OLD SILK ROUTE – LINGTUM – PADAMCHEN – ZULUK (A COMPLETE OVERVIEW)

LINGTUM:

Lingtum is a small village on the Indo – Tibet business route. A small hamlet located on the hilly terrain of the famous Silk Route of East Sikkim. This place is mainly known for its check-post from where cars are available for Silk Route trip. There are several houses made of wood where blossoming orchid flowers are glorifying the beauty of the place and there is an Old Gumpha, the tomb of which shines during the daylight. At Lingtum you will get to see cultivation of Rai Leaf and Corn are carried out on these hilly slopes and the Buddhists prayer flags that continuously moving with the wind and a canopy of village life of this place is a must watch during your stay at this hamlet. Lingtum is at an altitude of about 4000 ft. and is a very well decorated and organized village. Once in the past Lingtum was operated as a main connector with Silk Route. As this place was a connecting circuit with one the main business route of India and Tibet, from there the name originated Lingtum. Now it is transit point of travelers favorite Silk Route. Tourists can get into Lingtum or Silk Route only after getting the proper permit and checking from Rongli check-post. Lingtum is a peaceful village with nearly 50 families those who lives here and their main source of livelihood is agriculture and tourism. There are few shops from where the requirements of the products of daily life are fulfilled. At Lingtum you will get to see dry corn hangs from roof of each house. There is a water fall which is about 5 kilometers from the village named “Kiukhola Falls”, and just near the falls one will get to see numerous Himalayan birds. Lingtum is ideal gateway for those who loves to stay near to nature and are very keen on seeking an in-depth knowledge about our mother nature.  Here you will find thousands of unknown natural treasures that inhabit the place. At Lingtum one can spend the whole day searching for unknown species of birds and colourful butterflies. While entering Lingtum, the village seems like a half – moon shaped, this is because through Lingtum the road to Silk Route has crossed away. After crossing the Lingtum check-post just at the left hand side through a narrow lane which has directly meets up at “Upasana Mandir Area” also known as the “Lingtum Gumpha”. This is an old Gumpha, there is a place of Lord Buddha inside the Gumpha. There are many houses surrounding this Gumpha, from there just a little further is the “Naya Gumpha” or the New Gumpha” this area is full of greenness on all sides, there is a big lawn in this New Gumpha and a huge prayer flag just at the centre of the lawn along with numerous small flags that hangs here. This Gumpha is the center of life in this village, everybody visit this place to dedicate their prayers. Here you will get to see cultivation of Elaichi. From Lingtum if you start in the early morning, you can visit to the nearest Zuluk, Lungthung, Gnathang and Kupup and among all this the main attraction is the Old Silk Route.

How to Reach: From Siliguri by road (car route) via Rongpo and Rongli at about 121 Kilometer is Lingtum. From Lingtum, Zuluk is about 23 Kilometer, Tulka Valleys Baba Mandir is about 53 kilometer, and Changu Lake is about 79 kilometer.

PADAMCHEN:

A small hamlet in the eastern part of Sikkim Silk Route. Just between Zuluk and Lingtum is a small village of lush greenness on all sides is Padamchen. If your heart calls for a trip to the mountains of absolute greenness, and if bird watching and gathering the unknown information about these unknown species of Himalayan and migratory birds is your hobby, then Padamchen could be an ideal gateway for you.  From Padamchen the view of Mt. Kanchenjunga is also very clearly visible. Padamchen is at a height of about 7500 ft. But before getting into this area the permit from Rongli is must, No matter how far you visit at Sikkim Silk Route, an inner-line permit is must. The permit is issued from Rongli S.D.P.O office, from Rongli at a distance of about 9 kilometer is Lingtum, after that is the Kiukhola Falls and after that is Padamchen Village. This hamlet of lush greenery is the habitat of numerous species of Himalayan birds. At Padamchen one will get to see species like Laughing Thrush, Fullvetta, Honey Bazard, Stepy Eagle, Babbler, Tit, and Rain along with many other species. Each and every species varies in colour, shape and their natural behavior.  At the very opposite end in the sanctuary is the common habitat of Black Bear, Red Panda and Leopard. The name of the sanctuary is “Panglakha Wildlife Sanctuary”.  At Padamchen both Nepali as well as common Indian foods are available. From main Zuluk at a distance of 8 kilometer to the lower side is the lower Zuluk. From Zuluk, Bhutan is also visible. From Padamchen on a day trip in the early morning visit to the nearest points like Silk Route, Zuluk, Lakshmi Chowk, Lungthung, Thambi View Point, Gnathang Valley and Tukladara, Old Baba Mandir, New Baba Mandir, Kupup are easily available. And on the next day visit to Rorathang Doban. “Doban is a Nepali language which means adjoining point or meeting point of two rivers. At Rorathang the meeting point of two rivers namely Rishi and Rongli has adjoined and flows towards Rongpo. An ideal place for bird watchers. From Aritar, Rorathang is about 20 kilometers, From Pedong about 35 kilometers, from Sillerygaon about 42 kilometers, from Zuluk at about 50 kilometers, from Gangtok about 55 kilometers, from Kalimpong about 65 kilometers and from Siliguri about 95m kilometer.

How to Reach: From New Jalpaiguri railway station Padamchen is about 132 kilometer. From NJP at a distance of about 80 kilometer is Rongpo, from there at about 29 kilometer is Rehnok, from Rehnok at about 16 kilometer is Rongli and from Rongli via Lingtum at a distance of about 14 kilometer is Padamchen.

ZULUK:

Zuluk is small hamlet in the eastern part of Sikkim, India. At Zuluk you will get to see the famous Old Silk route, which is wrapped like a jacket on this village. From Pedong to Rhenock jeeps stand by cars that go towards Rongli. Rongli is the business hub of that area. From Rongli jeep stand, permits are available to enter Sikkim. Rongli is at an altitude of about 400 ft above sea level. While entering East Sikkim a night halt at Aritar is must. At Aritar there are several homestays and hotels available for the accommodation of the tourists. From Aritar a route has gone to the upward section of the hamlet, this region is known as Mankhim. Mankhim is an ideal spot for sunrise along with the view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Those who are nature lovers and keen on searching for a place where one get lost within the hilly terrains and the joy of looking for some of the unknown species of Himalayan birds, loves to see the colourful butterflies and the cute smile of the local children, then Mankhim is an ideal option. Both at Aritar and at Mankhim accommodations are available. From here local sightseeing includes Aritar Gumpha (Monastry), Love –Dara Viewpoint, Aritar Dak Bungalow and the important of all, is the Aritar Lake (locally known as Lampokhri). The lake is guarded by the unending greenness of Oak, Fir and Pine from all sides. From here to the upward section there is a temple of Kirat Rai. On the way to Zuluk, a few hours halt at Rongli is must; from Rongli S.D.P.O office the permits are issued. Rongli is a bit crowded. From Rongli the river Ronglikhola is seen very clearly. At Rongli one will get to see the Militaries, who are busy with their daily duty on the other side of the check post. As Rongli is a market area therefore constant buying and selling of varieties of goods are done here. Goods are both Indian and foreign. From Rongli there is a straight road, which was once used as a route for the businessmen and merchants; this road is the remains of the Old Silk Route. Chinese, Tibetan and Indian merchants used to travel through this route on Yak back and bring cheese and Silk. On their return journey the merchants purchase back spices, fruits and grains. From then gradually a road for the businessmen developed. The road which was once traveled by foot or on Yak back is known as Silk Route. There was also another route was through water and was known as Rice Route. At that time these routes tied up the knot in terms of business between India, Myanmar, China, Tibet, Iran, Egypt and Paris. From here the business got spread throughout European countries and from here many civilization emerged. Not only business but also mathematics, philosophy, astrology and agricultural techniques were a medium of exchange. Here the locals used to make cloths and containers using bamboo shoots, cotton, thread and silk. The Silk Route is very well connected with 2000 small and big areas along with their business hub. In the past Sea Route and the Silk Route was used to be the main connector of business with Bikrampur of Bangladesh and Katmandu of Nepal with India. In those days the Kings used to collect taxes from these merchants. Those who use the water route of Teesta River to visit the upward section or the merchants who goes down to the plains needs to pay the taxes. In the present days these routes has lost the identity as a business hub and got famous in the tourism industry.

From Rongli the route has adjoined with Gnathang Valley via Zuluk, from there via Kupup towards Tukla Valley. Again from Tukla Valley via Jelep-La Pass (“La” stands for mountain pass) the route has meet up at Tibet. In the past there were no routes available for Nathula pass, the locals and the businessmen used to travel through Jelep-La Pass. Now the tourists and the locals can avail the Nathula pass. On the way to Zuluk one will come across Kuikhola Falls. On the way to Zuluk there two other check post, where one needs to halt to show the permit to enter Zuluk. One is Lingtum and another is Padamchen. Lingtum is about 9 km from Rongli. While entering Zuluk, there is sign board of Cloud Warriors Hut, it is dedicated to the Indian Army. From there the road has gone to the downward section towards the Army Barrack. At Zuluk, the local foods are very tasty and are worth tasting, which includes Rukruk, a traditional food somewhat like fries and it tastes sweet and salty and is a very tasty snacks and eaten with Muri (fried rice) it is locally called Demo. These foods are served in local container called Lama (a Tibetan container made from bamboo). Another local food is Khabjee, a sweet dish made with flour. In these regions where the temperature remains severely cold throughout the year, these dry foods are very essential and remain undamaged for longer time.  Zuluk is situated at an altitude of about 9400 ft. Here you will be able to witness the daily training seminar of Indian Army. Here they used to train in high altitude. From Zuluk another eye catching view is of the sunrise and sunset. From the month of November to March this region remains covered with snow. At the far end you will get to see the Army vans continuously moving from one place to another, iron chains are tied up on the wheels of these vans to avoid snow. Though mobile networks are very poor in this area. Form Zuluk one can visit to the Lungthung view point, which is about 12600 ft high. The twinkling stars are clearly visible in the night sky and looks like diamonds. Thambi is another view point (at an altitude of about 11000 ft), form here one can easily get a clear view of the Zigzag road. Form Lungthung you will get to see the sunrise clearly from the backdrop of Mt. Kanchenjunga along with three peaks Mt. Kabru, Mt. Kaktang, and Mt. Kubhkarna. As soon as the sunlight lightens up the region, you will get to see spotted dear and Monal bird. Yaks are a common animal which are very often seems in this region. From Zuluk to Lungthung view point the distance is about 16 km. From Thambi you will get to see 95 crisscrossed bridle path or commonly known as Zigzag road of Zuluk. Here you will get few traditional Tibetan foods, locally known as Phale, (a form of handmade bread, prepared with flour, tomato, onion and chilly) again you it is added up with meat, it becomes Sa-Phale and if is prepared with the addition of egg it becomes Khulip-Phale. And Tingmo, is a form of Momo prepared with mixing of flour, carrot and Rai Leaf. It is locally known as Tea-Momo, it is a good preparation which is eaten with tea. Again you will get to see in many houses dry meat of Yak are preserved for many days, in this region due to the severe cold these meat stays for longer period and used in many preparations and is locally known as Yak-Shaa. Again these meats are pasted and pickles are made. From Zuluk you can go around for sightseeing around at Gnathng Valley, but in the winter the road remains covered snow. One can also avail local sightseeing at Elephanta Lake, Kupup Valley, Tukla Valley, Baba Mandir, and Changu Lake and Nathula Pass (which is only allowed if permits are available and permission is granted). As you move upward form Lungthung, the scenery becomes more eye-catching. Gnathng Valley is a small hamlet that remains covered with snow most of the time of the year. There is a monastery at Gnathang Valley which is worth watching. In many houses you will get to see stuffed head of the Yak are kept as a sign of good hope. In the year 1888 a war took place between the British soldier and the Tibetan soldier. The word Zuluk derived from the word Je-Lu. To betray the British soldier the Tibetan soldier demanded for arms and ammunition and they started shouting in their language Je-Lu. In the Tibetan language the word Je means arms and Lu means ammunitions. In the Later Je-Lu changed into the name Zuluk. The British soldiers fled away by the route Lungthung upto Tukla Valley. At Tukla Valley several wars took place and resulted in the death of many soldiers, in the memory of this Tukla Valley war memorial was established. In the past the locals used to bring silk, cotton, Yak meat, toothpaste, from Lhasa (about 520 kms. from Kupup) and used to sell these products at Kalimpong market. On their return they used to buy products like nuts, chana, sugar and spices from there. The concept of homestay in these regions is from the past. The merchants those who came here for their business used to stay in these region like Zuluk, Lingtum, Rehnok, and Rongli. At Zuluk you will find numerous types of organic plants those are used for curing many diseases. As you step on the zigzag road, you will get to see at each turning the road is sometimes on one side and sometimes of the other side. As the road ends there are two viewpoints one is the Thambi view point and another is the Dhupidara viewpoint. At the end of this Silk Route is the local habitat of Zuluk village. At Zuluk there is a transit check post of Indian Army, known as Cloud Warrior Hut; this is the training center of the soldiers of the Indo-Tibet border. In the month of January Zuluk remains covered with snow and in the month of November, this region remains dry. From Zuluk to Thambi viewpoint the road is about 2 hours 30 minutes journey by walking. Dhupidara viewpoint is just above Lungthung, a perfect place to view the zigzag road. It is the highest point of Zuluk. From there while a little further is the Salami Viewpoint. From here you will get to see an outstanding view of Sunrise. From there a route has gone to the upward section, it is the Eagle’s Nest Bunker. To reach there permission is required from the Army. From one side is the wide open Mt. Kanchenjunga and on the other side is the Bhutan Hills. From there to a little further is the Gnathang and the road had gone towards Gnathang Valley. There you will see get to see a black stone, built in the memory of Lakshman Singh, the place is known as the Laxmi Chowk. While one headed towards Gnathang, you will get to see a Gumpha on the left hand side and to the right is a temple. From Gnathang Valley the Tibet border is very near. Again a little further is the strawberry Lake – a heart shaped, locally known as Kalipokhri. From there at a far end a narrow road has gone towards Tukla Valley. There is the Old Baba Mandir – The bunker of Late Captain Harbajan Singh. In his memory beside a temple was constructed at Tukla Valley. Beside the Temple is the bunker of Harbajan Singh, but to reach the one needs to climb 70 staircases. Old Baba Mandir is at an altitude of about 18000 ft. These staircases are coloured in red and yellow and decorated with triangular shaped flags on both the sides. From there Kupup Lake is at a distance of about 1 km, it is also known as the Elephanta Lake or locally known as Bitan-Sho. From here you will get the permit for Memencho Lake. From there you can visit to the New Baba Mandir, but the whole region is guided by Indian Army. Kupup Valley is a small hamlet on the hill top, with small one storeyed house with tin roof. Kupup remains covered with snow 4 to 5 months of the year. On one side there is a temple of Lord Shiva and few small shops with granted license of trade at the Nathula. From Jacket, watch, sunglasses, colourful blankets, are the products that are available here. Few houses have dishantena on the roof top. But still this hamlet is far away from the hustle and bustle crowd of common city life. From there you will get to see the Yak Golf Course. This golf course has entered its name in the Guinness book of world records. At an altitude of about 13000 ft, this golf course was established by the Indian Army in the year 1972, but it established its name with the Golf Union in the year 1985, there are in total 18 holes. Golfers used to travel on the back of the Yak. In the winter this golf course remains covered with snow and is used for winter sports like ski. From there you will get to see the Indo- China border and at the far end is the Chinese Bunker. From there you can visit the Memencho Lake. But it is possible to get there after getting the permit from the Army.

Best time to visit: Zuluk can be visited throughout the year except the monsoon season. October – December is the best time to visit. January – March is the best time for the snowfall, but in this time of the year visiting Gnathang Valley is quite difficult.

Permit: From Rongli S.D.P.O office the permit for visiting Zuluk is available. The permit is also for visiting Gangtok via Zuluk and Changu. For permit voter id card and passport or driving license are applicable along with passport size photographs. Earlier Aadhar card was not granted for permit but it is also applicable. Photocopy of all id proofs are required.

How to reach: The nearest station is NJP. Several trains are available from Sealdah, Kolkata station and Howrah station, by which one can reach New Jalpaiguri. Apart from trains buses are also available for NJP. Also by flight you can reach at Bagdorga, the nearest Airport. From NJP, Siliguri, or Bagdogra by car upto Rongpo, Rongli. From there to Aritar or Mankhimdara. One can also avail the route via Kalimpong and Rishikolka. If one can avail the Kalimpong route then a night halt at Rishikhola is must for acclimatization. From NJP railway station Aritar is about 113 km and from Aritar at a distance of about 3 km is Mankhimdara. Zuluk is about 41 km from Aritar. From Zuluk at about 18 km is Lungthung. Cars are must for the entire route. From Bagdogra Airport, Zuluk is about 161 km. Zuluk can be visited from Gangtok via Changu Lake and Tukla Valley which is about 85 km.

Extra Info: Zuluk was once used to be the transit point for entering India from Tibet. Now the whole region is a military base. Here you will get to see many Himalayan birds like Plumbious Water Redstart and white Capped Water Redstart. On the way there are three check posts at three different locations. One is at Rongli, another is at Lingtum, and the last is at Padamchen. In the winter the temperature drops to below 0 degree Centigrade. The locals here use Bukhari, a common method of regulating the temperature along with body temperature. It is a traditional form of room heater made from dry woods. From Zuluk, Thambi viewpoint is about 16 km. This region is also the common habitat of many birds like Monal, Blood Phesant, Klaiz and Snow Phesant.