North Sikkim from Kolkata– In the October of 2018, I decided not to stay in Kolkata during Durga Puja as I would be alone at home. Durga Puja is our (Bengali’s) greatest festival. It is celebrated 6–7 days at a stretch. Everyone enjoys it with family and friends; wearing new clothes, hopping pandals, and eating good food.
Many people also love to travel during this period because they get a long vacation, especially in schools and colleges. So there is also always a shortage of train tickets during this period.
How to reach
Sikkim is very near to West Bengal. New Jalpaiguri is just a 12–14-hour journey away by train or bus. After that, the roads divide into different directions. One can also fly to Bagdogra Airport from Kolkata. I chose to go to North Sikkim because that gets less crowded than nearby places of Sikkim.
After some investigation about the tourist destinations in North Sikkim, I came across the name Dzongu Valley. I decided to go there to enjoy its views and history. It seemed interesting, beautiful, and tranquil. It is just 15–20 km away from Mangan.
The journey begins
I could manage a ticket in Tista-Torsha Express because of its odd time schedule. It starts at 1:40 PM and reaches New Jalpaiguri (NJP) at 2:40 AM. I met another nice and entertaining traveler during my journey. She was two and half years old. But I had to sacrifice my lower berth seat for her.
After getting down at NJP station, I waited till 5 o’clock in the morning because auto service for the Siliguri bus stand started only after that. I reached the Siliguri bus stand and took a bus that was going to Gangtok. I did not want to go to Gangtok because I had visited it previously. I got down at Singtum Bridge on the Tista river.
Entry to North Sikkim
I crossed the bridge and entered the small town of Singtum. The jeep stand was half a kilometer from the bridge. I bought a ticket for Mangan. In Sikkim, everything is very well organized. As I wanted a window seat so I had to wait some time for the next jeep.
Mangan is a 3-hour journey away from Singtum. I reached Mangan Taxi Stand at 1 PM. After inquiring I came to know that there was no guarantee about the timing of the shared jeep to Dzongu. The taxi stand staircase was also very filthy and reeked of urine. I was hungry and tired too. On top of that, I had to arrange my permit to go to the Dzongu Valley. So I made an agreement with a taxi driver who would make arrangements for a permit and take me to the valley.
Due to Durga Puja, the DC Office was closed and we went to the Mangan Police Station to make the permit. The Officer in Charge was a congenial person. He asked me a few questions, checked my documents, and issued the permit. Then the driver took me to Dzongu and dropped me at a homestay in Passingdung village.
Beautiful Lapcha village
Dzongu is a valley where a lot of the original natives of Sikkim live. They are called Lapchas. This is a restricted area. There are two parts of the valley, Upper Dzongu, and Lower Dzongu. There are few villages. A tributary of River Tista flows through the valley.
There are very few homestays in the valley, mostly they are situated in the Upper Dzongu. As I neither booked any accommodation nor had any idea where to stay, my taxi driver took me to the only homestay at Pasingdung village and I settled there. The name of the homestay was Mayal Lyang.
There are few more homestays at Lingthem village. One you can even book online. They arrange permits if required documents are provided by post or via e-mail.
It was a cloudy evening. I was tired too. I rested at the homestay after a thorough shower. The daughter of the owner was a good cook. I ate an early dinner. All were authentic Lapcha cuisine. They offered me local Lapcha wine which I denied. I was already intoxicated with the beauty of that place.
I slept early hearing the monotonous clamoring of crickets. I woke up at midnight and realized that the chirping of crickets had absolutely stopped. There was only a faint sound of dripping of water from the thatch roof of the room. The sound of a local stream that flowed through the backyard of the homestay also increased.
In the early morning, I woke up and strolled towards the highway where the mobile network signal was stronger to contact home. There I found a broken temple of the local deity.
A terrible blunder
After breakfast, the owner of my homestay, who was the local councilor too, gave me the offer to take me to Tholung Monastery which was about 10 km from that place. He said that they had a black cardamom plantation there and also had a house to stay where they were going for work.
If I wish I could go but I had to come back walking. I thought that walking upward could be difficult for me but coming down would not be a great problem.
I got ready with my camera and water bottle. He and his wife both were in the car. They dropped me in front of the monastery. It was a small monastery. I visited inside and the surroundings. Then I started coming back. It was an easy slope and I was happy getting down slowly taking pictures of different things.
There I found a few more homestays. After some inquiry, I discovered that it was the place where most of the tourists stay. They were near the point from where Kangchenjunga peak could be seen. But then nothing was visible due to the cloud.
Gradually my weak legs started aching. A group of tourists who stayed at Lingthem, were coming down by two jeeps. I asked for a lift till Passingdung but they declined.
Lost in the valley
After walking more than an hour I felt that the road was never-ending. I sat in front of a house and drank water from my bottle. A man was working on the small field beside the house. He smiled at me. I asked him how long was Passingdung village. He showed me a shortcut of staircases. He informed me that would be easier for me to reach there.
The staircase was uneven, some very high, I had to get down like babies get down from bed lowering their legs first to touch the floor. In this way, I covered three fourth parts. After that, I got lost. I saw the main road and came down there.
The view of the whole valley was mesmerizing. There were many unknown and known flowers. Squash plants were in abundance with fruits. Colorful butterflies were everywhere. The valley looked absolutely green with different tinges of green bringing variety to my eyes.
A local shared jeep was going upward. filled up with passengers. I stopped it. The driver came down and showed me again the short cut which was in no way could be called a staircase, but just a stiff mountain trail (Pagdandi). I was feeling helpless but there was no other alternative except to proceed.
At last, I reached the homestay. My knees were swelled and were hurting in pain. Hearing my story the owner’s daughter laughed a lot. She served me lunch. After lunch, I took a foot bath and lay on bed taking a painkiller. The rest of the day I spent in bed.
Two days rest and recovery
The next day I wanted to go to Tingvong to see the beautiful Mantam lake, but I came back halfway because I was afraid that I could not cover the trek. Walking on the different lanes of the valley itself was a blissful experience.
There was a huge landslide in 2016 that brought a disastrous effect on the valley. If someone loves serenity and nature, away from the hustle-bustle of city life, it is one of the most suitable places.
Spending time with Lapcha family
The family of Mayal Lyang homestay was very entertaining. The youngest daughter of the family was in charge of the homestay. She was a good cook. I talked to her for a long time. I learned about the different types of ferns they used for making vegetables, curries.
Tree tomatoes grow in abundance there, along with other local vegetables. They use only organic fertilizers to grow crops. There was a nice kitchen garden behind the house.
The owner had a son and two grandsons. The children were interesting, and the little one was very entertaining. He kept on showing me lots of intricate activities speaking in his own language. I also kept on pretending to understand. The daughter-in-law worked on errands.
They informed me that they were Buddist by religion. Elder’s three daughters got married in the valley. It is obligatory for them to gift a full-grown boar in the marriage. They are non-vegetarian. They eat beef, pork, fish, chicken, etc. as well as the many different types of vegetables that are grown in the valley.
The valley was full of squash, but they didn’t like to eat them. There are many cardamom plantations. It is an important product that is exported. The owner informed me that they were very cautious about preserving the environment.
There are many streams that make the valley green and beautiful. On the last day, I thought it will be difficult for me to go by shared car with my swollen legs. The homestay owners helped me to get a taxi for Mangan.
Mangan is a transit town. I stayed there one night. I went to visit the local monastery, which was getting renovated then, and Singhik viewpoint. In the evening I roamed in the market of Mangan and bought few gifts.
Local-made Sikkimese brandy is good and cheap. Sikkimese china cup with lid is also a very good gift item. Different types of Thangka and prayer wheels are available in the market. Warm clothes are also cheaper. I came to know that the bus that go to Shiliguri would start at 7 o’clock in the morning.
Back to Kolkata
During my 6 days of stay in North Sikkim, I could not witness a single view of Kanchenjunga peak. But when I was going to the bus stand in the morning to reserve a seat for myself I suddenly saw Kanchenjunga peeping through the clouds. I had kept my camera in the room. So I took photos on my mobile.
There were locally shared jeeps too. But I was in no hurry because if I were to reach early I would have to wait longer for the bus, which was scheduled at 6 PM. I reached Shiliguri at 4 PM because near Shiliguri highway there was a long traffic jam due to which I got two and half hours delayed.
I could not manage train tickets for the return journey, so I booked AC Volvo Shiliguri-Kolkata service which cost me Rs. 1900. The price fluctuates with demand.
When I got down from the bus at Kolkata I realized that my feet had swelled like a bun due to 24 hours of continuous sitting. Check out our Kolkata Travel Guide for all your desi information.
Dos and Don’ts.
It is very important to remember that in North Sikkim mineral water bottles are banned. So carrying own water container is necessary.
Carrying xerox copies of Aadhar cards and four copies of stamp size photographs is necessary for making a permit to travel to the different parts of North Sikkim. North Sikkim is a border area, so there are few special restrictions for foreigners. Permits can be made at Gangtok or Mangan from DC Office.
Those who want to visit North Sikkim must carry warm clothes. BSNL, Airtel, and Jio mobile networks work, but not always. Network connectivity is also dependent on weather conditions.
Littering plastic is prohibited. People of Sikkim are very law-abiding, and following rules is better to avoid unwanted situations.
In Dzongu homestays there is provision to cook your own food, and for those who are a strict vegetarian, it is better for them to cook their own food.
Even in summer or the end of autumn weather is unpredictable. So one should always carry an umbrella or raincoat and keeping a few buffer days to account for unexpected weather conditions.
One must carry own medicines too. There are very few shops in Dzongu and only basic necessary commodities are available there.
I am an Indian woman who is on the wrong side of fifty. I have been traveling solo since 2015. I love to travel very much, and my parents also loved to travel in the same way. My father used to organize self-planned trips and I was always his assistant in my teen years.
Due to some unavoidable circumstances, I could not travel for more than twenty years. But I kept all my passion at the bottom of my heart. As soon as I became a little burden-free, I revived traveling.
A Note to You
I shall be ever happy if I can inspire someone to travel alone. Oh , yes you can also read our another Solo North Sikkim blog from Priya. Hope , she inspires you to undertake more solo travel.
“sair kar duniyā kī ġhāfil zindagānī phir kahāñ
zindagī gar kuchh rahī to ye javānī phir kahāñ” – Khwaja Meer Dard.
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