Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Enticing you to the mountain-State

Seven-man team arrives to promote Sikkim, a beauteous State up north
— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

‘SELLING’ THEIR LAND: A team from Sikkim on a tourism promotional tour in Bangalore on Monday.

BANGALORE: “When we say that we were from Sikkim, many people from the South tell us ‘Welcome to India’. We then explain to them that we are part of India and that we are here to promote tourism to our State,” says Praneet Pradhan, the leader of a seven-member expedition team from the Sikkim Tourism Cooperative Society.

Mr. Pradhan feels now that the road expedition has been successful considering they have been able to spread the message that the tiny State of Sikkim is part of the Indian Republic, apart from the original purpose of enticing people to visit that mountainous State.

“Most of our tourists are from West Bengal and even they flock to only certain parts of the State. But there are so many other places, untouched and waiting to be explored,” says Mr. Pradhan, also a tour operator.

He rattles off at least seven places that people could visit, adding that the Sikkim Government has created facilities to make the places more accessible for the tourists.

Tallest mountain

“There is Rinchenpong village, so close to Mount Kanchenjunga that if you open your windows, you will see the tallest mountain in the country towering over you.

There is Aritar Lake in East Sikkim, Temi Tea Garden in South Sikkim among many other places,” Mr. Pradhan says. All tourism advertisements claim to have “pristine nature”. What does Sikkim have to offer? “While we are trying to promote tourism, we are making sure that the tourism initiatives are eco-friendly. So while treks to Mount Kanchenjunga are allowed, no one has yet reached the summit because the locals believe that the mountain is a deity and cannot be defiled by people wanting to reach the top,” he says.

Lakes, many of them high-altitude, also do not have commercial boating. Many places such as Nathu-La Pass where one can witness the recently started trade activities between China and India, also require permits, which are issued in limited numbers.

Home stays

To cash in on the new trend in tourism, where holidaying is also about experiencing the culture of the region, home stays are being promoted in Dzongu, the homeland of the original inhabitants of Sikkim — the Lepchas and the Kewzing — the traditional Bhutia village.

With the purpose of tapping all this potential, the expedition started on January 14 at Jorthanga in Sikkim and is scheduled to end on April 23.

The team has completed about 6,000 km out of the planned 22,000 km. The team reached Bangalore on February 9 and will head to Goa on Tuesday. Log on to www.sik-