Thursday, August 27, 2009


The Jeep picks us up at our hotel, the Bellevue near the Mall. My new Swedish friend, Danny Wennberg, a French and Italian couple and myself.

From the heights of Tiger Hill, we fail to see any of the view we were expecting due to heavy fog. We drink a few coffees anyway and head back down the hill towards the Ghum Buddhist Monastery. And then back to Darjeeling, quite disappointed.

Sitting next to our breakfast table at Glenary's, where we're enjoying coffee, fried eggs, sausages et tomatoes, an Amerikan trekker is telling us about his excursions in Nepal and Sikkim. He's just got back from Yuksum, in West Sikkim. I heard about landslides and bad weather in that part of the country. However, the American denies those claims and even say that the weather is far better up there! Road blockages are also cleared in no time.

Convinced, we decide to push it to the North and go to Sikkim to find better weather and new adventures, as Darjeeling didn't really live up to our expectations and we wanna check out what the real North has to offer. A permit is needed, but it can be obtained right at the Sikkimese border in the form of a stamp on the passport. It can be done from Darjeeling but it seems like a more complicated process.

From Darjeeling, the Jeep takes us around mountains to the Sikkimese border. Quick copies of our passport and Visas at the nearby "Xerox" shop, stamp at the police station and we climb back in the vehicle. In the many booze shops we see on the way, as soon as we cross the border, each bottle is half the price it is in the rest of the country... We're off to a good start.

Within Sikkim, jeeps are the most popular means of transport as they can navigate rocky slopes. Mini buses link the smaller towns to the state and district headquarters.



On the way, a young dude is chatting with us fron the middle seat. Casanova is holding a pretty Sikkimese chick around his arm and explains that relationships between men and women are much freer in Sikkim compared to the rest of India.

We check Danny in the best hotel in town while I find a much cheaper room in darker corners of the town. I negotiate it for Rs200 which isn't so great considering we're off season. However the dark corner doesn't seem so dark and looks actually pretty safe, much like the rest of the city. The people look content and are very smily. According to some office men coming back from work, everyone is satisfied and earns good money here, and unemployment is almost non-existent.

Nestled in the Himalayas bordering Nepal to the west, Tibet to the north and east, Bhutan to the southeast and West Bengal to its south, Sikkim has been the twenty second state of India since 1975. It is the least populated state with approximately 600,000 inhabitants, and the smallest (approximately 7,096 km²). Sikkim decided to become part of India in order to not be won by China after the Chinese Indian conflict of 1962. Nowadays the pressure from China seem to be coming back and there are rumours amongst the youths that China will attack again to conquer Sikkim, a state they never recognised as being really part of India.

On many levels, it is an exemplary state, and it could easily be used as a model to the rest of the country (I'm talking here about the India I visited, being all the Northern states from Maharashtra to West Bengal and excluding Maddhya Pradesh). The litteracy level of 82% is higher than the national average (90% of Assam's population is litterate). Sikkim was the first state in the world to ban the use of polythene carry bags. And with the recent ban of fertilizers and perticides, it is the first state with an all-organic food production. Another contrast with the rest of India (Again, I'm only reffering to the India I've encountered), there are rubbish bins everywhere, around every street corner and especially along trekking routes. The inhabitants also have the upmost respect towards theirs villages and nature. The huge influence of Buddhism, the second state religion after Hinduism, surely has something to do with this respect for the environment.

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