The easiest way to reach Bhutan is to take a direct flight from Delhi to Paro. Bhutan has monopolized air travel with only two native airlines operating on its soil. This makes air travel to and from Bhutan a tad bit expensive. As cost conscious travellers, we wanted to save money. Letting go of a direct flight to Paro was an easy decision. Besides, road journeys are so enticing and we did not want to miss the breath taking landscapes both in India and in Bhutan. Don’t you think, crossing the national border by road has its own charm?
The only thing we wanted to pre book was our flights and hotels. A detailed itinerary for each day has never been our idea of travel. On day one we took a two hour flight from Delhi to Bagdogra,West Bengal, and helped ourselves with a sumptuous lunch somewhere near the airport. Small outlets with local food were our priority throughout the trip! They serve the most authentic food prepared with locally sourced ingredients. One can tell a lot about the way of life of a geographic location with the kind of food consumed by the locals.
The five hours’ drive from Bagdogra to the border town of Bhutan, phuentsholing was beautiful. We got a glimpse of the mighty Teesta river and the drive was mostly through tea gardens.On our arrival at phuentsholing, We headed straight to the immigration office, unaware of the surprises we were in for. The immigration office was closed. Yes, closed. We did not know what to do. Little did we know that as soon as we cross the Indian border, our adventures will begin!
Bhutan was closed for the ‘Blessed Rainy Day’ a day earlier than scheduled. Blessed Rainy Day is a holiday marking the end of the monsoon season in Bhutan. This gave me a sense of how Bhutan’s culture and traditions are deeply rooted in nature preservation and worship. Throughout the trip, I noticed that all the mystical stories , folklores and fables of Bhutan more or less revolve around nature, its mighty miracles.
We were in phuentsholing for a day and had to make the most of it(One can stay in phuentsholing without the Immigration documents). It was actually a good thing because we got all the time to laze around and interact with the locals.
We learnt that there is a Gharial conservation center nearby. Of course we had to visit! This conservation center essentially provided a safe breeding ground for the crocodiles and alligators. It was a wonderful experience watching these magnificent creatures so closely. Artificial lakes were created for the reptiles and there was minimal external disturbance.