Inaugurated in 2004, the monastery has been adorned with very tasteful art right from the main entrance to the prayer hall and the houses behind. I loved how the monastery exuded a sense of peace and calmness. Even though the weather outside was hot, the temperature in the monastery premises was pleasantly cool. We stayed there for a while absorbing its serenity.
The local market, or Mella Bazaar, was the last part of our experience. It was interesting to note that unlike their Indian counterparts the shops had really simple-looking name boards – the boards were dark (most of them either navy blue or black) and had the details written on them in white paint. After enjoying ice creams at a shop nearby, we stopped to purchase a few souvenirs. We purchased prayer flags with the Divya Mantra on them - Om Mani Padme Hum. After a small break at a park nearby, we began our journey back to our side of the border, having earned the bragging rights to have crossed an international border without a passport, and to have gone abroad for for breakfast!
Samdrup Jongkhar, though just a slice of Bhutan, was enough to pique our interest in Bhutan and its amazing culture. I am eagerly waiting for an opportunity to explore more of Bhutan soon.
In case you plan to visit the tiny town, here are a few tips and tricks which might come in handy.
1. The distance between the Guwahati airport and Samdrup Jongkhar is 110km. On leaving Guwahati early, one can reach Samdrup Jongkhar in a little less than two hours. The roads are pretty good.
2. Samdrup Jongkhar is the oldest town in Bhutan. To enter it from Assam one doesn’t need travel documents. However, as an Indian, if you wish to explore more of Bhutan, you would need to carry either the passport or your voter ID card. In the recent days, I have heard of the border authorities also accepting Aadhaar, but I am not sure about how accurate this information is.
3. In case you are wondering about the currency conversion between Bhutanese Ngultrum and Indian Rupee, you don’t have to worry much as the exchange rate is 1:1. Indian Rupee is accepted in Bhutan, and Ngultrum is accepted in parts of Assam near the border.
4. The route to the border town is replete with greenery and has acres of rice and tea plantations.
5. If going from Guwahati, it is advisable to club the visit to Samdrup Jongkhar with other places in and around Guwahati, such as the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and the Purva Balaji Temple.
6. It is essential to carry some food (preferably some dry snacks) along with you for the journey
7. Preferably dress conservatively while visiting monasteries – preferably wear long sleeved shirts and full-length trousers. Avoid wearing t-shirts or short skirts. Usually, hats and umbrellas aren’t allowed inside either. Respect their space - please don't click too many photographs. Enjoy the experience.
8. Please keep your phones in silent mode and talk in a quiet tone while visiting monasteries.
9. Photography is usually allowed in the courtyard of most monasteries.
10. It is customary to give a small donation when visiting a monastery.