HoweverSillery Gaon was on my list today before heading towards Kalimpong. Yes, it’s the last day in Darjeeling, and luckily, the weather is clear & bright. A newly radiant sun steps forth behind the clouds, wrapping us in her warm and brilliant rays. I got up at 7 am, had a quick bath and a hearty breakfast before checking out the hotel. Another location I wished to cover was Icchey Gaon (also spelt as Echey Gaon), one of the newest destinations in Eastern Himalayas, North Bengal. Not sure I could, but I still kept it on my bucket list.
As we hit the road, I looked at the sky; it was one of those baby-blue skies, not the psychedelic candy-blue nor the washed-out grey after rains. The clouds were as puffs of radiant joy, ready to disperse into the wind. As I watched them eddy, pure reflected rays dappled and swirling in the sky. Also, the cool breeze was dancing on my skin as the car sped up.
It was a 3hrs(71.4km) drive from Darjeeling, & being Holi, the festival of colours, I saw many colours smacked faces along the way.
Talking about Sillery gaon, it is a pristine destination, overlooking the green valley with a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga, stuck within the deep forest of Pine, Oak & Rhododendron. The virgin beauty of this almost unexplored tiny hamlet will fill your heart with bliss. The silence of a forest, the chirping of birds, pleasant cool breeze make this place a mysterious and romantic one.
Nestled at the height of 6000 ft and 8 km from Pedong, this village is lovingly called the New Darjeeling. The roads were empty, one because of COVID restriction & another Holi. The roads condition have improved from earlier, as the drive was smooth. And the weather also started to play; clouds began to hover around us. By the time we reached Sillery gaon, it was 11 am. The scenic beauty is undoubtedly appealing to the eyes, along with the sound of the wilderness. The serene ambience and the fragrance of the nature of this small village is a perfect getaway for nature lovers.
There was a small tea stall which sold maggie, tea, cold drink & other basic amenities. I could see the magnificent views of Mt. Kanchenjunga along with other peaks like Jumulhari and Fish Tail.
I decided to talk a walk in the village; amazingly, each house has a flower garden in its front. There is neither electricity nor a market in Sillery Gaon. “Sillery” derives its name from a plant that grows in abundance in the region. I spoke to the local villagers had a most rewarding experience among cheerful people. The location of the village is also fascinating. If one stands facing north, beneath the sloping village is the Rishi river – the other side of Sikkim. To the left is Nepal and beyond the Skim mountains in Tibet.
I walked back to the stall, sat down on the wooden bench to soak in the pure beauty of nature. And ordered a cup of tea and a maggie for myself. I met a local at the stall who agreed to be our guide & take us to three main points around Sillery Gaon.
We started with Raimtey Viewpoint, a 3km drive from Sillery gaon or a 1.5Km trek. I, my mom and my aunts trekked to the viewpoint. It is undoubtedly one of the most vantage locations in this region to view the Kanchendzonga above and the Teesta River below. Upon reaching the place, I just sat on a rock gaping to the most extended viewpoint of river Teesta, close to 14 turns at a glance.
Ramitey View Point also offer the view of rivers Teesta and Reshi conflux. With the bliss of the serene beauty of the place, my heartfelt calm. On a clear day, Teesta Bazar to Majhitar region is visible from here. Lord has to create majestic natural beauty, where one can just be lost. Spending some time at the point, we walked back to our car.
We took direction from the tea stall vendor and drove towards Pedong, and a 30 mins drive from Sillery Gaon and the oldest towns in the historic Silk Route. We had to visit the Damsang Fort; hence we reached the Pedong bus stand & asked for direction.
It is 7km from the bus stand & It is the only fort in the entire Darjeeling district. Built in 1690 by Lepchas Damsung fort, also known as Damsang Gudi, it is a historical fort. We arrived at the ruins of the fort, from where the last Lepcha king Gyabo Achyok used to run his kingdom. This fort was constructed to defend against attacks from the Bhutanese. However, the fortress has witnessed a long ethnic war in the 17th century between Lepchas and Bhutias. Following the Anglo-Bhutan war in 1864, the fort was taken over by the British. I could only witness the ruins of a horse stable the queen used to the bathing room. I clicked few pictures & drove towards the Silent valley.
From Damsang fort at a distance of 2 km stands a vast green meadow called the Silent valley. Surrounded by tall pine trees is a large green pasture; I stood in the middle enjoying the quietness of the woods, disturbed only by the chirping of birds. We took a walk around the area to feel the tranquillity. However, the place is perfect for picnic & camping. The site is a revelation with a green lake named Siyal Pokhari with greenery throughout the monsoon.
Tinchuley View Point, which is around a 1km trek from Silent valley. Through the thick wood, the forest reaches this pictorial spot. Any hill top where three ridges meet tends to be referred to as Tinchuley by the locals. The trekking is a stiff uphill hike for about 30 minutes. It is adventurous and made us run of breath. But worth it! Upon reaching, I just got off rock & sat down to catch up my breath.
It is the vantage point I witnessed the panoramic view vista of snow-clad Mt.Kanchenjunga along with Jeep La and Nathu. It also offers lovely views of Kashyem village, thickly wooded forests, and terraced fields brimming with green paddy. With the floating clouds beneath & the Himalayas at the backdrop, it looked like a canvas sketch. The funny part is you have a tea stall at the far end corner of the Himalayas. I sipped my tea, enjoying the pristine scenic view of the place.
Since I was running out of time, I skipped Hanuman top and Cross Hill. But suggest you visit these places because of the enchanting view it offers.
It was 3 pm we had to rush back; I checked with my driver to halt for 15-20 min at Iccha gaon since it’s on the way. He agreed upon, and we drove back towards the bus stand. Just 2km ahead of the bus stand is Sangchen Dorjee Monastery. It is a Bhutanese monastery that is popularly known as Pedong Monastery. During the Bhutanese rule around the early 1700 AD, the Monastery was built. I took a brief halt to take few pictures, as the architecture is astonishing with fresco paintings that depict Tantric Buddhism.
The Monastery’s look, feel, and construction was very different from the other monasteries I visited. However, the major attraction as per the local is the mummified body of the last Shabdrung Rinpoche, the most revered Bhutanese priest. This Monastery even provides an insight into the history and culture of Pedong. The valuables of Damsang Fort are placed in this Monastery after the fort was destroyed in 1864. The Drukpa Khargu tradition of Buddhism and other Bhutanese consider Sangchen Dorjee Monastery as an important pilgrimage site. The Cham dance or the Mask Dance is held here every year in the month of April-May. Quite Interesting!
Without wasting any further time, we drove towards Kalimpong.
It took us around 30 minutes to drive to Icchey Gaon. A small picturesque hamlet amidst the woodlands of Pine, Birch and Juniper trees. A few eco-friendly homestays are providing basic amenities. But the hospitality and warmth of these villagers left me spellbound. A local boy took me around the village; the serenity and calmness just amazed me. I walked down to the main road towards the parked car; it was already 4.30 pm, and we were late reaching our homestay in Kalimpong.
These villages lie in the lap of lush green pine forest, far from the hustle and bustle of congested city life, the best place to rejenuviate. And the pristine serenity is not only thrilling but romantic too, that would refresh us from all stress and anxiety. On the way to our homestay, we stopped at the Lover’s point to take few pictures of the Teesta river surrounded by the green valley. However, without any halt drove to our homestay named Alaknanda in Kalimpong.
The dinner was ordered prior, hence after freshening up, I had an early dinner & hit the bed. The excursion was enthralling; it reminded me that Mother nature has the power to please, comfort, call and nurture one’s soul.
How to Reach.
The nearest airport is Bagdogra, approximately 76 km away from the Kalimpong. At the airport, hire taxis to reach the city.
The New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station to Kalimpong. New Jalpaiguri connects the city in India. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach Kurseong.
Kalimpong is well-connected via road with Kolkata city & other closeby cities such as Gangtok and Kurseong, Darjeeling. Buses, private cabs, shared taxis ply to Kurseong from these places. Moreover, you can also take a private cab or a shared taxi.