Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip Report of Sikkim by Anjan Chanda

Boarded a Kolkata-Siliguri bus on the 30th of May 2008 from the Esplanade Bus terminus, Kolkata and, -- ONE MORE TIME we were on the way to the HIMALAYAS...

Day 1: Gangtok

We reached Gangtok in the afternoon around 3 pm and checked-in the hotel “Dzong”. Arindamwas eager to watch a movie with the lamas in the “DENZONG” (a well known movie theatre hall in Gangtok). (Un)fortunately he did not - he was not ready for a boring movie like "Tashan".
We tried out our night landscape photography skills – capturing Gangtok from the “Dzong” hotel terrace top in the dead of the night.

It was raining heavily and the roaring sound of the water over the tin roof was deafening. The atmosphere was elec
We discussed our tour plan
in details with our trek organizer (Kishen Gurung) over few glasses of a very famous local Sikkimese beer. Hot chapatis and steaming hot curry served by the hotel boy was what we had for the first night’s dinner. We had a good night sleep after that beer and rain. We were mentally prepared to take up any challenge now – nothing can deter us from reaching our target – The Cholamu Lake, which is the source of the river Teesta and is also the highest lake in India. By now, Cholamu had already become the lake of our dream.

Day 2: Gangtok to Lachen

Non-eventful morning spent at Gangtok. The veg-cheese sandwich tasted good along with a hot cup of coffee. Vishal, our tour guide, came to pick us up from our hotel at about 9 am. He made six copies of the permit, which had Cholamu written on it. Sikkim police do not issue permits for the “Cholamu Lake”, which falls into an army-restricted zone. It is only after our repeated requests to Kishen and because of his father’s acquaintance with the local police officer that he managed to include “Cholamu” into our permit paper.
We had lunch at Mangan, a nice hot "chai" (tea) at Chungthang and finally reached Lachen at around 7 pm – a whole day’s journey. On our way we stopped by some colossal waterfalls; most renowned amongst them were the Bachchan falls (name given by the locals and/or the tourists) and the seven-sisters’ falls.

Evening tea at Lachen; dinner at 9:45 pm; “Chaang” and the local Sikkimese beer before we fell asleep.

Day 3: Lachen to Cholamu to Gangtok

D-Day – we left Lachen in the wee hours of the morning at 4:15 am and reached Thangu at around 6 am. We stopped for a hot cup of tea and some light breakfast.

We agreed to take with us a local per
son from Thangu who would help us to find the way to Cholamu. During this time of the year when there can be occasional snowfall, finding the trails after a snowfall is difficult, practically impossible for a person who is visiting the place for the first or a second time. That was one of the two most important decisions we took during this trip. We were faced with heavy snowfall on the way up to Gurudongmer.

The car could not push itself up the last stretch before the Gurudongmar Lake– we had to walk to reach the top.

We found few of the tourists were already returning back as they could not tackle the high altitude oxygen scarcity and were gasping for breath. We spent for about half an hour there – a hot chai was like “amrita” to us. Now all of us are charged up again for our ultimate target of this trip – the Cholamu Lake.
We retraced back in the car for about twenty minutes, before we came to a diversion; one leads to Gurudongmer, the way we were returning from – the other to nowhere. (!!!) The signboard in the direction of the later read


The local person accompanying us from Thangu immediately knew that this was the way we have to take to reach our destination. Ahead of us laid big boulders and there was little if any left of the road markings with the medium sized stones. The trail was completely washed out with the snowfall that morning. Our driver refused to move ahead with the car. If a boulder damages the fuel chamber underneath the car and the car is stuck then that could mean (gasp!) death perhaps for all of us – due to cold or lack of oxygen or both. No tourist car plies that way and the nearest we have to walk by ourselves to find any human help is at Gurudongmer – a good twenty minutes driving distance from that point.
Another important decision had to be taken – whether we move ahead ignoring the army’s warning and the driver’s will or we console ourselves with Gurudongmar only. The second and the most important decision of this trip was taken at that point of time. We decided to move ahead whatever the consequence be. After a topsy-turvy thirty minutes drive over that terrain, we finally reached a high vantage point from where the lake of our dream could be faintly seen. Yes, we finally had the glimpse of the Cholamu Lake at a distance.

We got down from the car and started to walk towards that mystic blue sheet of ice. The color of the water of the lake from that distance was emerald green.

Snow and mud made the earth slushy beneath our feet and we had to occasionally struggle to get our boots out of that soft snow filled earth.

landscape resembled to that of some prehistoric land. The mountains surrounding the area had army bunkers over the ridges everywhere. Someone is surely spying on us. Lack of oxygen and the fear of getting spotted by a not-so-friendly army personnel made our heads and body heavy.

We could not walk – we literally dragged ourselves. The source of the river Teesta is just a few hundred meters ahead of us and we have come all the way to witness its birth.

I remember, when after an hour and a half, I finally r
eached the bank of the lake I could not stand on my feet. I could feel the oxygen-deprived blood gushing through my veins and my heart pumping vehemently to get in that extra oxygen to keep it ticking. With my mouth wide open, I breathed heavily for some time.

Now that I have atle
ast managed to keep my senses awake, I took my first shot of the lake.

A transp
arent sheet of thickice covered a large portion of the lake and we thought of walking over it. On a second thought – we decided not to – we had pushed ourselves extremely to reach this spot. Now, that we are here we wanted to stay there for few minutes and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Truly, Cholamu is the lake of the dreams.

We made it to the 
holamu (18000 ft) – we made it to the highest Lake in India.

Monday, June 25, 2012

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours Offers Sikkim as Alternative to Tibet

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours Offers Sikkim as Alternative to Tibet

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours launches Cycling Sikkim's Tea Trails tour that visits cultural and natural highlights of this land-locked north Indian province.

Bangkok, Thailand, June 21, 2012 --( Chinese authorities are no longer issuing entry permits to Tibet to foreigners, effectively closing Tibet for 2012, and for those interested in Tibetan culture SpiceRoads Cycle Tours now offers a 10-day cycle tour to rugged and remote Sikkim in northeast India.

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours has had to cancel two Lhasa to Kathmandu tours due to this sudden and unexpected change in permit rules to Tibet.

Sikkim is bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, and the influence is seen in the people, the majority of whom are ethnically Nepali, and the two predominant religions of Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Stops on this cycle tour include the 200-year-old Tibetan Enchey monastery in Gangtok and the Rumtek Monastery, which dates back to the 16th century and is lead by the 16th Karmapa who fled Tibet in 1959 and took over Rumtek as his main seat in exile.

Throughout the ride the Kanchenjunga mountain range of five peaks and includes Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft), is ever present, another reminder of the snow-capped peaks of Tibet.

The Cycling Sikkim's Tea Trails route is 330 kilometres over six days of cycling and also takes breaks to make a wish at Sikkim's holiest lake, sample tea from local plantations, and ride a toy train in the colonial hill station of Darjeeling. The riding will be strenuous as it will consist of exhilarating descents down into valleys and then climbs up over passes (none higher than 2,100 m).

The tour costs US$1,950 with an additional $175 for bike rental. and starts and ends at Bagdgora airport in Sikkim. Included is accommodation, most meals, drinks and snacks while riding. SpiceRoads Cycle Tours has three fall departures and are offering a 10% introductory discount for 28 Oct–6 Nov, 25 Nov–4 Dec, 23 Dec–1 Jan tours.

Contact Information
SpiceRoads Co., Ltd
Patricia Weismantel
+66 (0) 2712 5305

Saturday, June 16, 2012



1.  Aims & Objectives – The aim and objective of registering the travel agent/tour operator is to encourage quality  and
standardization of their services offered to the tourists.
2. Definition – A travel Agency is one which makes arrangement of ticketing, for travel by rail, air, and ship,
passports, visas etc .It may also arrange accommodation, tour entertainment and other tourism related services.
3. Application for registration shall be addressed to The Additional Secretary/ Prescribed Authority, Tourism
Department ,Government of Sikkim, Gangtok
4. The registration  as an approved tour operator shall be  granted by the Department of Tourism , Government of
Sikkim initially for a period of  one year based on  the verification report, recommendations of a Gradation
Committee constituted vide Rule 49 of the Sikkim Registration of Trade Rules, 2008.
5. Application for renewal shall be addressed to The Additional Secretary/ Prescribed Authority, Tourism Department,
Government of Sikkim.
6. The renewal will be granted for one year after inspection conducted by the prescribed committee at the District
level with an application by the tour operator along with the requisite fee and relevant documents.
7. Documents received from the applicant will be scrutinized by the concerned officer. The inspection shall be
conducted by the inspection team.
8. The following conditions must be fulfilled for grant of registration by the Department of Tourism:
i)  The Tour operator has an office with a minimum of two   qualified staff responsible for handling the office
works. He should be well versed with matters related to promotion of tourism. In terms of transport,
accommodation ,currency, custom regulations and general information about travel and tourism related
services with  effective communication skills.ii)  There should be 100% local employment as per qualification and experience. In case of unavailability of
local employees the tour operator should approach the Tourism Department for list of local youths who have
undergone capacity/ skill development programme. Even after procuring these details if the tour operator
fails to identify a suitable person for employment he may be allowed to hire a non-local person  for a
maximum period of one year. The details of employees with their bio-data should be sent to the department
for information. The Department will review the employees list every six months. Tour operators should
employ only local guides, trained and registered with the Department of Tourism, Government of Sikkim.
iii) The minimum office space should be 150 to 200 sq ft. The office should be easily accessible to the tourists
located  within neat and clean environment. The office should have basic facilities required like telephone,
computer, internet , fax machine. There should be enough sitting capacity for the visitors. There should be
space for reception and easy access to the toilet.
iv) Registration will be granted to the head office of the tour operator. Branch office will be approved along
with the head office provided that the details of branch office are submitted to the Department of Tourism,
Government of Sikkim.
v) In order to streamline the tourist traffic and to ensure their safety and to render quality service permits for
restricted and protected areas will only be issued to the tour operators /travel agents registered with the
Tourism Department.
vi) The decision of the Department of Tourism will be final and binding in the matter of registration.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Awesome Kangchendzonga

Our next stop is Pelling in West Sikkim. It is easy to get around Sikkim in "Share Jeeps". They run often & are inexpensive, but crowded. This time we hire a jeep to take us to Pelling. The road is narrow and rough in places & includes very steep climbs and decents. We travel thru beautiful country & what I can only describe as "cloud forest", very lush vegitation, with lots of ferns and moss. 

Arriving in Pelling we walk to Pemyangtse Monestary, one of the oldest & most important in Sikkim. There, we are blown away by the wooden sculpture on the third floor, "Mandala of Padmasambhava's Heavenly Abode". It is a 3D wooden mandalla that took to monk who built it 5 years to complete. 

Next day at dawn, the clouds clear for a while & we get our clearest & clostest view of the Khangchendzonga Massiff, 3rd higest peak in the world. It is considered a diety in Sikkim & it is easy to see why. It takes our breath away just to look at it. 

Next day we rent a Jeep, along with James from Britian, & visit the Holy Lake of Khecheopalri. 
It is considered a footprint of the Goddess Tara & is said to be so holy that birds pick out any leaf that falls in the water. 

That evening, back in Pelling, we see a buffett set up in a nearby hotel. We wander in and are not sure if they are serving the public or if this is for a special group. The workers hustle us in & start filling our plates with delicous south Indian cuisene. Turns out that this was a buffett for a tour group, but they have all finished eating. Now the staff is eating and cleaning up & they want to share with us. They are very friendly and generous hosts and seem to enjoy feeding us almost as much as we enjoy their wonderfull cooking! there is no charge for the meal, but we leave a generous tip and are thankfull for the beautiful day we have had in this beautiful place.



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