Backpacking to Bhutan monasteries

Backpacking to Bhutan on INR 7800

Onward from Meghalaya, towards Bhutan:

We started our onward journey from Shillong on 26th June around 5 am. Took a shared jeep and reached Guwahati around 8 am. After buying the open tickets to “NEW JALPAIGURI” we found  that there was a train leaving in the next few minutes. We ran and boarded the train, on time. Reached NEW JALPAIGURI around 5 pm. Then, took a train and reached  HASIMARA around 10pm. From there, we took a shared auto to JAIGAON, which is the Bhutan Border.

(By the way, the INR 7800 expenses is INCLUDING the trip to Shillong (Meghalaya)! Chennai – Shillong – Bhutan – Chennai, to be precise :))

We travelled for more than 600 kms on 26th June 2014, hardly finding any time to eat; just had a few Bananas and Cucumbers, and a cup of Tea. After reaching Jaigaon, around 11pm, we found that all the hotels were closed, and no food, at all! Luckily we found a hotel which was half open. Actually, it’s shutter had gotten struck, and they were unable to close it, fully. We went inside and requested them for food, and they kindly gave us whatever was left behind from that day’s menu. The times when hunger shows you your true colour!

On 27th June 2014, we were approached by local travel agents and gave a shocking news that we cannot enter Bhutan, since we don’t have proper ID proof. They asked Rs.2000 for settling the issue and getting a permit. We said we can never afford!

Phuntsholing, Bhutan. India House.
Phuntsholing, Bhutan.

Then, we, ourselves, went to India House, which is in Phuntsholing, and asked for the IDENTIFICATION SLIP. The Assistant Consulate General denied outright, since two of us only had PAN CARD. We did not give up, though. We requested him again and again, and didn’t leave the place. Finally he agreed to give the IDENTIFICATION SLIP! And, we could finally visit the Bhutan Immigration Centre and receive our permits. We, then, quickly went to the bus stand, and surprisingly, the last bus to Thimpu, the capital city, was about to leave in 2 minutes. We got in and found that there was no place to sit; but we were just fine. Happy that we could get ourselves out of a big hurdle in the form of the ID slip!

Then, along the way, we got lost in the scenic beauty of the mountains of Bhutan. And, we reached Thimpu around 10.30pm. Again, all the shops and hotels were closed!

Street Scene, Thimpu, Bhutan.
Street Scene, Thimpu.

We, somehow, found one hotel to stay where there was no water, or anything! I have stayed in numerous cheap rooms prior to that, but that particular one was something else! It was not just bad, but pathetic, and scary! I have never seen a room like that in my entire life! The next day we moved to Hotel Yoeesel, which was comparatively expensive at INR750 for the four of us, but, again, I don’t think there are hotels any cheaper than that in Thimpu!

First day in Bhutan, on 28th June 2014, after refreshing in our new hotel, we met Pema, a coffee shop owner opposite to our hotel. She was a very nice person and gave a lot of information about Thimpu, Paro and other places of interests. We din’t do much on the first day; but as usual, walked a lot. Then, we had couple of beers since beer was really cheap in Bhutan!

Second day in Bhutan, 29th June 2014, we visited these places:

Takin Preserve

Takin at Motithang Takin Preserve, Thimpu
A grazing Takin at Motithang Takin Preserve.

Changangkha Monastery

Changangkha Lhakhang in Thimpu, Bhutan.
Changangkha Lhakhang

Buddha point

Buddha point, Thimphu, Bhutan. The giant buddha looking over Thimphu, Bhutan
Buddha point, Thimphu, Bhutan

Dzong Fort

Drukgyal Dzong was a fortress and Buddhist monastery, now in ruins, located in the upper part of the Paro District, Bhutan.
Drukgyal Dzong was a fortress and Buddhist monastery, now in ruins.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace, Thimpu, Bhutan
Royal Palace, Thimpu, Bhutan

Third day in Bhutan, 30th June 2014, we visited Paro. We took the first bus from Thimphu to Paro at 9.30 am and reached Paro around 11.30 am. We went to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) which is simply unbelievable! I can’t describe the beauty; you have to visit the place to experience the magnificent beauty of the temple. No body can explain how a temple can be built on cliff of a mountain.

Then, we visited Paro Dzong.

Paro Dzong (aka Rinpung Dzong) is a large dzong - Buddhist monastery and fortress
Paro Dzong (aka Rinpung Dzong) is a Buddhist monastery and fortress

Snippets on Bhutan – the Land of Thunder Dragon

The most Friendly, Innocent and Caring people I’ve ever met are Bhutanese people! They take pride in wearing their National Dress, (Kira for women and Gho for men). I’ve never seen anyone rushing to office or busy with something, everyone is chilled out, relaxed and peaceful in the capital city, Thimphu. Even if they are working or running their own business, no matter what, they are very calm. And very disciplined.

I’ve never seen so much dense trees on any mountain in India. They have the most beautiful mountain ranges of Himalayas – Kingdom of Himalayas. If someone gets a chance to settle down in Bhutan, they are the luckiest person, I believe! I had interacted with lots of people in Bhutan, spoke a lot about their way of living, their culture, etc. And, I totally fell in love with them and their place.

But, finally, we had to leave Bhutan. We left Thimpu on 1st July 2014 around 9am by bus, and reached Phuntsholing around 3 pm. Then, crossed the border and went to Hasimara; from Hasimara,  took a train to Kolkata. It was raining in Kolkata by the time we reached. But we started roaming in the rain, found the shop who invented Rasagula’s and Rasamalai’s. God knows what all we ate; we expected stomach problem, the next day, but, luckily, nothing happened. Finally, we boarded our train to Chennai on 3rd July.

And, one line kept me going: “Road Never Ends for a Traveler.”

Image Credits: ShikhantTerryEricAnjaMichaelGoss NuzzoRichardArianSteve

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