Pakyong – a serene alternative to Gangtok
Pakyong is a small town located at the foothills of the Himalayas in East Sikkim. The place is located in between Rangpo and Gangtok. It is about 28 km from the capital city of Gangtok. If you wish to avoid the tourist crowd in Gangtok, then Pakyong is a perfect option to stay. After the construction of Greenfield Airport on the approval of the Central government of Sikkim, Pakyong has gained its importance amongst the travellers visiting Sikkim.
Pakyong is situated at an altitude of 3650 feet, this smallest settlement in East Sikkim has a lot to offer to its visitors. The name Pakyong is derived from the Lepcha word meaning “bamboo of the bow”. Earlier it was a common practice of the Lepcha people to name a place after the essential items found at the place.
Sharing its borders with Bhutan and Tibet, Pakyong is surrounded by many picturesque mountain hamlets like Namcheypong, Raigoan, Pachey, Samsing, Dikling and others. Each of these small settlements boasts of soothing weather and stunning beauty. Agriculture plays an important part in the livelihood of the people here. The main agriculture produce is ginger and round chillies (dalle khursani), which they produce on a large scale. Along with ginger and round chillies, goondruk, Kinema, Sinki are popular fermented foods sold in the local market of Pakyong. The local market is also an interesting place here. Every Wednesday, the local market or the Wednesday Haat becomes a favourite place for the locals and the tourists as well. You can buy organic vegetables and try local Sikkimese delicacies at the Haat.
With such a bucolic weather and surreal natural beauty, Pakyong is truly a quintessential Himalayan hamlet. Take a walk along the village roads or hike along the numerous trekking trails, Pakyong is sure to make you feel close to nature. Dotted with the lush forest of pine and conifer trees and housing Greenfield airport, Pakyong has ensnared the heart of visitors who seek some communion with nature.
The greenfield airport
The Greenfield Airport in Pakyong is one of the most important places here. The airport built at an altitude of 4700 feet is the only public airport of Sikkim. The Pakyong airport in Sikkim is spread over 990 acres and is the first greenfield airport to be constructed by the Punj-Lloyd group in the north-east region of India. It also happens to be among the five highest airports in the country. The Pakyong airport raises hope among the people of Sikkim as direct air connectivity with rest of the country will boost tourism in Sikkim from other parts of the country.
National Orchid Research Centre
Because of its salubrious climate, Sikkim is the home to a number of orchids and flowering plants and trees. The National Research Centre for Orchids was established on 5th October 1996 to organize programmes on improvement in productivity, quality and commercialization of orchids. Nearly 525 species of orchids (making 40% of the total orchids found in India) are found in Sikkim alone. The National Orchid Centre has been successfully and commercially cultivating orchids as well as trying to cultivate improved varieties and hybrids of the orchids.
Changey Monastery or Gompa is located on a panoramic hilltop amidst the lush green valleys of Pakyong. The Changey monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa order to the Tibetan Buddhism. The old monastery is a beautiful place and an important centre for the locals to celebrate their religious functions. The annual festival of Chaam or Masked dance is celebrated with great enthusiasm and people from the neighbouring villages also participate in the celebrations. Because of its location, you can get a sweeping view of the surrounding hills and the vibrant valleys from the here.
Karthok Monastery is situated around 4 km from Pakyong. The monastery was established in 1840, the monastery belongs to the Kathokpa sub sect of Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. The original monastery structure was however destroyed and the present structure of the monastery was built during the reign of Chogyal Thutob Namgyal. It has now been renovated and retrofitted and now looks completely new. Karthok monastery is considered to be the sixth oldest monastery in Sikkim.
The local weekly market
One of the best things about rural India is the weekly local markets or Haats (as they are locally called). In these markets, you get fresh produces from the farms as well as any type of local delicacies. Pakyong has its own market place that takes place on weekdays known as Wednesday Bazar or ‘haat’. The Haats are usually a colorful affair with various things being bought and sold. Here you will find organic produce brought in by the locals. Not only vegetables, fruits and other food items, these markets are the platform to sell local handloom and handicrafts as well. And if that is not enough, at the local market, you will get delicious local cuisines that you might not get in the towns. So if you are on a visit to Pakyong, try to visit on a Wednesday, so that you do not miss the local market.
Culture and natural agricultural landscape
The majority of the population of Pakyong comprises of the Ethnic Nepalis who settled down here during British rule and continue to stay here. The Lepchas and Bhutias also form a considerable part of the population. Buddhists festivals like Losar, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are celebrated here with much grandeur. Agriculture happens to be the main source of income of the people. Ginger is cultivated here in large scale and so are the red hot chillies known as “Dalle Khorsani”.
Pakyong has a rich history and was the hub of mining of copper and minting of coins during the second half of the nineteenth century. The house of one of the minters also called Taksaris still exists in Pakyong Bazar. The living room of this house is almost 180 years old and has been converted into a museum to display artifacts of the bygone era.
Pakyong is surrounded by many picturesque hamlets. You can take long walks around the villages and explore the places. You can go for trekking to Jhandi Dara located at top most part of Pakyong. Jhandi Dara has an amazing viewpoint and you will be thrilled to see the views of adjacent valley and snow capped mountains. You can identify various landmarks like Zuluk, Jelepla and Nathula in the east and Rhenock and Rongli can be seen down the south. It is around three-hour journey by foot from Pakyong.
There are other hiking trails lined mostly with maple, magnolia and oak trees, green foliage and some flowering trees here and there. Take a walk along these trails and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Sikkim is a bird watchers’ paradise. The mountain villages here are abundant in Himalayan birds. Pakyong and its surrounding villages are no exception. Wake up early in the morning and you will be welcomes with the mellifluous sounds of birds. You will also be able to see them just near your homestay. Take a walk along the forest trails and birds will serenade an orchestra for you. Be patient and you will see some of the rare species of Himalayan birds here.
Terraced Paddy Fields
Paddy fields in the hills sound quiet weird. But, Pakyong is surrounded by many picturesque small villages and agriculture is an important source of income here. Paddy is grown and being in a mountainous region, the villagers practice terraced farming. When you will drive across the roads in this part. You will come across typical Sikkimese villages and many paddy fields. The paddy fields resemble a green carpet from July to September. The entire place looks like that a green carpet has been laid over steps. And later in October-November, the entire place is a sight to behold with golden paddy swaying in the breeze.