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An Airport, Brand-New, On Top Of The World

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An Airport, Brand-New, On Top Of The World

Some airports are huge and glitzy, or – to use a trope – “state-of-the-art,” as Hong Kong’s is, and some are quaint and beautiful, cradled among mountains or surrounded by sea. Beauty is subjective, but who would not be touched by the charm of the bracing air at an airport, at 4,500 feet, carved brilliantly out of a mountainside? Woolly clouds and wooded mountains all around can add a whole new dimension to an airport. Such is the one, newly built, at Pakyong, in the north-eastern state of Sikkim in India. The state is a former kingdom in the Himalayas and home to the gorgeous Kanchenjunga peak, the world’s third-highest mountain. The state is accessible from Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal via eight mountain passes.

An Airport, Brand-New, On Top Of The World

On Monday, September 24, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, inaugurated Sikkim’s first airport, spread over 21 acres, the 1-mile runway flanked by deep valleys on both ends. The airport is 18 miles from the state capital, Gangtok, and 37 miles from the Chinese border.

A BBC story wonders whether the airport is among the prettiest in the world and calls it “arguably one of the world's most beautiful.”

Not only is the airport beautiful, it is also being called an “engineering marvel.” Engineers found the greenfield project a challenge to execute because of inaccessible topography and hostile weather conditions. The BBC story quotes a spokesman of the construction company Punj Lloyd as calling the project "extremely challenging and exciting.” The company built the runway.

Another challenge for the builders was hilly and earthquake-prone terrain.

The airport, set to open to commercial flights on October 4, is expected to boost tourism in the state, one of the most beautiful in India’s northeast, with a number of glaciers, peaks, waterfalls, and high-altitude lakes.

If you want to land at the Pakyong airport, you would sure be charmed by the beauty of the environs – and the state. You would be on top of the world when beckoned by mountains.