Gangtok: Where live the monks

Elgin invites to an ideal holiday in Sikkim

Cushioned by the foothills of the Himalayas, bare and non- pretentious, Gangtok comes across as a town content to be itself.

Cushioned by the foothills of the Himalayas, bare and non- pretentious, Gangtok comes across as a town content to be itself. Tourism is the lifeline of the town that lies on a hill- side by the base of the magnificent Himalayas.

Moderate climatic conditions and plush green surroundings and a pleasing blend of tradition and modernity make Gangtok a popular tourist destination. Touristy, yet exuding small- town warmth,Gangtok makes a great place to relax.From Gangtok’s Tashi view point, one gets the scenic view of Kanchenjunga, the highest peak of Himalayan range. There are plentiful opportunities for activities like trekking,sightseeing, river rafting. However, the hill station could do better on the infrastructure front, given the huge number of adventure seeking international tourists mobbing the place, visitors point out.

The capital of Sikkim has an unmistakable Buddhist flavor in the air. Tibetan monasteries and a Buddhist way of life are part of the culture. One finds vegetarian eateries in abundance, and tobacco is strictly banned here. However, alcohol is cheap, and beer, whiskey, brandy and rum, as well as the local beer, Chhang are available.

Compared to most other Indian tourist spots, Gangtok is notably clean and litter free. A case in point is the town’s main street- MG Marg, which is a litter, spit and traffic – free zone, making it perfect and safe for leisurely strolls. Spending lazy evenings at MG Marg is a favorite past time for visitors.

Just as it is a tourist’s haven, Gangtok is also the heart of spiritual learning and enlightenment. Notable among the religious educational centers is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, which claims to dwell on subjects such as religion, history, culture and art.Two Buddhist learning centers- the Rumtek and Enchey Monastery are also vital stops for those looking for a spiritual tour. For the Hindus, the Hanuman Tok and Thakurbari temple are the two places for worship. The Hanuman Tok, known for its beautiful architecture, is maintained by the Indian Army. The Thakurbari temple, which is the oldest temple in Sikkim, is an important religious center for Hindus in the region.

What sets Gangtok apart is the pleasant climate and the tourist- friendly system. Despite being the hub of tourism and economic activity in Sikkim and the region, Gangtok has still remained more of a small town, and less of a modern city. One will not stumble across large retail giants here, a boon to those who come seeking a break from the urban commotion.

The population is a blend of local Sikkimese, Nepalese and Tibetan. Tourism being the main industry here, hospitality is a mainstream business here. Eco tourism is on an upswing in the town, with nature oriented leisure being promoted in a big way. Another money spinner sector in Gangtok is the local handicraft sector. Hand- made paper, manufactured using vegetable fibers and cotton, as well as locally made watches and alcohol, make for a flourishing cottage industry is Gangtok. Investments from the private sector is yet to make any major headway in Gangtok, but understandably so, given the distinct terrain of the region.

Cuisine in Gangtok is mostly in line with Chinese- Tibetan tastes. Momos, Chowmein, and variants of noodles- with soup or otherwise- these are the staple food found here. Gangtok lives amidst music- Western as well as Nepali rock; and popular Bollywood songs can be heard everywhere.

Historically, Gangtok assumes prominence as a point of trade between India and Tibet. The Nathula pass, which is what remains of the ancient Silk route is in the vicinity of the town. Other attractions include the Tsomgo Lake, on the Nathula- Gangtok highway, the 205 hectare vast Himalayan Zoological Park,Ban Jhakri and Seven Sister waterfalls.

Travel guides advise that months between October to Decemberare the best to visit Gangtok. Transport systems are fairly in place. The taxis are reliable and do not charge exorbitantly. There is also the Gangtok cable car or ropeway that has become a tourist attraction. The cable car operates between three stations in a one kilometer stretch, offering a bird’s view of what the township looks like. Moreover, one can soak in the sight of the mighty Kanchenjunga peak and the valley during the trip.

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Disclaimer: The views and information expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the authors and references. Elgin Hotels & Resorts do not take liability or any responsibility for the same.