Gangtok and other places in Sikkim, north India
My journey to Gangtok brought me from Bhadrapur to Siliguri and from there to Darjeeling and further north to the Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok. I had come from Nepal and was trying to escape the rain in Kathmandu. I did a 2 days trip further into north Sikkim before traveling to Kalimpong and going east to Phuntsholing and Assam. Here's what you can expect in Sikkim
Although I have been in Siliguri, I hardly remember anything. It must not have been very impressive.
I went directly further to Darjeeling only to find out ... more rain! It was the monsoon season. I had hoped I would get some nice views over the hills but there was no way.
The locals didn't care much. It was World Cup cricket. Anyone who has ever been in India (or Pakistan) knows cricket is more important then anything, during the world cup cricket is God.
And while I was in Darjeeling it was India versus Pakistan. Even the buses had a radio on.
Taxis and rickshaws didn't go unless they had absolute no other excuse. It was cricket. It was the only thing people were talking about.
In the Netherlands cricket means nothing. I had no idea about the rules, didn't understand any of it, just saw some people throwing a ball and some others trying to hit it.
People were playing cricket, not just children, everyone, from children to grown up and... in the Rumtek monastery the monks too. The atmosphere reminded me of the movie Phörpa (The Cup). (While the soccer World Cup is being played in France, two young Tibetan refugees arrive at a monastery/boarding school in exile in India.)
Darjeeling turned out to be covered in mist and rain hence I was watching cricket! But after a few days it cleared up and I was able to make the journey to Gangtok and the Rumtek monastery. Gangtok was also much larger then Darjeeling, not surprising as it is the capital of the state.
Here I experienced an atmosphere which was more Nepalese and Tibetan then Indian. Here I also arranged a 2 day tour into north Sikkim, see this page which was quite an experience in itself. The idea was to go to Lake Tsongme but I never made it there due to the weather conditions that had demolished parts of the road.
I went now to Kalimpong which located on a ridge overlooking River Teesta and like many places in Sikkim a popular hill station. It has a nice flower market and a good Tibetan monastery: Zang Dhok Palri Phodang which holds a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures.
The whole of Sikkim has plenty of immigrants from Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. North Sikkim is for the most off limits and only accessible by organized tour. This has partly to do with illegal immigrants.
Kalimpong doesn't look very big when I arrived but there are still almost 150.000 people living here. I stayed a night in town, visited the monastery and the market and took a bus to Phuntsholing and traveled further into Assam.
All travel into Sikkim, either from Nepal, Kolkata or Assam goes through Siliguri. I didn't think Siliguri was much worth spending time. However, it has excellent connections by air, train and bus further into India.
Where to stay
All cities in Sikkim have cheap guesthouses, there is no need to book in advance as Sikkim does not see the hordes of tourists other areas in India see.
However, you may want to check what is available in town:
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A two day trip into North Sikkim
Not all glitter is gold, and sometimes a journey is for very different reasons memorable, even really cool. Here's a story about a two day journey into North Sikkim with 2 Indian families
Phunsholing and the Bhutanese border
Phuntsholing is certainly not worth a visit. However, it is the border town with Bhutan and you can visit a few square km's in Bhutan without a visa. Thus I went there to see what there is to see:
Kolkata is a magnificent city to visit, one of the few really big cities I thought which was interesting enough to stay longer.
Although Guwahati itself is just a big city, there are some very interesting sights in the area. For example the Kamakhya Temple.