Rabangla (also known as Ravangla, Rawangla, Ravong) is a small town perched at a height of 7000 feet in South Sikkim district. Popular for its view of Kanchenjunga, the tiny town surprised me with its well constructed roads and laid back air. June is never a favorable month for visiting the mountains if you want a clear view. I was apprehensive about the Kanchenjunga views and the possibilities the place could offer.
I traveled to Ravangla from Siliguri by the SNT bus. It is a grueling 6 hours ride. Shared/rented cars are also available from Siliguri to reach Ravong (locally called so). If you are travelling to Ravangla, Siliguri is where you should be. On reaching NJP (New Jalpaiguri) by train, take an auto to Siliguri. The prospect of getting cars/buses/jeeps to reach Rabangla is better here. Sikkim National Transport or SNT is a bus terminus where you get all the information about buses/cars plying to and fro. If you are looking for shared/rented cars, you will get them right across the street.
When my bus started, the aged guard at SNT told me, “Stay there for a week to escape this heat. You’ll love it.” I hope to go back to him now and say indeed I loved the place. It was love at first sight.
If you travel to Gangtok, Rangpo is the state border. All East Sikkim bound vehicles stop here. But the route to Ravangla/Pelling is different. Vehicles stop at Melli, a small town near Teesta River that falls in both West Bengal and Sikkim. This is the entry point to the South Sikkim districts. When I had traveled to Gangtok in 2013, it ached my heart to see Teesta dried up due to political disputes. But this time, it felt good to see the river in her element, hale and hearty, gurgling soundly on her way. The Jawaharlal Nehru Bridge on River Teesta connects the 2 states. From here the vehicles spiral their way up to the mountains.
The 2011 earthquakes had irreparably damaged Sikkim. Life in mountains is never easy and rebuilding and restoration work requires hell lot of time. Sikkim was once known for its smooth roads and hassle free rides. The picture isn’t the same anymore. The ride is a bumpy one, enough to rattle your bones. Anyways, I arrived at Rabangla well after sunset. Fortunately, my hotel was at an arm’s length from the bus stop.
Rabangla is B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. It’s unspoiled, green, soothing to your eyes and lungs. Of course June means clouded skies and there’s hardly any hope to catch the snow clad Kanchenjuga peaks. But there’s so much more to the place if you can explore it well. I came across local tales of how a lesser known town transformed into a popular tourist destination in a span of 6-7 years.
When it comes to mountains, I am partial to Darjeeling, my home away from home. But now it would be a tough choice between Darjeeling, the Queen and Ravangla, the princess. It is a quaint old place where I can breathe, literally. Its beauty does not lie in the popular sites but the town itself. You really do not need to be at the Buddha Park to enjoy Rabangla. Take a stroll through the roads and enjoy the tender breeze, the clouds floating by, and you can even smell the mist in the air.
I regret staying here for a very short span. I should have planned a 3 day stay here. Nevertheless, I did not give sightseeing a miss. Watch this space for more on Rabangla sightseeing.