Sunday, June 23, 2013 By

Places To See Arround Yumthung Valley, Sikkim

Zero Point,Sikkim - A Frosted White Wonderland

 N.B.This post is basically part of my earlier Sikkim post,Love At First Sight:Yumthung Valley.

In the shadow of hulking high peaks lies a wonderland of snow, giant glaciers and a trickling stream, where time seems to be frozen in a pristine white frame.

Zero Point,Yumesamdong,North Sikkim

It is exhilarating experience to drive through the high mountain passes of Sikkim. Landscape changes in every hair-pin bend from gorgeous golden paddy fields to gurgling waterfalls, from forest of conifers to a meadow of  primulas, rhododendrons. Jeep cuts through the chilled morning winds, climbing high, high and higher through the ribbon like path, grey swirls of clouds, fog obscured our vision, flecks of snow scattered here and there. We started rubbing our hands, pulling our shawls to escape shivering skin deep cold. The patches of snow started spreading and soon covered the mountain walls, carpeted the surroundings. We entered   into the country of clouds, snow and fog. The road side stone shows us - Yumesamdong - Zero Point, 15500 feet altitude in the North East state Sikkim (India).Quiet a few elated tourists playing with snowballs. But our Bolero MAX started chasing the winds on the highland pass with more speed, almost gliding through the icy treacherous road and our excitement infused to nervousness.

Yumthung Valley as seen from the winding road


A Stream trickles down the mountain ,at Zero Point,Sikkim

Delighted tourists near  Zero Point,Yumesamdong,Sikkim

The road took a turn and then all of a sudden, dramatic change of the panorama - pristine, white snow land shining underneath indigo blue sky, surrounded by the sky high mountain peaks.An Aquamarine stream trickles down the mountains with its own rhythm. The sharp bright autumn sun set everything sparkling. If there is a heaven on earth, then this is it.The place is cocooned by a soothing calmness.Completely absorbed by the aura of this heavenly beauty,we walked,slipped and hurled snow ball each other and took some snaps with tight hug, a frame forever.

Bright Autumn Sun sets everything sparkling

A no man's land, rubbing soldier with People's Republic of China, heavily patrolled by Indian Army. Few bankers lying scattered here and there like igloo in the polar land. I don’t know how they keep themselves so alert at this sub-zero temperature where survival is near to impossible.We are far away from the 'Zero point' and a heartfelt thanks to our guide cum driver.I always feel locals can guide you best to traverse not so trodden path. At this high altitude,15,500ft where temperature is below zero, it’s hard to speculate whims of weather. Soon canopy of clouds covered the elixir-blue of the sky, storm winds yanked us into our jeep and reverse tracing of the path. “Alice" is back from the Wonderland.

Coming Back from Zero Point,Yumesamdong,North Sikkim

How To Reach Zero Point:  

Normally, the package tour from Gangtok to Yumthung Valley will have sightseeing till Yumthang valley. Beyond this one can go upto  Yumesamdong famously known as zero-point by paying extra money directly to the driver.For more details how to reach and other thing please refer my earlier post on Yumthung Valley.
Picture Courtesy:Mr Gourab Mukherjee and rights reserved to this blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 By

River Dreaming By The Shore Of Ganges

The blue sky above me, lush green banks below me, vista of vast water ahead of me and the hypnotic sound of "Lap ,Lap, Lap"....where water laps the shore,I continue to dream. 

The surreal settings by the side of river Ganges(basically Hooghly river)


The vista of vast expanse of the river near  "Diamond Harbor" will sooth your senses

It's only one and half hours from our home (Kolkata), but it does not matter how far it is, it matters how close to heart it is. My first break in monsoon through the country side of beautiful 'Bengal’, shower waded, renewed and lively - 'Diamond Harbour' by the shore of river Hooghly(though we used to call it as Ganges)The river is very widespread at this point, on its way to meet the ocean, accomplishing a voyage from Himalaya to Bay of Bengal. Large Ocean going ships sailing through the vast expanse of the waterway, rolling the high tidal waves.Far away we found small creeks and a fisherman with his fishing boat, getting ready to sail through the huge waterway and to catch the 'silver crop' of the water, the famous 'Hilsha' fish in rainy season and many more spices throughout the year. ‘DiamondHarbour' is also famous fishing harbour, supplies huge quantity of  fish to the local market of Kolkata.

Monsoon sky painted by the golden ray of setting sun,near Diamonharbour

The climate is changing its mood frequently. It’s raining with fine drops of water; it’s cloudy and sometimes shining with bright sunshine. The weather for me is compelling enough to be careless, to be dreamy, and to be gloomy. In the late afternoon, I sat on the small benches on the banks of the river for how long I don't know and my mind was wandering with the fluttering of butterflies in rain-washed grasslands; my eyes were grazing far away on the horizon where blue water touches the low hanging clouds. Winds gently kiss the water, forming ripples, so as my face, cheeks, hairs and refreshing enough to mop up all my fatigue. Soon the half eaten moon came out of the foliage and the moonlit water of the river embraces the shore and "Lap,Lap,Lap"..I continue to dream.

An evening and river dreaming by the shore of the Ganges

To relax by the side of Ganges there are many options for the well-heeled couples and families like 'Raddison Ffort,Raichak','Ganga Kutir',but Hotel Punyalakshmi bridges the gap between very high end and budget category resorts. It is pocket friendly for all, yet awesome by the river side settings. This hotel positions itself as a place to rest and unfold by the side of the river bank, and it lives up to this promise handsomely. Once you take left turn from the main gate, the first thing will catch your eyes ,the rolling grass lawn decorated with ornamental flowers, the full-bloomed lilly pond,small sitting arrangements by the side of river bank and the flowing river Ganges, a surreal setting. Honestly the beauty of 'Diamond Harbour' can only be adored if you stay at Punyalakshmi.Personally I feel there is many scope of improvement on food, service and cleanliness, but for the location I will give it 100 out of 100.
DiamondHarbour Hotel

Once I retraced back through the riverside path of Diamond Harbour,I feel the urge to present  the allure of this small harbor,lying  calmly at the last edge of Bengal where river going to join sea.

Picture Courtesy:Mr Gourab Mukherjee and rights reserved to this blog.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 By

Yumthung Valley - Breathtakingly Beautiful

Yumthung Valley, North Sikkim  - Love At First Sight

I don't know how many of you believe in "love at first sight?" theory. But I feel it happens and happens for good reason. The tiny state of Sikkim throws many lures to travelers and one of them is ‘Yumthung Valley’,basically a recent addition to the tourist map of Sikkim.Away from the maddening crowd,hidden in the slope of north Sikkim's highland,a summer grazing pasture at an elevation of 11,800 feet provides little heavens of respite for harassed travelers.Hence it suits well for my fond ambition of spending vacation in verdant solitude.

We started our journey from Gangtok to Lachung (the nearest village where accommodation is available) by booking a full vehicle. As one drives up the hill of north Sikkim,cool greenery,picturesque hamlets, overflowing waterfalls immediately soothes one’s senses.We came across extremely captivating seven sister’s waterfall cascading through seven steps and ultimately crashing on the rocks with huge roar.
             Next we halted for lunch at a road side small village, glittering in the backdrop of golden yellow terraced rice farms, like a picture postcard. They served us hot delicious lunch with rice, potatoes,cabbages and super testy chicken curry.I could be over impressive,but having a lunch at this lovely setting, made it more tastier.

Seven Sister Waterfalls ,on the way to Yumthung Valley

A roadside Village ,way to Yumthung Valley,North Sikkim

We reached to Lachung after six hours of long hectic jeep journey through the rumbled hilly lane and climate was chilling cold.But worth it all.Lachung,(at an elevation of 9600 ft),close to Tibet border,at an confluence of Lachen and Lachung river is an sleepy hamlet with simple fun loving villagers,may be the most idyllic riverside hilly village I ever visited,with no four five star marking resorts,posh restaurants,psychedelic cafes or bustling summer flea market.And that is the plus factor of its charm.Whatever expectation I had with Lachung,unhindered panoramic view of the rugged Himalayan hills exceeded everything.The feeling of oneness with the nature started brewing in my mind.It was an awesome beginning.

Way to Yumthung Valley

Snow Clad Mountain View, near Yumthung Valley

The valley is 29KM away from Lachung village.Next day morning we headed to the valley after having piping hot "puri sabji" breakfast through a zigzag road. Wind started taking pace and temperature was low enough,but I don't have even time to feel that,I was paralyzed by the road side scenery. Mountain clouds,blooming flowers,colorful forest,sparkling streams guided us to the small piece of paradise.

TheAlpine Medow,Yumthung Valley

A huge golden meadow- Sikkim's mountain and glaciers come  flowing down to valley's slope,crisscrossed by the shimmering water of mountain streams,studded with wild flowers,surrounded by the forest of fir.Yak's were grazing sluggishly on the slopes of high mountain.There were certain lure in the murmuring sound of the mountain streams,I sat upon the valley's flower bed for a long time,lost in the world,absorbed by the brilliance of nature.Soon the clouds from the hills came calling us and almost covered half the valley,the forests became hazy.We walked along the river,crossed a bridge surrounded by the holy flag prayers and played with the freezing clod water,took some more snaps,so unwilling to leave this solitary summer highland.
               As we retraced back to Lachung,I realized the place is for the true lover of the nature who admire nature and carry a everlasting piece of memory within themselves,not for those who leave a piece of themselves in the form of plastic,cans,bottles.

The river flowing through the Yumthung Valley

Tips To Travel To Yumthung Valley,North Sikkim:

 Lachung -Yumthang- Yumesamdong Valley Tour package highlight :

  •  A bird's eye view of the Teesta Valley at Singhik.
  • An evening on banks of river at Lachung
  • Experiencing sub-zero temperature and 360 degree snow clad mountains at  Yumesamdong ,Zero-point (15000+ feet).For more details of Yumesamdong check my post
  • In the winter Yumthung Valley gets carpeted by thick layer of snow.Skiing,which has recently been introduced at Phuni (close to the Sangri pass in the valley)—which, at 11,500ft, is the highest and most extreme skiing you’ll find in the country.During the spring months,the area blooms with rhododendrons, primulas, poppies, iris and many more and hence it is known as Valley Of Flowers.Hotel Le Coxy is good place for comfortable stay.
  • Situated  at an altitude of 9,600 ft. and at a distance of about 117 Kms from Gangtok.This entire distance is generally covered in about 06 - 07 hours and road condition is very bad at some points.Better not to travel with kids below 10 years. For visiting Yumthung Valley,you have to book either 1N,2Day or 2N 3days package from Gangtok. I personally feel 2N3days is best for covering Gangtok-Lachung- Yumthung Valley -Gangtok. Lots of package options from Gangtok are available and do a proper inquiry about lodging,food,sightseeing before finalizing for any package.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 By

Aritar Lake,Sikikm - Explore Offbeat Trails Of Sikkim,

 Come Closer to Kangchendzonga ,Aritar Lake,Sikikm

"Sikkim" I believe,a place closer to Shangri La and a place always will be close to my heart.I been to 'Sikkim' several times already and whenever I started feeling restless or laid back from the hustle bustle of city-life,Sikkim has become my savior due to several reasons.One major reason,there is Himalaya with abundance of natural beauty,majestic view of Kanchenjunga,unique calmness in the weather, warm hearted,friendly 'Sikkimese' people and mouthwatering momos.I am dieing fan of steam-hot,soft,thinly 'maida' coated,mutton,pork even simple veg dumplings with eye-watering red chilli chutney.
Being a resident of Kolkata,a college student of Siliguri (a city nestled in the foothill of Himalaya,gateway of Sikkim) I never per-planned my journey to Sikkim,a place known to me for several years.In a fine morning of October I filled up my bags and on boarded to Darjeeling mail from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri and then NJP to Gangtok.I will not describe much about Gangtok in this post,as this time my destination was Aritar,in eastern region of Sikkim,isolated from the rest of the state.It is a tiny hamlet encircled by Mt Kangchendzonga.In a clear sky day, panoramic view of Kangchendzonga will greet you from every corner of Aritar.
Kangchendzonga from our home stay in Aritar Sikkim
Dusk was falling when we arrived and after a little hunt we found a beautifully appointed farm house emblazoned with flowers at the edge of hill.I was always overwhelmed by the warmth of 'Sikkimese' people and this time was also no exception.The resident cook had prepared a welcome bouquet meal for us with lots of momos,noodles and thukpa which perked up our mood instantly.

There was further excitement awaiting for us.I woke up early still it was dark,sarong of mist draped over green of valley and firms.I took a stroll through the shadowy winding path which leads us to the cliff top.The sight that greeted us is still my best 'Sunrise View'.Dawn arrives over the "Himalayan" range.First ray of sun started caressing the snow capped peaks of "Mt Kangchendzonga" with flecks of orange,red and yellow.As sun rises above,white snow capped peak of Kangchendzonga dazzled like a golden crown,the backdrop sky started playing "holi"(Festival of color,in India).The splendor of seeing sunrise over magnificent mountains cant not be described,has to be experienced.

Sunrise Over Kangchendzonga as seen from Aritar,East Sikkim
A layer below,deep in the valley,quite "Lamapokhri" lake was looking like a sleeping beauty bedecked with fantasy,as if she will wake up with the divine ray of dawn.It is quite and air is cool and moist.Morning rays started to spread warmth inside sleepy village with terraced farm fields.On the winding road back,green water of Lamaphokri lake surrounded by tall pine,far,deodar trees welcomed us with its splendid solitaire.Still I cant help :thinking of that "Tranquil Beauty".The beauty of the place still not threatened by the tourism monsters.

Early Morning View Of Aritar Lake

Later in the morning we visited "Aritar Gumpa"a monastery of the Kagyuapa order,considered as one of the holiest and oldest in Sikkim.The monastery was beautifully built with traditional Buddhist architecture with moral and paintings and treasure for old manuscript.The sun bleached prayer flags on bamboo poles bid adieu to us from the place,closer to Shangri-La.

Holy Prayer Flags

Must Do in Aritar ,Sikkim: 

Watch the sun rise over the Kangchendzonga.Do a trek short or long in and around.Try some momo and traditional local dishes.

Places to See around Aritar,Sikkim:

 If you love hiking ,then a trek to Phushery Lake,Pangolakha and Rachela, the historic tri junction border of Sikkim, West Bengal and Bhutan,is quite thrilling experience.You may have chance to see red panda,peasant,rare species of butterflies,wild orchids and other exotic flora and fauna.

How To Reach Aritar ,Sikkim:

Bagdogra is the nearest airport and New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station. From Siliguri it is almost 5-6 hours drive by hired cab or can be reached by four hours drive from Gangtok via Rangpo.

Where to Stay In Aritar Sikkim:

If you need star category hotel,then this place is not for you.Couple of budget hotel is there .But I have seen some good home stay \farm house near the view point.

 Best Season to Visit Aritar,Sikkim

Avoid rainy season June to August,as these area is prone to landslide.Autumn and winter is best for Kangchendzonga View.