How we spent two months in Sikkim with our guests from across India

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The Doi Host road trips are usually planned 2 months before the scheduled dates. Sambit and I plan each day on these trip months in advance. For those of you who are curious about how we manage it all, let me break it to you that we are freelance writers and photographers, and The Doi Host is our passion project. We take people on road trips, travel along with them, and try to make this journey a little more personal and local for everyone who joins us.

In the winter of 2018 we planned a series of road trips to North Sikkim. Our three trip dates were:

24 November to 1 December

17- 24 December

26 December to 2 January

Those of you who have travelled with us before know that we usually stick to going to places that have become our familiar turf over the years. However, on each trip we do not forget to give the guests a taste of something new suiting their interests. I wish to write about our experiences during the two months of travel solely because the ones who joined us on these trips had such varied interests and made each of these trips so extraordinarily wonderful for us. Not to forget, the few days we got in the middle of these trips were spent to reconnaissance for a trip in West Sikkim that holds a special place in our hearts.

Read more about Homestay Hop in West Sikkim and Darjeeling.

We arrived at Bagdogra Airport along with our guests on the 24th of November. For this first trip of the season we were joined by Riyanka, Pramit, Deepa, Pallavi, Tanvee, and Aditi. To our surprise we got such a creative group of people that they indeed gave us different perspectives to view this journey. On this trip, in between hopping places and spending a lot of time inside the car, they found time to step out in the cold and indulge in solitary activities as well. In Lachen, Deepa sat and painted this local school building giving it colours of her own imagination. Tavee went out for a walk, fascinated by the intricate window designs in North Sikkim, and sketched endlessly to bring these designs on paper.

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People who come on our trips do have their own share of quirks and this particular one can’t be forgotten. Riyanka and Deepa usually wear a saree on one day on every trip they have been on so far. Now when you ask me about the idea of wearing a saree to Gurudongmar at 18000 ft; it is UNTHINKABLE. But thanks to all the layers of clothes they wore, and the determination to do it all at 4 am in the freezing cold, they survived. Their excitement on the day was so palpable that I almost feel bad to have discouraged them in the first place.

I obviously cant list the day to day adventures of this feisty group, but I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Our home in between these hectic trips was Tag Along Backpackers Hostel in Gangtok run by our dear friend Manisha Sharma. In no time I was declared the official taster for all their experimental bakes, in return I would obviously help her with the day to day hassles that come with running a backpackers hostel. Tag Along is family, and Manisha made sure that I experienced the best of the local culture while I was there. I even attended a Losung Party (a Bhutia and Lepcha New Year celebration) at her friend Dr. Eden’s house. During these days in Gangtok I understood that in no other culture would you find such passionate dancers and musicians.

Post our first trip, Sambit and I went on an extensive journey to South-West Sikkim and Darjeeling for 10 days. We designed a homestay hop to West Sikkim that replicates the journey we took to Ravangla, Khecheopalri, Yuksom, Pelling, Martam, and Darjeeling. The most interesting part of this trip was the homestay hosts we met. Considering how passionately hospitable these hosts were, we decided to name this trip A Homestay Hop, a one of a kind unique experience of staying at local homes, and interacting with the hosts in order to get a clear idea of what life is like in these parts.

Click here to get to know our hosts on West Sikkim- Darjeeling Homestay Hop.

For our second road trip to North Sikkim we were joined by Romita, Rima, Anirban, Priya, Aishwarya, and Debapratim. Special mention for two facts here - Debapratim, who was the oldest and one of the most excitable on our trips so far. Secondly, we had a returning traveller, Romita. She had joined us for our Kinnaur-Spiti road trip earlier in August 2018. There have been guests who have come for two or more trips with us, and it’s so enthralling to see how these guests have loved the experience before and would love to give us a second chance. Thanks so much!

Due to excessive snowfall we could not reach Gurudongmar on this trip but we always try to tell our guests that it’s not the destination but it’s the journey that you must try to find joy in. I’m so glad they did. Here are the photographs from the trip.

Then came the time for the last and final trip. Now you may think that this would have been a tiring affair for the two of us but to be honest it was hardly so. We began our trip after spending an amazing Christmas at Tag Along in Gangtok. It kickstarted the trip with renewed enthusiasm and this time we were joined by two of our local friends Dorjee and Kunzo along with our guests, Pranjal, Renie, Riya, Pratima, Yatin, and Diptarka (Sambit’s cousin).

To give you a glimpse of the possibilities on this trip to North Sikkim here are photos by Renie who is an avid bird photographer and went out on several long walks to watch birds and sit still for hours to photograph them.

Many people on the trip experienced snowfall for the first time. I hope this trip to North Sikkim becomes a cherished experience for them. Pratima and Yatin were again second time travellers who had joined us for the Spiti trip earlier. FYI they are soon getting married and we hold some for this relationship as we have been told. How lovely is that!

Check out all the photos from this trip that consisted of the most high on energy folks we have had on this trip and who found ways to party at night even in a remote village like Lachen.

This trip season ended with a new year bash at Tag Along Gangtok. Throughout the trips we had our reasons to be high on energy, something we draw from our lovely guests.