Why do people travel to Nathu La? Is it to see the Himalayan beauty of Sikkim? Is it the urge to see snow clad peaks? Is it the fantasy of being able to survive in low oxygen levels?
If you said yes to the above, then you form a very small percentage of tourists that go to Nathu La. The major percentage of tourists go there only to shake hands and take photographs with the Chinese.
Such is the obsession that I guess the Chinese soldiers must have a hard time. In fact, when I was there as recent as three weeks back, I saw the look of scorn on the faces of the Chinese soldiers when people used to shake their hands. I guess, if I were in their place, I would get mad too.
How many strangers can you shake hands with in an hour. I guess in peak tourist season, these soldiers might have to shake hands with at least a 1000 people. And by the way, this is a very pessimistic number.
There is nothing as such to see at Nathu La except for the experience of actually being close to the India-China border. There are a couple of bases from either country and there is a thin line of peaceful agreement where Indian and Chinese soldiers stand side by side.
But, you have to give it to the soldiers of both countries to be able to survive in such unforgiving conditions. If you are planning a trip to Nathu La, I would request that you do not bother the Chinese soldiers and instead show your gratitude to both the Indian and Chinese soldiers (if you know to speak Chinese) coz the soldiers of both sides are showing great character for their respective countries.
Nathu La, is a trade route between India and China and is situated on the eastern side of Sikkim at over 14,000 feet. The winding border roads connect Nathu La to Gangtok. The distance from Gangtok to Nathu La is about 50 kilometres. As part of the trade agreement, Chinese import pulses, rice, cotton clothes and cooking oil from India, while India imports quilt, jackets, electronics and other small items from China.