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Gangtok - Rumtek Monastery, Flower Show and Promenade

A Buddhist Pilgrimage Site to start with, the capital of an independent monarchy after British rule, and today the capital of the most beautiful state in India - here is a trip to Gangtok for you.

If you have been following this series of articles, you probably know that we were spending our summer vacations and anniversary celebrations in the North-Eastern part of the country. The trip had taken us to many highs (literally!) and scenic depths across the region and we had arrived at the final leg of the journey. We had planned a couple of days in the capital city of Sikkim - Gangtok - before we ended the trip. The purpose was to explore the urban life of this hill state and to unwind leisurely after the arduous terrains of up north. We reached Gangtok in the evening of May 11th, 2017 - a day very special. It was on this day, two years ago that two freely flying birds came together to tune their chirping together - this was the second anniversary of the life imprisonment - the sentence we look forward to enjoying together.

A video blog takes your through the Capital of Sikkim - Gangtok

By about 7 in the evening, we had checked into our hotel and were climbing the stairs to our first-floor corner suite. As we entered the room, we were pretty amazed at the setup and facility being accorded to us and grew in love with our accommodation. The suite started with a large rectangular drawing cum dining hall with sofa set on one end and a dining set on another. On the far end, the door opened to a balcony overlooking the busy road and the hills beyond it. Running parallel to it was the bedroom which was equipped quite generously. The bedroom connected to the balcony common with the hall and had attached facilities. One could wonder the opulence if the bathroom had a full-size bathing tub installed. Overall, it was a nice piece of accommodation that we had for ourselves in this place.

Once we settled in our room and unpacked a bit, we looked for options to spend the evening. On the recommendations of the hotel reception, we chose to take a trip to the MG Marg Market in the city. We took a shared cab from the hotel that dropped us near the primary bus depot of the city. It was a short walk to the market from there and we managed to grab a guide for that 15-minute walk. There was a local going in the same direction who we bumped into while seeking directions. MG Marg market has been developed as a tourist hub in the city center. It is a traffic free promenade zone with a large number of eateries and souvenir shops all around it. Tourists freely flocked the area to spend a relaxed evening under the sky while gorging on momos and rolls and picking gifts for folks back home. We had our snacks from a small eatery - roll mall - in form of fried momos. The butter fried snack was simply a high point of the evening. We spent about an hour there and then proceeded back to the hotel.

The Main Building At Rumtek Monastery

Scenic Route to Rumtek Monastery

Next morning, we had planned a day-long excursion to the Indo-Chinese border - Nathula Pass. The itinerary of the day included Tsango Lake, Baba Mandir, and Nathula Pass - all exciting destinations we were looking forward to. We were going to be up close to nature during this journey and touch the barbed wires marking our territory on the North-Eastern front. While it is easy to visit the lake and Mandir, access to Nathula is highly restricted by the armed forces. Fortunately, we managed to grab hold of elusive permits needed for visit to border areas. We returned from the excursion by about 5:30 in the evening. Please read our experience during the excursion in a separate article – Nathula Pass and Tsangmo Lake - An Excursion to China Border.

Next morning, we woke up by about 7:30 in the morning to beautiful weather – light drizzle with cool winds broke our slumber. The droplets spread all around till our view could cover and the morning mist added to the charm of the dawn. We dragged ourselves out of our beds and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee on the balcony. Later we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel restaurant and set out for a day tour of the city. Our first destination of the day was Rumtek Monastery. On the way, we got answers to a few of the queries we had from our experiences and observations. We saw sets of white flags lined up in many places – these were erected in memories of the dead and carry holy words or “mantras”. Similarly, there are sets of colored flags in particular combination which is part of religious rituals. Also, we were told that most monasteries would have stupas in memory of some significant religious leader who is no more alive.

We reached the monastery by about 11:15 and had to hike our way from the main gate. Vehicles are only permitted on the campus for lamas or handicapped. Before you enter the campus, ITBP personnel stations for the security validate your credentials – so do not forget to carry an id. Rumtek is the largest monastery in Sikkim and is believed to be the seat of Guru Karmapa - the 16th avatar of the religious head – and is the home of the monks ' community. The Rumtek Monastery appears very serene in the beautiful background of majestic hills and beautiful waterfalls. The massive prayer hall inside the monastery is a place worth seeing that is decorated with splendid murals, statues and 'tangkhas'. Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre has become an all-inclusive institution, where Relics Retreat Centre, 'Shedra' (monastic college), Nunnery, Stupas (protector's shrine), Institutions for the amateur community and other establishments exist under the same roof. It takes 13 years to complete the course at the institution which is recognized by the state government. Lamas are expected to serve at the Institute post completion of the course. There is a golden stupa – huge by any measures – set up in memory of Guru Karmapa. Prayers are held at the Stupa twice a day to request the guru – peace, and prosperity throughout the world. We spent about an hour here and then left for next spot.

Institute of Tibetology - A Vast Resource Pool

Around The City - A Stroll is Good for Health

Next, we visited the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. It is one of the most important and famous institutes in the world that does research in the areas of Tibetan language and culture. It also has in its premises a museum, a Tibetan library with rich collections and also a reference center about Tibet and Himalayas in general. We also visited the Do-Drul Chorten Stupa – overcoming a short but steep hike up to the shrine. The Chorten Stupa is marked by a golden top dome and the deity enshrined on top of the stupa is known as Dorjee Phurpa or Vajra Kilaya. This Chorten is regarded as one of the most important Chortens of Sikkim. The building can accommodate about 700 monks. We tried to take an attempt at the ropeway which is a short walk from there but dropped the idea after assessing the rush for the ride. We also spent a few minutes at the handicraft center for sake of covering the point.

At Bakhtang Falls - Hand in Hand

Next, we traveled to Bakthang Waterfall - while the height of the fall isn't much, it's the width of the fall that makes it so beautiful. The source of the water is at Ratey Chu. The flowing water falls over a canopy of green creepers. It's a wonderful sight to take pictures. IF one prefers, there are a few adventure sports set up there for tourists but these are mainly geared towards kids. On our way back, we stopped for a bit at the Tashi View Point which provides a good glimpse of Kanchenjunga. This would definitely attract tourists who are in the region for the first time. For us, we had seen Kanchenjunga up a lot closer throughout the trip that appeared just good enough. Our next stop was the flower exhibition center. Inside the area is not very large but it has amazing collections of flowers of many different types, If you are a flower lover, then this is the place for you. We also covered Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok which are temples of respective deities. At the end of the tour, we asked the driver to drop us at the MG Marg Market.

We spent some time exploring the area and took a staircase going towards the Lal Bazaar. We walked down further to come across a large building called - Kanchanjunga Shopping Complex. This is predominantly a grocery and household stuff market which offers needle to necklace kind of variety. The rush itself gave us an idea of how economical the place was and its importance in catering to the daily needs of the locals. After spending a few minutes there we returned to MG Marg for dinner and finally reached the hotel by 9 in the night. That was the last day of the tour we had for exploration and the next day marked the end of the trip.

Colors of Nature - Flower Show

Always Charming - Red at Flower Show

Next day we packed our stuff and checked out of the hotel by about 8:30 in the morning as we did not want to miss our afternoon flight after hearing a couple of horror stories. We were there at the Bagdogra Airport by 1 PM and so the wait for the 4 PM flight began. We observed preparations of welcome for some dignitary outside the airport and hence waited eagerly to know who it was. Well, it turned out to be Lopa Mudra, a small time Hindi movie actress. We then proceeded inside the airport building. This is a small airport operated by Airport Authority of India and hence the government lethargy shows at every nook and corner. You need to have your check-in baggage screened yourselves and then go for check-in. Again the check-in process is a mess and the single Jet Airways counter was definitely lacking the capacity to cater to the needs. After the long queue at the counter, we finally checked in and moved to the security check on the upper floor. This was again a huge queue with single checking each for ladies and gentleman. It took about three-fourths of an hour to clear security and reach the gates. Finally, the boarding was announced and we soon took off the runway bidding goodbyes to the North-east of India. This marked an end to one of the most exciting trips we have taken in recent times.

Time to Depart - Bagdogra Airport

What do you feel about the article? Does this tempt you to plan a trip? Have you been here already? Do express all that you want to and we would respect both appreciation and criticism equally !! And yeah we appreciate all shares and likes and comments. So please keep them coming 

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