This one goes back to February 2013 - A bit late for this post though, but as they say "Better late than never". So there we were. All done with our placements, and it was time to put this Honeymoon period of ours to full use. Goa had been checked off the list and the next stop was this amazing place which has left us with lifetime of memories - Bhutan, The Land of Thunder Dragon.
This was certainly our one final trip before the end of college and it had to be good. Though it didn't appear so at the start, when our train from Mumbai to Kolkata got delayed by over 12 hours. Take that for a start. 12 hours which we bought out of our "rigorous academic schedule" got wasted just like that. And this was just the start. 12 hours delay meant we also missed our connecting train from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri. In a hurry, we decided to board a random train with a wait listed ticket. Having traveled in Gomti Express for 4 years during my B.Tech had made sure that no matter what the condition or status of train is, I could survive it with ease. But it was not the same for all of us. A combination of many factors made it a horrible dream.
To start with, we were fined by the TC and were allocated just one seat (for six guys). For that too, we had to get our self into a fight with a localite. Then there was this psycho guy sitting next to us, who was desperately trying to strike a conversation with us. One of my friend's battery was at 16% and he demanded to transfer an entire movie via Bluetooth. If you think that was bad, there was more to come. Later, he was actually trying to show us porn on his mobile. A stranger, in a completely packed train where we didn't even have a seat to sit, was trying to show us porn on his mobile phone. Amidst all these psycho characters, beggars abusing us when not given money, one of our friends passing out by the end of this train journey, we finally reached New Jalpaiguri. And this was where things started getting back on track, with a mouth watering and delicious dinner to follow. The waiter, though, looked too ecstatic (as if we were the first customers after decades) and tried to sell his entire restaurant to us. An interesting conversation that he struck with us:
Waiter: Kuch aur lenge Sir?
Me: Ek Pyaaz Aur.
Me: Bas Ek Pyaaz Aur.
Me: Abey bas ek pyaaz la ke de na X-(
I often dream of a trip to a place which is completely new to me. No crowd. No connection with the outside world. A perfect place to be with yourself. And a lifetime of experience to offer. Bhutan was such one place. We reached the Indo-Bhutan border the next morning, through a cab. This was the first time I was setting my foot outside the country. Crossing the border multiple times to get cash, ID cards photocopied and getting the formalities in place to get the VISA (free of cost). Getting a cab cum guide, sipping on the Bhutanese drink while waiting for VISA to be processed, buying the basic necessities for the travel (along with a single SIM card to be shared by all - Tashi cell), we were all set to start our journey to Thimphu.
Our meeting with the Thunder Dragon can be easily summarized under following heads:
1. Serenity: Bhutan is a place where you have to be lucky to hear the honking of a vehicle. Such a calm and peaceful place, with the hospitality of our neighbors to add on to. The strong sense of culture and tradition is something that binds the entire country together. People here are really passionate about their environment and culture. Everyone has a mutual sense of respect for each other. People are actually satisfied with whatever they have and that makes it such a lively and positive place to be in.
2. Tiger's Nest: The Dzongs spread all around the country, from Thimphu to Paro, is a strong symbol of the cultural and tradition that binds this country together. Be it the National Museum, bringing to life all the biodiversity and classic tales everyone here grows listening to, or the Buddha's statue which resides on the mountains of Thimphu like a guardian angel, there are so many such places to visit that you might not feel like returning back. Tiger's Nest is one such place that I never felt like coming back from. A really difficult trek of over 2 hours, starting from 7000m above the sea level marks the start of this place. In absence of any kit or so, we were dependent on each other to complete this. Lost amidst the mountains a numerous no. of times, going in circles trying to find a way up, attentive to the danger of any wild animals attempting to join us in our jounrney, we finally reached up. Now "up" is a very subjective term. Because even though we were thousands of feet above the sea level, there were still 700 steps to go before reaching our destination. Finally there was this time to thank 96 steps of NITIE for training us all the while to pull this off.
We went through the trail, made friends with tiger sized dogs, attempted to push each other down the cliff, took pit stops to reflect upon the meaning of life (Just kidding, pit stops were for photo sessions), and finally reached the Tiger's nest. Legend says that the former wife of an emperor, known as Yeshe Tsogyal, willingly became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva) in Tibet. She transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on her back from Tibet to the present location of the Taktsang in Bhutan. In one of the caves here, the Guru then performed meditation and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and the place became holy. We could actually feel that aura about the place. That the place was calling it's master, who has left it after occupying it for so long. The cave stayed there, in dark, in complete silence, as if preserving each and every movement that took place there. I went there just to tick a place off my list. But I came back a different person.
3. Snow and Takin: Where there is a will, there is snow. Our guide told us that we would be lucky to find some snow at this time of the year. And lucky we were. It was like an elephant finding a pool of cold water inside a desert. We were all into the snow in a few moments, two teams divided on random, and there began a snow fight. And not to mention, another one of the photo sessions.
Then there were these royal dogs all over the place. They look more like wolves and were always with us wherever we went. Even on that dreadful night when two of us were lost, drunk, at 3 in the night in the heart of Paro. There was this complete gang which stayed with us in the field, all along, until a search party found us clicking selfies with the dogs. This time of the year was not favorable for finding yaks. But nonetheless, the big lazy Takins were there to accompany us. Once they used to be free, but when they started disrupting the normal routine of the city, they were secluded up in the mountains (Again it's subjective. By mountains, I mean higher on the mountains :P).
4. Night Life: Bhutan looks beautiful at night. The lights of the city makes it appear like the stars have come down to settle on the mountains in the night. And the moon, showering these stars with its glimmering shining light.
It's not that the entire Bhutan goes to sleep at 10. Don't be fooled by the image it portrays in the daylight. For the party creatures too, there is a lot of scope here. An entry to a high profile disc at just 250 bucks was like icing on the cake. Dancing on the bollywood numbers in the Bhutan, DJ dedicating the songs to his "Indian friends" and the 4:1 gender ratio of Bhutan (in favor of girls :P) made it even more enjoyable. The after effects that night, though, are not something I would like to recount here.
5. Food and Drinks: Bhutan made me fell blindly in love with fish curry. Love at first taste it was. It was a paradise for us when it came to this (can't say the same for vegetarians :P). And Special Courier just made the things a lot better. If you go to Bhutan, special courier should be your preferred choice of beverage (very reasonable and very tasty :D).
Bhutan was seriously an awesome experience for all of us. Our guide took us to a "simple" place at the eve of our departure day. "A drink for all from my side. Come one Come all. We will party tonight" is what he said. And did we partied? Yes we did, not as much as our guide, but still :P
Our cab's music system just had one playlist to boast of and it was repeated so much that even today when I hear songs like "Superman" it takes me back to that golden week. No incoming calls to attend to, no whatsapp or facebook to check, for once it felt great to be away from everything. Bhutan was awesome, people were great, food was great, but one thing that took it all to the next new level was the company. One for All, All for One, as they say. The Druk Express was indeed remarkable. While coming back from that 5 days trip, a bit tired physically, or mind was still back there. Back there with Fish curry, Clove, Special Courier and Prayer Flies.
A few encounters that we could never forget (Only the 6 of us could relate to these :D)
1. The incident of "Chhanda" and "Bhakk G****" :P :P
2. Tushar's prayer flies and the continuous struggle to keep the Toilet mug and washroom mug from mixing up :P :P
3. The poker nights. Deva and Sumit being hypnotized by "simple simple" girl and locked outside the hotel. Resorting to throwing stones at our windows and Tushar's suggestion to switch the lights off and sleep, so that the hooligans go away. Babu's daredevil act saved the day for the hypnotized guys.
4. Puneet's oats and being tortured for being a vegetarian.
5. Tushar, Puneet and Babu got together to lock me inside a room at the middle of the night, with two zombies. I made sure to wake the entire hotel before going to sleep.
6. The bill which conatined 4 120ml pegs and none of us remembered how it came in the list. Now they know what woke the entire hotel up ;)
7. Tushar's shortcuts during the trek downhill and Puneet's 100 m sprint down hill to jump off the mountain.
8. Babu's sudden found love for Clove ;)
Can't possibly recount everything here.A week long trip, lifetime of memories. Shikumpaaaaaa :D :D .....