The charm of travelling in Sikkim is that as soon as you are out of the city or town you are in the lap of nature. The beauty of Sikkim looks effortless. The state is richly blessed with natural beauty.
During the 6 hours of journey from Gangtok to Pelling, I didn’t sleep a wink. There were too many things to take in from the mountains as our Tata Sumo climbed up and down the small but well-maintained road. The forest exudes joy and there were more waterfalls and streams on the way than I had seen on any of my journeys. We stopped briefly before Ravangla for tea and later had early dinner at a fine roadside eatery. In Sikkim. you get to eat some of the best local dishes.
The locals were cheerful and easy to talk to. It was Friday evening and most of the young passengers who worked in the city were heading home to their hometown to spend their weekend with families. Some of them were government employees and some of them worked in hotels. A young, chubby girl who sat next to me was preparing for exams. She had worked at many odd jobs including entrepreneurship. “I have tried starting a restaurant business but that hasn’t worked out well. I’m preparing for government jobs,” she said. She talked to me in Nepali and when I just shook my head with a stupid smile she asked where I belonged. Sikkim’s mixed race confused me the most. There are the Lepchas, the Bhutanese, the Nepalese, the Tibetans and many smaller groups.
Sikkim is one of the safest places for travellers. And they can be unbelievably generous. When you make friends with them, they make sure that they do the best to help you. I have had many such touching moments. Even on this journey, I was treated by the young, chubby girl with a bowl of warm thukpa. Even after being told reasonably that I was paid for my journey, she didn’t change her mind. They had the kindest heart and best motives. “You are a traveler and this is my home” she said.
Pelling is around 10km from the district headquarter Geyzing. The distance between these two places is negligible but the landscapes are remarkably contrasting. Geyzing faced south while Pelling faced the picturesque Kanchendzonga mountains on the north. It is not even big enough to be considered a town as it is a small stopover place for travelers on the way to Yuksom. But it doesn’t take away anything. In fact, Pelling offers one of the best views for any town. It is located on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the green-then-snowy Himalayan ranges. There seems to be more hotels than residences.
I just stayed there for a day but I had a good feeling about the place. There are some places you wished you could skip like flipping pages from a book. I would have stooped for a day or two, if it was not for my tight schedule.
For a small place, Pelling has well maintained hotels of different ranges. Pelling also has some interesting places to visit, like the ruins of Rabdentse or one of the oldest monasteries in Pemeyangtse Monastery. Most of these tourists’ attractions can be covered on foot. The easy slope and the serene forest are safe and offer one of the best hiking experiences on my tours.
I reached Pelling at around 8pm. Most of the hotels are located on a strip of 2km road that spiraled down from the peak where the town begins. The first house you’ll come across is the Kabur Hotel. It was Lonely Planet’s pick among all the hotels. They have a cozy restaurant and an extended terrace overlooking the Kanchendzonga mountains. Another hotel popular with foreign tourists is the Garuda Hotel at the junction. There’s also an ATM across Garuda Hotel.
I checked into Garuda Hotel. It is run by the locals. Domestic tourists prefer checking into hotels run mostly by Bengalis, mainly because of the food choices. Garuda served great Tibetan food, which I relished for the first time. The restaurants had a cozy feel and travelers who’ve never met before, sit across a table after meals and narrate tales from their travels. It is one of the best things about travels, and such ambiance can only be created in a hotel with a nice restaurant. I retreated to bed early. Like most of the travelers I had planned a long hiking trip to some monasteries, the countryside and the Pemeyangtse Monastery.
After a quiet night and sound rest I had Tibetan bread (Balep) for breakfast and with just a bottle of water in my bag, I headed for the Rabdentse ruins. The sun had just come up and the view of the mountains from the hotel terrace was breathtaking. The mountains were gigantic and crystal clear. They looked so close as if I was watching it on a computer screen.
Strolling in the hills with the early morning sun was a liberating experience. On the road, I stopped at a small lake surrounded by forests. There were few ducks paddling in the water and it made the scene more beautiful.
After hiking for 5-6 km, I came back to the hotel and took my belongings before heading off to Kacheopalri Lake, which is around 38km from Pelling. Taxis from Geyzing traverse to Yuksom or Kacheopalri Lake once or twice in a day. I didn’t book any ticket but jumped into the first taxi.
Getting to Pelling:
Pelling is 115 km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Taxis leave for Pelling from Gangtok at around 2pm and charge Rs.180 for a ticket. There are no direct taxis from Siliguri but one can travel to Geyzing and then take another taxi to Pelling.