Sikkim is a small Himalayan landlocked state in North East region of India sharing its borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and West Bengal. It has been in news for progressing towards the first organic state of India with a model to promote tourism along with an effort to improve lives of local population. Lonelyplanet also marked it as One of the Best Regions to travel in 2014. If these reasons were not enough for me to make me a visit there, the biggest excuse was ” I haven’t been there yet” :). Travelling in Sikkim has taught me a lot of things along with witnessing beauty of region. Here are my 14 random observations from Sikkim.
1. As Sikkim is a state in mountains, hence distances between places should always be measured in hours instead of kilometers. Do not plan your itinerary based on the estimated time provided by google maps. For example distance between Gangtok and Lachung in North Sikkim is around 100 Kilometers but it takes 7 hours to travel between these places.
2. Road conditions vary across the state ranging from very good to extremely bad. Here are some examples
- Silliguri to Gangtok – Overall ok with some rough patches
- Gangtok to North Sikkim – Horrible road conditions, in fact practically no roads on major part of the route
- Gangtok to Pelling – Excellent condition except few small rough patches
- Pelling to Darjeeling – Very bad road with a steep climb
3. It is a very small state but a lot of languages are spoken like Nepali, Bhutiya, Lepcha, Limbu to name a few. Overall there are 11 official languages but visitors do not need to worry as Hindi is widely understood.
4. Shared Jeeps are the primary mode of public transport where 10 people (excluding the driver) share the Jeep. They are not very comfortable but the most convenient option. There are state transport buses available among few places but there frequency is very less mostly 1 or 2 in a day.
5. Life moves slowly in Sikkim and slows down further after 1 or 2 PM. Hence all your travels should start very early in the morning as last shared Jeep will be available around 1 or 2 PM. If you miss that then you may have to wait till next day or hire a reserved taxi.
6. Contrary to popular assumptions, vegetarian food is available everywhere in Sikkim. Except North Sikkim, you will easily find even Roti everywhere. Veg Momos are also available everywhere as a popular snack item.
7. Carry heavy woollen even if its end of winter season like February end. It will be colder than you would have anticipated. It’s best to carry layers so that you can add/remove as required. A thermal inner wear, full sleeve t-shirt, a sweater and a jacket would be a good combination to carry.
8. Sikkim is one of the least densely populated state in India. It will never be crowded outside Gangtok.
9. People are less talkative in general. They are really helpful and would help whenever you ask for anything but the conversation stops most of the times at that moment. May be I wasn’t lucky enough to meet some extrovert people of Sikkim but overall this was the experience.
10. Sikkim government is working towards promoting eco-tourism especially in Western Sikkim. A village Darap has been developed as a community based tourism so that local villagers who are literate can be part of tourism industry by setting up homestays and acting as a guide.
11. Sikkim is a plastic free state of India and use of polythene is completely banned. It has been awarded as India’s cleanest state in 2012.
12. Tourism police is present in Gangtok at all places and is very effective. As per feedback from local people and other travellers, any complaint made to them is taken very seriously and hence services provided by travel agents do not have variation in quality.
13. Life in Sikkim is not that easy especially in North Sikkim. Lack of infrastructure, earthquake in 2011 and border sensitivity issues are some of the factors that have made it challenging in past.
14. Sikkim is one of the safest state in India and you can feel it when you are there. You will find even ratio of men and women everywhere which is a strong indication of safety around.
Here are some of the pictures I took during my travel depicting beauty of Sikkim.
Have you been to Sikkim? What’s your impression of the Sikkim?