the uphill curves. Our co-passengers had come to a common consensus to visit Nathula Pass first followed by Tsongmo Lake and Baba Mandir on the way back.








Stepping out at an altitude of 14000 feet in spine chilling cold towards Nathula Pass post was a life-learning. We took one step at a time on the stairs, slowly inching towards the Indo-Chinese post facing each other. Icy wind hit our ears and lack of oxygen made us breathless. But you know what kept us going? It was the Indian Army soldiers who had a smile on their face while braving the odds. Nothing puts them off guard or off duty even in sub zero temperature.

Read about my fascinating experience in Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim here. 

An Army personnel narrates stories of the post formation, the ill-fated war and history of Chinese invasion. Both the country's flag flutter in chilled winds, each representing the respective nation's pride. While you can look at the Chinese guard post and sometimes their soldiers on inspection rounds, photography is strictly prohibited. We were told that Indian tourists out of excitement take pictures and post on social media which Chinese use as a propaganda against India. They have accused India in past of war preparations.

PS: If caught, mobile phones are confiscated. Use of SLR camera is a big no. You can carry your camera but in no case would be allowed to use it.

Imbibing the stories and paying our respect at the war memorial, we made our way out through the canteen grabbing some jalebi and momos. Army also sells small collectibles and gift items worth carrying home as memories. We bought a wall poster on which has a space to paste a picture and write the date of visit. This was the best collectible from Nathula for us.

P.S- Do spend a little at the souvenir shop. It can be an amount as small as Rs 50. The money goes to Army welfare. This is the least you can contribute for the brave-hearts on duty. 

Enriched with a sense of pride, saluting the heroes of the nation and paying a quiet homage at the war memorial, we bid adieu to Nathula hoping to come back some day again.   Our next stops were Baba Mandir and Lake Tsongmo.





P.S- My trip to Nathula was in October 2018.
This post made it to Indiblogger Homepage as the featured post of the day as well as the top post of the day.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Touring Sikkim's largest monastery: Rumtek





Visiting temples or monasteries rarely make it to my priority list unless they are exceptional. Never had I thought about seeing any monastery on my trip to Sikkim. However, after reading about the unique History and having heard a lot from the locals, husband and I made quick plan to visit Rumtek; the largest and most popular monastery of Sikkim.


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22 km from the capital, Rumtek stands  at an altitude of 4900 feet against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Range. Made in mid 1700, Rumtek is home to hundreds of monks with a long history of clashes over stewardship of the monastery and its contents. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery is under strict surveillance 24x7.
The heavily guarded entrance 

P.S- Weapons or sharp objects are restricted to entry. Use of camera/mobile phones are allowed in the outer premises, not inside the assembly hall.

The pillar of good luck

A pillar stands across the main temple in the center of the courtyard where tourists engage themselves by throwing coin on the top of the pillar. The coin if perches the pole is said to bring good luck.




Rich and vibrantly colored murals in the traditional, Tibetan painting style grace the entrance of the main temple. Here, on each side of the door, stand life-size images of the four guardians of the universe: Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra, and Vaishravana, protecting the four directions, respectively. (photography is allowed only till point)







The assembly hall leaves you breathless. The spacious and intricately decorated Main Shrine Hall is supported by robust red pillars. Long, round silk banners and ancient thangkas hang from these columns. One side of the main hall houses a complete set of religious scriptures dating thousand years ago. The ornate details and paintings on the walls are truly mesmerizing. (Photography is not allowed here). 


The main assembly hall is surrounded by the monks' quarters and through them leads a path towards the Golden Stupa and the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhism Studies. The Golden Stupa contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. You can meditate or pray here and feel the positive aura surrounding you. (Photography is prohibited here)


The Nalanda Institute is a center dedicated for Buddhism studies.


Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies



You can buy souvenirs at the little shop near the Nalanda Institute's complex or capture nature's bliss around. I was impressed to see how the authorities conserve nature and make the most of the resources available. City dwellers need some serious learning from them.


Road conditions: 
The road condition is extremely bad in patches. Since the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, the slow drive will elongate the journey. Recommended to visit Rumtek during the day or else the bumpy roads are not visible in the dark due to absence of street lights. Apart from few settlements and shops, the entire road is isolated.

Timings- 10 am to 5 pm everyday

Total time to spend: 1 to 2 hours

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018.
This also made it to Indiblogger's Featured Post and Indiblogger's Top post.


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