Sunday, May 06, 2007

A tiny Sikkim hamlet waiting to shine - Rinchenpong

Bijoy Gurung
Far from the madding crowd, Rinchenpong is a tiny, seductive hamlet in West Sikkim, an ideal getaway from the bustling cosmopolitan life.
Boasting of an incomparable view of the mighty Kanchenjunga range and lush green forests promising memorable treks, Rinchenpong is still an unknown destination. The relative virginity of the hamlet makes it a truly a hidden Shangri-la as it has remained untouched by the side-effects of exposure to tourism.
“Rinchenpong is the new destination for tourists in Sikkim. Village tourism is its main USP,” tour operator Lokendra Rasaily said. “It is all about eco-tourism and completely nature-based,” he added.
Compared to the sight of Kanchenjunga when viewed from Darjeeling or Pelling, the view from Rinchenpong is more majestic because the entire range can be seen.
Bird watching, lush green pastures, wild orchids and the freshness of the place make it most attractive. Visitors can go for short treks from Rinchenpong to the famous Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary.
The upcoming destination is being smartly promoted by local stakeholders and tour operators on a small scale for sustainability. The whole idea is to prevent its degradation with overexposure, as has happened in other areas, Rasaily said.
“Tourists are finding Rinchenpong fantastic. They enjoy the quiet and eco-friendly area”, another tour operator said.
A sparse population comprising the three major ethnic communities, the local people are slowly waking up to the the idea of the benefits of eco-tourism.
“Locals have understood tourism,” said YB Gurung, who runs a resort at Kaluk near Rinchenpong.
With his resort running successfully, Gurung said the local people were deriving the benefits of homestays and such allied activities as catering to the needs for vegetables, among other produce, and cultural presentations.
Gurung said the response from tourists had been great as the area was not explored yet. “From Darjeeling, you can see a wider range of Kanchenjunga but from a distance you can also get a good view of the entire range from Pelling. Butfrom Rinchenpong, you can get the best view,” he said.
Locals are being sensitised by stakeholders who are encouraging them to take up the homestay concept.

(The author is The Statesman’s Gangtok-based correspondent.)