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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Crossing the Sikkim border

In the morning, I manage to hide from the ubiquitous Indian businessmen in an abandoned corridor at the train station to finish writing and uploading my journal in peace. Writing on buses doesn't work well for me as I tend to fall asleep. 😅

mysterious texts collected on the cross country bus ride

I am in Siliguri, the capital of West Bengal and the gateway to Sikkim, a small state wedged between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. I have no idea how to get there or what there is to see. So, I'm taking things step by step.

trash heap occupied by cows: removal unit has to wait

At the ATM, a local tourist informs me about bus fares to the area. I don't learn anything at the tourist center because the staff doesn't speak English. Therefore, I head to the bus station to investigate. Entry permits are processed there, free of charge and on the spot. With this pass and a stamp in my passport, I can access about half of the region. Additional paperwork is needed for the borders and national parks, some of which are only available to locals. As usual, I'll have to go try enter to find out.

deserted TIC / Sikkim HQ in Siliguri

umbrella ('fire extinguisher') and a boombox ('first aid box')

The guy at the ATM also mentioned the travel time - three hours on the bus. That was enough to get to the Sikkim border, from where we took another equally long journey to Gangtok, the state's capital. We went from 400 feet above sea level to 5.600 feet. It's an asphalted road leading through lush jungle, lined by villages in the slopes and few nature reservations. The whole area is teeming with people.

Tista River

gates of Sikkim

Gangtok is another of the many Himalayan sloping towns. The defining feature is the opportunity to eat endless amounts of ice cream, balanced with buckets of sweat and dozens of calories extracted from every walk. Locals are better at walking on all fours than on two legs. Choosing the wrong accommodation leads to hours of climbing onto hilltops. Moving to a neighbouring place on the map often requires a circus-like performance and acclimatization to heights. Lungs the size of blacksmith's bellows are a basic requirement for life here.

signs of civilization / a city sherpa

Of course, the upside are the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, deep valleys, and clouds scattered throughout the air. I managed to check into my place just on time to bid farewell to the fading light.

top of Gangtok

Discovering specific rules and travel options in the region will have to wait until tomorrow.

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