Bhutan is one of those places where an Indian doesn't need any visa or even passport. Often called as India's sister, Bhutan is very small but indeed, a beautiful country to spend some quality time with nature. It is a place where one can find inner peace. Just like any Buddhist country, Bhutan has very humble and down to earth people. The best part of Bhutan is it's natural beauty. It is not a place where you see artificial sightseeing, all you explore is mountains, river and greenery.
To reach Bhutan, you can either go via air or land. There is only one flight that is allowed to enter Bhutan, and that's Druk Air. There are regular flights from Delhi and Kolkata to Paro. Druk Air also flies from Mumbai and Bagdogra.If you are looking for adventure and fun of road trip, then you can opt for road journey from Siliguri towards Bhutan. Most of the hotels in Bhutan are average or budgeted B&B. In a city like Paro and Thimpu, you can find the luxury hotel like Taj Tashi or Le Meridian Paro. For completely local experience, you try staying in a guesthouse or home stay.
Since the airport is in Paro, by default your journey starts from Paro. However, I went to Thimpu first before doing Paro. First, You are anyway going to end up in Paro, so it's better to do it last. Second, Tiger Monastery is the main attraction in Paro, and that needs stamina and strength. It's better to do it in the end rather than doing it first and feeling exhausted or tired throughout the trip. The journey from Paro to Thimpu is indeed scenic and smooth. I never thought that the roads would be that good and well maintained. The capital city of Bhutan, Thimpu is very small yet pretty developed town. After reaching Thimpu, we spent our day relaxing and exploring the streets and local shops. On our way, we came across a place named 'Zumbala', a small restaurant operated by a family where they serve piping hot momos with mouth watering chutney. There are other dishes like delicious chow mien. It is must visit eatery in Thimpu. During my visit, the city was celebrating world music day, where musicians from Bhutan and India were performing rock music. I never imagined that I would be attending a rock concert in Bhutan, an open air concert where you can enter and exit as you please.
On our second day in Thimpu, we did local sightseeing like Buddha Point and National Park to see Bhutan's national animal, Takin. Later when we were roaming the city, we realised that Bhutan was celebrating a public holiday and many localities during that day where practicing Archery, their national sport. The distance to which one has to shoot arrow was so much that you can't even see the aim. It was a completely different game of archery. Men were playing the game of Archery and women and children dancing and singing to add a little zest to the event. I ended my day by filling my stomach with the local cuisine which is Chilli Cheese. Some people make it with red chilli, some with green and others with capsicum. Chilli cheese with rice, only those who can handle spicy food can handle this dish. For delicate stomach, chilli cheese is not for you, at all.
Bhutan being nature island, we decided to go to a place which is not visited by many and is all about nature and locals. From Thimpu, we made our way to Gangtey, a small town where our stay was in Monastery Guesthouse. We were lucky that the place had heater else staying there would have been difficult as it was freezing cold. We were also lucky to see snow fall though it was very little it brought down the temperature for us to avoid taking a bath. I heard so much about homestay and staying in a guesthouse, but I never experienced while traveling. This was my first time, and initially, I was wondering, what I have done, but honestly it was one of those wonderful experiences. The guesthouse keeper was quite helpful, and they made breakfast and dinner according to our preference. The best thing to do in Gangtey is trekking. A walk through the mountains towards the valley via dense forest. On our way, we saw Black Neck Bird, which migrates to Bhutan during the winter. Trek was beautiful, beginners level; hence, it wasn't as scary or tiring as one would have expected it to be. The entire first half of the day went in the trekking, ending it with food at a local restaurant and lots of rest.
After Gangtey, we headed towards the sun; I mean Punakha. Punakha was the only place on the entire trip where we didn't need to wear jacket or sweater. It was bright and sunny in Punakha. Punakha is more of a developed town. The day when we were in Punakha, the whole Monk Body were in Punakha Djzong to celebrate their festival. There was a traditional dance performed by Monk Body inside the Monastery and next day, it was to be carried out among the local people with many other performances from people. Apart from Punakha Monastery, you can visit Bhutan's largest suspension bridge. It might sound ok, but the view of the bridge and the river flowing below makes it pleasure for eyes. For adventure freak, you can do River Rafting on the Punakha River. The rafting level wasn't difficult as we did at the end of winter. If you really want to enjoy river rafting, you should do it during summers when water from the mountain is melted, and level of the river gets a little high.
This brings to our last stop in Beautiful Bhutan, Paro. Started our journey from here and now we will be ending it here. Paro has one of the major attraction of Bhutan, and that is Taktsang Monastery popularly known as 'Tiger's Nest'. The name derives from a story where Guru Rinpoche took his tiger and headed towards the mountain to meditate and defeat the evil. The monastery is at the top of the mountain and to reach there; you start your journey from another mountain. It's a difficult trek, reaching the monastery actually test your fitness level. There is no proper road, no steps, you walk, climb with all your strength and will to reach the top. For those who can't, there is a horse which can take you up but for coming down, you have no other option but to walk. The horse is only for one way, and that's up. The entire trek takes about half a day to climb and come down. By the end of it, you will be so tired that you will only think of going to your hotel and sleep. Hence, Tiger's Nest should be the last thing on your itinerary. Another activity you can do in Paro is cycling. You can roam around the city on Cycle. There are beautiful Apple farms where you can take your cycle and just soak in the beauty and peace of the city. We cycled our way through a farm then headed for the road to cross the bridge and cycle next to the river. There is no word which can explain the experience and fun you can have roaming the city in the best vehicle, cycle.
Bhutan is not only beautiful but also a place where you can find peace and happiness. It takes you back in time where you enjoy nature and not a fancy pub. You roam in the cycle and not in a metro. It is full of friendly and happy people, but not depressed. It might not have man-made park or amusement park, but it has mountains, rivers and rice fields which are nature's best creation.
This trip was originally published on Eat Travel Fun.