Culture

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Walking Around New Market Gangtok

Gangtok, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India, 11 June 2018, 1800 hours:

My first impression of Gangtok: it has very courteous local people. Courteous in a formal manner, they are quick to smile when one engages in conversation.

My second impression of Gangtok: the people provide accurate information and honest opinion of wares in the local market and fares in the local restaurant.

Gangtok isn’t anything like the other Himalayan cities in India (Shimla, Manali for instance). It has a strong character and a feel of its own. The vegetation is varied and different and yet with features it has in common with Himachal and Uttarakhand. The landscape is stunning, mist and cloud-covered mountains make for serene dawns and dusks.

The climate is very mild and pleasant, which is not something I was expecting. The town is at an altitude of 5,410 feet (1,650 metres) above sea-level, and has humid conditions which means one need not worry too much about carrying woollens or thermals in the summer/monsoon months.

The first thing we did after breakfast on Day 2, was to take a walk to the New Market area on MG Road. And while there’s a lot of traffic congestion in Gangtok, they handle it a little differently around the MG Road: one side of the road is paved and meant only for walking; while the other side of the road is for vehicular traffic. And there is a whole section of MG Road that is completely closed for traffic, making it a paradise for tourists and locals alike, with children running, jumping and jostling fearlessly.

The MG Road is a combination of old and new, with shops and restaurants and travel agencies all around. Reminded me of the paved pedestrian markets (Centro) in Macau.

It is a pleasant way to get used to the feel of the city … and it has some good food places to try.

Heads up: Gangtok roads and paths are mostly on a significant incline … great for leg muscles.

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