Amidst huge alpine forests and farmlands with the magnificent Kanchenjunga in the background lies the quiet and secluded town of Pelling, the true glory of Sikkim. Pelling is gateway to Yuksom and gets you closest to Kanchenjunga with all the creature comforts available by your side. This place is a trekkers paradise and is the starting point for all adventure trails serving as the base camp for treks to Kanchenjunga National Park. With hardly any tourists and functioning just as a pit stop , this place has a lot to offer. Waterfalls, lakes in the vicinity, rich history and the fantastic views of the snowy mountains. And it forms the perfect post card picture as it is covered in a thick blanket of snow in winters.
A walk around the lane, at the first glimpse of dawn and you breathe in the aroma of tea decoction, hot aloo parathas immersed in ghee and of course a lot of activity on the road outside every tour and travels office. There are numerous travel offices providing packages to Rabdentse Ruins, Pemayangtse Monastery, Singshore Bridge, Changey Waterfall, Kachepori Lake and a trip to Yuksom. This is where all tours start and end with every vehicle all set to warm up their engines for the long ride ahead. However, if you are an explorer and want some leisure time while travelling venture out to these places on your own.
Rabdentse Ruins, the ancient Second capital of Sikkim, is a good 20 min walk and the path is neatly paved, The rock cut stones and the tiny bit of sun rays piercing through the branches of these high standing trees can easily trick you in getting lost in the wilderness had it not been for the path. Also, since it is a pretty long walk, ASI has installed interesting, witty and motivating signboards every few hundred meters to boost your morale and keep the travelers tempo up and going. On reaching the ruins, we were greeted by a stone cut 17th Century Chorten. From here on, the ruins take you back in time to the 17th Century. The entire complex is divided into palace, place of worship and residential area. You can catch a glimpse of the Pemayangtse Monastery perched high up on the mountain from here.
Pemayangtse Monastery, this three storeyed monastery was built in 1705 AD. The first floor is the main Prayer hall where we saw a group of Monks of all ages offering their respects and prayers. The second floor is a hall dedicated exclusively to the Holy text and manuscripts. The artifacts are centuries old and the best of the lot are the wooden manuscripts. On the third floor, we found exquisite and intricate wooden structure depicting Guru Rimpoche's Heavenly Palace. Beautiful paintings adorned the monastery walls. We were quite surprised to see a few paintings covered by a cloth.
We were curious to unravel the mystery and saw erotic paintings of tantric sexual postures. It left us dumbfounded to see this piece of art not being appreciated in its true form and it was being portrayed in negative light by covering it. It is shocking to see that the mentality of the 18th Century people was liberal and people of 21st Century from the so called modern era are narrow minded. Indeed a shameful reality that expressing passion is being considered taboo.
Around 25 km from Pelling is Asia's Second Highest bridge 'Singshore Bridge.' This bridge connects Dentam village to Uttarey village. We had the joy and thrill of riding on this 198 meter long bridge that can accommodate only one vehicle at a time.
Enroute to Singshore Bridge is the Changey waterfall, this massive fall is a treat to the eyes. Not just the waterfall but the Dantem market nearby is also very popular and worth a visit.
Another reason to definitely take up this 25 km This ride is even more memorable as you are welcomed by the bright and beautiful flowers. No wonder this state is so beautiful. Every house has their own garden with colorful flowers adding more charm to their already beautiful homes. And of course the cherry blossom trees on the road make the journey pleasing to the eyes. A stop to admire this rainbow of flowers and you will see butterflies and birds hopping from one flower to another.
This town being a small place, it comes as no surprise that everyone knows everyone here but the kindhearted people in this secluded town is the reason why this place will forever remain special. They treat their guests as their family members worrying about them walking out in the dark and even offer you a torchlight if you need to step out. They stay up late in the night till you reach safely to your room and have the same concerned look that you would see on your parents face when you reach home late in the night. This place surely felt home.
We checked into hotel Pine Valley in upper Pelling, this budget hotel is secluded yet only 2 minutes walking distance from the main bazaar. The rooms are pretty spacious and clean and their service is good. They have parking facility which is difficult to find in Pelling. Also, there are plenty of tour operators in the vicinity to carter to your sightseeing needs.
PS: Word of caution, there are bad roads, then there are worse roads, and then there are the roads from Pelling to Siliguri. Words cannot describe how awful the roads can get. The roads are rugged, dusty and tarmac appears in brief patches. In our opinion, majority of Sikkim is totally not accessible but for Gangtok. However, the amazing landscapes, valleys and the pristine natural beauty around you makes these challenges worthwhile.
Next Stop Bhutan.