It was all green, more like fluorescent, and it felt like the whole place was wiped off clean. I had a very different picture painted in my mind about Bagdogra. 123 Kms from Gangtok, Bagdogra had the nearest airport before the gorgeous one opened near Gangtok! Our driver was waiting for us at the airport. Google maps told us that the 123 km road journey is going to take us five hours. That’s three to four hours more than usual. We had no idea what we’d signed up for. The drive was spectacular with the Teesta river always flowing with us on one side and alluring hills on the other. There were shades of green I never knew existed. The roads were winding, and it kept getting colder with every passing minute. We stopped on the way for some hot chai and Momos which felt like warm welcome! We were in Sikkim to explore the offbeat side during the offseason with OurGuest They are an offbeat tours and travels company based out of Sikkim which aggregates unique farmstays, homestays, resorts and retreats in Sikkim & NorthEast India and provides exciting and customizable tour packages.
By the time we reached our cosy homestay in Gangtok, it was 8.30 pm. If there was anything different I’d like to do, is drive during the day, so we’d get more daylight to appreciate the gorgeous drive terrain.
We reached Dorjeelee homestay. It’s a 90-year-old home. The home still has an old structure and is well maintained. It has Sikkim artefacts in every corner. The doors were artistic and had traditional carvings. We were served simple homemade food of roti, dal and aloo curry with a special chutney made out of paneer. They call it ‘Churpi’. So delicious. We were exhausted after our long journey and devoured it in no time. We fell asleep in the small homestay in Gangtok to the silent hum of the crickets outside.
We woke up to the smell of fresh breakfast of Puris, aloo bhaji and some delicious tea. It was a perfect start to our day. We left Dorjeelee to check out unexplored part of Dzongu. It is a preserved area and one needs special permissions to visit the place. The OurGuest team had applied for the permits well before we landed in Sikkim.
We drove for 4 hours through uneven roads, dashing through mountains. Every turn we took, we were spellbound by stunning landscapes. It was one helluva bumpy ride, but the view more than makes up for it. The whole way, there’s Blue Hills on one side and green fields near it. At some places, the stunning Teesta river peaks out creating the most beautiful scenery.
This is the only way to reach Munlom nature resort which is in Dzongu. Set between thick untouched forests and streams, Munlom is everything you look for in a holiday. The rooms are made of wood in its raw sense. Our room was overlooking the mountains and the forest. Our host Kim welcomed us and told us about the fascinating history of the lachen tribe which he is a part of. ‘Did you know there’s a little monastery you can reach by a small trek’ he asked us and within minutes, all of us strapped on our shoes and were on our way to see a magical little place on top of a hill. A little monastery with tons of prayer wheels and flags. The view of the hills from the monastery was stunning. We even saw a gorgeous rainbow. When we were trekking down from the monastery, the torrential rain started and stopped only at 4 am the next morning. We ate some delicious food, sat with a bottle of local wine made out of wild berries with 5 other travellers and the most amazing Kim telling us about the tales from Dzongu. Was it a magical night? Hell YES!
We left our cosy wooden cottages early morning. After all the tales Kim told us about Dzongu how could we not see them? We drove through the lush Green hills and passed several picturesque bridges with prayer flags to get to a hot spring. The water in the hot springs is known to be extremely therapeutic. There was hot springs bath area separately placed for men and women, enclosed along with a washroom next door. Our host, Kim, and his team had prepared a fabulous lunch by the riverside with a basic open-air stove. We were starving after visiting the hot springs and could not wait to devour the food. We were, sitting on the river banks dipping our feet in the water. Before we knew, all of us were inside the river, playing. We got out of the water fully energised and left for Munlom nature resort. A big glass of their traditional beer, hot Momos and delicious soup was served for dinner. We were chilling with Mr Kim at the verandah when we heard it first. Amidst the sound of crickets, we heard the mystical music playing from the monastery we trekked to the previous day. The sound of the instruments Rabdong & Gyaling reverberated in the valley of Dzongu. The monks were paying their respects to mount Kanchenjunga before the festival of Pang Lhabso. What’s the festival about? Read on…
We got up and left Dzongu very early in the morning for Gangtok to witness the famous festival of Pang Lhabsol. This festival is indigenous to Sikkim and it celebrates the Mount Kanchenjunga, the guardian deity of Sikkim. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Tibetan calendar (Read: August/early September) every year. The ‘chaams’ which are part of this festival are unique and the spectacular Pangtoed or warrior dance was choreographed by the third Chogyal Chador Namgyal, which was said to have appeared to him in vision.
After the festival, we checked into our rooms at the Mazong hotel. Spacious rooms, a lovely hall and an interesting host. The people from the OurGuest team took us to fun places in Gangtok. To pretty cafes, to the famous MG Marg, and haat bazar which felt like the heart of Gangtok. We even saw the best place to have puchka. We walked back to our cosy rooms and chilled with fellow bloggers who by now had become close.
It was a day of lakes. We saw some of the most stunning lakes in Sikkim. We took off early from Gangtok and our first stop for the day was Changu lake. Having seen the lake previously back in 2012, I expected a touristy mayhem. But what I saw was something else. It was clean and had zero tourists. We went for a beautiful walk around the lake. The pathway was studded with a million wild pink flowers. Off-season travel does have its benefits. We left Changu lake towards a place which is one of the most magnificent places we’ve ever been to. We stopped the car and trekked down for 10 minutes to reach this amazing lake. It was surrounded by mountains and forest. We found a pretty spot and ate a Korean bento box packed specially for us by EYHO. Picnic by a lake with some fun people and the best food. Couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon. I cannot name this lake or this location for you. But If you plan to visit it, talk to Our guest. They might be able to take you here! After lunch and a walk around the lake, we left to go to the famous Gnathang valley. It was studded with flowers and mist. We reached our homestay at 13,000+ feet. This Gnathang residency is owned by some of the nicest people. This place is so remote that the hosts didn’t get an email/phone about our arrival cause there’s no network. She prepared some hot butter tea. We had heard so much about it and it was great to taste some. We enjoyed a lovely day at this no network area. Woke up the next morning and heard stories about the war, stories about Doklam which is right next to the Gnathang valley. This place is covered in snow most parts of the year, and we witnessed the green side of this place.
It was our last day in Sikkim and all of us got a little pensive. We left for Lingham through the world famous Zuluk pass. This road was used in the trade between India and China before Sikkim was a part of India. This pass has 102 hairpin bends and it’s difficult for someone with a motion sickness. I survived this road without throwing up only because of the driver, Mr Vijay and the company and songs played by my fellow travellers! On a clear day, one could see the spectacular mount Kanchenjunga from here. Sigh. Wish it was clear, but all we saw was mist.
We reached Dhunkar homestay by 2 pm and there was no range here too. Their host ishey invited us to make Momo’s and all of us together got into the spacious clean kitchen and made tasty Momo’s and ate them for lunch. This homestay is inside a forest right next to a waterfall. The sound of birds, water, and the raw wooden cottage added so much to the charm. We all sat in the corridor and discussed how splendid the trip had been, while the little puppy in the property was bouncing from one of us to another. The lovely people of Dhunkar served some of the local dishes of fiddle headed fern, nettle soup, rice along with fermented spinach salad with the famous spicy chilly, Dalle. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to Sikkim.
If there was one word, I’d have to used to describe this trip, it would be ‘Authentic’. Staying in people’s homes, experiencing their life, cooking with them, sipping on some traditional wine, experiencing a festival I had no idea about, and seeing places only known to the locals. I’d call myself pretty lucky to have been a part of this trip.
I experienced #AuthenticSikkim with OurGuest, a boutique travel firm based out of Sikkim. Highly, highly recommend these guys if you want to experience North East and not just visit the place.
Watch our video from the trip
If you wish to visit Sikkim or Northeast with OurGuest, we’ve got something for you. Here’s a coupon code THENEXTCHECKIN50. You’d get a good discount if you use the above code.
*Huge thanks to OurGuest for hosting me in Sikkim. This is a sponsored post, but the opinions and reviews are completely our own.