It was almost at the end of our North Sikkim tour when we realized that we have a couple of days in hand and we do not want to visit Gangtok and Pelling. It was then when our car driver suggested that we should visit Dzongu. The place is a Lepcha Reserve Area. Well, a reserve area for a community! If that was not intriguing enough, an unexplored mountain hamlet of Sikkim was definitely inviting. So, Dzongu it is, we decided.

“But, you need a permit to go there”, our driver said quite thoughtfully. And then looking at our exasperated faces, he was quick to add; “ You will get it at Mangan”. Soon I was busy with my phone looking for any information about Dzongu. I got a few names and contacts of homestays at Dzongu, but somehow the name ‘Tingvong’ caught my fancy. Being the decision maker of all our trips, I decided that we will go to Tingvong. (Yes, I am the decision maker here, and Agni the executor!!)

This decision of going to Tingvong happened to be one of my best decisions, and never for a moment did we both regret coming here.

Something about Dzongu:

Dzongu lies in the North district of Sikkim sitting cosily in between the steep mountains and the beautiful valleys just at the last piece of land before the mighty Himalayas start their reigning territory. The place is almost virgin yet untouched by commercialization and materialism inhabited by the original native population of Sikkim – the Lepchas. The territory very lovingly nurtures both the human and the natural habitation amidst the forest groves, cascading waterfalls and the demure villagers. The territory was designated as a special reserve for the Lepcha community since 1960 when Sikkim was still a kingdom ruled by Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal. The place perhaps remains the last place where Lepcha traditions and culture are still followed and the ancient animistic rituals are followed.

Dzongu

Sikkim is known for its orchids

Dzongu

orchids

Now about our trip:

After my research about the place, I got the contact number of Dupden, the one who has the homestay at Tingvong. He assured us that permit will be not a problem and he will arrange it for us. So, we gave all our thoughts a rest and after a very enchanting trip of Gurudongmar and Yumthang, we started our way back towards Mangan. We reached Mangan at about 2 PM. Dupden told us to take the local jeep to Tingvong.

Now Dzongu is divided into Lower, Middle and Upper Dzongu. Tingvonghappens to be on the upper Dzongu. From Mangan, we took a shared jeep that took us on a bumpy one hour ride on a winding road. As we got down from the jeep, we saw a huge lake in front of us. Yes, we had to cross the lake to go to the other side and then another jeep ride will take us to Tingvong village.

Dzongu

The natural lake formed by the landslide in 2016

We were asked to take off our shoes and wear slippers. There was a raft where we boarded. Many locals also got into the raft and there we started rowing towards the other side.

Let me tell you that the way to Tingvong was not like this. There was a proper road to the village. But on August 2016, a major landslide occurred in that region resulting in blocking the river completely, and a lake had formed behind it. And Tingvong was completely cut off from the rest of the block. Even for their basic needs, they have to cross the lake on a raft. Dupden later told us that they even carry gas cylinders and refrigerators on the raft to the other side.

Anyways, we crossed the lake, took another jeep and after another ride for 30 minutes, we were at Tingvong village in front of Dupden’s house, our homestay.

Dupden is a nice and friendly man and the most striking feature was his long thin beard. Since it was almost evening, we freshened up and then Dupden offered us Chee.

Dzongu

Chee

Chee is a local alcoholic drink served in a big bamboo glass along with a bamboo pipe. Chee is made from millet by fermenting it for days. The hostess served us a pork dish that tasted like heaven. And then we continued our chit-chat with Dupden and his family. They were such a friendly lot.

Dzongu

The village

The next morning was beautiful with fresh air coming with the blessings of Mt. Kanchenjungha. The Lepchas consider the mountain as their guardian deity. These people have a different habit from ours. They have a very early breakfast and have their lunch within 10.00 AM. And the best part is that they do not change this routine for the guests. While at the homestay, you have to stay as the locals do. We had a perfect and delicious Lepcha lunch and then went out for a hike of the village.

Dzongu

A bamboo bridge

We took the uphill road towards the monastery. We passed the Tingvong School on the way. That day there was a function going on at the school. One of the teachers got transferred and so the students were giving farewell to him. Students dressed in colourful attire ran here and there. Dupden took us to the school where we met the Principal. He is a man from Kerala and is running the school since 12 years! Just imagine, a person from such a far land is the Principal of such a school. And all the villagers love him so much.

Dzongu

Tingvong School

Dupden is a skilled archer. He displayed his skill of archery to us. We could see how the little kids were following him and impersonating him. Dupden is famous around this area!

Dzongu

Tingvong Monastery

After a visit to the school, we went towards the monastery. The monastery was closed, as there was a function at the school. All were there. After a visit to the monastery, we walked down the hilly path and along the fields and reached the Kusong village. Kusong is the highest village in the Dzongu region. Most of the people here are into agriculture and they mainly grow cardamom along with other vegetable crops. We walked through the village and took a round route and reached back at Dupden’s homestay.

Dzongu

Kussong Village

We had a time crunch and so could not visit the other places of Dzongu. There are hot spring and some beautiful waterfalls around the area. Before the landslide when Tingvong was well connected, it was easy to visit those places by hiring a car. Now, we have to cross the lake and then take a car from the other side to visit those places. We missed the hot spring and the waterfall at Lingzey, but whatever we experienced in these 2 days were something we would cherish forever.

Dzongu

Fluttering prayer flags

Sikkim has always been kind to us. But being in Dzongu was altogether a different affair. The visit to Tingvong village by crossing the lake was also something we did not anticipate. The pure air of the village along with the green fields and the fluttering prayer flags were the best things that we experienced. Now, the people on the other side of the lake, mainly on the upper Dzongu consider the lake as holy. But geographically, the block that has been created on the river will break one day. And then the water of the lake will flow in full force and will wash away the lower villages. It would be something like what happened at flash flood at Kedarnath.

Dzongu

The course of river after the landslide has changed

Dzongu – a few facts:

Dzongu is a large area. You can stay at any of the villages that have homestay. Passingdang and Lingdong village are on the lower Dzongu while Tingvong and Kussong are on the upper Dzongu.

How to reach:

Dzongu is 70 km from Gangtok. To reach here, you can take a shared vehicle from Gangtok to Mangan. If you are coming from Siliguri, then, you can take a vehicle to Singtam and from there come to Mangan.

From Mangan, you will get shared jeeps to Dzongu.

Dzongu

Cardamom plantations at Tingvong

Best Time to visit Dzongu:

Summer season is the best time to visit Dzongu. You can also visit during the winters if you can manage the cold temperatures. Monsoons are best avoided.

Places to stay:

There are homestays at Tingvong, Passingdang and Lingdong village. We stayed at Dupden’s homestay at Tingvong.

Also, please remember that to visit Dzongu, you will need a permit. The permits can be arranged by the homestay owners.

Dzongu

Tingvong

Places not to be missed:

  1. Tingvong Monastery
  2. Hot Spring
  3. Lingzey waterfalls
  4. Traditional Lepcha house
  5. Traditional bamboo bridges made by the Lepcha community

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Dzongu

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