When I entered Hotel Norlha (Phone No: 7872980787) and a little girl showed me my room through the corridor, I did not realize that the March cold of Rinchenpong could freeze my bones. I entered the room and saw that everything was tidy. The little girl tried to explain in half Hindi and half Nepali that I can call her if I needed anything. I agreed and said goodbye to her.
As soon as I closed the door and stood on the balcony, I was greeted by clouds like smoke floating in the frosty air. Leaving no stone unturned in their hospitality, several of them without any hesitation freely floated inside my room through the open door of my balcony and the window beside it. Quite a dreamy environment. The light outside has faded, covered with black clouds all around and its still raining heavily. The distant mountain peaks vaguely indicate their presence.
The rafts of the clouds are whispering in my ears with every touch of them and beckoning me to the lap of that distant mountain…. !! I had to suddenly fall from this raft of clouds, when I realized that my teeth were chattering in the chilling cold. Even if I put a thick blanket on my sweater when I enter the room, the cold bite does not leave me (in this context let me tell you that I am not at all afraid of cold… in fact I always enjoy the cold). Anyway, I called that little girl and requested her for some hot water. After getting hot water from her and getting fresh, I got used to it a lot. I realized that it was not right for me to underestimate the rain-soaked March mountains in any way.
That day morning I got off at NJP station from Darjeeling Mail and went straight to SNT bus terminus. From there I got Jorthang’s share car. It takes two and a half hour. I got Rinchenpong’s car from Jorthang. Two hours uphill road from Jorthang. Jorthang’s height is 1056 feet. And Rinchenpong 5576 feet. The road that crosses this additional 4520 feet from Jorthang, enables to experience how the surrounding environment, weather, solitude and people’s minds change rapidly.
This two-hour road will also prepare your soul to disappear into that sweet little village. Yes. That’s right. Rinchenpong is a small sweet village in West Sikkim. This place is as sweet as its name. Rinchenpong village is engraved with a few hotels and home stays and his full of simple minded innocent villagers. This Rinchenpong is in the kingdom of clouds. In the cloudless sky, it offers you a grand view of Kanchenjunga as well . But today because of clouds, there is no visibility of Mt Kanchenjunga. Tonight is just a night to sit on the veranda and enjoy the calm, quiet, rain-soaked Rinchenpong.
There were some cars moving around. I tried to find the trail of those car lights at the long exposure of my lens. Gentle but deep heavenly chanting sound of the sacred Om Mani Padme Hum was audible from some distant monastery. On top of that I found load shedding in my room added to the mystery! I lit the candle inside my room. As soon as I was trying to open the window a little, the flame of the candle shook and the clouds informed about their presence. Even though I locked myself up in room at Rinchenpong’s first evening, I got the essence of the mountain through the various whispers of that silent hill and the breath taking views it offered.
Needless to say what a happy sleep can be under a hairy blanket in such cold weather, after a long journey from Kolkata on the previous day .However, in the morning Mrs Norlha arranged a car for my sightseeing as soon as I requested her. This lady manages the hotel alone. A bit serious looking face… but she is very much compassionate in her hospitality. I took the hot Tibetan chow-min prepared by her in my breakfast left for sightseeing.
The purpose is to get lost in the mystic mountains through the hilly roads for quite some time. First I went to Rinchenpong Monastery. Although not very shiny, there is an impression of antiquity that will appeal to everyone. There is a place for the lamas to stay. The Buddhist statue here first caught my attention. This is a different idol. There is a naked female body embracing the Buddha.
Leaving the car near Rinchenpong Monastery, I took a deep breath and walked on the way to Reesume Monastery. Reesume is Rinchenpong’s highest spot. This is a 300 year old monastery and its a 1.5 km uphill road through the forest. This narrow road leads up to 400 steps to the monastery.
Looking up, it seems as if a new unknown mystery is waiting for everyone on this path. I kept climbing the whole road listening to the chirping of birds and braving the spine chilling wind. As I reached the top, I found altogether a new world in front of me. This monastery is very old and is standing amid the green carpet. It is like a dreamland in the kingdom of clouds.
I found a big dilapidated lock hanging on the door of the monastery. Later I learned from my driver that this lock is opened only once a in a year at a festival in Sikkim. Such an ancient monastery is lying there unattended and without care for years! Its hard for a nature lover to come away from this place. Obsessed with some primitive Tibetan civilization in my mind, I climbed down after a while.
Then I reached poison lake. In the local language it is known as “Bikh-Pokhari”. Some people say that Lepchas poisoned this whole water body to chase away the English. Some say that this water body was connected to the bungalow of a British official and Lepcha revolutionists poisoned this reservoir to kill him. The locals believe that this water body is still poisonous. Today however, the water in this reservoir is almost gone… it has dried up. Not far away is the British Heritage Bungalow.
We drove to a Lepcha village. Lepcha houses have a totally different architecture and looks like a monastery. Seeing such a Lepcha house, I went ahead with the camera despite my driver’s warnings. There is a vacant land in front of the house. As I approached the house, I saw a man coming straight towards me and questioning me – “Who gave you the permission to enter here?” I heard somewhere before that Lepchas are not that friendly at all. Without further ado, I told him that I would just take some pictures from outside.
Somewhat reassured, he did not speak further. I quickly got my snaps and then back on my car headed towards Kaluk. There is a Kali Temple at Kaluk and you have to climb some stairs to reach the elevated shrine of the goddess. A bird’s eye view of the village of Kaluk is available from above.
Now its time to move on to my next destination… Singshore Bridge. It is known as the second highest suspension bridge in Asia and the highest hanging bridge in India. This bridge covers two hills on both sides. An extraordinary architecture, hanging and swaying. I left the car and walked to the middle of the bridge. The frosty wind on both sides gripped me. Suddenly my legs stopped.
The hills in front seem to be swaying. An earthquake? I looked around and saw that the hills were really swaying. Incidentally I heard a loud car horn and got back to my senses realizing that the bridge had started swaying because of the car. Not the mountains, its me who is swinging! Colorful Tibetan flags hung on the side railings of the bridge and fluttering in the air.
The hilly river flowing through the bottom is Rangeet river. This place is known as Dentam Valley and is renowned for the production of Dentam cheese. I was fascinated to see the Rangeet river flow through the green mountain valley. If you go 12 km across the bridge, you will enter another eye-catching village in West Sikkim, Uttarey.
On the way back from Singshore Bridge, I found Hee Water Garden a little further on. This park is based on the merging points of two hilly rivers – “Hee Khola” and Rangeet river. I went inside and found pleasing natural greenery everywhere. The park is very nicely decorated like a hand-painted picture. This Hee Water Garden is a place for local people to have fun. There is also a swimming pool inside. Rangeet river is flowing from the high hills in front of the swimming pool.
Lot of beehives perched on the hill. There is a huge Buddhist Sacred Wheel in the middle of the park. It is inlaid with Buddhist mantras. Its believed that one gets virtue by rotating this sacred wheel. Now it’s time to return back to Rinchenpong.
On the way I found Sirijunga Durga Temple. In front of him I saw some local women dancing and singing in Nepali. There is a road blockade. Asking the driver, I found out that the opening ceremony of a health care center is going on.
The local MLA himself is present, so for the time being the road is blocked. Consequently, I also had to wait. However, the road cleared within 10 minutes. Arriving at Rinchenpong, I left my hotel in my right hand and found Gurung Gumpha a little further away. This newly formed gumpha is beautifully decorated.
I reached Rabindra Smriti Van by walking for 10 minutes along the road behind this Gumpha. Its in the memory of the great legend Rabindranath Tagore.
Thanks to the clouds, I did not have to endure so much rain throughout my sightseeing. But this time the black clouds are back again . Therefore I returned to the safe haven of the hotel.
Maybe I missed the view of Kanchenjunga from Rinchenpong. But the experience of rain in the mountains was also an unique gift for me. The next day I came down from the mountain to the plains, remembering this colors of Ringchengpong hill painted in watercolor amid the clouds. Abiding a goodbye to Mrs. Norlha, I promised her that we shall meet again !!
Best Time To Visit:
Rinchenpong has different beauty in different seasons. September to January will be good season to visit as there are better chances for Mt Kanchenjunga view.
How To Reach:
There are ample of rains from Sealdah and Howrah to NJP. Reach SNT terminus from NJP by auto. From NJP take share jeep for Jorthang in Sikkim( 2 and a half hour journey) . Jorthang is the hub in Sikkim from where share cars and busses are available for almost all parts of Sikkim. From Jorthang take another share jeep for Rinchenpong ( 2 hours journey).
Where To Stay:
Hotels and homestays are available. Hotel Norlha (Phone No: 7872980787)
Places Of Sightseeing:
- Rinchenpong Monastery
- Reesume Monastery
- Poison Lake
- British Heritage Bungalow
- Lepcha village
- Kaluk Kali temple
- Singshore Bridge
- Hee Water Garden
- Gurung Gumpha
- Rabindra Smriti Van
Hi! I am from Kolkata, India. Travelling and photography is my passion. As I love landscape photography most, travelling goes hand in hand with it. Since my matriculation days I started travelling. I have also penned down a book on my travelling which is available in Amazon in the name of Ghuranchandi – Part 1. Whatever travel experiences I have, I have shared those in my blog in the form of travel stories.