Gangtok Shopping Guide
In the whole of Sikkim, Gangtok is the best place for shoppers. Some of the great items that Sikkim is famous for includes Thangkas or Thankas (religious scroll paintings by Tibetan Buddhists), decorative Sikkimese Cups, figurines of Lord Buddha, Buddhist Prayer Flags, high quality package tea from Temi Tea Gardens etc along with many souvenirs and art & craft, and Gangtok has them all. Below I have described the main shopping areas in Gangtok along with the best buys:
MG Marg (Mahatma Gandhi Road)
This is the main marketing area of Gangtok for tourists. The road is lined with all types of shops on both sides. A part of the shopping area here is known as New Market. The shops usually open by 8am in the morning and close by 7pm. The market here is closed on Tuesdays.
While there are large number of shops selling men's and women's dress materials, shoes, souvenirs & gifts, trinkets etc, one of the unique things here to buy is Sikkimese Cups. These have unique and attractive traditional Sikkimese designs printed on them and come in different color combinations.
The cups usually have a lid. They are made of porcelain (china) material and cost in the range of Rs. 65 to 75 per piece. The ones with golden stripes are costlier. They pack it nicely so that you can carry it in your check-in luggage. You will find several stores along MG Marg with good stocks of these cups. They are excellent for having coffee or tea, and the lids help in keeping it hot.
There are shops like Kandoika in New Market which sell books on Buddhism (if that is of any interest to you) and many other types of Buddhist artifacts. There are a couple of book stores at the end of MG Marg (where there is the pedestrian over-bridge to cross the high way).
You will get nice collection of books here including ones on Sikkim tourism, culture etc. If you are looking for jewelry items, one of the shops to consider is Babu Shakya & Sons in New Market, MG Marg. They are excellent in designs like dragons on gold pendants, ear rings, finger rings and even in metal craft.
Directorate of Handicrafts & Handlooms
The Directorate of Handicrafts & Handlooms (DHH) is located at the end of Tibet Road and has a large Sales Emporium. It sells all types of traditional Sikkimese handcrafted items and artwork made by local and well known artists & craftsmen. Some of the great items to purchase are the Thangkas (religious scroll paintings), wood carvings, Lepcha weaves, wall hangings, woolen carpets, Choktse (carved wooden foldable tables) etc.
United Progressive Organisation of Sikkim, a shop located at Namnang in Gangtok offers different types of hand crafted items including cane and bamboo made products. Another store Nayuma Women's Cooperative Society which is located at the Denzong Cinema Road sells items like traditional Sikkimese dresses for women (great buys), pot holders, tray mats, embroidery items hand bags, cushion covers, wall hangings, bed sheets as well as home made pickles. Note that one of the unique and great buys in Gangtok is Sikkim's home made pickles made from bamboo shoots and cherry pepper.
The souvenir and gift shop Asta Mangala Arts located right opposite to Institute of Tibetology at Deorali also has great collection of artwork, handcrafted products, bags as well as Sikkimese dress materials for women. This is an excellent place to pick up souvenir items - I purchased an exquisite Hukka made of German Silver at a reasonable price. The lady at the counter told me that it would never blacken. She was right. They pack the items nicely so that it won't get damaged in transit.
Lal Bazaar (Kachendzonga Shopping Complex)
This buzzing market area is located below MG Marg and a few minutes walk. The market was first established in 1956 as an open area market full of shops and named after J. Lal who was a Dewan of the Chogyal (i.e. King) of Sikkim. However in 2005/2005 the old market was demolished and a multi-storied shopping complex was built here which also accommodated a vegetable market. This was then renamed as Kachendzonga Shopping Complex.
You get all sorts of diverse items here including cottage cheese, incense sticks to even electronic gadgets. Sunday is the Haat day at Lal Bazaar. If you want to experience the diversity and blend of cultures in Gangtok, you must come to this Market on a Sunday. You will see the villagers in traditional Bhutia and Nepalese dresses, Bihari businessmen in dhotis and residents of Gangtok in fashionable wears all mixing together and taking to each other in Bhutia, Lepcha, Nepalese and Hindi. It's a scene by itself and many tourists come here only to soak in the atmosphere.
So what should you buy from Lal Bazaar? On the Haat Day (i.e. on Sundays) you will get lots of rural items to buy, for example Churpi (dried cheese made from Yak milk), organic vegetables etc. However one of my favorite items here is the Alpine Cheese made from pure cow milk and is a product of Sikkim Dairy Products (P) Ltd who makes it in collaboration with the Swiss.
At Lal Bazaar you will also get various other items like pottery, prayer flags, Khukri (traditional curved Nepali knife), cut flowers etc. Look for Daalo - baskets made from bamboo and cane, a great item to buy here.
Note that Lal Bazaar and the shops on Lal Bazaar Road (the street that connects the market with MG Marg) remain closed on Thursdays.
Temi Tea of Sikkim
I had to mention this separately because like Darjeeling Tea, Temi tea is special and original of Sikkim. It is produced organically at Temi Gardens using orthodox methods and has a rich flavor. You will get Temi Tea in Gangtok and it's a must buy. It comes in packets of 250gms. Another variety from the same garden is Mysteaque tea. You will get Temi and other varieties at select retail stores in Gangtok.
A good place to buy Temi tea is from Golden Tips Tea Shop located at Yangthang House, First Floor, Kazi Road, Gangtok. The good part is here you can try out the tea before buying it. The owner of the store has great knowledge about tea and can give you lot of information if you want.
Another place to get Temi tea is the souvenir shop Asta Mangala Arts located right opposite to Institute of Tibetology in Deorali (about 2kms from the town center). So if you are visiting Tibetology or Chorten Stupa (located close to it), keep this in agenda.
Whenever and wherever I travel, one thing I never miss out is buying books on local people & culture, traditions & customs and of course places of interest. If you too keep the same interest, then I can recommend a few book stores.
The Book stores Jainco, Citinews and Goodbooks are all located on MG Marg and have nice collection of books. Pashupati Nath in Lal Bazaar is also well stocked.
But the main and the most popular bookstore in Gantok is Rachna Books located at the Development area (walking distance from MG Road, you can also take a short taxi ride - shared or private). While there are great collection of books, it has also become a social and cultural hub for locals and tourists. Old and young come here to listen to some jazz, or hear out poetry readings, or watch the photo & art exhibitions and even film screenings. The book store was established in 1979 and specializes in literary fictions and also have a wide range of collections on poetry, philosophy, biographies, literature, travel, art, music, children's books and more.
Open Monday through Saturday: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Address: Rachna Books, Jeewan Theeng Marg, Development Area, Gangtok
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