Summer of 2009 – Day 6
Posted by @bhitalks on May 29, 2009
The morning began on a sombre note. Contrary to our expectations, it was not a brilliant day. It was cloudy and misty. And then as expected, our tour manager Gyatso informed us about the change in our itinerary. We will go for local sight-seeing today and Nathu La tomorrow. The permit was granted only for tomorrow. Moreover, the chopper rides were not available. The Sikkim tourism cancelled all the excursion flights and only Gangtok flight of 15 minutes was operating and that too was heavily booked for some VIPs who were around. So the helicopter ride is also out! So sad.
We started our day with a visit to the flower exhibition to get back from the downtrodden mood! And it was of course refreshing. There were Hydrangeas and Neorolgeas and Petunias and Orchids in brilliant colours. These flowers are at bloom during the spring and early summer in Sikkim. By the time we were done with the flower show, Jaishree was back in the groove again.
We moved on to the government handicrafts showrooms and then to Do-Drul Chorten in Deorali (near Gangtok). Here is a monastary and Institute of Tibetology. This monastary was a little different from the other monastaries with a rather smallish front-yard and larger dormitories. Perhaps the reason being its attachment to the institute. Lots of ‘diyas’ in one enclosure caught our eye. It was amazing to watch hundreds of ‘diyas’ arranged neatly on a table, some of which were burning! The museum of tibetology was also good. We got immersed in the exhibits and the photo-documentation of the history of Sikkim. Sikkim was merged with India in 1975 by the way. The photo-stories of the Chogyal rulers and the relations with the Druk (Bhutan) was absorbing. Photography was not allowed so we couldn’t capture some of those moments of Sikkimese history.
We then took a cable-car ride and the sight of Gangtok and adjoining hills was simply mesmerizing. The multi-stories building were splattered across the hills to form the city called Gangtok. It looks like as if some school kid has done a 3D clay model with little boxes neatly strewn all over the hills!
Without wasting more time we drove to Rumtek Monastary which is the oldest monastary in this region. It is 20 kilometres from Gangtok and the terrain is hilly. The Rumtek is guarded by the ITBPF (Indo Tibet Border Polic Force) and is frequested mostly by the tourists. The photography inside isn’t allowed and we had to content by being silent visitors to the main prayer hall. At that time prayer was on and the entire hall was resounding with chants of some 20-25 monks. The monsatary itself is not so beautiful and looks just like any other monastary. However, it is an important landmark, owing to it being the oldest monastary and also the seat of the Karmapa in exile, His holiness, the XVIth Gyawla Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu order.
From the Rumtek, we took a detour of 5-6 kilometres to not-so-frequented LingDong Monastary. The moment we reached this place, we went into another world! It is so quiet, serene, and tranquil that it just captivates your senses. Located on a remote hill in the Ranka village, it is surrounded by forest and the freshness here has a calming effect. This is the best place we went to in and around Gangtok! Not many tourists come here as because it is not included in the 10-point tour which is offered to everyone coming here. Courtesy our cabbie, Karma we got a chance that we shall never regret. This monastary is attached to a college of Tibetology and hence there are numerous hostel rooms for monks that form the periphery of the central prayer hall. We were welcome in the prayer hall and incidentally the prayers were on here as well. We were allowed to do whatever we wanted to in the hall which is truly a great gesture on the part of the monks. Of course we preserved the sanctity of the place by not talking and not being animated! We photographed the breathtakingly beautiful prayer hall to our hearts desire. The hall is decorated tastefully in true tibetan style with colourful motifs all around. The LingDong Monastary is equally beautiful on its exteriors and we spent quite some time around there.
Towards the end of the day, we stopped by the BanJhakri Waterfalls on the way back to Gangtok. It is a small but aesthetically developed park around a natural water fall. Jaishree found the place a delight before returning back to our boring hotel at Gangtok.