On returning from Lachen, we heaeded towards Lachung, after having lunch in Thangu Valley. We had to come all the way back to Chunthang Valley and take the diversion to Lachung. Once again unless one knows the terrain well, it is extremely difficult to drive in these route. Nevertheless the route is never devoid of its natural beauty!
Not a very high altitude place, but the small town on Chungthang is beautiful by its own right. Since this is the junction where routes from Gangtok, Lachen and Lachung all join, it can get really congested in traffic.
We got stuck in one such traffic and it took us almost an hour before we could proceed on towards Lachung. It was well past 8:00 PM when we reach Lachung. So we had only enough time to check-in, have dinner and close for the night.
The hotel was compact and really cozy, so no problems on the resting. Considering the long journey, comfort really would not have been a problem in any case. The plan for next week was start early and head towards Zero Point
Zero Point is again on the northern tip of Sikkim bordering China in the North. The place is covered with snow throughout and weather was much colder here. We spent a few minutes here taking in the majesty of the place. There were quite a lot of tourists and the tourist vehicles can be seen everywhere.
|Unpaved roads leading to Zero Point|
If you are planning to visit this place, do keep in mind that more than half the journey will be in roads as you can see in the above picture. Virtually non-existent roads, so the time taken for this covering the distance of about 50km would be about 90 minutes!
Is it worth? In my opinion, a big yes. You are free to explore the place, but ensure you are breathing deep as the oxygen level here is also low, just like Gurudongmar lake. Though not in the same altitude of Gurudongmar lake, this is also about 15,300ft. So it means something for sure.
While returning back, do stop at the Yumthang river in Yumthang Valley also known as Yumesomdong Valley. This beautiful place is known for its Rhododendron flowers and Yaks.
Yak near the Yumthang river
After spending enough time in Yamthang valley, we headed back to Gangtok. On the way we stopped at the beautiful small town of Namok to have a delicious but simple lunch. Once again the hospitality of people is just wonderful in these places.
A quick lunch and then on the way back Gangtok. We reached Gangtok late in the evening and the plan for next week is to head towards Pelling in West Sikkim and visit a couple of places in South Sikkim on the way.
We started leisurely after breakfast and the first stop, on the suggestion of the tourist operator, was a place called Namchi, where the major attraction is the Char Dham temple. Though a good place, it would take a solid 2 hours to see the entire place. If you had not planned to visit this place, you are certainly in for a big delay.
|Statue at Char Dham temple|
After spending enough time in the temple, we had lunch in a small shop, which again was quite tasty (do not go to the expensive ones suggested by taxi operators. Just not worth!). Then proceeded on to Ravangala Buddha Park. Unlike Chardham, this is a place which we wanted to visit.
Unfortunately, it was already 5:00PM when we reached there, since we spent quite a lot of time in Char Dham.
Nevertheless, the Buddha park is still a worthy visit. Apart from the huge Buddha statue, you can see beautiful paintings on the life story of Buddha in the temple.
|Ravangala Buddha Park|
For anyone who is interested in art and culture, this place is highly recommended.
We reached Pelling city well past 7 in the evening and had our dinner and shut for the day. We were told that from the hotel that we are staying we there is a beautiful view of the Kanchenjunga peak, one of the highest peaks in India. We were told that we should get a good view as early as 5 in the morning when the first rays of sun hit the peak. But since it was too misty the entire week, we were not that lucky!
So we finished our breakfast about 7 AM and headed over to the Khechopalri lake, which is about 30 KM from Pelling city and easily take more than an hour due to narrow roads. The road was not as bad as what it was in the Northern Sikkim, but still takes time to reach the place.
Khechopalri lake, just as most of the lakes and rivers in Sikkim is very sacred for the Buddhists. There is also a monastery near the lake. From the parking lot, it is a good 1 km walk to reach the lake. The lake is full of big fishes, which can be fed with fish food that is sold near the parking area.
What makes it even more beautiful is the fact that the lake is nestled inside dense woods, even though it is just a kilometer away from the nearest motorable road. Since the lake is considered sacred, it is clearly instructed to take the foot wears off, if want to go to near the lake and feed the fishes.
Well, how do you actually get to view the full beauty of the lake? Real gems are always hidden. Just a few meters from the lake, there is a sign board that shows the direction if you want to have a full view of the lake from a good vantage point. However, this is a steep climb of about 800 meters easily, but it is worth every bit of energy that you spent!
|Khechopalri lake from viewpoint|
After spending some time, mainly in the view point to just enjoy the beauty, we headed back to the parking lot. Before starting, we did quick visit of the monastery. On the way back we planned to visit the Rimbi falls and the Orange Garden or Rock garden.
This place turned out to be a haven for bird lovers. Though I had not planned on any bird watching, seeing the number of birds just while driving, I decided to dedicate at least a couple of hours trying to photograph some birds. Considering that it was a casual tour, had a good number of success with some birds that are not common in the South India, including the Himalayan Bulbul!
The Orange Garden also turned out to be a beautiful serene place. It is developed alongside the Rimbi river. Offers everything from a casual visitor to an avid bird watcher. For a person like me, this place is high on the cards for sure.
After spending time to my heart's content, watching beautiful birds, we decided to return back to Pelling. The driver, being a local guy suggested that it would be worth our time visiting the Pemayangtse Monastery.
|Plumbous Water redstart|
This turned out to be one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim and had lot of information and Buddhist artefacts like a museum. Once you step inside the monastery you can really feel how old the place is, with the wooden floors creaking at every step you take. However, well preserved and maintained by the monks.
We returned back to the hotel after a day spent very well! Thought of checking out the view from the hotel to see if there is any good view of the Kanchenjunga peak, but still disappointment. Nothing visible because of the mist.
We had decided to start the next day as early as possible, about 5 in the morning, and head back to the Siliguri airport. Even though we know it might not take as long as it took for us from Siliguri to Gangtok, we did not want to take any chances, considering the traffic prone roads.
We stopped a couple of times on the way to take a few photographs. The mist does not only block the view, but also provides some magical views to some places, like this one.
|Mighty Teesta submerged under Mist|
After another short stop at a small place for breakfast, we head over to the airport with loads of memories of the Heaven on Earth!
Sikkim, by far, is the most memorable trip I had and would never forget the natural beauty of North Sikkim and Pelling!