North Tour: Gangtok: More to see than foreigners

Tuesday, 22 March

NEW JALPAIGUDI TO HOWRAH: We really stand out in Sikkim.

The strong East Asian influence in much of North India grows stronger the closer you go to the Himalayas. With so much Nepalese and Chinese influence, the natives don’t look like the Indians you’ll see anywhere else on the subcontinent. Entering Sikkim was almost like entering China or Nepal. The way of life is so different than in the rest of India.

See, no one stares at us there.

The contrast of our appearance is as striking in Sikkim as it is anywhere else in India. But unlike just about every other destination to which we’ve traveled on tour, we were shown no special treatment in Sikkim, not even given separate entry fees for our white skin. In a state where Western clothes don’t stand out as much – even on women – our fashion didn’t make as much of a statement as it normally does. No one even asked us for a picture.

I’d traveled a quick ferry ride from Sri Lanka. I’d stood a stone’s throw from Pakistan. Now we were just five kilometers from China, not much further from Nepal, and the world’s largest mountain range was right there in front of us. Had I not been to Manali, I might have called Gangtok the most beautiful place I’d been in my life. As such, our day trip to a pond and mountain near the border will have to settle for a spot somewhere high on my list. With the March heat having melted most of the snow here, I’m left to wonder how it would have looked a few months earlier – no stone left uncovered in snow, the pond in the valley below covered in ice thick enough to skate on. But I’m not complaining.

There was little we could do but soak up the view. Gangtok is a beautiful place.



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