A Small Adventure
Pemayangste Monastery is outside Pelling in West Sikkim. It has a school for hundreds of kids. Pelling had one of the original capitals of the Sikkimese monarchy before the Bhutanese destroyed it. Now it is a strip of hotels for tourists. The pictures are taken from the top of a water tower.
My adventure has now taken me to the north Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, formerly an independent Buddhist monarchy until 1975. It is almost entirely mountainous, and completely beautiful. I came here to study the effects of the 6.8 earthquake that happened here on September 18. It killed hundreds of people and damaged buildings and monasteries. So far I have stayed in the capital city of Gangtok, a city build on the edges of a valley, perpetually misty and cold and wet in a way that reminds me of Seattle. I am staying with an awesome man named Yeshe, who's family left from Tibet three generations ago. His has a very religious family; his father was a famous lama and his brother is a lama too. He lives in an amazing house that overlooks a lot of the city. He gives me the feeling that is is some kind of former Tibetan royalty.
Sikkim is a totally different kind of Indian state than Bihar, where Bodhgaya is located. There are stringent littering and pollution laws, everything is clean, people are friendly and are not just out to steal your money. There are a bunch of different ethnic groups in the state: the Lepchas are the original inhabitants, then came the Tibetan Bhutias, then Nepalese seeking jobs, and now workers from other parts of India, mainly laborers and rich business men.
I have since left Gangtok and I am now staying in a hotel town called Pelling, 6 hours away, but only 140km. For the past few days I have been helping repair a monastery that was damaged in the quake. The temple, Pemayangste, was once the royal monastery of the Chogyal, or king, but has since taken a backseat in terms of political influence. Only men who are direct descendants of the original families moving to Tibet are allowed to ordain there. It mainly serves as an elementary school at this point; when students are old enough, they go to university in the larger cities. The temple itself is three levels of beautiful artwork, statues and paintings.
Overall, Sikkim is one of the most inspiring places I have ever been. Also, seven inch spiders live here. One almost touched my hand when it was riding on a bag I was loading off a Jeep.