10/03/2015 8:06 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Discovering North Sikkim: A Journey Through My Eyes

Surya S Raju

The moment I stepped into Sikkim, I instantly knew that my first post in the brand new year would be about this state and no other place. There are many places that you may like, some that you may end up falling in love with, but there is only a handful that can actually connect to. You know the feeling of belonging somewhere, the feeling that it is your home? This is what I felt when I visited North Sikkim.


I started my journey from Gangtok towards Lachen at about 8am. It takes a good six to seven- hour drive due to the high altitude and rugged terrain - some of the roads aren't in a good shape either.


These vibrant flags are symbols of divine power and it is believed that as wind blows, the prayers that are written on the flag will take effect.


This is Tashi viewpoint, where you can catch the breathtaking view of Khangchendzonga a.k.a Kanchenjunga. This viewpoint is on the highway en route to Lachen.


The snowcapped mountain peak that you see is Khangchendzonga. You get to see it literally from all the places in Sikkim. The best view can be found from Pelling, West Sikkim.


Talk about eco-tourism!


Lachen Village is run by a self-governance system called Dzumsa, in which a headman is elected to settle disputes in a democratic way. I shot this picture in a place called Thangu, which is the last civilian settlement that you come across before heading towards Gurudongmar Lake. Ensure that you take permits before entering these areas, or you may be sent packing.


This is the magical Teesta River, lifeline of Sikkim. She is a constant companion along the journey and makes the experience special in more ways than one. I can't decide whether it is her amazing gushing and gurgling sounds, or her very distinct green hue, or the way she complements the scenery wherever she flows.


This was a local's house in Thangu where we had breakfast. Thangu is at an altitude of 13000 feet. What you see in the picture is a type of stove that is used for cooking as well as heating. This stove was apparently procured from China for about Rs 10-12k.The best part of this North Sikkim trip was getting to know the locals and participating in their way of life.


On the way to Gurudongmar lake from Thangu. If you do not wish to see snow, the best time to visit Sikkim would be April-May. If not in these months, visit from October until the first week of December. Post that it's dicey as roads may be blocked due to snowfall and the Army won't give permission to go to several destinations.


Visiting Sikkim, particularly North Sikkim, had quite an impact on me personally. I communed with nature and also felt heartened by the warmth and acceptance of the people.


This is at Chopta Valley. When I went to Lachen, the temperature was -3 to -4 degrees Celsius. It was freezing cold and no heaters were available given the electricity fluctuation at Lachen. To top it all, there was no mobile network other than BSNL (Vodafone and Airtel may come up in few months) and sorry, no TV also in the rooms. But that was the least of my concerns. Foreigners are not allowed beyond this point since it gets to closer to the Indo-China border from here.


This is the view I was greeted with as I entered Yumthang Valley, popularly known as the "Valley of flowers". Yumthang Valley is actually a rhododendron sanctuary. It is at an elevation of 11,800 feet.


En route to Zero Point, Yumesamdong. Some of these places are so surreal that you may end up wishing that time would stand still.


This is Zero Point - where the road ends. You'll find some snow over here throughout the year.


This was at Zero Point, where you get to eat delicious chana, Maggi and not to forget coffee and Old Monk!


This has to be one of my best trips till date. I am so thankful to all the people whose hospitality I enjoyed and who treated me as one of their own. I already miss Sikkim, but I will definitely be back.