Archive for March, 2013

West Sikkim is a peaceful district characterized by great tracts of virgin forest and deep river valley. It is home to Sikkim’s ancient monasteries. Its capital is Geyzing, also known as Gyalshing. The district is a favorite with trekkers due to the high elevations. Following are the wonderful places in tourist point of view, which must be included in all ‘Sikkim Holiday Packages’.

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Khecheopalri Lake

Khecheopalri is a small tranquil lake, surrounded by prayers flags and forested hill. It is about 30 km away from Pelling. The significance of the Khecheopalri Lake lies in the fact that it is worshiped by Buddhists as well as the Hindus. Water of this lake appears to comprise a celestial charisma. As per history, birds remove any leaves that fall onto the Lake’s surface and hence the lake remains clean.

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Pelling

It is situated 133 km from Siliguri and 125 km from Gangtok. Pelling is famous to visitors, because it is magnificent view point of snow-capped mountains of Khanchenjunga. You can also watch entire mountain ranges including Koktang, Kumbhakarna, Rathong, Kabru, Dom, Pandim, Zopuno, Shimbho, Narsing, Siniyalchu and many others from this little town.

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Pemayangtse Monastery

Situated 120 km from Gangtok at the altitude of 7000ft. the monastery sublime lotus is the premier monastery in Sikkim. It is oldest monastery here and houses priceless icons, Buddhist texts, painting and frescos. Built on the 18th century AD, this monastery follows the Nyingmapa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. On the top floor of the temple, there lays the Architectural Design of Heaven called the Zangdoplari. The walls of this area are hundreds of years old and are original and on vegetable paintings.

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Tashiding Monastery

This tiny village is home to Tashiding Gompa monastery, founded in 1641 Ngadak Sema Chempo one of the three lamas who performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal or the King of Sikkim. The main monastery is perched majestically atop a heart shaped hill, accessed by walking steep uphill. The monastery is said to have been constructed on the site blessed and mediated by Guru Padmasambha in 8th century. The mural work inside are very spellbinding. Behind the monastery, there are dozens of chortens, including the Thong-Wa-rang-Dol literally meaning wash away the sins by mere sight.

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Yuksom

Situated 40 km from Pemayangtse at the altitudeof 1780m. The hamlet of Yuksam is set amidst pristine hills and lakes, where according to the historical records and it was here in 1641 AD the first Chogyal (King) Phuntsok Namgyal of Sikkim was consecrated by the three wise lamas. Yuksam literally means the meeting place of the three learned monks. This was the first capital of Sikkim. The Norbugang Chorten, the Coronation throne and a foot print of head Lama on the stone are the silent witnesses to the event of 1641. Since the history of the Sikkim began from this place, these areas are now considered sacred by the people of Sikkim.The trek to Dzongri and to the base camp of Mt.Khangchendzonga begins here.

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Small but beautiful Sikkim is situated in the eastern Himalayas. It is situated below the mount Khanchendzonga, which is third highest mountain in the world, and is revered by the Sikkimese as their protective deity. One of the beautiful and famous places in Sikkim is ‘North Sikkim’. In north Sikkim following places are famous for tourists, which must be included in any of the best selected ‘Sikkim Holiday Packages’.

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Kabi Lungchok

This historical place is just 17 km away from Gangtok on North Sikkim Highway. At this place the historic treaty of blood brotherhood between the Lepha Chief Te-Kung-Tek and Bhutia Chief Khey-Bum-Sa was signed ritually. This place is marked by a memorial stone pillar amidst the cover of dense forest.

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Phodong Monastery

This monastery is one of the six major monasteries in Sikkim which is located in the north approximately 38 km from Gangtok, 4 km beyond Phodong is the recently renovated labrang monastery unique in its architectural design.

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Yumthang

At an elevation of 11,800 ft. and 140 km from Gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathing scenic grandeur named as Yumthang. This valley boasts a large variety of Rhododendrons and other alpine flowers. Yumthang Tsachu or the hot spring of the left bank of Lachung Chu is immensely popular for its curative properties and healing power.

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Lachung

This valley is spread out on either side of Lachung Chu, has managed to retain its unique culture and tradition. The Lachung monastery on the slope opposite to the highway is a focal point of all religious function of the local inhabitants. Lanchung lies on the way to Yumthang valley as we move from Gangtok.

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Lachen

Lachen is located at an altitude of 2750 meters and around 6 hour drive from Gangtok. Lachen monastery is located on the top of the village commands a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and country side.

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Thangu

It is a small village where the visitors usually acclimatize before they proceed to Guru Dongmar Lake or Muguthang and is located at an altitude of 14000 ft. and 3 hour drive from Lachen.

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Guru Dongmar Lake

This lake is considered as a one of the sacred lakes of this state both by the Buddhist and the Hindus. The lake remains milky in color throughout, and it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava had touched the lake whilst he visited Tibet from this area.

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We all know about Kashmir’s beauty, but it is not widely descripted in words. Kashmir is the heaven on earth. One of the well-known tourist places in Kashmir is Gulmarg city.

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As per the reviews of CNN, Gulmarg is the “heartland of winter sports in India”. Legendary beauty, prime location and close proximity to Srinagar, naturally makes Gulmarg as one of the premier hill resorts in the country. Gulmarg is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination and also a notified area in Baramula district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Gulmarg is originally called as ‘Gaurimarg’ by shepherds, whereas its present name was given in the 16th century by sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes, decorated with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favorite haunt of Emperor Jehangir, who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here.  Today Gulmarg is not only a mountain resort of exceptional beauty, but also has the highest green golf course in the world. Being mooted as a possible host for 2010 Common Wealth Winter Games, Gulmarg has been rated by CNN International as Asian’s seventh best ski destination.

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The journey to Gulmarg is half the enhancement of reaching there. Roads bordered by rigid avenues of popular give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages.

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Prime Attractions of Gulmarg

Khilanmarg

This smaller valley is about a 6 km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop. The meadow, carpeted with flowers in the spring, is the site for Gulmarg’s winter ski runs and offers a fine view of the surrounding peaks and over the Kashmir valley. When snow melts, it can be a very muddy hour’s climb up the hill.

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Alpather Lake

Beyond Khilanmarg, 13 km from Gulmarg at the foot of the twin 4, 511 meter Apharwat peaks, this lake is frozen until mid-June and even later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold waters. Adventurous trekkers can climb straight up the boulder strewn slope of ridge and descend the other side to the path.

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The Ningli Nallah

Flowing from the melting snow and ice on Apharwat and the Alpather Lake, this pretty mountain stream is 8 km from Gulmarg. The stream continues to be down into the valley below and joins the Jhelum river near Sopur. This long grassy valley is a popular picnic spot and the walking path carries on, crossing the Ningli Nallah by a bridge and continues on to the Khilenmarg.

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The Meadow of Flowers

A huge cup shaped meadow, lush and green with slopes where the silence is broken only by the tinkle of cowbells, Gulmarg looks like a fantasy set in a film and not surprisingly have been the venue of several films.

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Due to all such features of this city, you should ensure that Gulmarg must be included in any of your ‘Kashmir Holiday Packages’.

Few years ago I saw a tiger in the forest for the first time, at Bandavgarh National Park. It still makes my hairs on the back of neck stand straight on the end, by just thinking about it.

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At that moment we all were in incredible tension. She was so close to us. We were just thinking of weather it is real or our prediction, at same moment she just padded her way, cool as you like, out onto our dirt track and across the front of our jeep. Soon she came directly in front of our jeep.

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Last month I revisited Bandavgarh and many other tiger parks in India. But this tike luck wasn’t with me, but still the thrill of going for the safari in India never subsides.

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It is very shameful to say that, we could be one of the last remaining generations on earth which gets the chance to see this incredible creature in the wild. Because as the tiger numbers are still on decline, our next generation would not see them at all.

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Still, the best place for seeing tigers is India, with almost half the world’s tigers. India serves total 39 tiger sanctuaries. To help you to decide where to go for a ‘Tiger Safari In India’, here is the list of few best national parks in India:

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Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh

This national park gives you a best chance of seeing a wild tiger. If you spend one or two days here, you are guaranteed to see tigers. One added attraction to this is the village of Tala, at the back side of park’s main gate, has a great options for accommodation suitable to all budgets.

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Kanha, Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh state is the king of tiger territory in India. It serves five tiger parks, all of which give a best chance of seeing a tiger. Among them this one is the most famous for its vast forests, and 99% chances of seeing a tiger. Here we can really go deep into the forest, because the park’s huge core area is surrounded by a large buffer zone, which gives us a complete safari experience.

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Sunderbans, West Bengal

This famous national park hosts a large number of Bengal tigers. Seeing one of them is extremely rare, but still you will have a great fun trying this at Sunderban. Getting here is an adventure and once you arrive, you will have to sign up for safaris not in jeeps, but in canoes!

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Pench, Madhya Pradesh

It is a best-known tiger parks in Madhya Pradesh. Pench is mostly covered by teak-tree forest rather than sal, which offers a different flavour than nearby Kanha and Bandavgarh. While driving around the park, you will often feel like you have the whole forest to yourself.

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Corbett, Uttarakhand

Originally named as Hailey National Park. Corbett was opened in 1936 and it is the oldest tiger park in India. The chances of seeing tigers in this park are quite slim, but here you can feel smug in the fact that you have seen one that wasn’t baited or tracked.

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Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat

It has zero chances of seeing a tiger. But still it is famous for its last remaining of wild Asian lions on Earth. Wild lions in India like ‘Panthera leo persica’ is a different subspecies than its African cousin ‘panthera leo leo’.

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11. Arranging Treks
Most of the people will advise you to just ‘land up and figure out your own journey’. But this will be a good advice for only those people who have done it before. For the new comers it is just clueless, because they even don’t know where to look for guides, and how to go about arranging it? So for such people it is advisable to first arrange your treks and then only visit the place.

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12. Trek routes
You’re staying must be arranged in the nearby places of tourist spots, so that you can save excess driving time. Below are some of the options i came up with.

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  • Tendong hill trek, can be easily done from Damthang. Damthang maybe just at an hour and a half drive from Kewzing.
  • In Kewzing, if you are halting for number of days, there is an easy route to trek to reshi hot springs, which is just at a drive of 2 to 3 hours.
  • Kewzing is a good place to base our self. You can even see the oldest Bon Monastry and Lepcha Monastry from here. Tolung monsatry which also has a lovely “jungle walk” leadign to it, can be done from here, but for this you need to drive a bit from Kewzing.
  • From Rabongala also there are lots of options for travelling. On a wall, there was a map which indicates a lake, a very tall buddha and couple of monastries in this area.
  • For trekkking between towns, there are few options viz: Yuksom – Khecheoplari, Khecheoplari – Pelling, Pelling – Yuksom – which are not mentioned in too many places.

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13. Jeeps?

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Once you land up there, you can easily found jeeps, which are the right way to get between any two places and almost equates to public transport. But, using these local jeeps would also mean a lot of “waiting”, because they are not too frequent. So, if you have a sizeable group, and are short on time, it will be better to hire one for your group.

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15. Rafting
Malli is the most popular place for rafting closure to Kalimpong. You can also do it at Legship and Chungthang in the North.

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Hope all this information will better serve your purpose, and helps you in selecting best ‘Sikkim Holiday Package’ for you.

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6. Accomodation
My all friend and me too has done an exhaustive feedback on all places we stayed.

Katao Resorts : I just loved this place in Lachung for the services it offer.
Deki Lodge: This place was also a great pick in Sikkim!
Yangrigang: Everyone says that this is the best place available in Yuksoml!

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7. Dal , Chaaval and Aaloo
That was our meal in most of the places! I was quite surprised to find that rice instead of rotis which is the staple here. For some reason, veggies were especially limited to aaloo, gobi and mattar!

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8. ECOSS 
It is an NGO which has been working towards creating homestays in several villages. I came across their Sikkim homestay scheme from their website . On their website, the list of all states, where this scheme is running, is made available. To get details about ECOSS in Sikkim, you can contact Mr. Adrian Parkhin, who was also very helpful without itinerary and trip planning.
Contact: Adrian Parkhin 9733003300

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9. Kewzing Tourism Development Committee

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For Kewzing, there is a community based organization called KTDC, which manages the homestay program. We loved our stay of 2 days here and I would love to base myself in this place for more than couple of days. The cost of homestay (not only in Kewzing) is slightly more expensive as compared to Sikkim average standards, but the experience was worth it. To get more details about this committee you can contact: Yugen Bhutia, President, +919434865154

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10.The homestays are geared largely for foreigners 
Mostly it would be difficult for Indians to get taken in for homestays, because it is possible that most of the Indians might have seen this in your own houses or villages. But staying in a bhutia house, hot home cooked food, campfire at night, meeting people, and hikes around the village is definitely a new experience for foreigners. So the priority of this beautiful staying experience is given to foreigners. I personally just loved this place.

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Whenever planning for holidays, you will always found a lot of information on some popular destinations or ‘Sikkim Holiday Packages’ like the Yumthang valley tour or the Nathulla pass tour. However, many people are looking for some information beyond this and found it on some rare websites. So I have decided to put down here these titbits and some knowledge gained on the Sikkim trip.

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1. Sun Set by 5:30
During the month of Decembers in Sikkim, the sun down time came as a shock – yes, the sun sets by 5:30 or by 6pm and it feels like 11 in the night. And in most of the places, restaurants, shops, malls etc shut by 9. This is the reason behind why people in Sikkim wakeup at early morning, by fighting the biting cold to maximize your day, because not much is possible after sun down!

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2.Who needs Avomines?
The first thing that attracts us and we all fall in love about Sikkim is – hardly any hair pin bends. After the fear of being nervous for the whole trip, it was a pleasant shock that we didn’t feel the “uphillness” at all, even to the Zero point stretch at Yumthang, otherwise the whole driving experience turned out to be memorable with a good fun!

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3. Allocated stands for Cabs
All cabs (taxis), depending on the area of Sikkim to which they ply, are segregated at a specific stand they are allocated to. So you will need to transfer to a local cab from these cab stands.

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4. TAAS
There is a ‘Sikkim Travel Agents Association’ called TAAS. This website lists a number of travel agents, which help the tourists to arrange their trip, and also offer them best packages. They suggest the travellers to come to Gangtok and then make payments – we were just asked to keep them informed in advance about the tentative dates of holidays, but it may not always be possible, especially in case in peak season.

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5. Most Landlines didn’t work, so don’t bother about them.
In my case, all the landlines I tried didn’t work, and after 3-4 days of banging my head I gave up. As per my theory these lines are probably down due to landslides which are common in this state. But now with the prevalence of mobiles, people must have stopped bothering about landlines, because mobile connectivity was good in most places.

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