Sep 2nd, 2022
"Don’t just listen to what they say, go see”, is what someone told me once. I am a chance traveller. Having understood the daunting journeys that I might have to take to reach a place, I realised experiencing a place is not about reaching. It starts with the taste of thin tea on my tongue as I sit on a train and ends with a collection of faces I met, smells I came across and the views that stayed in my mind without me having to take a picture!
There is something really exciting about travelling with friends and family, but the taste I relish the most are the journeys I have made alone.
Generally, we come across blogs, journals and movies that depict the ease and hardships with which a protagonist travels alone. Some of the most impactful movies like Wild (Reese Witherspoon), and Queen (Kangana Ranaut), circulate on women who dare to travel alone and change their lives.
Often, a life-changing experience becomes the reason why people travel. Have you ever wondered if it were actually the other way round- if you were to travel, and that changed your life!
On this note, I decided to flag the first post of OurGuest Tales on solo travelling and why I believe Sikkim is your go-to destination if you have never travelled alone before.
Gender stereotyping is not uncommon, especially if it comes to women. There are certain things a woman just cannot think of. Irrespective of where you go, be it the mountains or the plains, people will stare and probably comment on why you are travelling alone. Likewise, there will be people who will help you, give directions, and perhaps give you company or pass a friendly smile just when you begin to feel alone!
The biggest take away from my sojourns was one- there will be people who are bound to make your heart pound with fear, humiliation and unsettling jitters but simultaneously there will be people who will make your journey easier than what you anticipated.
Travelling solo is not impossible anymore. So what is the most important part of solo travelling?
The first step to solo travel is convincing yourself you can do this. The second step is to sit down, research and prepare an itinerary and your destination. Convincing your loved ones, you will return home in one piece is then an easier process!
How to travel solo and stay safe:
- Prepare a detailed itinerary of where exactly you are going and what exactly you wish to do there.
- Find a reliable homestay in Sikkim and book your rooms in advance for a hassle-free stay.
- Make conversations, talk to people, befriend fellow travellers and create a memorable trip ahead.
- Keep someone in your circle on the loop about your destinations and accommodation.
- If you have never travelled solo before, start with a place which is known for safety.
So let me now get to the safe solo travel in Sikkim- Why Sikkim is your best option for a safe solo travel.
A report on the rate of cognizable crimes in the country has revealed that Sikkim is one of safest states in the country. As glamorous as solo-sojourn sounds, it can be a little daunting to plan a trip where the only company you have is yourself.
The precautions, one needs to take for the non-cognizable offence is important. Nestled snugly in the lap of the Himalayas is Sikkim- famous for being the first organic state of India, being the cleanest state in the country, starting the organic mission and as of today hosting the 100th airport of India!
The land of nature, culture and adventure, Sikkim stands tall as a warm and hospitable land. The people are welcoming, friendly and helpful. The destinations are breathtaking and inspiring. From rugged mountains to sparkling Himalayas, from green farmlands to azure sky, from off-beat hidden lands to monasteries that tug your soul into believing in yourself, it is indeed a hidden paradise waiting to be explored.
If you are having second thoughts on your solo-journey, think again. There are four-districts in Sikkim, each resplendent with majestic views and unknown paths. The home-stays are reliable and clean, the tours conducted range from vivid local experiences to a cultural rendezvous and more than anything, Sikkim, will make you wish to travel more.
SO WHAT ARE THE THINGS WE NEED TO REMEMBER WHILE IN SIKKIM?
Things to remember while in Sikkim
What are the major pointers you need to know?
If you are wondering about the language, the people, the food and where to go, let me give you a brief idea about Sikkim.
The common language spoken here is Nepali. However, most of the locals can easily understand and speak in Hindi. Most of the locals even in remote locations have acclimatised themselves to basic English. Hence all you need to do is smile and make any form of conversation- you are bound to get a good response! In places that you don’t find network, be assured to find at least one soul who will definitely help you out.
The local cuisine is flavourful and varying. With a fusion of three distinct communities and many other sub-communities within each other, the Sikkimese cuisine has a fine blend of Indian, Nepali, Tibetan and Chinese dishes as well as local delights straight from the organic farms most home-stays own.
Gangtok in itself is a food hub. A perfect amalgam of the old and the new, the capital of Sikkim is the most happening place in Sikkim. Almost always abuzz with activities and bathed in colourful lights, Gangtok will engage you in a mesmerising tete-a-tete.
Most tourists are looking for a night-life in Gangtok and often more than once, I’ve been asked about live music.
The night-life in Gangtok is not as happening as you’d expect, especially if you come from a city. But that is the beauty of the place. Most café’s and pubs close by 11pm. Although there are a few good places for clubbing, I’d recommend you to stick to the café’s around the city for sensational musicals and live performances. Most live gigs happen during the weekend only.
On your way, there will be many eateries that serve local noodles and savoury momos. If you are fond of north Indian, continental, Mexican or Italian, there are innumerable places that serve these dishes.
*read our next blog for the ten best places to eat.
How to travel in Sikkim?
Sikkim is the land of winding roads and meandering rivers. Rugged mountains dotted with colourful blossoms and tall trees are a delight for the eyes. The rivers are blue-green, almost out of a magical story book! The villages are clustered in tiny hamlets and no two villages are the same. Despite being the second-smallest state in India by area, Sikkim can be immense due to the roads. Careful planning is impertinent before visiting Sikkim
The key points to remember are-
- You cannot plan a four day trip and finish Sikkim off.
- All four districts have distinct places to visit but you will take time to traverse the districts.
- West Sikkim in itself is huge. Most of the ancient Sikkimese History was made in West Sikkim. If you are interested in visiting the heritage sites, village walks, understanding the weaving and paper making industry and the tiny details of a slow Himalayan life, this is where you should discover the unknown.
- North Sikkim with the famed snow-capped mountains, the Gurudongmar Lake, the Yumthang Valley and the beautiful village of Lachung and Lachen are remotely located. There are no easy sources of transport and you will need to reserve vehicles to travel these areas. If you are looking for a peaceful serendipitous experience in the mountains, stay in these villages.
- South Sikkim is relatively easier to cover in a day. Awe-inspiring tea gardens dotted with cherry blossoms lead you to some of the most striking places of pilgrimage important to both the Buddhist and the Hindu cultures.
- East Sikkim boasts of the Old Silk Route, the historical Gnathang Valley, the Nathula border and mesmerising valleys and hills. If you wish to disappear in a remote but accessible place, maybe you should try and stay in this part of the state.
- If you have been relying entirely on Jio network, carry an additional BSNL/Airtel/Vodafone sim card.
- Do not hesitate to approach Sikkim Police for help. They are exceptionally helpful!
Often when I was outside the state travelling for either work or college, I was asked if Sikkim was a part of India. If we need a passport to visit this foreign land or if Sikkim is indeed a part of China as they’d heard! These queries were not from the uneducated folks. It was the educated mainland fellow countrymen who would ask these questions!
Let me clear some of these doubts on Sikkim:-
- It is not a Chinese territory.
- You will need permits to visit North Sikkim that you can make via any travel agency.
- You will need to reserve vehicles to travel to north Sikkim.
- Carry valid id proof and passport size photographs for easy permit issue.
- Foreigners are not permitted to visit certain parts of Sikkim.
- It is a biodiversity hotspot and a clean and green state, avoid littering.
- Plastics are banned in the state.
- Public smoking and drinking are prohibited.
- HOW TO TRAVEL IN SIKKIM?
Let us summarise your solo trip to Sikkim
A land where many cultures are used to living together in harmony, Sikkim welcomes you with her open arms. The people are extremely helpful, the homestays are reliable and satisfactory, the food is delightful to the tongue and the places to visit are laced with adventure and fun!
Come, explore Sikkim, and if you have second thoughts, think again. As you discover these paths, I suggest you to mentally prepare yourself to be stuck, to find no one to seek direction and to be patient- for there will always be a way out in Sikkim!.
As Greg Child has rightly said, “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb”.
Stay tuned for more.
Picture Credit: Empty Bag Films