On the road

One of Gangtok’s most popular areas, M.G.Road offers an unending array of options for those who want to indulge, whether in retail or gastronomic therapy or simply a leisurely walk.

MG-Road-Gangtok
This photo, “MG Road Gangtok” @Flickr from Abhishek Kumar
made available under an Attribution license

Gangtok is much more than just about the ‘Himalayan experience’ or the hundreds of honeymoon hotspots. Considered as one of the last Shangri-las in the Himalayan region, Sikkim’s capital city will never cease to grow on you.

While Gangtok is filled with monasteries and tourist attractions, for a true view of the city, take a walk across M.G. Road (there’s probably one road named thus in every Indian city). Regarded as the heart of the city, it is a street shopper’s paradise and great for a walking tour. Authentic brands, local wares, factory seconds or smuggled goods—here you can get pretty much whatever you set your heart on. Stores like the Indo-Tibetan and Strawberry sell imported winter clothes from Korea and traditional Chinese outfits at prices that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The road is generally thronged by locals and tourists alike, bargaining their hearts out on the merchandise.

Little trinket shops selling fake and silver jewellery line up the pavements. Old women wearing traditional nose-rings and beckoning you with a “kasto cho” to come and look at their trinket shops is a common and rather endearing sight. Kandoika is the most popular curio shop in the area with a massive collection of Tibetan and Sikkimese curios. Bargaining may be difficult but with a little bit of broken Nepali, you should be able to get a good deal.

If you are more ambitious and looking beyond the usual clothes and baubles, then thangakas(scrolls), choktsee (local furniture) and dragon sets are must buys from Sikkim Sarda & Co. Walking around the area, you may come upon flights of stairs beside shops which lead down to the other side of the street—indigenous subways. In between houses, these are many shortcuts which locals use to move quickly within the city.

Before heading out to shop though, you must start your day with breakfast at the far end of M.G Road, at either the Gangtalk or the Baker’s Café, whose chocolate muffins and Viennese coffee are legendary. When breaking for lunch, head to Porky’s Restaurant near the New Market at M.G. Road and hog on the scrumptious American chopsuey, made Sikkim style. In between store-hopping, drop by the Hotel Tashi Delek if you are in the mood for a late afternoon coffee, which you can enjoy while looking at the majestic mountains. To finish your day, kathi rolls at The Roll House and momos and thukpas at Cook’s Inn are a must.

In the evenings, M.G. Road turns into a walking plaza, as pretty, old-fashioned lampposts adorning the pavements light up, giving the area the look of a European town. Stop by for a quiet drink at Dragon’s Den or the Buzz. Recommended for a dinner stopover is the brightly-lit Arthur’s Restaurant where the owner, Arthur, serves delicious pork dry with locally brewed beer.

Even as the nights bring with them chill and silence, your mind cannot escape the chaotic friendly days spent in the lanes of Gangtok.

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