Road trip to the Dragon land of India - Sikkim
Chevaliers fighting dragons, spaceships are landing, scenes from the famous James Bond movie, Skyfall. This place fits all of these fantasies. It's not some other planet or a dream, This is a place in India rising up from harsh climatic conditions, natural calamities and lots of rocks. Kudos to the mother earth who claimed this fantastic piece of land in India named Sikkim. Let's explore it.
Sikkim will always be one of the most memorable trips of my life. I was given the opportunity to present my first research in the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology (SMIT). Another very special thing I was able to experience on this trip was my first airplane journey. The presentation of my research went surprisingly without a hitch because even though I have terrible stage fright, I was able to calm my nerves down just in time. After the presentation, my fellow travelers and I were chilling in the hostel room (provided free of cost by the organizers of SMIT). We decided to take full advantage of our time here and explore as many places as we can. We decided to start with apparently the most beautiful place in Sikkim, Nathula. Nathula literally means "listening ears pass." Our research supervisor was extremely supportive of our endeavors and able to provide some wonderful insight on how to reach there and what to eat, etc. With the help of a local, we were able to get a driver and a car who also acted as our guide for the trip! However when we told him about our plans to visit Nathula, he informed us of the special permit we are required to take from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. Unfortunately, it takes 3-4 days to get the permit. We were majorly bummed to hear that because we didn't have the luxury of time. But later that night our Mr. driver called us and informed us that he could arrange for the permit by next morning! That's how we began our journey to one of the most beautiful places in India the very next day.
For Permit: A photo ID proof and two passport size photographs are required. The Nathula Pass permit cost is INR 200/- (approx.) per person.
Money Spent on Taxi Booking: INR 2000/- (approx.) per person as total was INR 8000/-(approx.) divided into 4 persons.
“Immediate plans are a direct road to craziest experiences and memories”
The next morning, we woke up early, took a refreshing bath, and began our journey. The folk music playing softly blended with the atmosphere, providing an apt background to the natural beauty of the drive. The conversation between us flew, and we were surrounded by lush greenery and crisp, fresh air. It was surprisingly cold, and we were not equipped for it, but luckily we were able to get some caps and gloves that kept us warm enough. We skipped breakfast so we could perform the most important ritual of our trip: enjoy hot roadside Maggi and hot masala tea! Roadside Maggi in the hills is my idea of a little bit of heaven that everybody deserves to experience, and well masala tea is a non-negotiable companion to it. But if you’re a coffee person, you can still enjoy it to the fullest.
Money Spent: INR 70/-(approx.) on food and INR 450/- (approx.) for cap and gloves
After chilling around at the tea stall for half an hour, we continued with our journey. As we drove further, the dark, lush greens began to fade into autumn yellow, ochre, and russets. The gigantic mountains danced in a symphony of hues of ochre, dry oranges, and simultaneously they were dripping with fresh dewdrops from melted snow. Those were the most beautiful moments of my life. We bought our tickets to Tsomgo Lake. This magnificent lake stares down at you from 12,400 ft.! When I stepped out of the car, a blast of fresh, fragrant air hit me. White, moist clouds surrounded me, and I knew I'd reached utopia. Along the banks of the lake, people were enjoying Yak rides and reveling in the out of the world beauty of the lake.
Our guide told us that if we were to visit this lake in the winter, the whole place would be covered with snow and that's extremely beautiful as well. So if anybody wants to experience untouched, fresh snow and bewitching surroundings, winters are a great time to visit! Money Spent: INR 10 for the ticket of Tsomgo Lake
As we continued with our journey to Nathula pass, we passed a lot of military camps along the way. Nathula pass is situated right at the India-China border. Hence the area is under the control of the Indian army. Since private cars are not allowed after a certain point, a vehicle is arranged by the militants that take you further to the spot. We stayed there for about 20 minutes, spending our time taking pictures and experiencing the beauty of the path.
A car was arranged by the militants that took us to the Nathula Pass. It is 15 minutes drive from the starting point from where we drive uphill to about 14,140 ft.! Nathula Pass lived up to its name "The most beautiful place in Sikkim'. The whole place was covered under a blanket of snow. The air was thinner at this height, and I felt a little dizzy, but that could also be because of the unearthly beauty of this place. Photography wasn't allowed. I could see no man's land on the Indo-China border! Beyond the frontiers, Chinese tourists greeted us. It warmed my heart to see friendly faces beyond the border, even in this bone-chilling cold. It becomes challenging to stay there after a while, as the weather conditions are a little harsh. However, there are tents where you can get food and warmth! We bought hot masala tea and momos and ravished our food. We decided to make our way back afterward. When we reached our car, we decided to visit Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir. On our way, we visited Kupuk lake, which is famous for its peculiar elephant shape.
"Nature comes in so many amazing sizes and shapes"
Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple was built by the Indian army to honor the memory of the soldier Harbhajan, Hero of Nathula. While exploring the temple, I also saw the bunker in which he used to stay in. There was a small local market near the temple. I explored the shops and bought souvenirs. Initially, the items seemed a bit expensive, but if you bargain a little, you can buy them at an appropriate price. Money Spent: INR 150/- (approx.) on souvenir
Later we made our way back SMIT with heavy hearts. Leaving this gorgeous place and going back filled me with remorse, but it also strengthened my resolve to work harder in life so I can come back or visit new places like Sikkim. Making new memories is always better than reliving old ones. So this was all about my experience at the Dragon Land. I hope I was able to show you at least a glimmer of what Sikkim has to offer. I hope you like the content. If yes, hit the like button and give me a shout out by sharing this on your social media and also comment on how you felt about it and whether you liked it or not. It gives me the motivation to make more creative content and share them with you. So take care and Hasta La Vista for now!
Reviewed by Stuti Saran