Friday, October 25, 2013

North Sikkim Trip Report - Lachung, Yumthang Valley, and Zero Point (Yumesamdong)

This page is Part 3 in the series "North Sikkim Trip Report 2012". Please visit Part 1 - North Sikkim Trip Report 2012 - Gangtok to Lachen and Part 2 - North Sikkim Trip Report 2012 - Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake before reading this page. After visiting Gurudongmar Lake and having lunch at Hotel Lachen View Point, our Bolero started its journey towards Lachung at around 1.30 pm. I stopped the vehicle at a Lachen shop to buy a water bottle but immediately saw a "Plastic Water Bottles Banned in Lachen" poster. What??? The shop keeper told me no shop in Lachen would sell a water bottle. I got back into the Bolero. Water at Chungthang now. After a while on the road, we hit a road block. An army convoy was coming from the opposite direction. The narrow road did not have enough space for two vehicles to cross simultaneously. But the road block served a useful purpose as I spotted a shop selling water bottles and immediately bought two bottles. Some army men came down from their trucks and got the jam cleared quickly. The road clear and the weather clear, we were heading towards Lachung at full speed. At that rate, we would be in Lachung before 5.00 pm. Soon, I dozed off and woke up just before Chungthang. (Read more below)

Also Read: Travelling From Bagdogra To Gangtok (Link opens in new window)

Yumesamdong (Zero Point) North Sikkim

My driver wanted to get the front bumper of his Bolero welded at Chungthang, so he suggested that after having coffee at Hotel Pema Gartsel, I spend some time at  Guru Nanak Lama Gurudwara while he went to a workshop. It was a welcome suggestion. He dropped me at the Gurudwara where I spent about 15-20 minutes. The workshop was at a walking distance from the Gurudwara. When I reached there, the driver and his friend were waiting for me. There was no electricity, so the welding could not be done. The next leg of the journey to Lachung was uneventful. We reached before 5.00 pm. Lachung was my driver's home town, so he left quickly after dropping me at my hotel. He would be back at 7.00 am next morning.
Hotel Fortuna Lachung, North Sikkim (Read Review)


Hotel Fortuna, Lachung, North Sikkim

Hotel Fortuna is located after crossing Lachung village and at the beginning of the road to Yumthang. A little walk on this road brings one to Hotel Yarlam, the most comfortable and most expensive hotel in Lachung. As well as I know, this hotel is run by the same people who run Hotel Mayfair at Gangtok. May be I will stay at Yarlam some day. This time it was Fortuna which itself is not a bad hotel. the room had two queen size beds (I needed only one), carpeted floor, a dressing table, a coffee table & two chairs, a small TV, a clean bathroom with nothing broken, and a modern water heater. My room was on the ground floor. Meals were served in the dining room on the second floor. The hotel served hot and very tasty tea immediately on my arrival and promised another tea with a fried snack at 6.00 pm. I shared my hot tea with my driver's friend when he suggested a walk in the vicinity of the hotel. The weather was threatening to turn rainy any time. But my driver's friend was certain that it would not rain. He told me that Lachung village was too far to reach on foot. So we started towards Yarlam. There were a few coffee shops and small family run hotels around. My driver's friend stopped outside a coffee shop and suggested beer. We had just taken tea. But he wanted beer  immediately and went in. I followed him where we met not only the shop owner and her husband but also a hard working girl from a family that owned a hotel on the opposite side of the road. We all spent the next two hours in the coffee shop knowing each other, talking about life in Lachung, Yumthang, Zero Point, hotel and restaurant business in North Sikkim, tourists, food, and what not. I saw drivers of other tourist vehicles walk in for drinks and snacks and two old local ladies for rum (which they took away in small quarter bottles). Those were undoubtedly the best two hours of my 3 day trip to North Sikkim. Coffee shops in Lachung are a must visit to get a real glimpse of local life.

We retuned to the hotel where my tea and vegetable pakora were waiting. Dinner call came at 9.00 pm where I met several other tourists who would be going to Yumthang and Zero Point the next day. Dinner was served buffet style, and tasted OK. There was nothing much to do after dinner so I went back to the room, watched TV up to midnight, and finally went to sleep.      

Yumthang Valley and Yumesamdong


Food Stalls at Yumesamdong (Zero Point) North Sikkim

My driver and his friend came in the morning at 6.45. The driver suggested to head straight to zero point and spend time at Yumthang while returning from there. Yet I stopped at Yumthang to buy a water bottle. Many tourist groups, mostly accompanied by children do not visit Yumesamdong. For them, Yumthang is the final destination. The market at Yumthang had shops selling woollens, local souvenirs, travel essentials, etc. in addition to several coffee shops. The scene was that of a village fair. Great atmosphere and great weather. I resolved to spend a full day in Yumthang during my next visit to North Sikkim. But as decided by my driver, we quickly moved on and soon reached Yumesamdong, more popularly known as Zero Point. 

This was the place in North Sikkim where not only I could see snow, but actually touch it, walk on it. The weather was very, very cold. My driver told me that snowfall at Zero Point happens even in June. After getting down from the vehicle, we first headed to a tea shop. My packed breakfast (white bread, butter, and jam) was shared by the three of us. Hot coffee or some alcohol at such a height is a luxury. These coffee shops at Yumesamdong do not add glamour to the place but still are well appreciated by the visiting tourists. Food and drink prices here are almost double of what one pays in Lachung. These shops also rent gum boots for playing in the snow.

Pay Rs. 20 and Pass


Bridge on the river at Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

Someone has put up this little bridge over the river at Zero Point so tourists can easily cross over to the snowy side of the hill. The service was not free though. A guy at the bridge was collecting Rs. 20 per person from tourists for using the bridge. My driver told me that in the initial days they had even charged Rs. 50 per person but later reduced the price to a more reasonable Rs. 20.

     
Snow at Yumesamdong (Zero Point) North Sikkim

After renting gum boots and crossing the paid bridge, spending some time playing in the snow was great fun for tourists. Unlike Gurudongmar Lake, Zero Point is totally family friendly. Kids can have a great time here as long as parents watch over them and the kids are properly clothed. The snow was very slippery and one could easily fall down. I saw a young boy who was not even wearing socks was being dragged by his father towards the snow. Weather is so cold here that even adults feel inadequately dressed when they are wearing their best winter jackets. This was May 31, 2012. Travelling to Yumesamdong in April may not be suitable for children but for adults, it may offer their best chance to witness a snowfall. Wear thermals, both upper and lower, woollens and jackets before going to Yumesamdong. Many of these can be bought at Yumthang market.

Back to Yumthang Valley

Yumthang Valley, North Sikkim

Yumthang Valley is a real beauty. Vast green fields with herds of Yak grazing around, a tributary of river Teesta flowing through, all watched over by giant snow covered mountains on either side together present a stunning view. I would love to spend a full day there on a cold but sunny day. If one gets thirsty or hungry, dozens of coffee shops are nearby.


Yak at Yumthang Valley, North Sikkim

Be careful with the Yaks though. Getting too close to Yaks while taking pictures can be dangerous. I made the mistake and a threatened Yak immediately charged at me. Luckily I escaped unhurt. It would be safe to be at least 20 feet away. If you maintain a distance, Yaks too would mind their own business.

My mean driver had given me only 30 minutes for the valley, I finished my pictures and went to a coffee shop. Afterwards, I had to plead with my mean driver to take me to the hot water spring. He was saying we were already behind schedule. Finally he agreed. The way to the hot water spring is at a turn from the main road, barely 5 minutes ride from the Yumthang market. 

Hot Water Spring

Hot Water Spring, Yumthang, North Sikkim

My driver's friend accompanied me to the Hot Water spring. Its about a 5 minute walk/climb from the road after crossing a foot bridge on the river that passes through Yumthang Valley. Please take a look at the picture above. Believe it or not, this was it. The famous hot water spring. Closed for renovation. It was a hole getting water from a tap. Of course the water was warm, but where was it coming from. My guide took me to the backside of the structure.

And the source of Hot Water...

Hot Water Spring Source, Yumthang, North Sikkim

The source turned out to be as glamorous. May be I had come to the place at a wrong time. Or may be my  driver and his friend had cheated me and brought me to the wrong place. I would request my readers to help me out here.

The Hut that houses the Hot Water Pool


Hot Water Spring Hut, Yumthang, North Sikkim

Some renovation was going on at the hut in which the hot water pool was located. Having seen it, we quickly started back.

Back to Gangtok

We were back at the Lachung hotel for lunch at 1.00 pm. Lunch was not ready as no other tourist had returned to the hotel from Yumthang / Zero Point. My mean driver had unfairly rushed me back to the hotel. Lunch was served at 1.45 pm and took 20 minutes to finish. I changed in to lighter clothes, packed my bags and walked to the Bolero. I wished I had another few days to spend in North Sikkim. May be next time!

My driver's friend decided to stay back in Lachung. My driver and I started our trip back to Gangtok at 2.30 pm and reached my Gangtok hotel at 8.30 pm.




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Blog by: Narinder Singh