Things have been pretty busy these last few weeks and I am sure our readers have noticed a dearth of posts lately. We are dealing with our university exams at the moment and hope to resume posting on a regular basis around the middle of next week.
Thanks for your support. Love you, Readers!
Enjoy your weekend.
Here are a few pictures from my trip to the Himalayas last month:
Sikkim is a small Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It has Nepal to its west, Tibet to its north and East and Bhutan also to its east. The only Indian state it shares it border with is West Bengal (Capital: Calcutta).
It is the least populous state in India and has 11 official languages. It was an independent state before 1975 and for some years a protectorate of the Indian Union. But in April, 1975 it was annexed to India and the monarchy was abolished and special privileges were granted to the residents by the government.
Best way to reach Sikkim is via the National Highways, 31 and 31 A constructed by the BRO (Border Road Organisation).
This highway connects Sikkim to West Bengal and China. Some part of the highway is constructed parallel to the Tista river along the Himalayan foothills. The stretch is somewhat perilous due to crates and rubble from fresh landslides. All along the drift, (where the river moves away) we find large BRO boards warning about landslides, hair pin loops, and falling boulders. Phew!
You will find a lot of women running small shops and establishments along the highway. This is because the society is matrilineal and crime-free. The major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism.
Among industries, we found units of Zydus and Cipla, since pharmaceuticals need precision engineering and the state is practically pollution-(dust) free. One can find a heavy occurrence of Lichen (a bioindicator of pollution) along the dense vegetation bordering most parts of the highway.
Gangok, the Capital of Sikkim
After crossing a vast expanse of terraced farms interspersed with quaint little huts, and catching a glimpse of the erstwhile queen’s residence in a densely forested area, we came to our first viewpoint.
A young woman was busy unpacking the contents of an old trunk and laid out a variety of tribal costumes (bright reds to purples to gold) on the rails (the view-point platform). Her job is to dress up inquisitive visitors at a minor fee and let them take photos in those costumes. Of the 3 dominant communities, Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia; hers were Lepcha costumes.
Photo: the blouse is called the Hanjoo and the tunic is called the bakhoo and married women tie up an additional apron around their waists.
One thing that strikes best is the friendliness and hospitality of everyone you come across. Everyone living in the rural areas is simple and happy. You simply can’t help falling in love with them.
The Rumtek Monastery has a lot of historical importance attached to it. The cameras weren’t allowed inside the main prayer hall where elaborate rituals accompanied by gongs and chanting welcome you.
The main statue of Buddha is actually placed behind a thick ornate wall and you have to go around prayer tables and large lamps to catch a glimpse of it.
Here we met Impa, a cute little guy who was sent by his parents to live in the monastery, like many other young fellows like him.(pic) that’s me handing out candies to Impa.
We had lunch in a local café near the Ranka Monastery . The menu largely comprised of the local specialties- Thukpa (noodle soup with vegetables), momos (dumplings), faley (sort of fried momos), etc..
It was my first time trying out Thukpa.
Expenses: Since this Weblog deals with Economics and PF, I thought I should provide a brief idea about the expenses one can incur during the trip.
One doesn’t need to plan months in advance for a trip to Sikkim. We planned a couple of weeks in advance. We took the train from Calcutta to New Jalpaigudi (also In West Bengal). A seat in the Executive chair car costs about INR 2000 and the car hire (Siligudi to Gangtok) can be cost anywhere between INR 2000-3000. One can put up in the holiday homes established by the tourism department of the Government. These are very viable, and reasonable for a night’s stay.
At Sikkim, a car hire costs INR 2500 per day. You can visit all the places you can manage before the day runs out.
At Tadung, a photo-shoot in the traditional attire costs INR 30 per head.
The Rumtek Monastry entry fee is INR 10 per head.
Ranka Monastry entry is free. Food at the local café was reasonably priced.
Handicrafts: It’s best you visit a dozen stalls to get an idea about the rates. WE bought some Tibetan handicrafts including Buddhist Prayer wheels and some woolens. It cost INR 1000.
Next post in this Series: “Postcards From the Wild”
© The Idea Bucket, 2013.