On my many travels over the years, few have given me the sense of peace so profound as my time in Rinchenpong has. Also known as the Silent Valley, in west Sikkim, it is a haven for the tired and the heavy-hearted, the ones looking for a break in the true sense of the word. This little town is perfect for a detox vacation. With the hopes that you will soon visit it, let me take you on a two-day virtual journey through this quaint little town.
Farms And Folklore
It is difficult to pick favourites when every experience is so unique. But, if I simply had to pick, well, it would probably be the walks that also include visiting the locals of Richenpong. On this particular hike, I was first greeted by the dense foliage of the forest, and I crossed it to reach small settlements of the locals, who had made terrace farms on the hills. They grow turmeric, black cardamon, maize, and fruits such as kiwi and oranges, and the farming is all organic.
As I walked further, towards and through the Silent Valley, I noticed that the Lepcha houses are built in a unique manner. Their foundation includes a stilt-like structure sturdily holding up the colourfully painted house. An integral part of the beauty of Richenpong is the rich variety of birds. I spotted the mynah, nutcracker, and babbler, go about their business of nest-building, and feeding.
After a day of walking, who would not work up a big appetite? My hunger was satiated by the culinary skills of the Bhutia family, on their 44-acre Yangsum Heritage Farm, where I was offered a homestay. Tashi Thendub Bhutia and his wife Pema, are excellent hosts. The food is mostly vegetarian, comes from their own organic garden. I sat with them, listened to their stories of local folklore, laughed and ate with them, and shared my experiences. It was almost as if we had known each other forever.
Mountains, Mist, And Monasteries
The next morning, I woke up to the most incredible view of the Khangchendzonga mountain range. It was as if the snow-covered ranges had been painted in flame-red. A perfect beginning to a day of visits to the monasteries. First, I reached the Resung Monastery, and then walked on to the Gurumg Monastery, also known as the Rinchen Choling Tamu Monastery. Lastly, on my list was the Rinchenpong Monastery. Established in 1730, it currently offers boarding facility to 150 students. As I reached the holy house of peace, I noticed that it was shrouded in mist. This weather condition, although unpredictable and aggressive, also adds to the charm of Richenpong. It is as if it is trying to keep this region under wraps, to protect it from over-exposure to the rest of the world.
At the end of the second day, I spent the evening with a local family, who offer a comfortable homestay, along with a healthy, homecooked meal. As soon as I reach home, I was struck with the wanderlust to return to trek through Richenpong, where I can find myself, hidden away in a heaven on earth.
Best season to visit: Richenpong is an all-year destination.
How to get there:
By railway: The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. It takes about a five-hour drive to cover the 124 km to Rinchenpong.
By air: The closest airport is in Bagdogra, and from there to Rinchenpong, the distance is 127 km, and it is approximately a five-hour journey.
By road: From NJP, and Bagdogra airport, taxis are available to reach Richenpong. Stay overnight at Pelling, and then proceed to Rinchenpong the next day. The distance is about 34 km.
Where to stay: Yangsum Heritage Farm; Ghonday Village Resort; Green Hill Resort; and Biksthang Heritage Farm.
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