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SIKKIM: A amazing journey from Gangtok to Lachung
In this post, you will see me traveling from Gangtok to Lachen, in North Sikkim. Speaking in geographical terms, North is the largest district in Sikkim. If you want to visit all the four districts of Sikkim, you will have to start your journey from  Gangtok, like we did. You can go from Gangtok to North Sikkim and back. After that, you can go further to West and South districts too. There is just one word to describe the beauty of North Sikkim – heaven!

Hello friends! Welcome to SAFARIHOLI!

This is your host, JEETU and today we bring you our story of Sikkim journey

It is early in the morning and we are about to leave Gangtok for Lachen in North Sikkim. I was checking online and it is showing a distance of 107 km to be covered in 4 hours and 7 minutes. But this is Mr. Arun, our driver, who says it is 124 km, not 107 km. Anyways, we will check the distance ourselves. We intend to stop at many places en route and from Lachen, we will continue our journey through the North. You can see this iron bridge just next to the cemented bridge which we just crossed. My driver told me that a year ago, traffic used to pass through this iron bridge only. The new bridge was constructed by the Border Roads Organization (BRO). This place is so beautiful that one would just want to keep viewing the scenery while traveling. Wow! Finally, we are entering North Sikkim.

Welcome to North Sikkim! Right now we are going towards Namsingh Waterfall. We’ve traveled just 18 kilometers from Gangtok and we came across the huge waterfall. Look at how water is traveling over huge rocks and gushing down from such a height. Let us go closer for a better look Very nice! Look at how fast this water is flowing downwards from the roadside. The speed is such that it seems like no one would be able to stand in its way. Too good! You may want to just sit here for an hour or so and just watch this waterfall. We’ve just entered North Sikkim and such a beautiful place it is. The Seven Sisters Waterfall is such a beautiful waterfall. This place on the milestone, Chungthang, is the place where the way to Lachen and Lachung goes in different directions. And we would be passing this Mangan district on our way to Lachen. Look at the height from which the water is falling here, such crystal clear water. This beautiful view is beyond anyone’s imagination.
There is a dhaba (roadside eatery) right next to this waterfall. What beautiful scenery it is – I am enjoying this samosa with chhole (chickpeas) and a cup of tea. It looks like they have filled corn along with potatoes inside the samosa. The spice level is decent. But trust me, eating this samosa, like this, in a place with a view like this, is an amazing experience. It has been 2 and a half hours since we left Gangtok and we’ve covered just 30 km so far. It is now that I’ve realized why people take 8-9 hours to reach Lachung or Lachen. This is because people opt for multiple stops during the journey like us. Arun Bhai has suggested that whatever vegetables we plan to eat for the next two days, we should keep purchasing it on our way. Some fresh and green vegetable is sold in the market like-  gundruk, ghee, Chhurpi, Simrayo, Iskus Munta (Squash leaf), Lotte, Chimping. Chimping will go into making chutney and we can make a dish out of Lotthe. And you think that why we purchasing these vegetables. Ok, I will tell you we give it to the hotel chef to prepare these dishes for us.
By the way, the scenic view from this point is really very amazing. In fact, it is written here that you can enjoy a ‘wonderful view’ from this point. this view is amazing, isn’t it?  If it wasn’t so foggy, it would have been much better. We have stopped at another vegetable shop here. We are buying two things – two varieties of green chilies. One will be used in making chutney and another one will go into vegetable dishes. one is hot and another one is not. We are also buying some tomatoes, because, we need these for vegetable dishes, of course. we found all vegetables are from  Organic farming and it is a really popular practice within Sikkim. And you can find organic farms everywhere. Very good!
Right now, We reach a hotel which named Tingchim Zero and asked to the manager that can you please explain once, what all we can eat at your place?”Manager: “Sure. I will cook 3 dishes for you – Maku (crumbled cottage cheese made into a thick yellow curry with ghee). The second item is Iskus ko Munta. The third item would be saag with chicken. The fourth is this mint achar(pickle).”I saw these dishes being cooked in front of my eyes. First, we will talk about issues ko munta. First of all, in hot refined oil, we fry onion, tomatoes and dried red chili. After 5 minutes, add turmeric powder and salt as per taste and sauté further. After another 5 minutes, add the greens, stir it, cover it and leave it to cook for another 10 minutes on low flame. The dish is ready. To make saag with chicken, both saag and chicken were finely chopped. In a pan, they added oil. Once hot, they added onion, turmeric, salt, garlic, and chopped tomatoes and sautéed for 10-12 minutes. After that, they added chopped saag and fried for 2-3 minutes. Later on, they added chopped chicken too and cooked for another while. The dish is ready. 

To make Maku, add ghee to the pan. Once the ghee is melted completely, he added crumbled chhurpi, also known as cottage cheese. Then, he added salt as per taste and cooked for a bit. Maku is ready. To make the mint achar, the recipe goes like this – a tomato is first boiled. After that, they take a mortar-pestle set, called Gudung here, and add dried red chili, mint leaves, and boiled and peeled tomato. He also added salt as per taste and small pieces of garlic. The achar was grounded by hand. Now, they believe that the mint achar flavor that we get in mortar-pestle cannot be replicated in a mixer-grinder. It is at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. We are having our breakfast now though it is quite late for that. Now, what could be healthier than this! We saw the food being prepared in front of our eyes. Everything is organic.

Now, let me mix every dish, one by one, with the rice and eat it. By the way, I’ve already tried this Iskus ko Munta in Gangtok. But I do not seem to remember its taste with rice. Wow! It is delicious. What simplicity! I saw while cooking that this dish has nothing else except turmeric powder and salt. And this dish has such a delicious flavor! It tastes marvelous with this rice. Too good! This Chicken with saag is looking so tempting and inviting that I’m sure it will taste amazing. Its taste is mind-blowing! I mean I ate this dish and I was impressed, but this saag with chicken is just amazing! Chicken has a flavor of its own. Simplicity is at its peak in this dish and taste at its peak! And the saag is so juicy in this dish! To eat this saag with chicken, beyond imagination! Too good! Mint leaves of Sikkim, in the achar made of tomato and lots of dry chili. It had not less but lots of red chilies! The bottom-line is that we should eat this achar a little bit at a time! But there is one thing – if I add it a little at a time, it would taste delicious! I just ate more than I should have.

Very different, very tasty, amazing! There is a lot of ghee in the Maku, obviously! I could never imagine that I would get to eat such a dish in Sikkim. By the way, they have a restaurant of their own and there is a seating arrangement inside as well. Right in front of me is the second-last petrol pump of North Sikkim or you can say, of Mangan. Ohh, God!Crazy taste! If you love the taste of pure ghee, you will like this dish. Nowadays, people usually avoid eating ghee, because you need to work out a lot after eating it. But truly, great taste! From among the dishes, I am eating today, Iskus ka Munta is a seasonal vegetable available during the months of May, June, and July. Rayo ka saag is available throughout the year. Chhurpi is also available all year through but I am very interested to see how it is made. I will check if that would be possible in the North. The mint achar that we ate contains the red chili, which is used after drying and it is available throughout the year. But you need to dry it in a particular season to be able to eat it later. I liked every dish. I can’t choose any favorites, no choice on that! I loved it and that is my last line about this food!

Too good! I have with me all the members of the family,  which cooked the meal for me.I’ve already told you about their restaurant and their home is right above the restaurant. Trust me, I loved coming here, not just one or two dishes, everything I had was delicious. Especially that achar was amazing. Chungthang is 30 km away from here. Once we reach there, we will be able to see the separate roads leading to Lachung and Lachen. At this place, we got the last petrol pump in the North district, which means if you go to either Lachung or Lachen, you won’t get petrol there. Right now, we have entered the Mangan district. There are 30-40 shops here, on both sides of the road. If someone needs to do shopping or if small shopkeepers need to purchase something in wholesale, they come to Mangan for their shopping. It is a pleasure to stand here at this viewpoint and watch the mountains in the distance. It feels too good! The mountains far away, beyond the mountains in the front, include the Kanchenjunga Peak too. The view is not clear today but here is where people stop to look at the Kanchenjunga.
On a clear day, you can watch 10 mountains on either side of your view and the 11 mountain, beyond these 10 mountains, is the Kanchenjunga. The clouds look so beautiful. So does the Teesta River flowing down in the valley? I happened to look at this board showing a cafeteria located downstairs. Though we are not in a mood to eat, but let us go down and check out the cafeteria. We can get momos, Maggi here. Chungthang is 14 km away now.here is a waterfall and This waterfall’s name is Manul. This beautiful waterfall is worth watching. It looks like there is an abundance of beautiful waterfalls in North Sikkim. We are enjoying watching waterfalls, one after the other. I cannot explain the joy one gets at watching this crystal clear water. It feels good to dip feet into this water and splash it over my face. I am enjoying this like anything. There is a waterfall at every 5 km on our way. Look at the pressure of the waterfall here. Unbelievable! I haven’t seen water flowing with such intensity in a waterfall ever in my life. This waterfall is as fast in pressure as the Seven Sisters waterfall. Look at all that water flowing down with so much speed. Mind-blowing! We need to cross this small bridge in order to get closer to the waterfall. There is a light drizzle right now. Naga Waterfall! Look at the speed at which the water is falling! Although it is raining, so the view is not clear. But I can still see enough to understand that this is a high-speed waterfall, with an unending supply of water.
I just found out that the villagers living nearby travel for 3-4 days and take a different route to reach the top of this waterfall, where they rear yaks. There is a Maggi stall here and, though I eat Maggi here and take a cup of tea.B ut a beautiful waterfall! So, if you come this way, you should definitely stop here for some time and enjoy this view. Of course, you should stay away from the water, because it is quite risky to go near this high-speed waterfall. The authorities have even placed a board here warning people to not go near the water. Eating Maggi while watching this huge waterfall is an experience in itself! Also, it is raining heavily, so that adds to the charm. There is this Toong checkpost, about 10 km before Chungthang. Here, you need to show the permit that you got made in Gangtok. In fact, even if you are a local resident, you need to get a permit to travel to Lachung or Lachen. The permit also needs to be shown while coming back. This is an important piece of information. If you take a taxi from Gangtok, then, obviously, the taxi driver would know about the permit. But if you are traveling on your own, you should know that you need to get this permit in Gangtok itself.
Right now, we are standing near a military checkpoint in Chungthang. There are two roads from here. One goes directly to Lachung and the other goes to Lachen. Right now, we are traveling towards Lachen. Lachen is 22 km away and it will take at least 45 minutes to reach there. The road between Chungthang and Lachen is a mixed bag. We are driving at a speed of 15-20 km per hour. Chungthang is situated at an altitude of 5900 feet above sea level. The road from here towards Lachen is quite steep. Look at the rushing waters of Teesta. Too fast! And we are going towards Lachen, which is at a height of 9500 feet above sea level.
So, it should take at least 45 minutes to reach there. We are 5 km from Lachen and we’ve stopped to watch the last waterfall. There is no other waterfall after this, till Lachen. The view is so beautiful and the water is flowing down with such speed. We will stop here for another 5-10 minutes and then direct to Lachen. One more thing, we also checked the meter reading of our taxi and we’ve covered 130 kms so far. Add 5 more and it becomes 135 km. So, the distance between Gangtok and Lachen is 135 km. As we left Chungthang, the weather became colder and I had to wear this sweater. I am really enjoying this trip. One can say Sikkim is heaven. Finally, we are in Lachen. Right now, we are outside the police check-post. Here, you need to make an entry of the permit that you’ve brought with you. After that, you can enter into Lachen. That is important information. The second thing is about those travelers who come to Lachen so as to visit Gurudongmar Lake the next morning.
I would like to share with you important information related to that. First and foremost, you cannot cross Thangu before 7.30 am to reach Gurudongmar Lake. Thangu is approximately 33 km from Lachen. Thangu checkpoint opens at 7.30 am. Further, from Thangu, Gurudongmar Lake is another 35 km from there. So, the total distance is 68-70 km. We are not going to Gurudongmar Lake. Instead, we will be leaving for Lachung from here tomorrow. We may visit the Lake some other time when we come to Sikkim again. The lake is really beautiful. If you want to visit the Lake, you cannot do so during the winter season, when there is snowfall. This is because, during a snowfall, you won’t be able to reach Lachen itself. Therefore, before coming here do check with your travel agent whether you will be able to reach Lachen or not. This is important because Lachen is base for traveling further to Gurudongmar Lake. I hope you liked my post. If you have your own experiences related to North Sikkim, do share in your comments.
 As always, I will look forward to your comments. Till then, goodbye, see you soon!

dislaimer:- pic are taken from google bcoz i lost my data so most of pics are diffrent.

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