On October 18
we arrived at Bagdogra airport from Delhi and continued on our way to
Gangtok by helicopter. The scenery
from high up in the mountains was breath-taking. Green
mountains as far as the
eye could see, steep
mountain sides, slopes with a multitude of houses built all the way up
the hillside, the endless winding road along the mountain
sides and the river. This
region really is inhabited.
How do people get around?
from helicopter on our approaching Gangtok. The
road to Bagdogra from Gangtok
looks fine from up here but it was really the
worst road we had ever been traveling on. When we went back to Bagdogra
three days later we found out what the road was really like. Parts of
simply slid down over the side of the steep mountain in a few
places, leaving just enough room for one car to get by. In
addition, our driver
was also a hot-rodder who did the distance (124 km) in 3 1/4 hours that
normally takes four hours.
view of the winding road and the river that looked anything
clean, possibly just silt.
After landing at the heliport outside of Gangtok, another adventure was
waiting for us.
The road into Gangtok was more like a bombed-out disaster zone than a
regular road. However, the cab driver managed to maneuver the small
and disaster areas with great patience and we arrived safely
Hotel Tibet in the center of town where all roads go up or downhill -
no level areas here.
Sikkim is far
more like Tibet
than like India. The religion is Buddhism and the language is Nepali.
People don't generally understand Hindi. A
large number of the people had very visibly Mongolian features.
town of Gangtok is a lot more affluent-looking than
anything we have seen in India so far. There were practically
beggars. On traveling outside of Gangtok by car to Tsomgo Lake and to
Bagdogra airport we did see some slums, but not many. There
were also very few western tourists in Sikkim and few people understood
any English at all. It's definitely like a different country and it was
actually only incorporated into India in May 1975. Before that it was a
protectorate of India and had its own king.
|Far-off snow peaked
seen around 6 a.m. from our hotel window. Khangchendzonga on
This was the only morning we could see them clearly. (zoom)
highest mountain in the world, 8595m, and the highest in India. After
the early morning the clouds settle in and they completely cover over
the view. (zoom)
Gangtok is spread out over a
hillside, every street on an incline.
our hotel on our first morning in
leading up towards our hotel from the
lower part of town
loads are seen on all
sorts of carriers,
people, camels, mules, rickshaws, heavy carts pulled
small kids, bicycles. There were no rickshaws in
the top of the
town, over towards the other side of the valley - where we were going
on our first day to the Rumtek monastery.
Tibet, very comfortable and a good
Tibetan-look doorman at our hotel
A view of the clean and almost affluent-looking town of
Lal market is a street that consists of a long row of steps down a
hillside through the displays on both sides of the street.
go from the top of the market to the bottom where a parallel street
takes over. Notice the Mongolian features of the woman at the back of
John needed another book to read in Gangtok and so purchased one by His Holiness the Dalai Lama called The universe in a single atom, how science and spirituality can serve our world. In the introduction, he says
wish to emphasise to the millions of my fellow Buddhists worldwide the
need to take science seriously and to accept its fundamental
discoveries within their world view.
Later in the book, he exlains
as a seasoned goldsmith would test the purity of his gold through a
meticulous process of examination, the Buddha advises that people should
test the truth of what he has said through reasoned examination and
personal experiment. Therefore, when it comes to validating the truth
of a claim, Buddhism accords greatest authority to experience, with
reason second and scripture last.
Ah, would that some fundamentalists within other faiths would listen to that suggestion!