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TAB 2 The word Lachung means "small pass". Situated at an elevation of about 9,600 ft and very close to the border with Tibet, Lachung was an idyllic mountain village, but now, a small town in North Sikkim district. Sprawled across the banks of the Lachung Chu [river] which slices the village in two, with snow-capped mountain peaks, breath-taking waterfalls, sparkling streams and apple, peaches and apricot orchards Lachung is a perfect holiday destination. The town is approximately 125 km from the capital of Sikkim, Gangtok. Most of Lachung's inhabitants are of Lepcha and Tibetan descent. Languages spoken here are Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia. During winter the town is usually covered in snow. The Indian Army has a forward base in the town. Before the annexation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet. However, it was closed down after the annexation of Tibet. The town's economy has been boosted by tourism in recent years as the region has been opened up by the Indian government. Tourists from all over the world visit the town between October and May, mostly on their way to the Yumthang Valley and the Lachung Monastery. Lachung is also the base camp for Rhododendron Valley Trek which starts from Yumthang Valley and ends at Lachen Valley. Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker in his definitive, The Himalayan Journal (1855). One can also visit the Shingba Rhododendron sanctuary through which flows the Yumthang Chu. This sanctuary is known for its abundance of Rhododendron trees and shrubs. Lachung is perfect for an overnight halt before one visit the spectacular Yumthang valley and the stretches beyond it..
Gurudongmar Lake at a height of 17100 ft, is among the top 15 highest lakes in the world and is the second highest lake in Sikkim as well as in India, the first being Cholamu lake at a height of 18000 ft, also situated in Sikkim. Being the second highest lake in India, the panoramic and scenic beauty of the place is a sight to behold. Named after Guru Dongmar, the lake has a religious appeal. The view of Mount Siniolchu and Khanchendzonga is breathtaking from that point. Surrounded by snow clad mountains and crystal clear icy water, it is considered to be a very sacred lake both by the Hindus as well as the Buddhists. Legend has it that, Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Dongmar), touched and sanctified the lake, and thus, even in extreme winter, a portion of the lake does not freeze. The lake is also one of the sources of River Teesta, which flows through Sikkim, West Bengal and Bangladesh and meets the Bay of Bengal. The water of Gurudongmar Lake are said to have curative properties and many tourists carry the water with them on their way back. Close to the lake, there is a 'Sarva Dharma Sthal', and as the name suggests, it’s a place of worship for all religions. It takes around 8-9 hours drive from Gangtok to reach Gurongdmar Lake. This lake is in enroute to Lachen, a small town in North Sikkim located at a height of 10000 ft. Usually a night halt at Lachen is recommended as it takes around 3-4 hours from Lachen to reach Gurudongmar Lake. The closest village from Gurdongmar Lake is Thangu, at about 14000 ft. Visit to Gurudongmar Lake requires a permit as it located close to the Indo-Tibet border. The best time to visit the lake is November to June. There is paucity of oxygen at such a height, and thus, staying there for longer period is not recommended for most tourists. The turquoise blue water of the lake coupled with the deep blue colour of the sky is sure to catch the fantasy of any traveller. Moreover, the environment around the lake is absolutely different from that of the rest of Sikkim. It's an arid landscape and has an atmosphere that is equally remote and romantic.
Chopta Valley (13,200 ft), a detour from Thangu on the way to Gurudongmar Lake, offers the wonders of meandering rivers and it is here where you can actually walk over the frozen river during winter. Chopta Valley is the summer residence of the nomadic Lachenpas. Till a few years back, the entire village migrated from Lachen to Thangu during the summer months but now due to a more settled life few herders come to Thangu. With the onset of spring, the valley turns into a beautiful carpet of alpine flowers that adorn the valley up to August. In fact, during the summer and monsoon, the entire valley remains dotted with flowers of all kinds giving the valley, the appearance of a gigantic flower basket. Varieties of rhododendrons, primulas and wild flowers bloom in abundance from May to September. Thereafter, the sky remains the clearest during the autumn and finally the valley is engulfed with snow from December and remains covered up to late March.
Thangu is a small village 30 kms beyond Lachen, on the way to Gurudongmar Lake. Thangu experiences severe cold during the winters and even in the months of June and July, the daytime temperature ranges between 4 to 12 degrees Celsius. The months of May toAugust sees the valley carpeted with wild alpine flowers which get replaced by snow with the onset of winters. Generally the village remains snow clad from October to May. The beauty of the village cannot be described in words especially in the months of April and May when the entire valley turns into valley of flowers. The sight leaves one totally awestruck.
Situated at an altitude of 15,300 ft. above Mean Sea Level, Yumesamdong or Zero point is nature personified. It is a place very close to the Indo Chinese border. This place is generally not part of the standard itinerary, but is often merged with the itinerary of Yumthang Valley as an add-on. An hour’s drive beyond Yumthang (26 kms), takes one to Yumesamdong. The way leading to Yumesamdong is a passage through natural grandeur filled with the delicate scent of Azalea flowers pervading the atmosphere. Yumesamdong is a land of perennial snow but this valley is also used as a grazing ground for nomadic shepherds. Heady, invigorating and exhilarating, words would fail to explain the experience of being at Yumesamdong. Tea and Pakora vendors who clamber on to the first few vehicles of tourists leaving from Yumthang on the sightseeing for a Free Lift, serve them with hot snacks and Tea/Coffee upon arrival, albeit not free, but for a small price. It is a welcome relief for tourist to savour the taste of steaming momos and hot tea at that altitude to keep off the cold. On the whole, it can be said Yumesamdong has nothing special about it, but the exotic splendour of this place is enough to keep you engrossed in its charm.