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Chalamthang and Yuksam, A family tour of South and West Sikkim

Chalamthang and Yuksam

A family tour of South and West Sikkim

A family vacation to the Himalayas was long due. In fact our last Himalayan vacation was our honeymoon a decade and half ago. Although I have been in the Himalayas quiet a few times during this period but could never manage a trip to the Himalayas with my family. This was also the first Himalayan holiday for my nine year old daughter.

Rimbi Falls 1

Family pic at Rimbi Falls (Pic courtesy: Shyamal)

It was a six day seven night tour (including journey) and included a three night stop at Chalamthang (South Sikkim) and two night stop at Yuksam (West Sikkim).

The itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 (May 26): Transfer from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Station to Chalamthang. Night halt at Chalamthang Homestay.

Day 2 (May 27): Day trip from Chalamthang covering Temi Tea Garden and Buddha Park, Ravangla.

Day 3 (May 28): Day trip from Chalamthang covering Tarey Bhir and Sandruptse (Char Dham in Namchi had to be dropped due to a political rally).

Day 4 (May 29): Transfer from Chalamthang to Yuksam. Night halt at Yak Hotel.

Day 5 (May 30): Day trip from Yuksum covering Rimbi Falls, Sky Walk and Chenrezig statue, Sanga Choeling Monastery, Pemayangtse Monastery, Rabdentse Ruins and Khechiperi Lake.

Day 6 (May 31): Trek to the Dubdi Monastery and visit to the Throne of Norbugang. Transfer from Yuksam to New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Station. Night train back to Kolkata.

Collage 1

Snippets of Family Tour of South and West Sikkim. Top Row Left to right: Machan at Chalmathang Homestay, Buddha Park Ravangla and Trekking back from Tarey Bhir. Bottom Row Left to Right: Chenrezig Statue at Pelling, Rabdantase Ruins and Dubdi Monastery

Chalamthang Homestay: Chalamthang literaly means Orange Farm in Lepcha language. The Chalamthang Homestay is located on the edge of a hilltop with a panoramic view of the Himalayan foothill, the meandering Teesta River and the snowy peaks of Nathula and beyond.

Chalamthang 3

Chalamthang Homestay, the three rooms and the Machan

During our time of visit in May 2019 there were three rooms but two more were under construction and were supposed to open before the puja vacation of 2019. But the centre of attraction of the Chalamthang Homestay is the Machan, a extended platform offering a panoramic views of the rolling hills and the meandering river. It is a place where guests can simple relax and enjoy the mesmerizing views.

Chalamthang 10

Village Walk, Chalamthang Village

The food is strictly veg, but don’t be disheartened as the variety of farm fresh veg food is sure to bowl out the hardest of the carnivores. The veggies come straight from the farm while the dairy is made out of the milk supplied by the domestic cows. So if you want to enjoy local culture and cuisine then come to Chalamthang and discover the soul of Sikkim.

Temi Tea Garden: Located just 17 km from Chalamthang Temi Tea Garden is the only tea garden in Sikkim. Spread across an area of 453 hectares, it was our first stop on our first day out from Chalamthang.

Temi Tea Garden 2

Temi Tea Garden

A prayer flag lined pathway descends down the lush green slopes of the Temi Tea Garden. There are great views of Mt. Kanchenjungha but during our visit in May everything was behind the clouds.

Traditional dresses are also available on rent and one can pose for a photo with the rolling hills in the backdrop. There is also a small tea outlet at the entrance and one can sip tea, which comes straight out of the garden. Also packaged tea can be purchased and cherished back home.

Buddha Park, Ravangla: Our second and final stop for first day out from Chalamthang Homestay was Buddha Park in Ravangla. Located at a height of 7000 feet Ravangla offers breathtaking views of Mt. Kanchenjungha, Mt. Siniolchu, Mt. Pandim and Mt. Kabru. The golden glow over these mountains during sunrise is mesmerising. But agin in May there were only clouds and no snow peak.

Buddha Park 1

Buddha Park, Ravangla

Buddha Park is the latest addition to the tourist attraction of Ravngla. The Buddha Park is centred around a giant statue of Lord Buddha towering to a height of 130 feet and approachable by a long flight of stairs (there is also a ramp). The entire park is beautifully landscaped with manicured lawns, flower beds and fountains.

Tarey Bhir: The word Bhir means cliff in Nepali and Tarey Bhir is a 10000 feet long cliff edge with almost 3500 feet abrupt drop. Tarey Bhir is a 3 km long stone ridge on which pedestrian footsteps have been built to climb the steep ridge. It was our first stop on our second day out from Chalamthang.

Tarey Bhir 1

Tarey Bhir

A small pathway above the edge of the cliff would take you to the middle, from where you can catch a glimpse of the River Teesta and River Rangeet. One a clear day one can get some panoramic views of snowy mountains in the north, Kalimpong town in the east and confluence of Teesta and Rangeet in the south.

Sandruptse: Second stop on our second day out from Chalamthang was the Sandruptse. Located on a hilltop opposite Namchi, the 118 feet tall golden statue of Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rimpoche) dominates the skyline.

Sandruptse 2

Padmasambhava statue, Sandruptse

Built in 1997 the premises of the statue, has a profound collection of historical photographs of sikkim also including the fading photos of Mahatma Gandhi. It is located 35 km from Chalamthang and due to a political rally we had to skip the other attraction of Namchi the Char Dham.

Pelling Skywalk and Sanga Choeling Monastery: With the Chalamthang episode being over it is time for a day out tour of Yuksam, the first capital of Sikkim. We started our only day trip from Yuksam with the popular tourist spot of Pelling.

Pelling Sky Walk 1

Giant statue of Chenrezig, Pelling

The Pelling Sky Walk, although is more famous, is not the primary purpose of this project. It is just an additional attraction but the primary attraction here is the gigantic Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) Statue.

Sangachelling Monastery 2

Sanga Choeling Monastery, Pelling

Very similar to the Buddha park in Ravangla this park in Pelling is dominated by the giant 137 feet statue of Chenrezig.

Similar flights of stairs and ramps takes tourists to the top. The only difference is the addition of the skywalk.

Opened only in November 2018 this is a latest addition to tourist map of not only Pelling but whole of Sikkim.

Next to the statue of Chenrezig is the Sanga Choeling Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. Standing on ridge top, the compound is marked with several black stone stupas. The inside of the two storied monastery is dark and contains statues of Buddhist deities including that of Ati Buddha.

Rabdentse Ruins and Pemayangtse Monastery: The ruins of Rabdentse, the second capital of Sikkim are located in the outskirts of Pelling. They are located on the Pelling – Gyalshing road and the is approachable past the Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park.

Rabdantse 6

Rabdentse Ruins, Pelling

Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park is named after the 10th king (Chogyal) of Sikkim Sidkeong Tulku Namyagal. The bird park houses about 200 of the 550 bird species found in Sikkim. The includes ows, eagles, bulbuls, flycatchers, pheasants, babblers and many more.

Rabdantse 10

Sidkeong Tulku Bird Park

An elevated walkway in the park helps visitors helps visitors to experience the thrills of close encounter with their feathred friends.

The Rabdentse Ruins are approachable by a walking trail passing through a thickly wooded moist temperate Oak – Chestnut forest.

The path is covered with dead leaves, whcih have fallen from the trees for over decades. The tree trunks on either side of the road are covered with a thick layer of moss and lichen.

At the end of the road is the ruins of Rabdentse, which can be divided into two parts. The northern flank served as the residence of the royal family.

Pemayangtse Monastery 1

Pemayangtse Monastery

Further north lies an open courtyard, with three chortens (stupas), where the members of the royal family used to offer prayers.

The southern section was meant for the common people and is marked by the durbar, with its stone throne.

While on the way back to Pelling a short diversion will lead to the Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the holiest sites in Sikkim.

A long line of fluttering prayer flags will welcome you. The three-storeyed monastery houses some wonderful paintings and other artwork. It also has a large collection of rare books. (Also see: Walking tour of Pelling)

Rimbi Falls: Rimbi Falls is one of the most spectacular falls of Pelling and is located on the Yuksam – Pelling road, just 12 km from Pelling.

Rimbi Falls 6

Rimbi Falls

The water thunders down the lush green hills slopes to form the Rimbi River.There are scope for various recreational activities like swimming and fishing.

Khechopalri Lake 1

Khecheopalri Lake

Khecheopalri Lake: Khecheopalri Lake loacted a short distance off the Pelling – Yuksam road is considered as one of the holiest lakes of Sikkim.

The crystal clear lake is surrounded by dense vegetation and legend has it that if a leaf falls on the lake, a bird picks it up immediately.

The lake is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, and is believed to be a wish fulfilling lake.

A short walkway leads to the lake and it is finally approached by a covered woddeen pier lined with prayer wheels on either side.

Dubdi Monastery: It was the last day of our Sikkim trip and I started early , leaving my wife and daughter at the hotel, for the Dubdi Monastery. Dubdi Monastery is one of the oldest monastery of Sikkim and is approachable by a hour long trek.

Dubdi Monastery 1

Dubdi Monastery, Yuksam

The trek starts next to the Yuksam Primary Health Centre and meanders up the hill. It is well marked and there are frequent rest sheds. It is a protected monument under the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). The entire complex is well maintained with manicured lawns and flower beds but the shrine was under lock and key. According to some locals the monastery opens at about 10 am.

Throne of Norbugang: Before we headed to New Jalpaiguri we (my wife and daughter were with me this time) visited the Throne of Norbugang, the coronation site of the first monarch of Sikkim.

Norbugang 2

Throne of Norbugang, Yuksam

In 1641 Lama Lutsum Chembo reached a place called Norbugang. There, he met Sempa Chembo and Rinzing Chembo. The three holy men started searching for a monarch to rule the land.

They found the right candidate, named Phunstok. Phunstok was rushed to Norbugang. There, on a stone throne, the three Lamas crowned him the King of Sikkim. He was given the title of Chogyal, meaning the king who rules with righteousness, and was conferred the surname Namgyal.

The place was renamed Yuksum, meaning the meeting place of the three superior ones. The stone throne on which the coronation took place still stands to this day. (Also see: Yuksam, the first capital of Sikkim)

Chalamthang 14

Family pic at the Machan of Chalamthang Homestay

Special Thanks:

  • Amrit Sharma of Chalamthang Homestay. Although he was not phycially present during the stay but his mother and younger sister (Nisha) made us feel at home
  • Phumoi Bhutia of Yak Hotel, Yuksam for the warm hospitality
  • Shyamal and Ashim for driving us through some of the wrost roads in the world
  • Koushik Banerjee of Supreme Tours and Travels for all the necessary planning
  1. Subhabrata Ghose
    June 14, 2019 at 1:08 PM

    Awesome, Rangan.
    Expect many more such posts from you.

    • June 14, 2019 at 2:16 PM

      Thanks Subhabrata, more detailed post on some of the places like Yuksum, Pelling, etc. will be coming soon in my blog.

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