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Tourists head to Namchi after permits to Chhangu stop

Can’t go to Chhangu Lake? Will go to Namchi then.

Tourists, many of them from Bengal, who have been unable to go to Chhangu Lake and Baba Mandir in East Sikkim, are heading for the South district’s Namchi.

Police on Monday stopped issuing passes from Gangtok to Chhangu and Baba Mandir, a day after over 300 tourists were rescued from the area (in picture on right) when they got stuck because of heavy snowfall.

Namchi is 75km from Gangtok and it takes three hours to reach there.

The cost of hiring a vehicle to Namchi is Rs 3,500.

South Sikkim has several tourist attractions such as the Siddheshwar Dham, the Sai Golden Temple and a 135ft statue of Guru Padmasambhava (in picture on left).

The Dham has replicas of Badrinath, Jagannath, Rameshwaram and Dwarka. The ride to the Dham is through the scenic Temi Tea Garden.

Swati Ganguly, a tourist from Calcutta, said she had booked a vehicle for Chhangu Lake and Baba Mandir but could not go there.

“My husband and I came to know this morning that the road is closed and the permits to Chhangu and Baba Mandir are not being issued. A receptionist in our hotel suggested that we go to Namchi. We are leaving in a while now,” Swati said on Tuesday morning.

Tourists more adventurous can go up north to Lachung, Yumthang and Lachen. Permits for travel to these areas are being given.

Partha Saha, a tourist from Burdwan, said he had come to Sikkim with his family for the first time and was initially “disappointed that permits are not being issued for Chhangu and Baba Mandir”. But the Sahas did not “want to waste our time. So we will go to Namchi now and Lachen and Lachung on Wednesday,” Partha said on Tuesday.

There has been a continuous snowfall in East Sikkim since last week.

“We have stopped issuing the permits to tourists since Monday morning as there is a heavy snowfall in the upper regions of Sikkim. The road has also been blocked and it would not be safe for the tourists to travel at this time,” said Sabitri Pradhan, the police inspector at the check post office in Gangtok.

She said the permits would be given once the snow subsides.

Madan Gurung, a tour operator in Gangtok, said: “Namchi is an emerging tourist destination. We are telling the tourists to go there and not waste their day loitering in the Gangtok market.”