Next time you are in Sikkim, take the time to experience this mountain state with ancient history more deeply. Dive deeper into the local culture and truly see the place and its people. Engage with them, walk around their cities and towns, and get a feel of everyday life. Here's our guide to experiencing the culture, arts, and food of Sikkim in a completely different way.
Meet The Women Who Run Organic Food Stalls At Gangtok's Lal Bazar
People generally go to Lal Bazar in Gangtok to find cheap clothing and accessories. We recommend that you go to the produce stores - shops on the first and second floors sell local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, grains, and other items. The organic produce market is a big draw here and most of the stalls are run by local women from nearby villages. You will find mounds of chhurpi (local fresh cheese), fresh-churned butter, homemade noodles, pickles, dried meats, a variety of beans, vegetables such as nettles, nakema (a wild orchid variety that is made into a dish), fiddle-headed ferns, and miniature eggplants. It's a sensory overload. The produce comes from small village farms. Sundays are the busiest days.
Learn More About Local Crafts
Gangtok's Directorate of Handloom and Handicrafts is known for its traditional, handmade products. Don't give it a miss. You can buy exquisitely carved wooden screens and mirrors, clay and wooden masks, thangka paintings, choktse (foldable tables), dhaka choli and saree (traditional dress of Nepali women), lepcha coats made with handwoven fabrics, daka topis, ponchos, and more. We especially loved the long strips of handwoven loinloom fabrics that you can use in different ways. And the diaries are made of handmade paper that comes from a small unit in Borong.
Support Local, Independent Brands
If you are looking for contemporary local stuff, designed by young Sikkimese, head to Studio Tetteluna on Nam Nang Road (about a 7-minute walk via the road between Denzong Cinema and Lal Bazar) in Gangtok. They are professional photographers and print all images on high-quality German paper. They have a small collection of photos of Sikkim on excellent quality photo paper that you can buy as souvenirs.
The Sikkimis store in the New Market area adjacent to MG Marg is a quirky lifestyle label that makes teabags, postcards, notepads, diaries, key chains, T-shirts, and other products that tell stories of Sikkim. Even their packaging is lovely.
The High Court Museum has a small shop that stocks some handicrafts from Sikkim (including interesting local headgear and bags with unique designs).
Eat Local At These Places
For a taste of quality local food, visit Solpon (Hotel Dhewhcen, NH 10, on Singtam - Chungthang Rd). They use locally sourced seasonal ingredients that are organic and sustainable (through partnership with farmers). The menu is driven by a minimalist approach to ingredients. Have some Tibetan butter tea, coffee, thin-crust pizzas and laping (a spicy cold mung bean noodle dish) at The Local Café, a cosy space on the New Market stretch of MG Marg.
Hang Out At A Local Bookstore And Get To Know More About Sikkim
Located in the Development Area in Gangtok, this is one of the best independent bookstores in India. They have won Publishing Next&rsquos Bookstore of the Year award in 2015 -16 in the South East Asia category. Owner Raman Shresta carefully curates the collection &ndash the shelf section on the Northeast books has excellent books on Sikkimese, Nepal and Tibetan history, culture, folklore and arts. Others that stand out are the sections on Southeast Asia, the collection of women writers, graphic novels and literary magazines (from the Himalayan region), the classics collection. A speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Shresta is known for hosting interesting events with writers, illustrators, publishers from India and abroad. You may be able to catch a film screening or a poetry slam, music gigs or a shadow puppetry session.They also publish their own books - like Opening the Hidden Land State Formation and Construction of Sikkimese History by Dr. Saul Mullard.