General Observations on Sikkim pertains to the second smallest state in India. It has dramatic Himalayan landscapes. This includes India’s tallest mountain, Kangchenjunga (8,586 metres). Sikkim is home to alpine meadows, glaciers and numerous types of wild flowers. There are hilltop Buddhist monasteries such as Rumtek which is dateable to the mid 1700s.
People and Languages
Nepali is the language used by the majority of people in Sikkim. Most of them are able to speak Hindi too. You can survive with English in hotels, tourist areas and restaurants. It does help if you can speak a few words of Hindi.
Credit and debit cards are accepted in some hotels and restaurants. When you are travelling outside the towns, cash is the only medium of transaction. The population of ATMs is low. So visitors have to keep a reasonable amount of cash with them in their travels within Sikkim.
Sikkim is a hilly region. Roads have ups and downs. There are no autorickshaws in the place. Buses are also hard to find. The main mode of transport is cars. Small taxis are everywhere. Parking space is scarce in towns like Gangtok because buildings stand on the edges of roads.
Roads in Sikkim tend to be narrow. Two cars can barely pass each other. I found road widening work in progress in some areas. Still certain stretches of roads are in poor condition. Landslides can be a problem, particularly during the rainy season.
In the border areas, big army trucks and convoys are a common sight. Because of the narrow roads, traffic slows to a crawl at times.
Inter-city transport can be costly since one has to depend almost entirely on cars. There are no trains in the state. The nearest railway station (New Jalpaiguri) is in Siliguri, Bengal . It is 120 km (3 hours 45 minutes) from Gangtok. Nearest airport is Bagdogra which is also in Siliguri. Pakyong Airport in Sikkim is not fully operational yet.
Restaurants can be found only in cities and towns. In the city centre of Gangtok is MG Road which has several restaurants and bars. There are a number of restaurants and bars on this road. Some of the well- known ones include Baker’s Cafe, Roll House, Parivar, Pub 25 and Rasoi.
While travelling between towns, the food fare is usually restricted to momos and noodles. These are available in small food stalls. It may therefore be advisable to carry packed lunches when you leave your hotel.
Shopping – General Observations on Sikkim
Souvenirs that you can can be pick up in Sikkim include Thangka paintings, prayer wheels, traditional dresses, classic jewellery, yak cheese and Sikkim tea.
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