Yuksom the first capital of Sikkim. The place where the three monks got together for the coronation of the first king, thus establishing the Namgyal Dynasty of Sikkim.
I last visited Yuksom some 20 years back when my dad bundled us kids in a jeep and drove us around West Sikkim. It was a great experience with singing, fighting and picnics. This time around, it was my cousins, and I. When we reached Yuksom, I felt like I had entered a time wrap, not a lot had changed, I could see some new hotels had mushroomed but the essence of the place was the same: greenery, pristine mountain air and friendly people.
Having reached Yuksom in the afternoon, we had our lunch and went on a walk to Dubdi Monastry, the oldest monastery in Sikkim. The uphill climb was difficult, making me realize how unfit I had become. The actual monastery was under renovation by the Archeological Survey of India, and we had to climb over the fence as the gates were locked, but it was a fun, the hike left us tired but energised. I know it sounds contradictory but that is what clean mountain air does.
The evening was spent cooking and drinking chang a local alcoholic drink made of fermented millet. It is very tasty and gives you a good buzz, though I have been told it is quiet fattening. Since I was on a holiday, I am allowed to indulge a bit.
Next day we explored the areas in and around Yuksom. Norbugang: the coronation throne made me realize how at par with nature we were. Other places have golden thorns but we have a very humble stone throne to mark the coronation of the first king of Sikkim.
The 3 monks who were responsible for the coronation each have a monastery at Yuksom, it’s easy walking distance and makes you invigorated. The ruins of the first palace at gufa dara has just a chorten (stupa) to mark the place, though the view from the hill top is magnificient.
The biggest challenge of the trip came while walking downhill to Phamrong falls. It’s 5 km downhill from Yuksom and the path was treacherous, slippery and narrow. There was always a fear of tumbling down the hill. However, we had gone looking for adventure and got a bagful of it. The only thing that worried me was the ever-present leech, those crawling slimy creatures that suck your blood. That is one of the hazards of travel during the monsoon, so you grin and bear it and use the time-tested solution of carrying salt with you. Phamrong falls is beautiful; the volume of water flowing is amazing. Generally speaking, people are not advised to travel to Sikkim during monsoon, but I believe this is one of the season when Sikkim is at its most beautiful. There is greenery everywhere, the rains (though fun when it drizzles but not when it pours), mist and you have every waterfall overflowing. It is a truly beautiful sight.
Having reached Phamrong we were contemplating how to get back, as it was already late and a 5km uphill trek didn’t sound so good, when a friendly traveller gave us a lift till Yuksom Bazar. The day ended with a pizza and beer from Gupta hotel, and the pizza is really good better than what we get in Gangtok.
Next day we were back on our way to Gangtok, energised by our weekend getaway.
How to get to Yuksom : Daily taxi service from Gangtok one in the morning at 7:00 am and one in the afternoon at 1:00 pm. Its shared taxi costing Rs 250 per head. People looking for more luxurious travel can hire a car from one of the travel agents in Gangtok. Look for a good solid vehicle and not a small car as the road is very rough and you can get stuck in a landslide during monsoon.
Where to stay : There are many hotels, but if you want to get the real feel of Sikkim, I would recommend a homestay. A good travel agent can book you into a nice place. Getting a place to stay during off-season (monsoon and winter ) is not a problem. But during peek season (spring and autumn) its better to do the booking in advance.
Important places : Yuksom is a tiny place with few monasteries and the coronation throne most of the sightseeing can be done in a day, so you can club the visit to Yuksom by including places like Pelling, Khechiperi Lake, Rabangla.
Yuksom is more popular with the trekkers as the trek to Dzongri ,Geochala and Kanchendzonga base camp starts from Yuksom.
Cloths to carry: It gets really cold during winter and early spring so don’t forget to carry a warm jacket. During monsoon rain jacket and an umbrella is necessary. Since visiting Yuksom is all about hiking or walking, make sure you have comfortable shoes.