Hundred in Gangtok – Part 3

I wrote about our journey of  around 30 hours to reach Gangtok in the last 2 posts. Next day we leave our beds around 6 am after a good and healthy night’s sleep due to much tiredness in the journey. It was a nice morning with a temperature of around 20 while just 2 days back in Delhi we were struggling in temperature around 45, more than twice of Gangtok. We could not believe to have bath in hot water in the month of May. Gangtok is located in the Shivalik Hills of the Himalayan range, at an altitude of 1,437 meters (4,715 ft). It is the capital and largest town of Sikkim. Sikkim was a separate county at the time of Indian independence and remained so till 1975. On 16 May 1975 it became the 22nd state of India, after the then prime minister of Sikkim requested India to become a state of India due to some internal riots happening there.

As this was our official-cum-entertainment trip, we did not have full day to our luxury for roaming around. We had divided the day into various activities and time slab of 2 pm to 5 pm was scheduled for city visit. As we had only 3 hours with us for the day, it was already planned that we will pay a visit to MG Marg during these hours. We were staying in Development Area of Gangtok and it was not so far from MG Marg. As told by hotel staff, the distance was around 1.5 km. After having our official session and lunch thereafter, we were ready to move for our first city visit of the tour. In Gangtok, the preferred way to get around is taking a taxi. There is no need to hire a taxi, there are so many shared taxis available just like shared auto-rickshaws in other cities and towns. Charges are also very less. Traffic rules are very strict in Gangtok – only Maruti Omni, Wagon R and Alto were running as taxis as far as I have seen there. Apart from this only 4 people are allowed on any kind of taxi and child of more than 5 years counts towards this limit of 4. Yes, Gangtok is in India :-).

First sight of hills from the city

First sight of Hills from the city

We discussed the mode of travel and there were two groups. One type of members wanted to reach the market as soon as possible to start shopping so they took taxis and left. The second type of members like me were slightly Ghumakkar kind of, who wanted to feel each and every bit of the way to market. We preferred to have a group walk till market. First 500 meters path was a narrow road with small shops on both sides of roads somewhat like in an unplanned colony. One thing to note was that almost each Kirana shop (small general store) was having fruits, vegetables and liquor along with the daily need items. Gangtok is famous for cheap liquor. At the end of this narrow road was something like a large parking area. For the first time we witnessed the green hills of Gangtok within the city  at this point . It was nice to see the hills in that cloudy weather. We fully utilized the open space there to have a long photo session. From this point there was an ascent of around 200 meters to reach on major road which was NH 31A. Normally a major road in hill station means a single lane road which has enough space for both side traffic. We came across two beautiful buildings namely Holy Cross Montessori School and St. Thomas Church. Both buildings were very colorful.

NH 31A

MG Marg Entry Point

Father of Nation – Inspiration behind naming MG Marg

In next few minutes we were at an intersection from where one road goes to Palzor/Palijor Stadium. Palzor Stadium is a large and beautiful football stadium. It is current home to United Sikkim Football Club and was inaugurated in 2005 by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The other road goes straight and after further few meters it divides into two roads, one goes to Lal Market or Lal Bazaar and the second road was our destination Mahatma Gandhi Marg or in short MG Marg. Vehicles are not allowed on MG Marg like in most Mall Roads in any hill station. A large sign board welcomed us at MG Marg. We were completely stunned after witnessing MG Marg, the feeling was kind of a European city. Gangtok administration has developed and maintained it in very good manner. It has been divided into two lanes, one lane for one side walking. And the divider is not a typical road divider. A large number of beautiful plants with flowers  give the feeling of a green belt to the divider. On both sides of divider, benches have been placed so that people can sit and enjoy their time with no hurry. I didn’t have an experience of this kind of setup before. Road was very much neat and clean with no sign of garbage anywhere. One reason for this was a complete ban on polythene.

Thoughtful Planning

Neat and Clean – MG Marg Other End

Beautiful

Our members were seen in almost every corner and shop on the road as complete strength was there. Some were relaxing on the benches, some were busy in exploring each and every shop and a few others were just enjoying the leisurely walk. Sikkim Tourism has its office at the entry of the road, its photo has been used by me as very first photo of the first part of the series. The road has various kinds of shops, showrooms, banks, eatery joints and few hotels on both sides. My son was very happy and he was running here and there. We were also relaxed for him as there was not a single vehicle on the road. My wife has purchased some decorative items for home and one local dress for her. The dress was like a draping evening gown made of a single piece of cloth somewhat you must have seen Chinese and Japanese women wearing the same.  Chinese effect was clearly visible on MG Marg in terms of culture and food, shop sign boards were having pictures of the Dragon.

The Dragon

Gangtok Taxi

After enjoying there it was time to return to hotel for having our next official session. Scheduled time to return was 5 but most members could be seen in the market itself at that time. We were also late and started our journey back around 5:30. This time we preferred taxi as we were tired due to continuously walking on MG Marg and we were already late to report back in the hotel. It was a very nice afternoon spent there on MG Marg but I faced one personal problem. When we were there on MG Marg, I started feeling mild pain in right side of chest. It was very minor so I took it lightly. But by the time we reach the hotel and attended our session, the pain started increasing gradually. In the evening we were having cultural activities and cocktail party but for me the pain was so much that it was not possible to attend the same. I came back to my room and very soon the pain become unbearable. In fact, I was not able to change sides in the bed. I applied Zandu balm to reduce the pain but the effect was very minimal. I shared the issue with one of my close colleague who told me that the pain might be gastric. He fortunately had some gastric syrup which reduced the pain a bit and I could at least sleep properly. I was worried about my situation for next day as we had to go for full city tour next morning.

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  • Mahesh Semwal

    Beautifully described & equally supported by awesome pictures.

    Only MG road is neat and clean or whole Gangtok ?

    Could you put all three parts in series.

    • Thanks for liking the post and pictures. I found the whole Gangtok city very clean as I don’t remember any filth on the roads anywhere.

      The parts were in series but due to some website issue authors don’t have facility to add posts to series. Now editorial team has done the same. Thanks editors :)

  • Dear Deependra,

    A very nice description of impressive MG Road and Gangtok.

    Hats-off to the administration & those officials for a complete ban on polythene. Making rule is very easy, but it is much more difficult to enforce and adhere to those rules…

    Visited only once, as a child long time back – don’t remember much now. Already included the place in my list…

    and very nice photographs…

    Tx,

    • You are absolutely right – we don’t need new rules and laws, proper implementation of existing rules is sufficient.

      Thanks for liking the post and pictures.

  • SilentSoul

    Great photos and detailed description Deependera

    I could not believe my eyes while seeing the cleanliness… whereas all cities in India are known for being dirty and full of litter on the road, such cleanliness makes it equal to any foreign country

    why cant we make all cities so clean?

    • Thanks for the encouragement Sir. I don’t think its much difficult to make all cities neat and clean like Gangtok. Government and Local Administration could do it easily if they give it thought with full of their mind and heart as done in Sikkim.

  • ashok sharma

    beautiful place .very good story and nice pics.

  • Surinder Sharma

    Dear Deependra,

    Very nice description good photos. Like Bata photo, This shop was so popular when I was kid.

    Thanks

    • Thanks for liking the post. Regarding Bata shop, if you are referring to this particular Bata shop in Gangtok, your childhood must be spent in Gangtok?

      • Surinder Sharma

        No, my childhood was in U.P. and Punjab, but shoes were very popular from Bata and mostly people visit to Bata shop and in every city Bata had shops at different locations.

  • Mukesh Bhalse

    Deependra,
    Really the pictures of MG marg shows the neatness, cleanliness and beauty of the city of Gangtok. After reading your post now I’m also desirous to visit Gangtok. Is Kanchandzonga visible from Gangtok ? Did you visit Nathu la ?

    Thanks for sharing…………..waiting for nest part. In fact this one is gradually becoming my favorite series on ghumakkar. I read every post of this series very interestingly and eagerly wait for next one.

    Thanks.

    • Thank you Mukesh for your encouragement in such nice words.

      You will get answers of both the questions in next part of series which is going to be published tomorrow.

  • kamalkumardas

    Hi Deependra,

    First nice to see your post.

    Read whole series from 1 to 3….it is nice description and snaps are also posted properly.
    Awsome part is you are minutly observing surrounding and describing in post like reader will feel like they are also visiting along with you.

    Never knew our friend is very good writer also.

    • Thanks Kamal for stopping by here and giving valuable feedback. I don’t think I am a writer, that is such a heavy word to be associated with a normal person like me.

  • D.L.Narayan

    Thanks, Deependra, for the tour of Gangtok.

    I wish that every city had a pedestrians-only zone like the M.G.Marg in Gangtok. It is a pity that people are not willing to walk even 20 metres and try for a parking slot as close as possible to the place they visit. All city centres should be made traffic-free and the areas need to be made clean and green. Not only will it minimise pollution but it will go a long way in making our cities clean and livable.

    The other thing I wish to comment about is the availability of liquor in kirana shops. Is free availability of liquor leading to any law-and-order issues? I have seen in Europe that liquor is available everywhere yet there is no unruly behaviour on the streets. In India (excluding Sikkim), alcohol sales are tightly controlled and yet one can always see people behaving irresponsibly on the streets. Is it that we, as a people, need to be controlled or that authorities see a lucrative source of income by imposing controls?

    • Dear DL,

      As always, you enrich us with great thoughts. I hope that a day will come when all cities will be like Gangtok in India. I also see people parking their vehicle just in front of shops in my local market while there is enough space available just 100 meters ahead. And the result is long line of vehicles which leads to wastage of both time and oil.

      Regarding law-and-order situation, I don’t think I am in a position to comment on this as I was there only for 3 days. But in those 3 days I don’t recall any such type of incident.

      Thanks for your valuable feedback.

  • Dear Deependra,

    This particular post and the pics of MG Road in Gangtok showed me what I had missed in my trip to Gangtok.
    The place is just apt for a nice evening walk with a clear mind and full pocket for shopping! The most shopped item by most visitors is said to be the calling cat which apparently is a Feng Shui symbol for inviting wealth into the houses. Apart from this, I guess the next most popular buy is the variety of wind chimes. This is what I learnt during my visit.

    Is the trend still the same? Or are there newer demands? Any idea?

    I loved your post. Keep writing more :)

    • I am not that much into shopping so don’t have much idea about the items in demand. But I think I have seen wind chimes in the shops. Most of our members have purchased lot of umbrellas as I have seen in their hands. :-)
      My wife has just confirmed that she saw the golden cats in shops of which you are talking about. That means they are still in demand.

  • Wow. The MG road seems to have gone for a complete makeover. When we were there (in 2004 probably) it was like a regular tar road and for certain fixed hours, traffic was not allowed. Really good to see this.

    I am hoping that you would talk about food in one of your next episodes.

    • Oh, I was not aware that MG Road was not same earlier. Normally things are getting from bad to worse in hill stations but this is quite reverse.

      Regarding food, I am sorry Nandan but I don’t think I have something to write about it. I am a vegetarian and there is not much for us in North-East . Apart from this, as being on a group tour we had our food mostly in hotel itself.

      On top of that being involved much in tour management, I hardly had time left to eat. :-)

  • Bidisha

    Hi Deependra, liked the aura and grandeur of Gangtok painted by you through this post. One more place urgently added to my wish list that has long been pending.

    Bidisha

    • Thanks Bidisha for liking the post. Gangtok is indeed a beautiful place to visit. It also has good excursions like Nathu-La and Tsongmo Lake.