Gangtok: Every homecoming is more than just a vacation!
Of all the paths traversed so far,
The journey home is unsurpassed
As the mountains camouflage the roads and higher the birds soar,
Home is what the heart yearns for,
With every inch of elevation I ascend
The river sings ” Welcome home my friend.”
In a time where each one of us is bit by the Wanderlust or the Fernweh, I happily announce to the world that I am bit by Heimweh, or homesickness and there is no other journey as sweet as the journey back home just as there’s no other journey as bitter as the pain of leaving your safe haven to the world where you ought to be. Homecoming is the sweetest of all, where the journey and the destination wage a war within your heart of who is better and worthwhile and you realize that both are priceless. The constant eagerness to be home and the reminiscing of old memories all the while are what makes homecoming the experience it is.
I belong to a mystical place called Gangtok in Sikkim. Sikkim is the first Indian State to be named as fully organic, the state with 100% immunized children, the state that has managed tourism with utmost care, the litter free state, the green state and so on and so forth, there are a hundred accolades to this place and the more I say about Sikkim, the less it seems. I can give you numerous reasons to visit this place and numerous places that are worth a visit but it will never be enough. That’s the beauty of this place and the reason why homecoming, for me, is no less than a heavenly vacation and every journey I embark upon to visit this little heaven feels one of a kind due to the emotions attached. Whether it be the sight of the mountains, the serenity of the river flowing by, the first glance of the school that I went to or the streets that have changed so much yet feel the same, all spark a longing to be home evermore.
My homecomings mostly comprise of taking detours of the city I have known so well and revisiting each and every nook and corner which hold any minute bit of significant or insignificant memory for me. Each time I visit Gangtok, everything seems new but still exudes the same familiar feeling. The spots that haven’t changed at all are the ones striding the tides of time and looking at them I understand the significance of tenacity in one’s efforts and life.
The best way to experience this place is to look beyond the places that have been commercialized as tourist attractions, I would suggest you to see this place as a traveler. Get mesmerized by the majestic mountains and the varied flora found on them. The changing hues of the hills, the cold breeze flowing relentlessly, the breathtaking scenery, the fresh vegetables, the hospitality of the locals, the colourful cultural extravaganza, the steaming hot momos and thukpa all define the spirit of this place. Take a moment to stop by at a spot where you can witness the sunset and the subsequent lighting up of the entire city in glittery lights across the mountains. Stop at a stretch of maize terrace fields and marvel at various shades of green it can display. Experience the tranquility and connect with your soul at a Buddhist monastery, feel the wind along with the fluttering prayer flags and enjoy rotating the prayer wheels. Let the chants of Om Mani Padme Hum reverberate in your soul. Sit back and relax with a cup of organic Temi Tea and be delighted in the beauty of numerous varieties of rhododendrons and orchids.
Come be a part of my Journey through these pictures:
The aerial view before landing at Bagdogra Airport. The beauty of the clearly demarcated paddy fields is mesmerizing. Bagdogra in West Bengal is the nearest airport to Gangtok. Sikkim doesn’t have a functional airport or railway station. The nearest railway station is therefore New Jalpaiguri, in West Bengal.
The journey to Gangtok can be completed via Siliguri by road in a bus, shared cab or reserved cab.I prefer going by a car because that means you can stop at any picturesque location and click as many pictures as you like. This is a picture taken on the way to Gangtok in the outskirts of Silguri away from the hustle bustle of the town.
I love to travel in rain and there’s nothing better than being greeted by the clouds traversing miles in seconds and kissing the mountains on a homecoming. However it did not rain throughout the journey, there were occasional sunshine, drizzle and rain which made the entire trip worthwhile.
Meet River Teesta, the main river flowing through Sikkim which originates at a glacier in North Sikkim called the Teesta Kangse. This river can be termed as the lifeline of Sikkim. There’s a folklore which says that Teesta and Rangit, the two rivers, were actually lovers and their confluence can be seen at a place called Triveni. Both these rivers house major hydroelectric projects.
Rangpo is where you finally enter Sikkim after West Bengal. Rangpo is a major rest stop and most tourists stop here for brief refreshment before continuing the journey forward. Moving ahead you can see some really picturesque terrace farms blanketing the hills. Just about the perfect place to get down and capture some amazing shots.
Singtam is the next small town you will cross after Rangpo, a quaint town based on the banks of River Teesta. In the stretch between Rangpo and Singtam there are many beautiful natural waterfalls and streams that make a breathtaking view.
After the long and breathtaking journey, I finally arrived at my destination Gangtok. The treasure house of all my childhood memories and all that have been a part of my making. The feeling of joy is unbound and ineffable.
After a night of blissful sleep in the comfort of my own cozy bed, I headed out the next morning to take a walk down the memory lanes of Gangtok, the city that has been all these years. A lot seems changed but still feels familiar. There are some seriously talented budding graffiti artists here and they have done a splendid job in beautifying the city with their pieces of art. Towards the end of MG Marg many small eateries and restaurants have come up, and this specific Khan Chacha’s catches my fancy and I see many people enjoying their meaty delights to the heart’s content.The restaurant looks pretty attractive with Khan Chacha himself holding out a plate for you to try. However I walk past it, its the cakes that interest me the most in Gangtok.
There are many quintessential bakeries here in Gangtok which serve the best of the cakes,pastries,cupcakes, macaroons,cookies etc. The Baker’s Cafe,The Glenary’s, Tripti’s etc. My personal favourite though, is Tripti’s. I love cakes that are a perfect combination of moist, cold and correct blend of flavours and Tripti’s is exactly where I get them. Do indulge in their coffee pastry and cream doughnut, which is a subtle doughnut layered in milk cream,not too sweet or overloaded in cream but just the perfect taste a doughnut should have. It Simply melts in your mouth.
Well, this is not a cinema hall at present, but used to be back in the nineties. This building now houses a modest art gallery started by the youth of Gangtok. I must say they are doing a splendid job in showcasing the talent the budding artists of Sikkim have. Their’s is an “Art with a Cause”, these art pieces have been sold for large amounts of money which was later donated for Nepal Earthquake victims.
Lal Market Road
After relishing on the yummy pastries, I took a walk down the stairs that lead to Lal Market from M.G. Marg, on both sides of this flight of stairs are numerous little shops selling souvenirs and other everyday utility goods . There’s a huge shopping complex called Kanchengha Shopping Complex at the end of the stairs. This building gives you a sneak peek into the everyday lives of the people living in Gangtok.The well organized complex houses numerous small stalls and shops selling everything from organically grown vegetables, to churpi or hardened cheese made from Yak’s milk, bamboo shoots, to fiery small red peppers that could give the peri peri peppers a run for their flavour and a lot more. The ground floor essentially is the vegetable market, the second and third floors sell almost everything such as clothes, winter wear, bags, shoes, puja offerings and affordable kitchen appliances mostly Chinese. You will also find a store by the name of SIMFED (Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd.), these stores were put across Sikkim as a price control mechanism so as to safeguard the people of Sikkim from the inflation in consumables. SIMFED was established as an Apex Marketing society for the state of Sikkim with the main intention of undertaking wholesale supply of consumer goods to the Multi Purpose Cooperative Societies (MPCS) and Consumer Cooperative Societies (CCS) and to arrange for bulk marketing of the surplus Agricultural produce including the important cash crops of the state.