My sister was angry with my father for not having taken her for a vacation ever since her vacations started. My mother and I felt this was one issue in which we had to support her. Vested interests, obviously.
We decided to go to Gangtok, mainly because it was not very far from home, in Calcutta, and we had not been there before.Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and sits on a ridge overlooking the Ranipul river. It is a starting point for some great treks. If you go to Gangtok, there are a couple of places that you should not miss.
One of them is Ganesh Tok, which is a great sunrise viewing point. Close to that is a Hanuman mandir, which echoes with soothing ‘bhajans’ in the morning. Another one is the Rumtek monastery, which is 24 kilometres from Gangtok. It houses a three-metre high statue of Buddha, plated in gold.
We went for long walks in the orchid sanctuaries, which contain over 200 varieties of orchids, and on the hills collecting different kinds of leaves, roots and flowers. It was an amazing experience.
And we checked out places where they you can enroll for climbing classes. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute based in Yuksom offer formal climbing courses for volunteers.
My sister went river rafting on the Teesta river. It is quite exhilarating when your boat moves over the rapids, though it can sometimes be quite scary. Don’t worry, there will always be professionals to escort you on a trip. River rafting is also available on the Rangeet river.
If you are a shopping freak, there is a local market on the main highway. This is also the place to try Sikkimese delicacies like momos or mandarin fish.
Getting to Gangtok should not be a problem. The closest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal which is quite well connected to Delhi and Kolkata. From Bagdogra, you can catch a bus or share a jeep to take you to Gangtok. And the nearest railhead is Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri. From Kolkata, it takes 14 hours to get to New Jalpaiguri.
The best time to visit Gangtok is between March and May, and October and November. Remember to carry winter clothing along when you go. Since, it gets quite windy at times and you don’t want to come back with a cold, do you?