There is unrest at Indo-China border in the North East and agitations at West Bengal border in South. There are no visible solutions yet and this has left Sikkim worried. And I think about my trip to Gangtok.
I had never been to the North East of India till I visited Sikkim in May 2017. The story is, nine of us wanted to go to Bhutan and we did not get tickets in the same Druk Air flight from Kolkata ever. We booked to Sikkim instead.
So the large contingent of us including three kids and two elderly people in tow hopped onto a cab on a dark damp May morning. Later we emerged off a rather uneventful flight in Kolkata to board another to Bagdogra. The Bagdogra airport is as chaotic as any transit outpost. There are travelers trying to find their cabbies and cabbies incessantly wooing people stranded with no transport to either Darjeeling or Gangtok or (if the cabbie is lucky) Phuentsholing in Bhutan. We found our cabs, connected with the drivers, loaded the luggage and escaped the mayhem towards the hills and Kanchenjunga. After over nine grueling hours of flights, unruly airport madness, taxi negotiations, a tasty Bengali lunch at a grimy wayside eatery, and tired children we arrived at Gangtok. We passed out.
The next few days were spent wandering around the city and surrounding areas. The photographs below were shot at the tourist haunts, markets, parks and lakes in Gangtok.
Gangtok is the capital and the largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It also is the headquarters of the East Sikkim district. Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1,650 m (5,410 ft). The town’s population of 100,000 belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutia. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim’s tourism industry. – Wikipedia
Sikkim and Gangtok are on the old silk route connecting the plains of India to Lhasa in Tibet. This monarchy suffered a major setback in 1975 and eventually decided to become the 22nd state of independent India. When you drive through impoverished West Bengal (the land Gorkhas are fighting for) and across the border, to Sikkim you can see a clear change. Better infrastructure, quality of roads, the state of the people and of course general orderliness is evident. Sikkim has consistently had good governance, even after it was integrated with India.
Today, Gangtok is a tourist haven and has a fair share of problems that arise from the influx of more people and big money. While the only road to Sikkim is choked with a politically motivated uprising, I fondly remember the people of Sikkim.