It's no ordinary place where you find rice are red and cheese & chilly are not used as in salad but as main ingredient of for the cuisine, Well if You still not intrigued with this, you can hike up to the majestic Tiger Nest Monastery or can take a stroll in the cute streets of Paro and if still this doesn't sound convincing just take a look at the happy faces of the people around you, always smiling. Here the growth of the nation is not measured in GDP but on the scale of happiness of the people. Truly majestic Bhutan- The Last Kingdom in the Hamlet of The Himalayas.
I was travelling with a group, found it on the internet. I was asked to reach Bagdogra before 1 pm, So I took 8 am flight from Delhi to Bagdogra. After Reaching Bagdogra, We started our Journey towards Phuentsholing- Its the entry point to Bhutan, So there are two town on the border, One is Jaigon(Indian Side) and other is Phuentsholing(Bhutan).you can enter Phuentsholing without the permit( can go as far as 5 Km from the border), Beyond that you need to get your Passport stamped from the immigration office. Mostly People who are travelling to Bhutan stay here and obtain there permit,accommodation is quite economical on both the side of border.So after checking in Hotel, I went to the main Square of the town, here you can find some good cafes and great places to eat, had an Irish coffee and a Pastry at Kizom Cafe,totally worth it. Then we went for dinner at Zen restaurant. You can clearly see the difference between two side of the border, No honking, Traffic moving in one single lane, and if you step on the road the car will stop at least 50 ft before you so that you can cross the road, I mean literally you can cross the road blindly in Bhutan but only from the Zebra crossing. That was the first thing that amazed me.
So the first half of the day was all about getting permit and immigration check, I was travelling with a guide, so What he did was applied permit online in advance( Only Bhutan Tourism Registered guide can do that) and what all we need to do was to give our fingerprints at the immigration office and we are good to go, Due to New year there was a heavy rush outside the permit office,one of my friend was stuck in Phuntsholing for 2 days as he was travelling on his own, Normally you can get permit easily in one day but during festive seasoned it is suggested to have a guide with you to save this hassle. Then around 11 am we left for Paro is around 150 km, it take around 4-5 hours from Border. The route is an absolute delight, Pretty smooth and well maintained roads,cold wind, waterfalls,the route has everything in it plus no honking and overtaking. Reached Paro around 5 Pm. Checked in, then went to dinner in town, Paro has some very decent cafe in the main market itself, Which serve all kind of food(Specially Indian)- Champaca, Brioche and mountain cafe are worth a visit.
So today our plan was for hike to the famous Paro Taktsang also known as Tiger Nest Monastery, Perched on the cliff-side of the upper Paro valley. This is the most visited placed in Bhutan by people all over the world, even if you think of Bhutan the first thing that came to your mind is this Monastery, So the starting point is located around 10 km from town, and the total time it took us to complete the hike is around 4 hour, total hiking distance is around 8 km, Last one hour of the hike is steep otherwise terrain is well marked and easy. Legend says that Guru Padmasambhava flew to this location on the back of a tigress from tibet and Guru meditated here. There is an entry ticket of 500 Rs if you want to enter in Temple premises, But you can hike till the entrance without buying ticket, My suggestion:If you have a guide with you then only you should buy ticket, but the hike is totally worth it. we started around 9 am and returned by 5 Pm. after that we went straight to Paro for dinner and stroll.
Also you will not find any Inside photograph of the temple on the Internet !!
Day 4 is all about visiting and exploring the town-Paro Dzong, Museum and the local market for shopping.From Museum you get a fantastic view of the town and also Paro Airport,only Airport of the Country- One of the Most dangerous but stunningly beautiful, There are only 15 pilots in the World who can land on this airport. The airport is situated in the middle of the valley. One of the best point if you like to experience the rumble of the aircraft over your head and obviously to pull of that Rang de Basanti fly Past( waving your Tshirt as the craft go over your head). Then we went to Paro dzong, located just at the entrance of the city right along side the river, best point for those long evening walk. Also If you want to pose while wearing Gho or Kira ( The National dress of Bhutan)
After that we checked out from our hotel and start our Journey towards Punakha, It's around 120 km from Paro, The route include passing from the highest pass of Bhutan,Dochula Pass.From Dochula you get to see all the Highest Peaks of Bhutan if weather permits, fortunately in our case it was very clear. We stopped there for a quick photo shoot and Snack, after that we reach Punakaha around 6 Pm and retired for the day.
Our day start by a short visit to a village that goes by the name of chimi lhakhang or The fertility temple, it is situated in Punakha, a short walk of half an hour from the main highway. Okay this village or temple may seem obscene to you. you will find Phalluses worn as charms here,not here only but all over Bhutan, Believe me.I swear !
Well there is a tale behind this once you hear it you will find that public’s display of Phallus's are not an unusual thing in Bhutan.
Also childless couple all over the world come here and takes blessing for perceiving child.
Legend says that there was a Lama in Bhutan who is known to teach Buddhism with his unorthodox ways, He earned name "Divine Madman". This divine madman came to Punakha and help people to get rid of the demon with the help of a wooden Phallus, The wooden Phallus is kept inside the temple and is used to bless people, particularly women seeking blessings to get children.
Since then phallus become symbol of Prosperity and luck, you will find them painted on the entry of most of the houses in Bhutan.
The village is very beautiful with only handful of houses.
The visit to this village wasn't so bad, just a bit different and unique, A quite a different experience. Well that's the reason we travel ! isn't it ?
After our visit to this Picturesque village we went straight to Punakha Dzong-The biggest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong is located between two river Po chu(male) and Mo Chu(female), the two river confluence near the Dzong. Beautiful sight to sit near the shore and enjoy sun. The dzong is Beautiful and majestic, it host all the royal Function. Signing of Constitution and great Royal wedding took place here.
There is an entry fee of 300Nu or 300 Rs to access the Monastery premises.
Right behind Dzong you will find the way to the famous Punakha Suspension Bridge,It will take around 20 min to reach the bridge,its around 150 m long, Bridge offer the spectacular view of both the river and valley. It can be miss easily as there is no particular board or Sign to its way. Just dzong and ask any one about the bridge they will tell you the way( of course with a pretty big curve on face).
After that we headed towards Thimphu- Capital city for The New Year Celebration, It took us 2 hour to reach Thimphu.
Thimphu is the largest city of the Bhutan, It is also home to the royal family. Thimphu is the most modern city in Bhutan with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping complex.
One of the most interesting thing about Thimphu is it’s the only capital in the world that does not use traffic light. A few intersection in the city have policeman standing in a booth to direct traffic with exaggerated hand motions.
So after breakfast we went to visit The National memorial Chorten. It is located inside the city. After that we moved on to the famous sitting Buddha statute.
Also known as The Buddha Dordenma, it is located on a hill and overlooks Thimphu Valley. The view of the city is stunning from the top
This statue is said to be the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world. Around 1 lac miniature Buddha statue is kept inside this big statue. It has also has a prayer room.
After that we took a trip around Thimphu dzong aka Tashichho Dzong. It is from where the government operates and have all the ministry and secretariats in it. The Royal family also lives here. It is situated on the bank of river.
Thimphu has many tourist attraction point like National Zoo( you can Spot Takin- The national animal of Bhutan),heritage museum,centenary farmer market etc.
but I highly recommend a visit to “Simply Bhutan”. It’s a live museum located near the city centre. You get to know Bhutan’s culture and tradition, witness folk dance, architecture of Bhutanese houses, hint of there day to day life. Also at the end you get to try some archery.
Oh by the way Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. You will find many people indulging in archery in there free time( mostly in village).
Also that night we went to a club in Thimphu for new year eve. Thanks to our guide- Rinzin.
We start our journey back to Phuntsholing. From Thimphu it took us around 6 hours to reach. Journey was quite melancholic. We pass by some great landscapes. There was a halt for 1 hour due to some construction work at road but rest the journey was smooth. Perfect weather,cold wind in my hair and Because “journey is always more beautiful than the destination”
After reaching went for some shopping and than retired for the day.
So I said good bye to my fellow traveler and hopped on to our taxi and went back to Bagdogra. Took a 5 pm flight and I was back to Delhi by 8 pm. Bhutan is amazing and mysterious to its core. Life in Bhutan is very calm and easy. There is no rush. People are happy with what they have. Considering the absence of urban life, no sale of tobacco, you can rejuvenate yourself in this land locked country-The land of the Thunder Dragon.