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 Gangtok مدين

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تاريخ التسجيل : 03/03/2008
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مُساهمةموضوع: Gangtok مدين   الإثنين يونيو 15, 2009 4:47 am

I'm writing from Gangtok in East Sikkim, India. Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim, a Himalayan State that has Tibet in the North, Bhutan in the East, Nepal in the West, and West Bengal in the South. Sikkim was an independent country ruled since 1641 A.D. by a hereditary Monarch, the Chogyal, and joined the Indian Union in 1975, becoming its twenty second state. With the Kanchenjunga - at 8534 metres the world's third highest mountain and the protective deity of the Sikkimese people - towering overhead and blessed with a magnificent landscape of fast-flowing rivers and lush forested hills, Sikkim has evolved into a very popular destination in recent times for both domestic and foreign tourists. However, given its strategic location, many parts of Sikkim fall with the Military zone and special Inner Line Permits are required to visit them. Foreigners require Inner Line Permits to visit any part of Sikkim, and these can be obtained from any Indian Mission.

Gangtok, which is at an altitude of 5800 feet, was built on the flank of a ridge and can be reached by road - a four or six hours drive - from Darjeeling, Siliguri, and other places, including all district headquarters in Sikkim. There is no railway connection on account of the terrain.

The name Gangtok, which means 'High Hill', evoked - atleast for me - a remote and mystical Himalayan atmosphere, but it is in fact a very modern, bustling town with many modern amenities like deluxe hotels, trendy restaurants and bars, high-range shops, Internet Cafes, Digital Photo Labs, and so on. The flip side of modern life has also unfortunately left its mark - over-crowding of buildings, traffic jams, beggars (not many, thankfully, but I'm mentioning them because one travel brochure specifically mentioned their total absence) and rubbish dumps. This last is truly the bane of all tourist destinations in India - my fellow countrymen and countrywomen, on the whole, seem to display an amazing disregard and lack of sensitivity for our natural heritage and don't think twice about leaving a veritable treasure trove of plastic bags, empty bottles, cellophane wrappers, thermocol, chewing gum, broken glass, plastic cups, old batteries, used sanitary napkins and other such delightful refuse everywhere in their wake. It is so much easier than carrying everything back to a garbage bin - just open the car or bus or train window and toss out whatever you don't want - or just leave the unwanted stuff spread out at what was once described in the travel brochure as a place of unmarred, pristine beauty. It is enough to make you wish that whoever discovered these places first had kept them a Priority One Top Secret from Travel Writers like me. Anyway, people, if you read this and sometime in the future happen to visit Gangtok and its surrounding areas, please, please, please don't add to the litter - think of your own future generations if nothing else - they might want to take a holiday sometime and, if every place stinks exactly like home, where would they go?

Anyway, I'm getting a tad side-tracked here. Like I said I am in Gangtok - in Romm 402 at Hotel Sonam Delek on Tibet Road. This is a pretty good hotel with not totally unreasonable rates - Rs. 660 for a double-bed room per night. The Manager and the Staff are friendly and helpful - I can't stress enough the reviving powers of a warm, welcoming smile after a tiring journey. The Chef here deserves a special mention for a reviving culinary talent, especially for what is described in the Menu, under the Dessert section, as 'Creap Suzzte' - a simply divine treat at just Rs. 40. Speaking of food, I also had a traditional Sikkimese meal here - costs Rs. 150 per person. I wish I could say it was an 'experience', but much of it was actually the same as what we eat back home, and all I could think was I\\m paying Rs. 150 for that?! Other eating places I tried out to my satisfaction are the 'Blue Sheep' and 'Glenary's' on M.G. Road.

M.G. Road, by the way, is Gangtok's Main Street, a busy place lined with shops, restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, internet cafes, photo labs and so on. You will also find the Tourism Office oer here - here a very nice, smiling lady handed me informative booklets on Sikkim and was pretty much clueless beyond that - go to the Blue Sky Tours and Travels Office next doors for anything you want to know, she said. A couple before me had asked her, "Then why are you here?" "To hand out the booklets, of course," she said.

The guys manning the well-recommended Blue Sky Office didn't appear to know much either. Our Manager is out to lunch, they said, come again. I went again and the Manager said, our Chief is away, come again. I arranged instead for a two days and one night package to Yumthang - a place reminiscent of Switzerland according to the Tourism brochures and the many photographs pinned on the office walls, and not at all disappointing in actual fact - with the Kanchenjunga Adenture Tours and Travels on Tibet Road, a short walk from my hotel. This agency proved to be cheaper too - Rs. 800 compared to Blue Sky's Rs. 1200. There's a long list of Travel Agents listed in the Tourism Office's 'Sikkim, The Land of Mystic Splendour' booklet. It would be a good idea to shop around and find the best deals.

The sights in Gangtok itself can be seen by simply walking around - it takes si or seen hours howeer given the up and down terrain and can be a little tiring. If you don't want to walk, you can hire one of the local Maruti Van Taxis for around Rs. 350.

Places of Interest here are :

1. Enchey Monastery : A 200 year old Monastery of the Nyingma Order.

2. Do-Drul Chorten : An impressive Stupa with 108 Prayer Wheels built in 1945 by Trullshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma Order.

3. Flower Show Venue : This is on the Ridge and Orchid Shows are held here in the Spring. They also sell bulbs and plants.

4. Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom : This was established with the aim of promoting and selling traditional Sikkimese handicrafts.

5. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology : This famous institute, founded by the former Chogyal or King of Sikkim, is a world-renowned centre for the study of Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy and Religion. They have a splendid and well-maintained collection of beautiful Buddhist sculpture and other art objects, Tankha Paintings, and ancient manucripts in the Sanskrit, Lepcha, and Tibetan Languages.

6. Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, and Tashi View Point : These are vantage places above the town from where you can get good views of the Kanchenjunga and Siniolchu Mountains.

7. Himalayan Zoological Park : This is right opposite Ganesh Tok and covers 205 hectares. It is a semi-natural habitat for animals like the Red Panda, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Black Bear, etc.

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