Biksthang is located among acres of pine and fruit trees in a pristine Himalayan hamlet in Sikkim. After a two-hour drive from Pelling, via some of the country’s worst roads made bearable by some great views, we arrived at the Biksthang Heritage Farmhouse. Every corner of Biksthang has breathtaking views of the peak of Kanchenjunga, the guardian deity of Sikkim. The pleasant October air was scented with the aroma of deodar wood and pine needles, which are fed into clay incense burners that send swirls of smoke through the trees.
When planning a holiday with a baby, Sikkim did not exactly spring to mind. As a young couple, Sikkim to us meant treks, frozen lakes, and cup noodles by campfires. Would we be able to enjoy it with a seven-month-old? We decided to put all thoughts of high-altitude treks on hold and made our way to this farmhouse in West Sikkim.
The resort is located on the estate of the Sharkahlon family, who settled here in the early 18th century. They chose this spot for its remoteness. The family’s original house is still standing, and is currently the home of Dekyi Gyatso, a member of the 14th generation of the Sharkahlons.
Dekyi and her family, including Bolt, a lolloping St. Bernard, greeted us warmly. Staying with them was like visiting old friends, as the family took great care of us. The staff, all locals, had beautiful manners, and were wonderful with our baby.
The historic main house is straight out of a fairy tale with its pretty painted gables and balconies. On the edge of its lawns a sprawling pinewood deck has comfortable armchairs, lacquered tables, driftwood, river stones, and pine cones artistically strewn about. Those too lazy to venture into the surrounding wilderness can enjoy mountain views and do their birdwatching right here.
Around the main house are the guest rooms, which are individual wooden chalets, tucked between mandarin and cherry trees. Biksthang’s rustic appeal has just the right touch of luxury, such as the infinity pool jutting over the lush forested mountainside. Sometimes this pool captures the magical reflection of Kanchenjunga’s five peaks. Other indulgences include taking a traditional hot stone bath in a wooden tub. For newlyweds, the honeymoon suite is on the most secluded patch of the property, surrounded by bamboo thickets and approached by its own private path.
Our cottage was close to the main house, and had a large fir tree in the front and a small private garden at the back. Though we were left an enormous bowlful of walnuts, fresh from the property’s walnut tree, my husband spent a good deal of this holiday under it foraging for more.
During our stay we feasted on roast pork, soft local cheese, even edible orchids. We enjoyed fruits picked from trees on the property: mandarins, chikoos, guavas, and persimmons, served with jellies, custards or, our favourite, a hearty chocolate and marmalade bread pudding. Our infant who had just started eating solid food enjoyed his carefully prepared dishes, and was right at home in a high chair that once held Dekyi’s daughter. Every meal, served in a different space, came with its own view. Breakfast was on the deck, to take advantage of the clear morning views of the five peaks. Lunch was served in a Sikkimese style room, with low seating and brightly painted tables. Dinner was in a stone-walled dungeon, now converted to an elegant dining room. We were offered chhang, the tantalisingly sweet millet beer brewed in-house, and served in silver-embossed wooden flasks.
Dekyi, her husband Namgyal (Popo), and their daughter accompanied us on a picnic to the river, packing food, drink, rugs, umbrellas, music, and fishing gear. The riverside, with its white sandy banks fringed by high grass and flat rocks is perfect for picnicking and lounging, legs dangling in the clear water. Another day, Popo took us to the family monastery. We strapped the baby in his carrier and trekked to Lhuntse Gompa to see some wonderful murals restored by Bhutanese painters, and a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga and the mountains around.
Guests can visit an organic farm nearby, explore the Sunday market, and learn to make delicious momos in the homestay’s kitchen. Biksthang is remarkably interesting and ideal for anyone who doesn’t need a sightseeing list. In fact, we did not venture out much.
One crisp morning, with my husband and baby still asleep, I stood on the veranda with only the mountains and the soft, distant chant of monks for company. Warm and content, I felt enveloped in the immutable peace of Biksthang.
Appeared in the February 2016 issue as “In the Shadow of the Kanchenjunga”.
Biksthang has standard rooms, two to a cottage (doubles ₹7,050), private cottages (doubles ₹8,050) and heritage suites in the main house (doubles ₹22,050). Prices include breakfast and dinner. Set meals are varied (Sikkimese, North Indian, Chinese, and Continental) and can be tailored to special requirements. The months of October to March offer clearest views of the peaks (81700 15329; www.biksthang.com).
Biksthang is a 2-hr drive south of Pelling. It is 116 km/2 hr north of the nearest airport at Bagdogra. The closest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri (115 km/4.5 hr south).
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