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A Countryside Village with Natural Charm - Lachung, Sikkim

A remote town in hills, away from most tourist maps, blessed with natural beauty, cultural heritage and friendly inhabitants - that is our destination this time.

A video blog takes your through Lachung

We had a great first half of our North East trip and had a chance to overcome newer heights for the first time. It definitely had been a thrilling experience thus far on the trip but the best wasn't yet over - there was more to come on the trip and the chance of exploring the uniqueness of upcoming destinations kept us excited while on road. We had been to Gurudongmar Lake, an enigma in itself, and we're off to our next destination - Lachung. We crossed Lachen on our way back from the lake by about 2 PM on May 10th 2017 and proceeded to Lachung.

As we crossed Lachen, memories of the excitement we had back at the highest lake dwindled in front of our eyes but the anxiety of what was to come up definitely kept us going. As we moved out of the Lachen region, the roads improved and thus the journey was relatively comfortable on this leg. In about an hour and a half, we approached the point where the roads meet - one from Lachen, other towards Gangtok and the third to Lachung. This place is a small roadside village called Chungthang. This is also the place of confluence of two important tributaries of River Teesta - Lachen River and Lachung River which gain their names from their sources uphill. This was also our first stop on the journey. Remember we stopped here while on the way to Lachen and were really impressed with the tea at a local cafe - yes we are teetotalers and this drink acts as a fuel for our bodies. What we loved more was the view that we had from the small restaurant room of the cafe - two freely flowing rivers coming together and entering the realms of a mega hydro-electric power plant coming up as part of Project Teesta. The lovely lady - "Neena" running the place was good enough to get customized tea ready for us based on our specific requirements - well boiled, less sugar, strong flavors!! The view was mesmerizing and the fried rice and steaming hot tea made the combination perfect for the movement. We spent about half and hour there before boarding the car to get going further.

First Look of Lachung
Negotiating the curves on the road covered with greenery on both sides and scenery far-and-wide, we continued our drive towards Lachung. The entire journey through the hills are nevertheless scenic and we believe that the fun of a hill holiday is the journey and not the destination. This belief was only strengthened through this drive and we came across some of the best gifts of nature to us - panoramic views of hills and slopes covered partially in snow and vegetation. While one may expect exhaustion after more than half of a hectic vacation but the scenery wouldn't let us get over itself and we kept longing for more. The way to Lachung passes through quaint villages, scenic spots, and waterfalls.After about another hour we entered the village zone of Lachung and the car pulled into a decently sized hotel building towards the other end of the village suburbs. 

View From Hotel Window - Hotel Park Palace
We checked into our room at the Hotel Park Palace by about 5:30 PM and the check in process was pretty smooth. Our bookings were already in place - though I had confirmed it ahead to be sure - and the staff was courteous. The gentleman at the reception gave us a free upgrade and we settled in our superior deluxe suite - Room 502 - overlooking the hills and the far river giving it everything we need in a room. The room itself was pretty well equipped with all necessities and was nicely set up. Though the management was informal and ad-hoc, the service was quick and responsive. There was no elevator and that was the only time when we had second thoughts on the request for a room on the top floor but then you lose something to gain something. It wasn't extravagant or opulent by any means but was definitely more than functional. We checked dinner arrangements with the hotel reception and found that those with an American Plan were served dinner buffet at the restaurant. We did not have the plan and hence they offered us an ala-carte menu for the evening. They also provided us with a room heater for 400 bucks. We unwinded and unpacked a bit and freshened up after the arduous journey. We were ready in another hour and the beautiful surroundings tempted us to move out of the hotel for a quick tour of this scenic village nestled in the North East region of India. 

We came down the stairs and talked to the guy at the reception to check on things we can explore locally. Again we were impressed with his responsiveness and he gave us a detailed set of ways to explore the town after inquiring us of our interests. We moved out of the hotel and this countryside town grew on us as we strolled across the road - the only one that passes through-and-through the place. We realized that though Lachung is a small village in the northern district of Sikkim, no way the small size of the village matters. The village is surrounded by picturesque mountains all around and nature’s blessings that fascinate people who travel here. The region is relatively off the tourist maps and hence carries the raw charm one looks for - snow capped mountains, sparkling streams, peaks, breathtaking waterfalls and much more. The place gets its name from its literal meaning “Small Mountain” and is situated at about 8000 feet height. 

Hills, Clouds, and Greenery - That is the beauty of this Countryside Village
The Lachung Bridge - Bailey Bridge in Perfect Setting
We strolled downhill for about 20 minutes across the curving roads by the mesmerizing views across and reached the Lachung Bridge. This is an iron frame bridge on the Lachung River built by the Army. Army has built numerous such bridges all across the North-East region to provide road connectivity in this difficult terrain. These portable bridges are called Bailey Bridges and are a preferred mode of connecting land masses across waterfalls and rivers in the hilly region. Bailey bridges are built on site from a pre-engineered system of ready-to-assemble components. Utilizing standardized prefabricated components, Bailey bridges can be built to match a wide range of vehicular bridging applications. Because of their excellent versatility and overall value, Bailey bridges have been installed throughout the world. In India, the army uses these to provide connectivity in strategic areas or during natural calamities considering the short time duration it takes to have one of these operational. We saw quite a few Army camps stocked with huge quantities of pre-fabricated components of such bridges. After observing the nature and view from the bridge, we went ahead and climbed down to the running stream of water - the Lachung River or Lachung Chu as it is called. Lachung Chu is a beautiful river that emerges from the melting snow high above. The village spreads widely and encompasses both sides of the river.

Lachung River or Lachung Chu
We spent a few moments in the lap of nature at this beautiful point and then began our hike towards the next point of attraction – Lachung Monastery. After about 20 minutes of a hike, we stopped at a small hotel to ask for asking directions. The chatty guy at the counter was a jolly good fellow. He informed us that the monastery is just a 10-minute hike further on the road and showed us the directions. We knew that his and our 10 minutes on this terrain were far different and when asked he clarified that it may be 20 minutes hike on our scale – the people from plains. No doubt that the stamina hill people have is much superior to us. But we remember this small hotel not only for the jolly good guy. We got a company for the hike!! Rituparna and Abhishek (a Major in Army) from Calcutta were looking for something to kill time and were on a lookout for the route to the monastery. We decided to walk down (or actually up) together. We stuck an interesting conversation and realized that Abhishek was pretty well-read in diverse areas of interests.

Soon we were climbing a very scenic trail to the monastery - Lachung "Samten Choling" Monastery to be specific. Cuddled amid the beauty of apple orchards with an amazingly tranquil aura, the Lachung Monastery is one grand architectural pride of Lachung valley. We spent enlightening time interacting with the lamas there who were more than happy to satiate our curiosities. The monastery was built by to strengthen the Buddhist faith in the region. In 1930 a statue of Buddha was brought from Tibet as a basic religious treasure for this Gompa in order to help Dharma flourish in the region. It follows the Nyingmapa Sect of Buddhism. The monastery functions all major ceremonies with annual mask dance in winter. We returned to the hotel at about 7:30 in the evening.

The Road to The Gumpa - Lachung Monastery

The Photo Says it Itself
If interested, tourists also have an option to visit the apple orchards, peaches, and apricots which are the prime attractions of the city. While driving out of the city we also saw that the market of the city is filled with handicrafts such as exquisitely woven rugs and blankets. We had dinner at the hotel which the staff delivered to our room. I definitely prefer the ala-carte option than the buffet. Next morning we were up by 6 for an early departure. We checked out of the hotel and boarded the car to continue our journey to new avenues and further heights.

But before you close down this window, it’s time to oblige us with a comment – a word of two on how this article came across? Did it make you dream of the destination? Do you think we could do a better job? Have you been to a similar destination? Talk about anything – both criticism and praise encourage us equally!!

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