I stayed 3 days in Sikkim and 3 days in Darjeeling. In Sikkim I stayed at Gangtok and visited numerous monasteries. I was interested in collecting some Tibetan and Buddhist arts such as Thungka paintings, masks and copper statues. It turned out that despite the influence of Buddhism Gangtok had very little to offer in terms of arts where as the choice of food and drinks was much better than anywhere else in the country.
Darjeeling on the other hand was a very beautiful place but the food and drinks were pretty average. We also got to look at the Kanchangunja peak from the observatory hill.
Two things that stuck me was that both the places were spotlessly clean. The ban on plastic might have helped it, but also it has got something to do with the civil sense of the people there.
Secondly, exceptionally well dressed women and kids who on average looked much more beautiful than anywhere else in the country. Every school kid we saw was wearing a clean suite and well polished shoes. Girls were wearing short skirts with stockings.
Most products are reasonably priced and if you request politely they reduce the price by around 5%. Public transport is horrible. There is no concept of buses. There are only shared cabs (which are mostly Power Tracks or Tata Sumo or Bolero). They fill people like chicken into these and even the driver’s seat will have two people sitting on it. So if you want to travel short distance you better walk on your legs.
Among the must do things I will list the following
1. Try Thungpa a nepali herb soup
2. Eat chicken Momos.
3. Shopping on MG Road. (Visit Baker’s Cafe and try the various drinks they offer)
4. Institute of Tibetan Culture. This place is a home of ancient artefacts from Tibetan Buddhism and also has a library of manuscripts.
5. There are two monasteries out of which Rumtek Monastry is both older and a better place to visit.
You can safely skip the Gangtok Ropeway and please do not visit the cafe on the Ropeway tower. (Hotlinks is the name if I remember correctly).
1. The Chaurasta is like a Towns Square. No vehicles allowed here. It Is surrounded by many shops there.
2. The Observatory hill. You have to walk around 100 mtrs from Chaurasta to a place from where you can look at the himalayan range and snow clad peaks. You get to see around 12 peaks which are higher than 20k feet. (Kanchangunja is one of them). The best time is morning time otherwise they are always surrounded by mist.
3. Mhakal temple is a good temple but dont listen to the stories of the Pujari there. Avoid talking to them as they will use some of the finest marketing tricks to extract money from you. However the temple is managed by Ning Sring Lama who is a really good person.
4. Do visit the art and souvenir shops in and around Darjeeling if you are an art lover.
5. Darjeeling ropeway is good if you have never tried a ropeway before otherwise it is just too long and boring.
5. The Padmaja Naidu Zoom and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute are the best and must visit places in the town. The Zoo is home to some of the world’s rarest species such as the red Panda, Himalayan Wolves, Royal Bengal Tiger, Star Tortoise, Panthers, Leopards and a number of birds. HMI on other hand train amateur mountaineers as well as the pros. They have a museum that has a Telescope gifted by hitler to the Royal Army Chief of Nepal, clothes used by Tenzing Norgay to climb the Everest and so on.