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Tiny but most beautiful state with abundant natural resources

 

LACHEN

9,400 ft

28 km from Chungthang, 129 km from Gangtok

Lachen or the big pass, which is located 50 km away from the Chinese border falls within the restricted area of Sikkim’s North District.

A land of plenty, yet unexploited Lachen is recently opened for tourists; the most welcome one being the entry to the sacred and biggest Guru Dongmar Lake in Sikkim. It is the base camp to many fascinating places, like Chopta Valley (14, 500ft), Alexander David Neil cave, Green Lake trek, Tso Lhamo, Lhonak Valley, Lashar Valley etc. It is a good acclimatization place for trekkers trekking up to 15, 000ft and above.

Acclimatization at Lachen is never a bad option. Staying there, one can take a stroll around Lachen village consisting of more than 300 traditionally built houses with a monastery at its top. Another ancient shrine tells you stories of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. Like Lachung, Lachen has also a peculiar system of government called Dzumsa something unique to the country. Be it collecting taxes or setting the dates for moving the herds, seeing to the peoples needs or representing the village to the outside world, every little work in this village is being functioned through this effective system of government.

In winters, there is snow all around. If visitors are interested to see monks dance on the ground laden with snows, then opt for a visit to Lachen in winters (January) when the monks from Lachen monastery perform their annual chaam.

Life of the 300 Lachenpa families in Lachen revolve around milking their yaks, making the churpis out of yak milk, weaving their warm clothes from the wool of high altitude sheep, building their houses, collecting firewood, making their special shoes out of yak skin, attending their Dzumsa meetings and dealing with the occasional tourists who visit the place.

Lachenpas spent their summers at Palung (16,000ft approx) or Tso Lahmo tending their flocks of yak. They go there in June and return only in September.

ACCESS

From Gangtok, ten seater vehicles (Mahindra Max or Tata Sumo) ply daily in the morning to Lachung and Lachen from Vajra, Gangtok. The journey to Lachen and Lachung takes about six hours and it will be comfortable to reserve a vehicle, though it is bit expensive

PLACES TO SEE

Two hours drive Lachen is Thangu. Few minutes from Thangu is Chopta Valley at an altitude of 13,200 ft. It is a hotspot in alpine vegetation, orchids, rhododendrons and other high-altitude vegetation. The valley is criss-crossed by meandering rivers. An adventurous trek through Chopta valley leads to Muguthang valley at an altitude of 15, 500ft. The high alpine valley of Muguthang is only inhabitable for rare high altitude ruminants and their predators. Very few Dokpas settle here for food and for grazing their yaks.

Gurudongmar Lake

Guru Dongmar Lake in extreme north Sikkim draws many pilgrims from all areas and is surrounded by many remarkable holy places like Tamding Rangjon, Namjom Truchu and Chorten Nyima. The lake is worshipped for long life and epidemic free existence in the land. Infertile women and couples wishing a male issue also seek blessings at the lake. Sometimes predictions are also made in the lake. The devout, it is said, get to see the future in the form of letters or scenes on the lakes water after the required prayers and offerings have been made.

Guru Dongmar literally means "The Red Faced Guru" and sounds similar to Guru Dragmar, which means "The Red Coloured Wrathful form of Guru Padmasambhava". The lake at an altitude of 17,100 ft freezes during winter except at one spot believed to be specially blessed by Guru Rinpoche.

Tso Lahmo at above 18, 000 ft is about half hour drive from Guru Dongmar.

Best Time: mid June to August for high altitude

For the scenic views as well as visit to the lakes, mid March to May and October-November is best time.

LACHUNG

8, 610 ft

22 km from Chungthang, 122 km from Gangtok

Lachung or the small pass has being described as the most picturesque villages of Sikkim by Joseph Hooker in his Himalayan Journals (1855). An idyllic mountain village set amidst primulas and rhododendrons and resplendent in its crown of snowcapped mountains, breathtaking waterfalls and sparkling streams, Lachung at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,610ft) above sea level permeates an ethereal alpine glow.

Peopled by a hardy stock of Bhutia who pride in calling themselves Lachungpa, this is a unique settlement having its very own self-governing body called the Dzumsa where all local disputes are settled by consensus.

While you enjoy the beautiful nature, pay a visit to the Lachung Monastery, which belongs to the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery which has monks from Lachung display a wonderful Chaam in the end of the eleventh Tibetan month (January). You can also visit the carpet weaving centre. Shy Lachungpa girls engage themselves in churning out beautiful carpets (opened from 8am to 4pm).

Best time to come: Come during Losar (Tibetan New Year) in March. The Lachungpas deck in their traditional best and gather at the public ground and eat, drink and make merry.

The celebration is a weeklong affair at Lachung, North Sikkim. It is a social event where the villagers come to audience the colourful play depicting fascinating legends and customs of Tibet.

For the scenic views, mid March to May and October-November is best time.

PLACES TO SEE

Yumthang, 11,800 ft

Yumthang is called the valley of flowers. The route to Yumthang from Lachung-adjoining the Singba Forest Reserve (has over 24 species of rhododendrons) has a very picturesque landscape and is lined with rhododendrons that bloom in different colour at their best during the month of May. The valley has a grassy plane area in the middle, a river on the side and a forest Dak Bungalow,

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Royal Plaza Hotel

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Sikkim , India

surrounded all sides by snow clad mountains.

Before entering the valley a small pedestrian road goes through a small bridge right way which connects the Yumthang Hot Spring. Hot water rich in sulphur, emanates from a small spring and is diverted inside a hut where two pools are made for the bathers. In such a cold place, it is a very pleasant experience to bath in the water, which is so hot in its natural form.

6 km further north is a Shiv Mandir.

Another 23 km ahead of Yumthang on the broader part of the Lachung valley are the hot springs of Yumey-Samdong (15, 300ft) on the river Sebu Chu at the foot of the mountain on which lies the Donkiala pass that connects the Lachung valley to the Lachen valley. At Yumey-Samdong, three rivers meet providing yet another scenic view.

HEE BERMIOK

28 km from Pelling

Bounded by Kalej Khola on the north, Hee River in the West, Rangeet and Rangsang Rivers in the East and Samdong reserve forest in the south, Hee-Bermiok offers the tourist, a wonderful getaway. You can either trek or bike through the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary.

Most importantly, this area has one of Asia’s finest trek route. The 33 km stretch up Gufa Dara to starts from Hee Bazaar.

Trekkers can also follow the same route to Barsey to enjoy the beauty of Rhododendrons especially in April-May. The trek route is a 14 km trial with 6 ft wide stone soling. The official trek starts from a destination point, Samatar (2,694 m), a high place from where the views of the dense forest can be seen.

Route: Line Dara – Barsey – Deoningaley Dhap – Jhorbotey – Thulo Dhap – Kalijgar – Phoktey – Chewa Bhanjyang – Uttarey.

A village guest house at Gufa Dara is a good stay option. This double storied building is in RCC framed structure with brick and stone wall partitions and GCI sheet roofing has been done up in a traditional fashion to comply with the village houses. The building has four bedrooms on the first floor with a corridor and attached baths. A beautiful lake developed in front of the guest house is an added beauty there.

ACCESS

Road: Hee-Bermiok is about two hours drive from Pelling. Shared jeeps are available at Pelling or Gyakshing (Rs 30/head).

PLACES TO SEE

Cave temple at Ahley

On the way to Hee Goan, a flight of cemented steps lead you to Ahley cave. Prayers are performed here besides celebrating the Bala Chaturdesi. Views of the mountain ranges you enjoy walking the stairs is exceptionally wonderful.

Teyongsi Sirijunga Mangkhim

Manghim is a place of worship of the Limboos. It is a three storey structure with a star shaped object at top called the Namoksam, representing five power elements such as earth, fire, water, air and sky. The main altar is based on eight syllables, which constitutes the eight syllables of Sirijonga – T as Teyongsi, Y as Sangaraktshak (protector), Ong as Mangkhim, Si as Simahin (without boundary), Sh as Shiksha (teaching), Ri as Ritiriwaz (tradition), Jun as Janjagrankarta (awareness) and Ga as Gaon Samaj Kaa Tara (star of the vicinity).

There are no idols or images of gods inside the Manghim; but you will find a bust of Sirijunga.

Sirijonga or Teyongsi Sirijunga Tongnam, the incarnate of King Sirijunga Hang is considered by the Limboos as a holy spirit since there is a belief that Sirijunga’s soul in the form of white bird flew towards the sky from the sack in which his assassinated body had been thrown into the Kalej River at Martam, West Sikkim.

He was an Ongshi group of Phedangma and hence knew Yuma Samyo Mundhums. While he was in these areas, he wrote a volume Yakthung Mundhum Sapla, which was preserved in the India Office Library, London. The volume served as the base for development of early modern Sirijunga script. Sirijunga was successful in rediscovering and reviving this lost script. Thus the credit of bringing about mass awakening amongst Limboos goes to him.

The Secret Flat Stone

Sirijunga Teyongsi is known to preach Yuma religion and sermons sitting on this flat near the Yuma Samyo Mangkhim at Hee Goan. During the summer days, he is known to take rest at the base of the flat stone where there is a cave like shady place, which is still seen. Moreover, the flat looks taller with subsequent soil erosion over the years. People dare not tramp on this stone nor loop any plants and if one does, he may fall ill.

Sirijunga Phukku or Sirijunga Cave

One has to trek for about two hours towards the cave and Sirijunga Falls crossing through stretches of paddy fields, orange orchards and the beautiful villages of Lower Martam. But, if you take a vehicle till the end of the motorable road, then you need to walk for only about an hour.

Sirijunga cave is very sacred to the Limboos. It is located at the confluence of Kalej and Reshi Khola where Teyongshi Sirijunga took shelter. There is a white thick box-like structure seen from a distance. People believe that Teyongshi Sirijunga used to carry Limboo manuscripts in this wooden box and carry around wherever he went for preaching. Belief is there that this is the same box he had kept in the cave before his assassination. The box like structure is still seen in the cave, which is slowly being turned into a stone. In reverence, the Limboos don’t stamp on the cave and worship their saint at the base where a small platform has been made for the purpose.

Sirijunga Falls

On the right side of the cave there are three beautiful waterfalls in series of about 200 feet. This falls is also called Reshi Falls as falls from the Reshi River. The middle one is higher and is nearer to the cave.

People from surrounding area still believe it as a spiritual guarded place and every year the Limboos of Sikkim, West Bengal, Bhutan and Nepal come to this place to pay their tribute to the great saint.

 

WHERE TO STAY & EAT

 

Staying is not a problem in Hee–Bermiok. It has well developed homestays. Since eco-tourism is being developed in this region, you will get acquainted with the local culture, cuisine or religion.

For further info, can contact Hee-Bermiok Tourism Development & Heritage Conservation Society,

Hee Goan; Mob No: 94340-12212/94342-56950/94340-60563; www.heebermiok.com.

(write-up contributed by Yishey D.)

 

 

 

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