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modeb Dec 24th, 2009 10:55 AM

Need suggestions on Sikkim trip in Jan
We are planning a 7day trip to Sikkim in end-Jan and itinerary includes Gangtok, Lachen and Lachung. I would like to also squeeze-in 1 day's stay in West Sikkim and have a few questions on the same:
1. Is it ok to skip West Sikkim or would we miss seeing anything in terms of scenic beauty, Kanchenjunga views or anything else which we may not see in North Sikkim?
2. If we do visit West Sikkim, could anyone advise about whether to stay at Hotel Bliss, Biksthang or Hotel Mt Pandim at Pemayangtse?
3. We would like to travel ideally from Peling to Lachen without stopping at Gangtok. So how long would it take to travel or do we need to take a night-halt in Gangtok?
4. How cold will it be in North Sikkim and West Sikkim in end-Jan and whether we would be able to walk around in Yumthang valley or would it be too inaccessible/cold?

dogster Dec 25th, 2009 08:49 AM

Hey modeb - it's a little hard to answer your question as you don't mention what your focus is, how you plan to travel, what your style is - backpacker or comfort plus, views or culture, monasteries or flowers etc. etc.

But this thread will help you.

and this:

'...Is it ok to skip West Sikkim or would we miss seeing anything in terms of scenic beauty, Kanchenjunga views or anything else which we may not see in North Sikkim?...'

I haven't been to Nth Sikkim, but I've spent ten days Gantok into West Sikkim. Would you miss seeing anything? Yup. Big time. It would be a crime to just bash through it - even if you could even do it in a day, which isn't IMHO possible. Are you aware of the road conditions? Twisty, turny, perilous. Fantastic but slow, slow, slow.

Remember, you have to get to Sikkim first. The drive from Bagdogra to Gangtok can take 6 - 7 hours, just to start with, depending on road conditions, accidents etc. [Yup, I know people can do it in a lot less] As you'll see from the thread above, Gangtok to Lachen is 6 - 8 hours, depending on the Sikkim gods. Lachen to Lachung can be 2 - 3 hours. Or less. Or more. lol. Get the picture?

Despite one thread in Indiamike, I reckon you'd be up for 12 hours, Pelling to Lachen.

'...If we do visit West Sikkim, could anyone advise about whether to stay at... etc'

Here's a different option.

'...How cold will it be in North Sikkim and West Sikkim in end-Jan...'

I lifted this answer from Indiamike. I hope Crazy4 doesn't mind too much.

'... It depends on weather condition. We visited Yumthang,Zero point and Gurudongmar lake from 11th January this year in clear sky. Check out the weather with satellite image( and plan your trip accordingly. Be carefull; in January the temperature will be sub zero in Yumthang and Gurudangmar in day time...'

I got most of the above just using Google Search. Go play in there and Indiamike. North Sikkim sounds fantastic. Report back, eh? Have fun.

modeb Dec 28th, 2009 05:53 PM

Hi dogster, thanks so much for pointing out these threads and giving such useful suggestions! To answer your first question, we are planning to hire a car plus driver for the duration of our stay. And our focus would be on scenic places, walking around in such scenic locations etc over anything else.
So now we've decided to spend 2 days in West Sikkim. Since you've spent a good amount of time in Gangtok I wanted to ask whether you have been to Aritar & seen the Aritar Lake ? Since we have only a day in Gangtok and we dont want to do the standard flower-show/museum tour, we wanted to head out somewhere out of Gangtok - so choice is between ARitar and Tsongmo Lake. Have you been to Tsongmo Lake and is it worthwhile?

dogster Dec 29th, 2009 03:41 AM

Hiya modeb - yup, I kinda assumed you were nature buffs, rather than monastery guys. Hence the wonders of Nth. Sikkim.

Actually, you can jump Gangtok, keep your focus and stay in the scenery all the time very easily - which I think you might like. Gantok is pretty full-on, in its own funny way. I stayed here, rather than in town. [In the picture, that's Gangtok, across the valley] Recommended.
or here:

While I think of it - have a look at this:

There is another company that does the same thing that connects with Yangsum Farm in Rinchenpong. You are in the scenery, meeting the people - can't think of a better way to see Sikkim. I can't find it right now, but I'll keep looking.

I don't know how you plan to get into Sikkim. There's an amazing way in thru Darjeeling. The drive from the Sikkim border up to Rinchenpong will take your breath away! As will the view from Yangsum Farm. There's a circuit from [and back to Rinchenpong] that takes you up thru Pelling and Pemagyantse. These town are horrible, crap holes with hotels crammed in every corner. It's all about the view, $$ and tourists. Don't fall for it.

So, if you can free up three or four days to cover West Sikkim AND Gangtok think about this: [this is actually rather good, if I do say so myself]

Get from Bagdogra to Darjeeling. Stay as long as you like - or not. I'd advise at least a night.

Day One:
Darjeeling via Naya Bazar to Rinchenpong. [A most unexpected route] Stunning, stunning, arghhh - stunning. You will send me a prayer of thanks.

Rinchenpong - stay at Yangsum Farm at least two nights [minimum]

Day two: Go out with Thendup all day. Walking, driving the loop up around Pelling etc. Go walk and meet the woman with 16 children. This is all nature. [You can be more creative here, trek from village to village but you don't have time unless you want to free up a day]

Day three:
A beautiful drive from Rinchenpong to Rumtek [instead of Gangtok]. Again, you'll send your prayers my way. {get out somewhere up high, set off walking down the hill, ask the car to catch you up in an hour or so - by now you'll be blessing Dogster every step.] Stay at Bamboo Resort that night.

Day four:
All day trip to Tsongmo Lake [if you must]. Tsongmo is 2 - 3 hours there, so it's 2-3 hours back. Is it worth it? Dunno. I hate backtracking like that so I didn't go. {I'm a monastery guy, myself]

OR just head off up North.

[In haste: I gotta go out suddenly - let me know what you think so far.]

dogster Dec 29th, 2009 10:06 AM

I'm back.

Now, the above plan is the absolute minimum. It's still kinda criminal, but it's do-able. If you can't deal with that, then just go straight to Gangtok/Rumtek and head up north. I just don't know how tight this seven days is.

Don't forget, you have to include a travel day from somewhere in India to Bagdogra to Darjeeling [or Gangtok or West Sikkim] WITHIN the seven days.

No matter where you come from - this going to take you a MINIMUM of seven hours. Probably more. [hotel to airport/airport hang around/flight to Bagdogra/airport confusion/Bagdogra to somewhere to hotel]

Then, after Nth Sikkim, you have to do the reverse from Gangtok, to Bagdogra to somewhere in India.

So that's TWO days out of your seven.

So, before I go on any more, you better tell me how real your seven days is, whether it includes these two travel days and whether you are REALLY happy to spend about 6 hours every day for a week getting from A-B, seeing some stuff every day, then getting from B-A.

'Cos, I realise, that the reality of what you'll be doing. Wanna re-think?

So, I'm not gonna bother with your lake questions just yet. I think you need to bite the basic bullet first, realise that all you'll ever do is look out the window of a car, stopping for an hour here and there, pretty well non-stop for a week. Me, I just don't do it this way. I wouldn't recommend that you do either.

Get back to me. And locate the places I've mentioned on a map or Google Earth.

dogster Dec 29th, 2009 11:54 AM

Which is a long winded way of saying: stop, slow down, smell the Sikkim roses, allow yourself to savor those stunning views, meet people, allow youself time at a monastery, eat organic food, smell that fresh, fresh air - less is always more.

But you know all that, I think. Don't listen to me. Listen to your heart. Don't get over-enthusiastic, you'll just end up traveling and not seeing.

Mmmm - I'm having a sweet Sikkimese moment. I want you to have some too.

modeb Jan 5th, 2010 08:05 AM

Thanks so much dogster! You've given me enough ideas to plan a good trip! Just one last question - in case you have visited many monsteries in Sikkim. In West Pelling there seems top be many monsteries - Samdruptse, Pemayangtse Monastery, Sanga- Choling Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins , Dubdi Monastery, Tashiding Moastery. Since we would like to do at least some of these ( in the 1 full day that we get plus if any of them fall on the way from Gangtok to Pelling ), any suggestions on which are the must-sees and which could be skipped? Since we heard that Dubdi moastery & Sanga Choling needs a good uphill trek - we thought these two we must certainly do coz the scenic views from the top might be worthwhile. Final question - is it ok to skip Rumtek mostery since we would anyways be doing som others in West Sikkim?

dogster Jan 5th, 2010 10:30 AM

Hi guys - In brief, yes, you can skip any of the monasteries you choose [I'm in Kathmandu at the moment, BTW] Rumtek was quite boring when I was there - but the littler monasteries around about were fascinating. Should you choose Yangsum Farm, the little monastery there, at evening prayer time, is delicious. Basically, tell your guide to take you to ANYWHERE for evening prayers. Time your visits to monasteries - whichever they are - for early morning, evening and ask to see prayers. You'll get the music, the chanting, the monklets and the magic. In the middle of the day these places can be deserted and boring.

So it's about timing - not really which monastery is famous or whatever. I've been to all of the ones on your list except the two with massive uphill walks. Actually, they all look much the same. I happen to love the Tibetan Buddhist aesthetic. I love the bright colours - but others are bored. Up to you. Any ruined monastery, frankly, is gonna be completely dull - and is. Go for the LIVING places.

I want you to experience being in a place where the ceremony is happening. The sound! Lordy, it's a wonder. THen you only have to go to one place and you've had the experience. It's not architecture or design, it not multiple statues of Lord Buddha and all his cousins - it's the prayer. Just go, one time and you'll know.

I don't recall any monastery stuff Pelling to Gangtok - Bamboo Resort is close to two or three great places. Go for the little ones. Enquire whether there is dancing practice for the big ceremonies going on. Go see it. Try and meet monks. They love to talk. Be interested, even if you're not. You might get a big surprise.

Best is the tiny place outside Rinchenpong {Yangsum Farm] at evening prayers. Stunning.

Check the solar calendar. If you can, time for the full moon. For ceremony and the view. Full moon, mountains - can't go wrong.

Remember, Sikkim is not ALL about views. The microcosm is fascinating. Look in and out simultaneously for best results. As for monasteries - famous is not the best, unless there's an event. Relax. Skip Rumtek.

Look small. Think Big. That's Sikkim. The tiniest things lead to big conclusions. Don't lock in.

Let it come to you, not you to it.

modeb Feb 17th, 2010 08:58 AM

Thanks dogster so much for all your suggestions! Back after a FANTASTIC 8-day trip zipping across North-West-East Sikkim, experiencing snowfall and wonderful winter-scenery and totally smitten by Sikkimese cuisine! Will be back some year during Summer to catch the flower season!

dogster Feb 17th, 2010 04:05 PM

Glad you made it through, modeb. So, tell us, how did it pan out? Details. Screw-ups. Conclusions. I'd love to know. Not many people go up there and you've got the latest information now. Tell us everything... Sikkim is a hot topic today.

modeb Feb 18th, 2010 09:35 AM

Hi dogster, yes North SIkkim was fantastic! Here's my trip report on IndiaMike about the whole trip. A completely satisfactory 8 day trip covering all the must-do sights in Sikkim.

Kathie Feb 20th, 2010 11:06 AM

I've now had time to read your report carefully and look at your photos. What a wonderful trip! We're really looking forward to Sikkim in November/December.

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