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Gangtok and East Sikkim

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<Gangtok view from Ganesh Tok>
Gangtok view from Ganesh Tok

Gangtok and East Sikkim

Gangtok, Sikkim's capital sprawls over a forested hill that overlooks Mt. Khangchendzonga, guardian deity of the land to the Sikkimese Buddhists. Since 1894 to 1975 it served as the royal and administrative headquarters to the former kingdom, and even today it still bears a regal character around the areas that have not been affected by urbanization.

In the Sikkimese Bhutia language ‘gang’ means flat and ‘tok’ means hill. Today, the ‘flat hill’ is better known as ‘the Ridge’, which then apparently was the area of choice to erect the king’s Palace, 'Tsuk-La-Khang', the Sidlon's (dewan's) quarters, 'Mintokgang', and the state secretariat, ‘Tashiling’.

Every spur extending off Gangtok’s hill is the setting of a significant site. Above the Ridge of the palace grounds is the Enchey Monastery, and around a hundred meters below is the main bazaar and commercial hub, the half-kilometer long straight and flat street. On the next spur below is the Lall Bazaar, which used to be an open-air grocery market but has since 2006 acquired new trappings, a concreted enclosure housing the original market plus several more layers that include shops as well as a parking lot. Further below on a saddle leading to next spur is Deorali, now a busy street on the road to Gangtok bustling with shops on both sides, and crowning the tip of its hillock is Sikkim's most revered shrine, the Dodrul Chorten.

Sites Around Gangtok
Cottage Industry Institute
The Directorate of Handicraft and Handloom was established with the aim of keeping alive the traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim. It is a repository of exquisite hand woven carpets, blankets, shawls including hand carved furniture.

<DHH bamboo craftsmen at work>
DHH bamboo craftsmen at work

Dodrul Chorten
The Dodrul Chorten is one of the largest stupas in Sikkim and a very sacred icon to the Buddhists. This chorten was built in 1945 by Trulsi Rimpoche to commemorate the victory of good over evil.

Enchey Monastery
This 200-year old monastery is an important seat of the Nyingmapa Order, and is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his flying prowess. Its annual chham (masked dance) is performed with great fanfare once every year around January.

<Enchey Monastery>
Enchey Monastery

Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary
This is Gangtok’s nearest wildlife sanctuary, only 25 kilometers away from the town with a designated area of 51.76 square kilometers. A tranquil area especially recommended for bird watching and for nature lovers, the forest cover include oak trees, chestnut, mulberry and thick bamboo groves.

Ganesh Tok
At a road distance of 7 kilometers above Gangtok, Ganesh Tok offers a spectacular birds-eye-view of the town below and a spectacular panorama of the Khangchendzonga range in the horizon.

Hanuman Tok
Higher up, and 11 kilometers from the town, this is yet another view point for a majestic gaze into the valley below and the horizon ahead.

Himalayan Zoological Park
Also known as Bulbuley, this is a recently established zoo of Sikkim’s native faunal species. Situated 8 kilometers above Gangtok and spread over a sprawling expanse of 205 hectares, its inmates can roam around almost freely in a semi-natural habitat. Species in captivity include the Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bears, Spotted Deer and Barking Deer.

<Snow Leopard in Bulbuley Zoo>
Snow leopard inside Bulbuley

Flower Show
The Flower Show venue is located near the White Hall below Mintokgang. Exhibitions are held during flower blooming seasons with the Spring Orchid Festival being the grandest among all.

Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Renowned worldwide as a premier study center for Buddhist religion and philosophy, this institution houses some rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, thangkas, and over 200 rare icons.

<Namgyal Institute of Tibetology>
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

Rumtek Monastery
Also known as the Dharma Chakra Center, the monastery is situated on a hill opposite Gangtok at a distance of 24 kilometers, a 45 minutes drive. Built as a replica of the original Karmapa monastery in Tsurpu, Tibet, this monastery replaced the seat of the Kagyupa sect from 1959 when the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa came into exile.

Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery
Situated in Lingdum at a distance of 20 kilometers from Gangtok, this monastery is the seat of the 12th Gharwang Rimpoche, a place worth visiting for its exquisite architecture.

<Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery>
Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery

Tsomgo Lake (Tsangu)
This serene lake lies in the heady highlands towards the Tibet/China border 40 kilometers northeast of Gangtok at an altitude of 3,780 meters. The vantage height of this lake also offers a splendid view of the high Himalayas in the not too distant horizon.

Tashi View Point
Prior to the construction of road-heads to Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok, Tashi View Point was where one went for an early morning view of the sunrise over the mountains.

<Mt. Khangchendzonga>
Winter sunrise over Mt. Khangchendzonga from Gangtok

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