If you have always dreamt of staying beside a placid lake with panoramic views of Mt. Kanchenjungha from your balcony – then Chaaya Taal is the place you should be this weekend. Waterfalls, monasteries, dense forests, largest prayer wheel in the world, rhododendrons, red pandas, water gardens, 65 species of different birds and activities like boating, village walks and trekking – the list is never ending at Chaaya Taal. Located almost 136 kms from New Jalpaiguri, just a kilometer above Hee Gaon, this is one of the newest spots on the tourist map of West Sikkim. The twin villages of Hee and Bermiok are located at the foot of Chaaya Taal. Nearby attractions include the Srijunga waterfalls, Vanjhakri Waterfalls, Yuma Samyo Manghim temple, Phurtsa Chu hotspring and Rabindra Nath Tagore Smriti Van. You can also visit the nearby Barsey Rhododendron sanctuary famous for Red Pandas and Rhododendrons from Chaaya Taal. If you love trekking then a eight-day trek can take you to Phoktey, which is one of the very few places on earth from where you can watch sunrise over Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjungha, the highest and third highest peaks in the world at the same time. BOOKING DETAILS OF CHAAYA TAAL
Places to see in Chaaya Taal: Mesmerizing views of Mt. Kanchenjungha from your balcony and a turqoise lake beside your guesthouse with boating facilities makes Chaaya Taal one of the most beautiful destinations of West Sikkim.
The twin villages of Hee and Bermiok are located in the foothills of Chaaya Taal. Then there is the famous Yuma Samyo Manghim, the temple where the believers of Yuma Samyo – the great saint from Nepal worship. In front of the temple is a big stone from where this great saint used to deliver sermons to his followers.
About a kilometer westward from the nearby Bermiok Bazar there is a cave on Niya Bhir cliff known as Alley Gufa, where Lord Shiva is worshiped. You would also find a watch tower located just above this Alley cave temple at upper Martam from where you can get a beautiful view of Mt. Kanchenjungha. The beautiful Vanjhakri Waterfalls also known as Pheng Doje Falls descends in an isolated destination near Hee-Gaon along the Hee River. However, the biggest attraction of Chaaya Taal is the water garden at the bank of Hee Khola where you would find the world’s largest Buddhist prayer wheel powered by water current, a swimming pool, a cafeteria and few Gazebos.
Also, within a kilometer at the bank of River Kalez lies the sleeping statue of Buda Neel Kantha. On the hill top of Mt. Yumang Thegu (the hill overlooking the lake) a 65 feet high statue of Teyongsi Sirijunga is under construction. Along with this is, the work of constructing the Sirijunga Study Centre with all the facilities to study and research about Guru Sirijunga is in progress too.
Nearby attractions of Chaaya Taal: One of the major sightseeing options here is the Srijunga waterfalls about an hour’s downhill walk from the Yuma Samyo Manghim. There is a holy cave at the foot of this waterfall in Phagudara village where according to legends the great Guru Srijunga is said to have hidden his mysterious box full of knowledge. Presently, there is a temple located at the confluence of River Reshi and River Kalez which houses a black block of stone which is believed to be the same box of knowledge, now turned into stone.
You can also visit the nearby village of Berthang at the confluence of River Rangsang and River Kalez to see the erstwhile tiny kingdom of Berthang Berfok Mangerjong. The Manger kings ruled this tiny Himalayan Kingdom till 18th century when their last ruler Dal Kinari Khapangi Manger was killed in the battlefield. The locals worship this place as ‘Raja Bhajey Dham’ where he was killed. About 10 minutes’ walk above Bermiok 13th mile village is the ancient cave temple – Kailash Pati Gufa. Hundreds of people come here to offer Puja on Shivaratri every year.
Another popular nearby destinations is the Phurtsa Chu sulphur hotspring which is famous for its ‘medicinal water. It is located below Legship – Jorethang Road between Reshi and Legship along the bank of Rangit River. You can also visit the Rabindra Nath Tagore Smriti Van located at Megie Dara, about a farlong eastward from Rinchenpong Bazar. Though the exact account of this visit to this place is not available, the novel laureate had once arrived here somewhere in the first quarter of 20th century. This is a beautiful place and it can be guessed how the imaginations of the Novel laureate might have soared on his arrival here. There is also a beautiful monastery at Rinchenpong.
You can also visit the famous Reesum Monastery from Chaaya Taal. To reach this monastery, you have to hike over 600 steps but the effort would be rewarded with one of the most magnificent views of Mt. Kanchenjungha. You have to leave Chaaya Taal at around 3:30 am to view sunrise from Reesum Monastery. The car would take around 40 mins to reach the base of the hill from where you have to trek for another 40 min to reach the monastery. Other than the nearby sightseeing destinations, the major spots of West Sikkim like Pelling, Pemyangtse, Uttarey, Kaluk and Rinchenpong are all within an hour’s distance.
Things to do at Chaaya Taal: You can do boating at Chaaya Taal and catch the glimpses of Mt. Kanchenjungha from your balcony or from the various viewpoints located all around Chaaya Taal. You can take long nature walks and be a patient listener to the quarrels and songs of the birds. If you are an adventure lover then the Everest Singalila trek covering the higher reaches of the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary can be your itinerary. This trek is famous for its flowers and spectacular views of Mt. Kanchenjungha and Mt. Everest. After you cross Thulo Dhaap the trail climbs up to the Singiila Ridge and from Phoktey you can see the sunrise on Mt Everest and Mt. Kanchenjungha – the highest and third highest peaks of the world at the same time.
If you love re-discovering ethnic cultures then try to visit here during the Kalez Valley Heritage Festival held every year from 10th to 13th May. This colourful festival showcases multi ethnic cultural practices, cultural dances, demonstration, mountain biking and traditional cuisine.
How to reach Chaaya Taal: Chaaya Taal is located above the twin villages of Hee-Bermiok. New Jalpaiguri is around 136 kms away and it takes around 4 hours to reach. The usual route to be followed is Melli – Jorethang via Mangalbaria, Rinchenpong – Kaluk – Hee Bermiok – Chaaya Taal. You can also come via Nayabazar – Soreng – Kaluk- Hee Bermiok.
Best time to visit Chaya Taal: You can visit Chaaya Taal any time of the year. However, if you want to trek at Barsey Rhododendron sanctuary and see rhododendron in full bloom then visit during March- April. Also the Kalez valley Heritage Festival is held every year between 10th and 13th May.
Lodging and Food in Chaaya Taal: There is only one guesthouse with four Double Bedrooms at Chaaya Taal. The accommodation is decked with all modern facilities like hot water, television and attached bathrooms. The guesthouse faces Mt. Kanchenjungha and overlooks the lake. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is available at the guesthouse. Treks to Singalila Ridge and Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary can be arranged from the guesthouse itself.
Photographs by Dr. Tanmay Mahapatra, Suman Das and others.