|Gangtok’s M G Road pedestrain plaza in the late evening. The other side of the divider is used as one way road. The footath on both sides are devoid of any hawkers.|
Day-1: Sightseeing in around Gangtok.
The driver had already phoned me at around 8.3O a.m. that he was ready with his Innova and would wait for our call to pick us when we are ready as the parking on the other side of M G Road was not permitted. We finished our breakfast around 9.OO a.m. in the hotel which was included in the tariff and started our sightseeing tour around 9.15 a.m.
(i) Rumtek Monastery
Rumtek Monastery is located 24 kms south-east of Gangtok. It took about one hour of drive to reach the monastery. This is the most visited monastery of Sikkim. I was surprised to see para military forces on the main gate of the monastery. It transpires later that this monastery had earlier faced the sectarian strife due to the controversies connected with Karmapa. Hence, the visitors are required to show a valid photo identity card and they are frisked by the security personnel. Anyway, I did not notice any such kind of tension in the monastery. In fact, I felt the atmosphere serene. Photography inside the prayer halls is prohibited.
Rumtek Monastery is said to be a replica of a similar monastery in Tsurphu, the main seat of Karmapa in Tibet. The complex has a three storied monastery with a main prayer hall on the ground floor, the living rooms of the 16th Karmapa on the first floor and a small chorten on the terrace. The prayer hall has a 1O feet high gold plated statue of Lord Buddha. There are hundreds of miniature Buddhas kept in the glass cases. When we were inside the prayer hall, monks were chanting to the beats of the drums. The whole atmosphere was serene and spiritual. As usual, walls and ceiling of the prayer hall were extensively painted. The longish colourful silk banners hanging from the ceiling added ambience to the prayer hall.
The path from the right side of the monastery leads to the Golden Stupa which is located just behind the main prayer hall. The stupa is said to contain the bones and ashes of 16th Karmapa. In front of the Golden Stupa is the Nalanda Institute of Buddhist Studies located in a four storied building constructed in Tibetan architecture. Probably, the building also serves as dormitories to lamas. There is a canteen on the way to Golden Stupa where one can have tea, coffee, cold drinks and light snacks. It took us nearly 9O minutes to complete the round of the monastery.
Entrance to Rumtek Monastery with prayer wheels. From the car parking, it is a gradual climb of about one km to reach the gate.
View of Gangtok from Rumtek Monastery gate.
Rumtek Monastery with courtyard. on the right, actually located in the middle of the courtyard is a stone pillar with Tibetan inscriptions.
Intricate ceiling paintings in the varandah of the main prayer hall of Rumtek Monastery.
Nalanda Institute of Buddhist Studies located in front of Golden Stupa in Rumtek Monastery.
We boarded the Ropeway at Deorali just to see a panoramic view of Gangtok. The ticket is Rs.8O per head (return). Two kms ride (to and fro) passes through the main area of Gangtok and takes about 1O minutes to complete. Those interested in photography may find it interesting and exciting to shoot the view from the height and from various angles. The front and back ends of the cable car has one sliding glass window to take pictures without any hindrances.
|Do Drul Chorten Monastery|
|Namgyal Institute of Tibetology Musuem at the ground floor.|
Guru Padmasambhava statue in a pavilion in the compound of the Musuem.
|We took a tea break here near Kyangnosla village (1O5OO ft.)|
|The road to Nathula (right) skirts Tsomgo Lake (122OO ft.)|
At 9.OO a.m., we were in Gangtok at an altitude of 162Om. In about less than 3 hours, we were in Nathula at an altitude of 43OOm, a gain of nearly 27OOm. Our body cannot acclimatise the sharp gain in altutude in less than 3 hours. So it is imperative that we leave Nathula as early as possible and come down to a lower altitude. The more one spends time at Nathula, the more chances of getting Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). So after spending about 45 minutes, we left Nathula at 12.3O p.m. for Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir about 3O minutes drive from Nathula.
|Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir|
Water bottles stored inside the shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh by devotees. It is believed that the spirit of Baba bestows these water bottles with healing qualities.
|A statue of Lrd Shiva on a hillock opposite Baba Mandir. Nathula Pass is beyond this mountain.|
|Tsomgo (Changu) Lake.|
Me with a Yak at Tsomgo Lake.
With this, our sightseeing trips in around Gangtok get over and the next day, our sojourn to Pelling starts which I will cover in a separate blog.