With silvery clouds slowly enveloping the city and the golden sun setting in, I sat on one of the long benches on MG Marg sipping masala chai and eating momos. Droplets of water glistened under the street light on the empty road. I was in the city of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. At an attitude of 5,800 feet, Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan ranges.
A long road lined with shops, a walk down the MG Marg is a unique experience. Vehicles are prohibited and clean wide paths stretch out with street lights and benches making it look like a wax crayon painting. I entered a shop selling clothes, shoes and accessories.
If you are a shopaholic beware as these shops sell low quality clothes at hiked up prices. If you want to pick up something try exploring the Lal bazaar. A dingy looking market with around a hundred steps, the bazaar is a shopper’s paradise. The shops don’t look as plush as the ones on MG Marg, but you will definitely get better deals here.
After three hours of walking up and down the Marg I was hungry and decided to eat at the famous Baker’s Cafe.
Sitting on a table by the side of the long French window, I could see young honeymooners walking hand in hand on the Marg. It was a moonless, clear night but the air smelt of rain. I ordered coffee and banana cake and sat enjoying Gangtok, the Las Vegas of India.
The next morning I woke up early and went for a walk. Instead of taking the route suggested by the hotel manager, I decided to explore the small empty lanes. As the morning mist subsided I could see small children wearing blue school uniforms running to catch the bus. Women still in their night dress, stood chit-chatting, their skin glowing in the morning sun.
After a quick breakfast I took a taxi to see the Rumtek monastery. Approximately 24 Km from Gangtok, Rumtek is a must visit. On the way, we crossed small villages.
Try exploring Gangtok on your own. Stopping at small shacks by the road to eat homemade momos with hot red chutney and interacting with villagers was the highlight of my trip.
Built in the 16th century, the Rumtek Monastery has a beautiful shrine temple and a monastery for the monks. I sat in a corner and closed my eyes. The energy was so high that soon I was lost in my thoughts, going into a deep meditative state. On my way out I had lunch at the monastery canteen. Nice simple noodle soup was served in a deep dish. The canteen is another thing that should not be missed.
My next destination was Changu, the frozen lake. But due to a land slide all ways were blocked and I could not visit one of the most beautiful places in Sikkim.
The same day in the evening I went back to the Marg. Some college kids had organised a cultural programme. It was raining heavily so we stood under colourful umbrellas enjoying the show.
Gangtok is a melting pot of history, culture and entertainment. It is a different city for every person. It will give you what you want and you will keep coming back for more.