Your trip through Silk Route Sikkim begins now. Get ready and pack your bags. One word of caution, this trip is not for the faint hearted and if luxury is in your mind this trip is not for you.
Incase you are looking for a luxurious and less adventurous trip you may read Ooty trip
Sikkim is a place which is so beautiful yet very few people (outside West Bengal) are aware about its pristine landscape, Buddhist Monasteries , waterfalls etc. Every part of Sikkim is exotic. North Sikkim is famous for Gurudongmer Lake which comes among World’s top fifteen highest lakes,South Sikkim is famous for its Rhododendron Sanctuary . West Sikkim is well-known for Waterfalls, Monasteries, Flora and Fauna whereas East Sikkim is a part of the Silk Route Sikkim which was used for trading purpose connecting China to India via the zigzag JelepLa (La means Pass) . The traders used to spend a night at Nathang Valley and then moved forward. I had visited North Sikkim earlier, so this time we planned for East Sikkim . This trip report comes from my Durga PujaTravel Diary .
The car took a right turn from Ramdhura towards Icche . A change so visible, a silence so felt…it was a trail through the lush green Icche forest climbing towards Icche Gaon …
Darjeeling Mail reached NJP at 9 am and it took us around 3.5 hours to reach Icche Gaon from New Jalpaiguri .The Car and Home stays were arranged by Mr DK Khawas of Icche Gaon (5800 ft ASL) .
The tranquility of the place could be felt as our car parked below DK’s home. It was so serene, calm and quiet. Colorful flowers, green plants, small huts, smiling villagers greeted us. It took around twenty stairs to reach DK’s Home stay.
We reached Icche Gaon at around 1.30 pm.The temperature was cool and damp. There were showers of rain..After taking our bath we were called at their dining place. We were served a hot sumptuous lunch and trust me when I say “what a wonderful cook they are!”
It was time for a small walk around the village . We reached a small playground through the squash plantation; this was just beside the primary school of the village.
As the dusk was falling we returned back and were served with hot crispy onion Pakoras and Darjeeling tea. Their effort to make us feel at home was truly sincere. The evening came like the delicate dew drops, the softness of the dimly lit hamlet … the melody of the Nepali folk songs down the hill ,the dance steps of the teenagers in the light of the lantern simply intoxicated the air.
I woke up pretty early in the morning and ran quickly to the verandah to see if Mt Kanchenjunga had unveiled Herself….and among the layer of clouds was the Queen visible. I was thrilled and called others, everyone came running to the verandah to see the golden sunrays kissing Her. The pollution free environment, the birds twitting in the forest, the blanket of white clouds and the dazzling Kanchenjunga….. This is the magic of Silk Route Sikkim . What else could I expect from a vacation??
After our breakfast we started for Rishikhola (1800 ft ASL). On the way we visited the Jalsa View Point, JalsaBunglow, The Cross Hill and The Pedong Monastery. The monasteries always fascinate me. The detachment of the monks from worldly pleasures seems to be very hypnotic. The robes that the Monks wear , their Pali and Tibetan language books reminds of something very primitive , the bygone era of Lord Buddha .
We spent almost an hour conversing with the monks in the monastery, praying to Lord Buddha. We were offered the Holy Water (with Camphor and probably Honey) by the Monk.
The next day we enjoyed some photo session at the Rishi river, it was 8.30 am, time to leave Rishikhola and start for Nathang. The pleasant morning, brilliant show of colors’ from fluttering butterflies, the babbling and burbling River….it was a blissful morning.
We reached Renock Bazar at 9.10 am. We visited the Durga Puja Pandal there …took our breakfast, some chicken momos and started the process to get the permit.
Finally we got the permit at 11.10am. Here one can get permit till Chhangu Lake or Gangtok.For this route you must carry 2 passport size photographs and ID proof (original+ 2 photocopies). PAN card will do but anyone among the group should have an Address proof.
We reached Phadamchen via Rongli where the permits were checked. Several home stays were available in these places of Silk Route Sikkim. By this time it started raining and we reached Thambi view point at 1 pm. Though it was raining still the zigzag JelepLa was visible. Our Bolero started ascending uphill piercing the thick clouds. We reached Nathang at 2pm.
Chilly gust of winds, making us all shiver, it was around 3-4 degree Celsius there. We got our rooms in Phinasa Lodge, nothing luxurious, with very basic amenities to stay, but the lodge was well kept and very neat and clean.
However after the Sunset as the hours were passing, the temperature started dropping further. Carrying a feather jacket is a safe option if one wishes to stay here. There wasn’t any snow but it was bone chilling cold.
I was feeling severe headache and nausea due to the altitude. So we went roaming outside to acclimatize with the place. Sitting in a candle-lit room we were feeling sluggish … thought of “partying” with some jhalmuri and ginger tea…
The whole valley was shrouded with a muted moonlight, the night somehow reminded me of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” painting…
The next morning we got up early at 3am. The night was almost sleepless due to the discomfort caused by extreme cold(If life gives me a second chance to visit the pristine place once again, I would carry much more woolen clothes than I did this time :D)The sky looked clear but there were patches of cloud on the Mt K side… and we were skeptical whether we would get a view of the Sunrise. We left for the sunrise point.
The road was deserted with very scanty vegetation. The dew drops on the bushes had turned into frost. The sky was getting illuminated with the sun rays. But Mt K remained masked behind the clouds.
After coming back to the lodge we got ready by 8.30 am and started for Changu Lake/ tsomgo lake. The Silk Route Sikkim passes through East Sikkim. It is a part of the ancient network of trade routes that connected China to India. This route passed through Lhasa and Nathu La and Jelep La Pass.
The lofty mountains, arid lands , dry and treeless , snow washed valley , sparkling mountain lakes made the journey worth remembering….The road to Changu Lake / tsomgo lake was throughTukla , Kupup, Elephant lake , hidden Memencho Lake . Last time we came here from Gangtok and this time from the opposite side. We visited the Changu Lake / tsomgo lake Market to see if everything were same as before when we visited the previous time. We bought some woolen caps; sweaters etc…and fuelled us up with chicken momos and hot cup of tea.
On the way back we visited Baba mandir and then to the Old one at 14400 ft ASL .
It started drizzling by then…and when we reached Kupup a light snowfall started along with rains…we crossed Nathang and reached Snow Lion Home stay of Zuluk (9400 ft ASL) at around 2pm, it was raining very heavily by then.
The rooms were in the first floor with Balconies. After having the lunch we took an afternoon nap. Meanwhile the rains stopped and sunlight entered the room making our gloomy minds happy. In the evening we were served Aloo pakora and tea.
The next day plan was to visit Aritar Lake and go to Mankhim Top at 6500ft ASL.
The dawn was bright sunny with patches of clouds in Mt K side. It was a soothing morning. After having a light breakfast we left Zuluk we took the way back through Rongli. It was Durga-Nabami. We went inside the Pandal to pray to God.
We reached Aritar Lake. It looked quite unimpressive to me. The only attraction of the place was that it was amidst the woods …quiet and noiseless…Mankhim Top was visible up on the hills.
We spent around twenty minutes there and started for Mankhim Top. The way was through the terraced Paddy cultivation…The paddy field was shimmering with green color. If the road was so appealing I wondered how the destination would be!!
The car was parked below the slope of the Home stay Kanchenjunga Mirror. We had to take a few stairs to reach there. Orchids, flowers, bees busy collecting the nectar from flowers, the chirping birds were inviting us to have a delightful stay there. The surroundings set a perfect Holiday Mood.
After putting our luggage into a 4- bedded room we sat on the veranda to watch the unending vistas in front of us…and suddenly there came a rainbow in the sky over the hill tops …. I didn’t trust my eyes when I saw a second one just beside the first one . It was spectacular to watch…
Mr DK Rai and his family along with Chintu, their domestic help were really good people. We stayed there as if it was our own house.After the lunch we asked Anupam (our driver) to take us to Aritar Gompa. We went inside. It was peaceful. We sat for some time there then NimaShiring, a young Monk, took us to another building where a person from Bhutan with his son was making Lord Buddha’s figurine. We sat for long watching him drawing those fine lines of the figurines prepared with the help a mixture of Clay and Gyatso Paper… We left the Gompa with a wish to come back next day morning to attend the prayer.
Mankhim Top was a beautiful Himalayan experience and one must stay at least two days there to absorb the beauty of the place…..
We woke up early in the morning to watch the Sunrise and visit the nearby Temple. Pujariji was performing rituals of Dashami in the Shiv Mandir. On one side was The Lord Siva and the other side was his Abode- The mighty Himalayas. The sky started to turn crimson red and the first ray fell on the top of Mt K turning it into golden crown.
It was Dashami and as we went into the temple we took up the dhol and started beating it , probably trying to match the rhythm of the temple bells.The chant of the priest imbibed positive energy into our soul. The feeling at this particular environment, time and place was everlasting.
We returned to the hotel and decided to go to the Aritar Gompa (2.5 Kms from our Home stay.It was a beautiful road through the village.Villagers were working in their pasture of land..Some were absorbing the warmth of the Morning Sun…Some were just curious about us and some were smiling innocently. Finding the monastery was not tough, we were following the sound of prayer bells .We met with our previous day’s friend NimaShring (Monk)..He took us to the prayer hall. We sat next to the Monks. The loud yet humming sounds of Tibetian instruments like Tibetan horn , Gyaling ,Sil-Nyan ,The Ritual Drum called Choe-Nga made the overall presentation very authentic, unpretentious.
The Prayer vedio Link , Aritar Gompa, Silk Route Sikkim
We then returned to our home stay with the wish to be back here in the month of February during the Mask Dance festival that happens here every year. Nima informed us that probably from next year tourists could also stay there and accommodations would be available. Though these were in a very preliminary stage of discussion.
After having our breakfast my husband and his friend also decided to visit a Monastery but were not willing to walk that much as we already walked a lot(We realized city life made so much more unfit and lazy) Eventually we found another monastery. It falls in the boundary of West Bengal (Pitamchen Simana). Every 10thand 25th Day of the Tibetian Month they perform Guru Puja . It was 10th day. The entire Puja rituals and expenses are borne by any of the Bhutia Family, alternatively.
We entered the Monastery and sat down on the wooden floor. We were welcomed by warm smiles and courteous “Namaste”. A little girl served us tea. We sipped and were surprised…. It was salty… Looking at our astonished faces they informed that traditionally the Bhutia people drink Tea with Salt and butter.
As we went down for lunch they greeted and blessed us for the auspicious occasion of Dashami. Their ritual is to bless with betel leave and corn saplings and offer Nepali bread and tea to the guests. We felt honored.
After having our lunch, we took rest in our room. During evening the sound of Monastery bells was echoing in the hills and forest, the best Lullaby one can think of.
The evening could not have been any better… Hot tea, Chicken Pakoras on the terrace watching the lights in the mountains and a Star Studded Sky.
Finally the day came to leave this beautiful place. We said goodbye to all with a heavy heart and left for New Jalpaiguri at around 11 am. Within 4 hours we reached NJP. On the way to NJP we stopped at Aritar Monastery again to meet Nima and say him goodbye.
The trip(Silk route sikkim) left a distinct impression in mind and heart, the memories of Mankhim Top will never perish …
The whole Silk Route Sikkim trip was arranged by Mr D. K. Khawas from Icchey Gaon. His Mobile Number is 07363840320. He is active on watsapp and responsible person to take care of your whole trip along with the Car arrangement.
The Silk Route Sikkim trip can also be arranged by Mr Dilip Tamang of Sillery Gaon phone number 9635005318.OR Mr Lalit Rai , Mankhim Top , phone number 9775915047
Suggested Itinerary for Silk Route Sikkim
Day 1 – New Jalpaiguri To EchheyGaon OR Sillery Gaon
Day 2 – Rishikhola
Day 3 – Phadamchen OR Zuluk
Day 4 – Go to Sunrise point , Visit Baba Mandir , Chhangu Lake , Stay Nathang Valley OR Phadamchen
Day 5 – Visit Aritar Lake , stay at Mankhim Top
Day 6 – Stay at Mankhim Top
Day 7 – Reach New Jalpaiguri
Budget for 7 day trip to silk route Sikkim The car per day is Rs 3000 (apprx) per day. Home stay cost is Rs 800-900 per day per head for Food + Stay. To visit Sunrise point from Zuluk/ Phadamchen an extra amount is charged by the Driver .
How To Reach : Nearest station – New Jalpaiguri ( NJP)Lot of trains are available to reach NJP from Howrah . Nearest Airport – Bagdogra . However newly built Pakyong Airport , Sikkim received commercial operating license on 5th May 2018 . So very soon flights will start plying from Kolkata directly to Sikkim .
Shopping: The place is not suitable for those who include Shopping as a part of trip . There is a market at Chhangu Lake where basic woollens and jackets are available. And some Chinese crispy biscuits etc are available too.
Best Time To Visit : Late March – May , Late September- November are the best time . However if you want some adventure and snow you may visit during December – March but be ready to bear an extreme cold . Avoid visiting on Monsoons .
Things To Remember if you are making a trip to Silk Route Sikkim:Carry heavy woolens if you wish to stay at Zuluk and Nathang .
To avoid altitude sickness drink plenty of liquid . Coca 30 / Coca 6x (Homeopathic medicine) is also known to be good in preventing this problem , with doses being 3-4 drops once daily.
Thanks for reading and wishing you all the best for your trip.
Be safe, Be prepared and have fun!