Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beautiful Sikkim

We have now arrived in Gangtok , capital of Sikkim, an independent state of India. The foothills of the Himalayas surround us and Mount Kangungjonga is visible from here. We drove here from Darjeeling, very sad to leave that magical place. But the drive here was over mountains and valleys, following  a river in the gorge that divides Sikkim from Darjeeling.
We are about 1 days drive from China in this state which is bordered by China in the north and the east and Nepal in the west. Sikkim  was originally a kingdom ruled by the Choycal(king) of Sikkim. He made a deal with the English(East India Company) who had controlled this entire area at one time. They brought the tea here and deforested the area  as they developed the huge tea plantations. In order to regain their independence, the king of Sikkim agreed to lease the Darjeeling area (which had been part of Sikkim) to the English in exchange for regaining their kingdom. Needless to say this was not a good deal as eventually the English gained complete control and never paid their rent! (Maudits Anglais says Pierre)
Sikkim is a state that is booming economically. India is investing large amounts of money to keep the Sikkim government and people happy as the state occupies  a strategic place in the disputed territory with China. The border with China is heavily protected by the Indian army.
The state of Sikkim was hit by a huge earth quake 6 weeks ago and there are landslides still happening. Parts of the road we drove over was closed for a while but has been cleared since. As I write this blog there is a little boy eager to do his homework for tomorrow and has pictures on this computer about the earthquake in Turkey that he absolutely needs to print. So in between words I am being interrupted to let him get his information! There is always lots of action at the local internet cafe.
In Sikkim new roads are being built, many new buildings are popping up and it is very evident that the people here are more prosperous than elsewhere in India. The state is a mecca for trekkers and other adventure seekers who are eager to experience what is perhaps India's last Shangrila (Lonely Planet).
We have visited fantastic Buddhist temples and gained a better understanding of this religion. We have been blessed by monks, and turned many prayer wheels saying the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" .

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