A trip to the Land of Thunder Dragon

by Simanta Barman

 

It was a trip that we were thinking for a long time. We are four bachelor travel enthusiasts. Thing is, we are bad at planning. The destination in mind was our neighboring country Bhutan. So, one fine day we decided to escape to our destination. It was the month of November, 2011. We planned on Friday evening and started the next day. We preferred our own vehicle than getting a hired one. So we started early morning from Bongaigaon and reached Phuentsholing at around 1 pm. It is a nice place bordering Jaigaon near Hasimara in West Bengal and phoentsholing in Bhutan. One can have free access to Phuentsholing and not after that. We had our passes ready at immigration office by around 3pm, Indians need not have passport unless you are not travelling by air. Unfortunately we got stuck as car permit office was closed by then. So we had to stay overnight for our car permit.  Phuentsholing is a nice and busy place.  You can find reasonable hotels there. It’s a good place for shopping too. We bought a huge quantity of cookies, chocolates etc as a person told us back home that inside Bhutan sometime you may not get good food to eat, so better keep some stock along. But it’s nothing like that though it’s good to have food stock. Dinner was at the DRUK Hotel.  You will find DRUK HOTEL in all the main places of BHUTAN. The food and beverages are good. Next day we got our car permit ready by 12am. The official’s were good and well behaved. We got our passes up to Thimphu. As we started our journey on foreign soil, we could feel the difference. Hilly yet Beautiful road, trees on both sides and prayer flags everywhere. Only after entering Bhutan we came to know about it’s another name, “The Land of Thunder Dragons”, though we have no idea why it is called so. Our first destination was paro, place famous for the Taktshang monastery.  Paro has the country’s lone airport. It’s a nice and beautiful valley. We reached by the dark. As we reached paro, we were greeted by heavy downpour and a punctured tyre, but we thanked god that it didn’t happen in the midway. First thing we did was to buy two large umbrellas and got our tyre replaced. We found one nice hotel to stay. It was cozy and homely.  The hotel rates were reasonable and food was good. Next day early morning we set off to see the Taktshang monastery. We had no idea where we are heading to. So we were in our jeans and without a bag pack. As we reached the bottom of the peak, we realized our mistake. The Peak where the monastery is situated is so high that you can’t even see from the bottom. You have to climb an another peak , go down take a bridge then again go up to see the monastery. We ate some Puri-sabji as a lady was selling, our breakfast. It was real tasty, bought a wooden sticks to help our climb. As we climbed up, we saw other foreigners with full gear climbing the hill. Still we made up our mind and finally reached our destination. It took around three hours of climbing. But as soon as we reached the top, oh what a view!!! All our tiredness vanished, it was worth it. We could not believe that we were actually watching the magnificent view in real. It’s a huge monastery looks like clinging to a cliff, it’s beautiful inside. We offerred our prayers in front of God Buddha. We returned in the evening and stopped at a beautiful Resort on the way called Udumwara. It’s a splendid resort with high standards. We had our dinner there and also had some traditional drink called Orra.

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1 Taktshang Monastery

 

Next day we headed for Thimphu, the Capital of Bhutan. It’s a beautiful city in all ways. So much neat, clean and beautifully managed too. You can find all the world class cars everywhere from Bentley to Merc and I think mine was the smallest. First thing we did was to get our passes extended

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2 Thimphu City with friends

 

up to Gelephu at the Thimphu Immigration office. You can find Hotels of all standards. As usual we found the hotel DRUK but we stayed in another Hotel as the Lady in the Hotel gave us 10% Bachelors discount for which we had to bargain . We did bit of shopping and roamed around the city until 9pm. Again the dinner was at DRUK. Next day we headed for Punakha. On the way to Punakha we came across the Telela Pass at an altitude of 10000 ft. It was bone chilling cold out there; one can see the entire Himalayan ranges beautifully.

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Punakha is also an important Town of Bhutan. It has the Bhutan’s main Parliament called the Zong. Inside it has one large Buddha temple. In this temple itself the marriage ceremony of the present King of Bhutan was held. It houses one huge statue of Lord Buddha. Punakha is a beautiful and quiet

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3 Crossing Telela Pass

town with one beautiful river flowing through it. We had our lunch in a beautiful Resort by the side of the river. Our plan got a little set back as we didn’t get any hotel rooms available. All hotels were booked by Tourist Guides beforehand. We even went to a place called Wangdu in search of hotel but all were full. Finally we headed back the resort and asked the manager to help us or we will have to head back to Assam. He thankfully managed to get us two rooms in a nearby Hotel. Families must book hotel rooms beforehand to avoid these situations.

 

 

Next Morning we headed back to our place. The return journey was awesome. All the time we were accompanied by the beautiful river by the side as it was flowing with full current. By evening we reached Gelephu, the border district of Bhutan with India in Assam. We reached home by night.

The memories of our trip we remain forever in our mind and heart.

 

Important Info:

Entry place: Phuentsholing (WB), Gelephu (ASSAM)

Total distance covered: 1000 km

Documents for Pass: photo ID (preferably passport, voter ID or PAN card), passport photograph and for vehicle, all related documents

Where to stay: Hotels of any kind from 1000-6000 available, all are of good quality.

Advice: get a good driver, roads are good but with sharp turns and in some places roads gets narrow and cloud comes into picture. Get your fuel tank topped up. do not forget a map.

What to wear: day time is warm; get woolens from evening and night.

What to eat: you can get Indian, Bhutanese food .quality good.

Shopping: Lots of souvenir shop at Paro, Thimphu but bit pricey.

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