Sikkim Diaries – Arriving at Gangtok

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River Teesta is the lifeline as well as the powerhouse of the region and is everpresent as you make your ascent up to Gangtok from Siliguri.

We had planned our trip to Sikkim a long time back in November 2016 so it was the highlight of the year 2017 which we had been looking forward to. In the interim we did  a little homework  about what could be the best itinerary for a week that had to be spent in Sikkim. We sounded out a few travel planners for their suggestions and most of them came back with standard packages of Gangtok,Kalimpong and Pelling/Darjeeling. However we were clear that our entire time was to be spent in Sikkim alone and we would save other destinations for future. The ready to use packages therefore did not suit our requirement and that was when my wife told me about the not so popular yet breathtaking places which North Sikkim had to offer. So finally we decided on Gangtok   (East Sikkim), Pelling (West Sikkim) and Lachung (North Sikkim). A small detour in our last leg to Pelling would also take us to Namchi( South Sikkim). All the research also made it clear that accessing some of the places we intended to visit needed permits therefore we decided to utilise the services of IndiaRepz who had also helped us on our trip to Jaisalmer.

So finally the day had arrived and after a frenetic week at work we had boarded the flight booked almost 5 months ago. Our initial flight which was to fly to Bagdogra directly now had changed with a stopover at Guwahati. That added another two hours in our travel time to Gangtok. However we duly arrived at Bagdogra around the scheduled time of 2.15 pm and were received by Saran, our driver. One thing to be noted is that there is a lot of restriction on vehicles registered outside Sikkim to ply inside the state so it is preferrable if you call for a Sikkim based cab, ours was the diminutive Wagon R . Bagdogra airport is on the outskirts of Siliguri which surprised me with its size and expanse. It took us almost an hour to navigate through the busy traffic of this major city in North Bengal but once we were through the urban chaos the ambiance started changing with real jungles replacing the not so enchanting concrete ones. The dust and smoke had gone, air much more breathable as we now moved ahead flanked by tall trees on either side. At a small village called Sevoke we crossed a bridge over the River Teesta. The river would flow all along our ascent to Gangtok. This river is the powerhouse of this region with numerous hydel power projects built all along its length and we went pass one of them very soon. The river upstream of the dam had turned into a pristine body of green. The climb through the mountains was more than a hundred kilometers but the river kept flowing all along, at times almost at the same level as the road. Once we had made significant progress in our ascent the rapids of Teesta river were visible and audible, if you listened carefully. Rafting on these rapids is a popular tourist activity here and we came across quite a few kiosks on the way which offered the experience. All this while the scenery kept getting better as we hopped from one hill to other via small bridges. Sikkim is a heavily supervised border state and probably owing to its history it  puts quite a few restrictions on visitors, hence frequent checkpoints would come as an integral part of any itinerary to Sikkim. So we arrived at out first checkpoint at Rapong, border of Sikkim and West Bengal, at around 5.30 pm.  The omnipresent river Teesta formed the border here and flowed with its gushing waters beneath the bridge where we waited in a queue. After a simple check about where we were from we entered this Himalayan Kingdom which is on the fringes of our geography and probably our imagination as well. There was a stand for all West Bengal registered cabs, beyond this any non Sikkim vehicle would need a special permit. We however had nothing to worry given the origin of our cab. The roads henceforth were very broad and well maintained. We reached Gangtok by 7.00 PM.  The first impression of the city is very good with its neatness and order. Honking and overtaking  in the city are prohibited and attract hefty fines, everywhere there is a well maintained sidewalk for pedestrians. In spirit this small town looked as far apart part from any of our major cities elsewhere.

There were a lot of other tourists who probably were reaching Gangtok at the same time hence the roads were a little busy and it took us almost an hour to reach Hotel Lindsay Himalayan Heights, our choice of accommodation in Gangtok.

A long day ends with the anticipation of an enthralling week !

Reaching Gangtok –

  • By Air. The airport nearest to Gangtok is about 124 kilometres away in Bagdogra, West Bengal.
  • By Train. The nearest railway station to Gangtok is about 148 kilometres away in New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri.

Things to Note

  • Only Sikkim regisered vehicles are allowed inside the state, other vehicles need special permits
  • If you are travelling in a large vehicle e.g. Innova, Scorpio etc. please plan to reach Gangtok before 8.00 PM beyond which these vehicles are not allowed inside the town.

 

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