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Sunday, October 24, 2010

What to shop for in Sikkim?

The Himalayan state of Sikkim offers an unique shopping experience. Shopping primarily revolves round its predominant Buddhist culture and the cold weather.

The Thangkas (traditional paintings on cotton canvas and silk frames) is quite a rage. And so are the exquisite Choksee tables designed in Tibetan style. The traditional Tibetan and Sikkimese garments are also quite popular. While some of the tourists buy these garments, the rest wear these garments and take pictures of themselves in it.

Since Sikkim has chilly to cold weather round the year, the tourists throng for the woollen gear. The woollen blankets, carpets, sweaters, jackets, ski caps, mufflers and shawls draw a lot of attention. Most of these woven woollen carpets and blankets are embellished in unique designs and traditional Sikkimese motifs using traditional vegetable Sikkimese dyes.

The Lepcha weave bags are also very popular with the tourists. The Dragon sets, prayer wheels, incense sticks and other holy objects are quite a draw too. In terms of food and beverages, yak’s cheese (chhurpi), Chang (local beer), the local red wine and the local tea variety sell the most.

Most of these shopping opportunities exist in the markets of Gangtok. The Lal Market, Old Market and the New market on MG Marg are your best bets. I remember the Dalai Lama Trust Fund shop in the basement of Hotel Tibet to be also a great place for picking up authentic merchandise. The other parts of Sikkim also have their own unique markets, but these are standalone small shops.

During my recent trip to Sikkim, I did not indulge in any shopping, but the group I was travelling with seemed to do quite a bit of shopping. Here’s a list of what they bought: Yak’s Cheese, Prayer Wheels, Traditional Tibetan crockery (Mugs, Teapots and Vases), Cherry Liquor, Woollen Gear (Ski Caps, Gloves and Mufflers), Nepali Music CDs (especially that of the popular band Mantra), Buddhist Chants and some other traditional gift items.



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