Rinchenpong is a small and beautiful town in west Sikkim near Gangtok. Just imagine yourself looking at the majestic Kanchenjunga range just after you woke up! Yes, Rinchenpong can just offer you that. The mountain views of Rinchenpong are more virgin and pristine than that of Darjeeling and Pelling. The small town is still untouched by commercialization. So if you really want to see the eastern Himalayas peacefully, Rinchenpong is a perfect destination.
Our visit to Rinchenpong was quite by chance. After completing the Barsey trek, we were wondering how to utilize two more days that we had. Our fellow traveller, Partha Da mentioned Rinchenpong to us. Although quite skeptical in the beginning, we decided to visit the place. We also managed to convince Partha da to come with us. He, in fact, was all set to go down to Siliguri, but we somehow managed to make him come with us. Who would say that we had met only 2 days back? It seemed we were travelling together for ages!
We hired a car from Sombaria to Rinchenpong. By the time we reached, it was evening and had started drizzling. We were dropped at the market of Rinchenpong. A small elevated place with a few shops around was the market of Rinchenpong. It was beautiful and clean. The Sikkimese surely knows how to keep their places clean.
There were a few hotels at the market but we chose to stay at “Hotel Landscape” which was a little uphill and just in front of Rinchenpong Monastery. It was surely a nice place to stay with very friendly hosts. Besides Kanchenjungha was before our eyes from our room itself!
The Rinchenpong Monastery:
The next morning we were awakened by the sound of chanting of prayers. The Buddhist monks at the monastery were reciting their prayers and doing their rituals. And the sight of Kanchenjungha was seen just from our window. What could be a better way to wake up in the morning? We paid a visit to the 286 years old Rinchenpong Monastery.
The monastery was a quaint little structure with colorful decorations and prayer wheel at the side. What was interesting about the monastery was the statue of Gautam Buddha. The statue was that of “Ati Buddha”, the idol of the Buddha was in “Yab-Yum” position. The locals believe that such a statue of Buddha is very rare. Infact, Ati Buddha statues are found in those monastic orders which are followers of “Tantric Buddhism”. With the prayer flags stuttering along, the place had a serene effect. You can simply sit down on the ground in front of the monastery for hours and absorb the natural beauty and the peace.
The story of the Poison Lake:
The name “Poison Lake” itself is quite intriguing and when we heard the story of it, we were fascinated. It is said that a British troop had arrived at the outskirts of Rinchenpong to invade independent Sikkim. They had pitched their tents beside the Poison Lake. The locals very cleverly mixed a concoction of poisonous herbs to the waters of the lake. The lake was the only source of water and the British troop drank the poisonous water. As a result, most of them died or were severely ill. Facing such a catastrophe, the British had no other option but to retreat and the Sikkimese rejoiced. At present, the lake is all dried up and serve as a cricket ground for the youths. Only during the monsoons water the lake is rain fed. But there is also an interesting twist here. The locals believe that the lake is haunted! In the morning, they play cricket over the lake merrily, but after the sunset, none of the locals dare to venture near the Poison lake.
The road to the Poison Lake is most of the time deserted. The canopy of trees makes sure that very little sunlight reaches the road. It definitely has an eerie feeling!
On top of the hills at Resume Monastery:
Resume Monastery is almost 300 years old and stands high up on a hill. A 1.5 km forest trail with stairs leads to the monastery. We followed the stairs and a few minutes of hiking brought us into the middle of the forest with dense vegetation and the mellifluous sound of birds. A bed of fallen leaves lay beneath our feet.
The silence of the place was soothing. After a hike of about 40 minutes, we saw the tip of a chorten. So we had finally arrived! A few more steps and we stood in front of a dilapidated old structure.
Unfortunately, the monastery door was closed. We sat down at the stairs of the monastery when 2 persons came up. They had come to collect mushrooms from the forest. They told us that the monastery remains closed and unattended for most of the time as a case of land dispute is going on. The owner of the monastery is in a legal dispute with the Sikkim State government regarding the ownership of the monastery. The monastery now neither has any monks attending it nor does it remain open. What a pity that such a rich and cultural monastery is simply lying unattended and left without any care.
We roamed about Rinchenpong to our hearts content. We walked along the nooks and alleys of the place. We simply walked lazily around the place savouring each and every moment of the freedom we got – freedom from the chores of daily life, freedom from any deadlines and finally freedom from our phones and laptops which had so much eaten into us. The day we spent at Rinchenpong was so delightful and the break so refreshing. The place has really become special to us.
Some useful facts about Rinchenpong:
How to reach: From Siliguri, take a shared jeep to Jorethang and from there take another shared jeep to Rinchenpong. Alternatively, you can also reach from Gangtok. You can also hire a full car.
Places to stay: There are a few hotels at the market. But we stayed at “Hotel Landscape” and it was worth every penny spent.
Eat at: All the hotels have their own restaurants.
Best time to visit: Throughout the year.
Tips: When it rains, beware of leeches. Carry a pouch of salt with you to ward off leeches.
Places of Interest: Rinchenpong Monastery, Resume Monastery, Poison Lake, Lepcha House, Kaluk