Rinchenpong is a small beautiful hill station in West Sikkim, surrounded by enchanting natural beauties, and offering majestic view of the snow capped Kanchenjaungha range of Himalaya on clear days. The calm and quiet settlement, located at an altitude of 5576ft, is physically very close to the Kanchenjunga range. Kaluk & Rinchenpong are twin Himalayan villages at a distance of 3km apart and located on the same mountain ridge, are the recent additions in the tourist map of West Sikkim. Apart from the small market places and few houses, there are presently 12-15 hotels & resorts for tourists in the Kaluk & Rinchenpong area. Hidden behind the glory of more popular hill station of Pelling, Rinchenpong is a jewel of Sikkim, less crowded than Pelling, but very refreshing for holidayers. This place has a bit of history too. There is an 18th century Buddhist Monastery there. Near the settlement is the site of a historical battle between the forces of the then Chogyal (King) of Sikkim and the invading British forces. Also Rabindranath Tagore once visited and stayed at Rinchenpong.
It was time for Christmas holidays. We had our train tickets booked 4 months in advance upto New Jalpaiguri - the gateway for Eastern Himalaya. But we finalized our plans for Rinchenpong at the 11th hour. Searched the Internet and booked room at a hotel over phone. On arriving at New Jalpaiguri Station by train from Sealdah, we were received by the Sikkimese driver of the Car sent from the Hotel. We took the road journey of 120km by car for Rinchenpong. Going along the river Tista, we entered Sikkim at Melli, then reached Jorthang via bumpy roads. Recent road condition in West Sikkim is not so good, due to ongoing work of building wide National Highway to the last village of Uttarey on India-Nepal border. From Jorthang we travelled another 40km to reach first to Kaluk and then to Rinchenpong in the evening.
We put up at Hotel Rinchenpong Nest, which is now run by a Sikkimese family, and almost like a Homestay with very homely environment. We were allotted a 2nd floor corner room, adjacent to dining hall. It was probably the best room with view on two sides through windows. From balcony we could see the lights of many villages and towns of west Sikkim. It was very chilly evening. At dinner we were served tasty, homely foods, cooked by the family members.
On first morning we could get a glimpse of few snow capped peaks of Kanchenjaungha range from our room and balcony, through bit of clouds. We were excited as ever to see Kanchenjaungha, although we were yet to get the best view next day, on which I am coming in later part. The towns of Geyzing and Pelling, located on the mountain ridge just in front of us, are clearly seen from Rinchenpong. The room we stayed, was a fantastic one with great view on two sides. Just beside our room there was a beautiful Buddhist Monastery. After breakfast we decided to see Rinchenpong on foot. We first visited the ‘Rinchenpong Cholling Monastery’, which is just beside our hotel and seen from our room. The newly built monastery is very gorgeous with nice Tibetan sculptures and surrounded by colourful prayer flags. Next we went uphill on just 2 minutes walk and reached ‘Rabindra Smriti Van’, which was inaugurated in the memory of Rabindranath Tagore. In the morning light, we found Rinchenpong a fantastic, dreamy hamlet, with few nice looking buildings, Buddhist architectures, amid greenery of Pines, oaks etc., dotted with various flowers and colourful prayer flags fluttering in gentle cold breeze all over, and snow capped Kanchenjaungha peaks looming on one side. From the small market place, a walk of 20 minutes, along a stiff serpentine road took us to ‘Rinchenpong Monastery’, located on top. The monastery was built in 1730 and is said to be Sikkim's 3rd oldest Monastery. On coming down the hill we came across, a field, which was once a lake, named ‘Poison Lake’. The Lepcha tribesmen used a concoction of unidentified herbs to poison the only water source, a lake (local term : Pokhri). As a result, more than half of the British forces were wiped out which stopped the British invasion and resulted in an accord.
After lunch we went on a Sight Seeing trip in the hired car of Kumar Daju. Crossing the settlement of Kaluk and then the small settlements of Hee & Bermiok, we visited Hee Water Garden, which is a nice little park, beside a stream and surrounded by mountains. Then we reached Dentam valley. In the small town of Dentam, there is a famous Cheese Factory, run in collaboration with Amul. We purchased few samples of Gouda Cheese, which is sold outside Sikkim in the brand of Amul at double the price here. From Dentam only 6km away is the famous ‘Singshore Bridge’, which is Asia's 2nd Highest Bridge, with a stream flowing more than 100m below the bridge in deep gorge. Walking on the 240m long suspension Bridge and having downward view into the deep gorge below, is simply breathtaking, but can get head reeling, if one has vertigo. It is said that if a Stone is dropped from the bridge, it takes around 15 seconds to touch the earth below. We also enjoyed the overwhelming view of few water falls and the green mountain slopes from the bridge. Then travelling another 7km by car we reached the beautiful village of Uttarey, located in a nice valley surrounded by mountains and dotted with pines. Uttarey is the last village on India-Nepal border. A 3 hours' trek leads one to Nepal from Uttarey. It was late winter afternoon, and it was severely cold in the valley of Uttarey, with strong chilly winds. There are only 4-5 lodges for tourists and trekkers here presently. We spent some time roaming around this beautiful village, had an afternoon snack with hot Maggie and Tea, and then took the return journey to Rinchenpong in evening.
The real highlight of our Tour was awaiting next morning, when we were stunned by the awesome view of the snowcapped Majestic Kanchenjaungha range from our hotel room. It was Christmas day morning and the nature offered us a really great Christmas gift. The cloud cover was removed completely and the entire range, including the peaks of Kanchenjaungha, Kabru, Pandim, was open in front of our eyes, very clear and large, looming above the mountain ridge. It was sublime beauty. The areal distance of Kanchenjaungha from this place is only 51km. We were mesmerized by probably one of the most beautiful views on the earth. Hours passed simply looking at Kanchenjaungha peaks, sitting on the balcony and capturing photos.
Now, it’s time to return from the heaven to the real world. On return journey to Jorthang, we visited a nice farm house – named Azing's Farm House, located on a mountain slope, downhill from the main road, and surrounded by mountains. We were excited to see Oranges on the orange orchards there. Apart from oranges, we found Pineapples, Passion fruits etc. in the farm house. The farm house also has a production unit of fruit wines and pickles.
The short Trip to Rinchenpong in west Sikkim left long lasting memories, for the natural wonders and especially for the spectacular view of Majestic Kanchenjaungha, which is hard to forget in life ever.
- Subhrangsu Dasgupta ([email protected])