In the shadow of Kanchenjunga
18.09.2015 - 19.09.2015 27 °C
A lazy guidebook might say that the only reason to visit Pelling in West Sikkim is for its views of Mt Kanchenjunga. In fact, one of the top-sellers does say exactly that. Granted, the views are stunning, but I was surprised to spend a thoroughly enjoyable day taking in the other sights around Pelling.
First there is Sanga Choling Monastery, founded in 1649. Upon arrival we took a peek into the monastic school, at the boys doing their lessons. They were not perturbed to see us at all. The actual monastery was damaged in the 2011(?) earthquake and is being restored, but even from the outside it was worth seeing for its simplicity and its commanding views across the valley.
Then there is Kecheopalri, or the Wishing Lake, a holy place of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Buddhists. The lake was about a ten minute walk along a paved path that became increasingly festooned with prayer flags the closer we got to the lake. Then we walked out onto this kind of covered jetty with prayer wheels along both sides. At the end, on the edge of the lake, a Hindu priest was waiting to bless people.
Pemayangtse is a stunning monastery, devoted to a form of Tantric Buddhism. No photos of the inside are allowed, so I have only my memories of the breathtaking seven-tiered, 3D wooden sculpture of Buddhist heaven, which is tucked away at the very top of the building.
Quite close by is Rabdentse, the ancient, former capital of Sikkim. Its days were numbered when it was realised that the capital was too close to the border with Nepal, to defend adequately.
But even after all that, I would say that the views of Mt Kanchenjunga are enough of a reason to visit Pelling, on their own. This shot was taken after hours of rain, when suddenly the sky cleared, and there it was in all its glory.