Sikkim, India

It’s difficult to articulate the experience of visiting Sikkim. After 3 months I guess I finally found what I was looking for. A visit inspires great calm — rare where so much of India is burgeoning chaos. Even when the sun is shining, Sikkim is blanketed in ethereal mist that whispers of deep meditation as it passes by. It’s no wonder, then, that there are so many monasteries in its jungle-clad hills. This is Himalayan country and as such the landscape rolls forever upwards until it disappears behind cloud — a testament to the tallness of the earth. I’ve strived hard not to join the crowd of pseudo-spiritual westerners touring India but I couldn’t help catch the energy of the place.

Based in the far north-eastern reaches of India, Sikkim shares borders with an impressive collection of countries: China to the north, Bhutan to the east, Bangladesh to the south and Nepal to the west. Influences from all four cultures are strong and this gives you the feeling that you’ve left India altogether. This isn’t far from the truth, as Sikkim only joined the Indian republic in 1975. By and large they have retained their autonomy (and certainly their cuisine) and one must perform a little dancing to obtain a permit for visitation.

On the road out of Darjeeling, it became very apparent why jeeps are popular in the region. The roads, if you could call them that, are veritable roller coasters of dirt and stone prone to landslide at the merest hint of precipitation. Travelling 10 kilometers can take upwards of an hour yet everyone takes this in their stride. Further to the concept of “Indian time”, the Sikkimese are never in a rush, for how could you be when there is just one jeep out of town each day? If you plan to visit, make sure you do so with plenty of time in your pocket: You will get stuck and that’s all part of the experience.

Valleys peter off into the mist somewhere near Khecheopalri Once the capital of Sikkim, Rabdentse was built and used in the 1600s. Its reign was short-lived, owing to its vulnerable location near the Nepalese border
Lion-spotting in a village just outside of Geyzing Doubling as a ticket office for the Pemayangtse monastery near Pelling, this building contains an enormous prayer wheel. When spun a full rotation, a bell tones and is believed to free the spinner from their sins
A waterfall graces the roadside on the route between Pelling and Khecheopalri Sculpted offerings line a buddhist statue next to Khecheopalri lake
A buddhist chimney billows smoke near Khecheopalri lake
A brightly coloured insect climbs through the underbrush on a trekking path near Khecheopalri