A Coffee in Pelling

It was the first week of march this year when we were in Pelling for a day after our visit to Gangtok. Pelling is a town in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, at the foothills of Mount Khanchenjunga. It takes about half a day’s travel by road from Gangtok to Pelling. We stayed at the Lamthang resort which, we were told would give us a panoramic view of the Khanchenjunga range and I couldn’t wait to see it.

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Khecheopalri lake, Pelling 

Our road trip began the next day with the Khecheopalri lake. Legend has it that the ground was once a grazing ground and not a lake, covered with stinging nettle and a Lepcha couple saw a pair of conchshells entering the ground by themselves, which violently shook the ground underneath and water sprang up to form a lake. Native Buddhists believe that the shape of the lake is the footprint blessing of Goddess Tara. It is thus a holy lake and is engulfed with prayer flags all around.

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Katok pokhri lake, Yuksom 

Our next stop was in Yuksom (40kms away from Pelling) to the coronation throne of the first chogyal of Sikkim. A few inconspicuous stoned platform marks the site. There is a picturesque pond called ‘katok pokhri’ opposite the throne, where holy water was known to have been used for the coronation. A long series of prayer flags are hoisted along the opposite shoreline of the pond creating a pensive reflection. The pond is full of golden fish, hundreds in number and when you look up it’s the vastness of the mountains that you see.

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Pemyangtse monastery, Pelling

We hurried with our lunch to not miss one of the oldest monasteries, the Pemyangtse monastery, which dates back to 1647. The distinct architecture is still palpable despite the several restorations following damage by earthquakes. Buddhist paintings, idols and scriptures are spread across two floors in the main shrine. It houses more than 300 monks as of today.

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Rhododendron, state tree of Sikkim 

A tourist’s day ends early in the evening in the mountains, the flipside being, you can cogitate amidst one of the most astonishing ambience. A cozy gazebo is where we spent our evening right outside our cottage overlooking the beginning of the enormous mountains that appeared to have no end. “Kanchenjunga peak would’ve been visible from here if not for the fog” is what the waiter told us as he served us a tea pot. The fog was adamant in blocking our view of something we could only apprehend if we witnessed it for ourselves. A rhododendron tree stood beside us, a constant reminder of where this part of earth belongs to.

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View of Mount Kanchenjunga, Pelling  

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We retired after our only day in Pelling but decided to wake up at dawn hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Against all odds, waking at 4.30am became a reality but only to keep us waiting in the dark for more than two hours. It was around 7am that we could gradually see the fog clear out and then came the majestic visible acclivity with the sun glaring hard at it, leading to a chatoyant luminosity. The clouds further gave way finally giving up the complacent act they had going for 2 days. The coffee we had that morning at the foothill of mount Kanchenjunga, was one of the best in my life.

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