It was all about ladakh, for last two years, trying to perfect a ‘different’ plan, which could include all possible magic needed, to make it a once in a lifetime trip, afterall it was a dream destination. I scribbled & researched and I do not know, how or when I swerved towards Bhutan – The land of Thunder Dragon or more famously called as the Last-Shangri-la. In one weeks time, a rough draft was made with budget of 20K inclusive of Air & Train fare. I shared with some people, few responded, few ignored. Thereafter, it was all about Bhutan everywhere, pictures displayed them, newspaper printed about it; I even received a pen with Drukair printed on it, by fluke, courtesy My Sister. It was like everything around me was sending in a positive vibe to visit Bhutan.
During my research for an itinerary, I came across many photo files, which had an elaborate title – Bhutan, but when you go through it, you realize, it was always Paro and Thimpu or for some it extended till Punakha or Bumthang. I wondered why people term ‘Bhutan’ for just two or three cities, when there is much more to explore in this beautiful country. Offcourse, little more research and further map study, I realized, there is more to Bhutan beyond Paro and Thimpu. So, the plan extended to 15 days, right from entry through West Bengal, i.e. West to touching the Northern eastern State of Arunachal Pradesh at Trashiyangste and exiting via South i.e. Samdrup Jhongkar into Assam. I even posted a query to one of the blogger, as to why people do not go beyond Paro or Punakha. He replied it is mostly because of lack of transportation (or costly private transport, hilly terrain and mostly villages (in other words - nothing to see). I was adamant, because when you go as a backpacker, it is always about exploring the unexplored. So, the final plan was drawn, which was clearly divided into two parts – Town &Village.
Thimpu being the central city with most of the buses starting from there and also, the permits to visit the restricted areas are obtained at Thimpu, hence I kept it as base for other places to visit.
Being a 15 days plan, the first obstacle was getting so many leaves. A proper time had to be chosen to decrease the number of official leaves. After scanning the calendar, I realized there were ample public holidays for office goers like me and others in October. Combining Saturday-Sunday offs & Diwali public holidays, the count of 15 days came down to 12 days for some and 10 days for others including me. So, October was the month to explore Bhutan! I thanked my stars, when I came to know it was almost end of tourist season & it would be pleasant weather to visit the Himalayan Royal Kingdom.
Being so positive about the visit, I booked the airplane tickets in April at dirt price of 4K for five of us thus clearing the second obstacle. To fit it properly in budget, I thought of one way journey i.e. while going towards NJP by booking the 3AC tickets for train, and again return journey by train would have killed all of us for 2.5 days, hence we opted for flights. Now comes the main part of the plan- the actual trip. The usual tweaks to perfect it continued for next six months and also the number of people for this trip kept declining till it reached One – i.e. Me. Some not relieved from office for leaves, some didn’t bother to reason, some for Marathon and some due to change in job, hence the leave issues. I wondered what kind of determination it takes to actually make it a successful trip? Because, even for me, issues kept cropping up right from start, but I couldn’t complain or cancel trip, after all others had committed for my sake. So, there I was with the burden of trust & betrayal, questioning the realization of this epic trip. Finally, I made up my mind to travel solo, I got another setback, since September, there was some rule about ban on Solo travelling for Indians. Back to square one, drafted a Plan B for Nepal, so that the leaves that I had to bargain so hard with adjustments in notice period and in addition to train & flight tickets should not go waste. But as luck would have it, One of my friend recommended his friend for this trip. She, Alpa, being novice wanted to explore the adventures of being a backpack traveler. Another friend of mine, Kaveri, also on notice period like me, wanted a big break from office politics, decided to join me & Alpa at last minute. But then there has to be suspense till last moment, and so it happened, till one day prior I was not sure if I was going to Bhutan with these two or going solo to Nepal equally tensed and excited for this much deserved sojourn of the year.
Actual Plan: Finally, the day dawned on 11th October,2014, we met at LTT station at 7.30 a.m. to board the Guwahati Express, which left the station by 8.05 a.m. Kaveri, who had joined last, had issues with her train ticket being waitlisted. We got it confirmed and thereafter the journey began smoothly. We had a couple with one kid for company, who kept us entertained throughout the train journey.
We were supposed to reach New Jalpaiguri station at 1.05 am on Monday morning, instead the train was few hours late. Being pitch black outside, it was becoming difficult in keeping tab on next oncoming station. Alpa & Kaveri dozed off, while I kept watch on next oncoming station with intermittently dozing off and getting nightmare about missing the station. But the delay was blessing in disguise, instead of waiting from 1 to 7 am in the waiting room, the hours were considerably reduced to 2 hours, because we reached around 5 am in the morning. After the morning rituals, we had another train to catch, which would have taken us to Hasimara. The train came on time i.e. 7.45 am and slowly steered through the dense scenic forest, with occasional view of almost dried river and visible white sand.
The speed is kept slow so as to avoid any accidents with wandering animals or people on the track, the train kept blaring deafening horns to announce its entrance every few seconds throughout the route.
13th October -We reached Hasimara Junction at 11.30 am, almost 1 hour behind schedule. We started our video record for this trip from this station onwards for which Kaveri was in-charge. As soon as we came out, we were greeted with the sight of taxis waiting for passengers. Those were reserved taxis charging 400-600 bucks. Since, I had already read about availability of share autos somewhere near the station. We took a direct U-turn towards station and inquired with station master, who directed us to the other far end of station where the share autos waited to depart for Jaigaon.
Jaigaon is the last town on Indian side of border. With bags loaded, auto took off towards Jaigaon, it was almost 30 minutes journey for Rs. 30 per head. We were dropped right at the border. We saw the big border gate, through which the vehicles from both sides crossed over. For pedestrians there was smaller gate. We walked in through and came to the Phuentsholing town, this was the Bhutan side of border, the whole ambience changed. From chaotic crowd to peaceful surrounding. I had read about the reviews of Hotel Peljorling, as soon as I saw the board, went in to enquire.
We had to go through the crowd, to the first floor, we submitted the form at the counter and then there was a long wait. They tend to call out the name, where they take your photograph and fill out the information provided in the forms directly into the computer. After 1.5 hours, we received our permits just when the office was about to close at 5.00 pm. We were relieved, we didn’t have to wait one more day at the town, we soon moved towards bus stand which was almost 1.5 kms away. We had to book the early morning bus ticket to Thimpu. We got the tickets for Rs. 230 per head. We asked around for the direction of Crocodile breeding centre, it was on the backside of Bus stand, there was ticket charge of Rs. 20 per head. We dashed in so as to get good view of the crocodiles before sunset. After spending some time, we retraced our path back towards town. A room with three beds was available for Rs. 700. We took the deal. Offloaded our luggage, and dashed to the immigration office for permits. We saw many Indian people waiting outside the office, mostly for workers permit. There was lunch time for the office; we took the opportunity to fill in ourselves, being new to the place instead of experimenting, we preferred to eat at the same place where we stayed, because there was restaurant attached. I had Chicken Thupka, while Alpa and Kaveri in their curiosity to try Bhutanese dish ordered Kewa Datsi and rice, offcourse after asking the waiter about its content & how it is made. It was a Potato, Chilli and Cheese gravy. After the experimental lunch, we went back to the immigration office. The queue was much longer and I was worried if we are going to get the permits on same day itself. We filled three forms individually; I and Alpa attached two individual photos & a copy of passport, while Kaveri attached the voter’s ID card.
We walked around the town, looking for shops, scanning handicrafts, actually ending up buying some good stuff at good price. Got back to the hotel, had dinner & dozed off. Next day, we had 7.00 am bus from bus stand for Thimpu. Hence, we made sure to clear bills on previous night itself.
14th October- Since, the distance was almost 1.5 kms(and do not judge the kms like we do in India, it is way much longer because of the twist and turns), and with our heavy luggage, we hired a taxi for Rs. 50. He dropped us at bus stand. Thereafter, it was winding, upward journey to Thimpu. Also, the temperature dropped down, our jackets came out and it stayed out for next 10 days. The scene outside became more spectacular. We were travelling along with clouds. Entire route had turns at every 100 mts, with valley on one side, waterfalls, streams flowing in between, it seemed like Malshej Ghat but only ‘n’ times bigger and mighty. We reached Thimpu by 2.00 pm after intermediate stop for lunch. And the only dishes available to eat are the datsis and thupka. Again, Thupka won hands down. As soon as you get down at Bus stand, taxi drivers start hovering near you. We asked a gentleman to take us to a hotel, he charged Rs. 120. It was a 5-10 minutes distance, which we realized later on. On the way, we also put in the word for getting extended & restricted area permits. Instead of going to hotel first, he took us to the Thimpu immigration office, which was on the main Norzin Lam road. He helped us in getting the photocopies of permits, we got from Pheuntsholing (required to be attached with the forms for extended and restricted permits). He did the running around for same, in few minutes we had both the permits in hand. We were so happy for spending lesser time as compared to the harrowing 1.5 hrs at Phuentsholing office that we thought of handing over Rs. 150 to him as gratitude, but instead gave him as decided Rs. 120, because, he charged us return fare which I didn’t realize while looking for taxi at the stand. Anyways, as decided, he took us to some hotels on the same road, finally zeroed on Hotel Singye for Rs. 1300 per night, after bargaining a lot. We stayed there for two nights. Next day was Thimpu Sightseeing. We asked the same driver regarding the package deal for sightseeing the thimpu city. After much bargaining, he agreed on Rs. 2000.
15th October - We were ready by 7.30 am next morning, we were supposed to visit Tango Monastery first, because of the one hour hike, and we skipped and veered towards Dechenphu Lhakhang, which is considered very special temple for Bhutanese people. The roads were smooth and mountains had the blanket of fog. The road was winding up, with prayer flags on the pine trees. So, from here on, we started our actual road trip in Bhutan.
Dechenphu Lhakhang was on an elevated level. After spending 10 minutes around, we left for the highest point on road in Thimpu, from where the entire magnificent view of the city can be seen. The famed Buddha Point can also be seen from here. Since, we started our journey empty stomach, we insisted on having breakfast, as the city opens up by 9.00 am. We requested the driver to halt at General Post Office. The main agenda of Thimpu visit was also to get personalized stamps. We had a simple breakfast of Puri and datsi alongwith some big rings of fried-rice stuff at the backside of GPO, a small canteen. After breakfast, we went to Post office to check out the stamps.
The lady at the counter took our photos and soon she gave prints of our stamps for sum of Rs. 200. She said that we can use these stamps on post cards to send them back home. The post cards were arranged in racks, for Rs. 20 each. Kaveri took the opportunity of sending a thank you post card to her boss for granting her the leaves. I bought one more stamp of Current King and Queen of Bhutan and kept it along with my personalized stamp for my own collection. After the over excitement of owning the stamps, we left the GPO.
Next on list was Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as Painting School) where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
After the brief visit, we went further to Takin Preserve. Takin is the National animal of Bhutan, it has its own mythological tale. It has the head of the Goat & body of the cow. The preserve also holds a few sambar and barking deer.
Changangkha Lhakhang was next. It is an old fortress-like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu. A brief circuit around and rotating the prayers wheels, we were back on the road. Thereafter, we went to the National Memorial Chorten located in the main town. It was impressive elaborate structure, crowded with people offering prayers, circumventing the Chorten.
This place is photographer’s delight to capture the hues and colors of prayer flags against the backdrop of this pristine white structure. Also, we found many monks around, who didn’t mind to get photographed. The driver dropped us at a café for lunch. After going through the menu, which had mostly pork and beef, we decided to search other restaurant on our own. We found one, offcourse we had to wait for almost an hour on our table before the food was served. The peach Ice tea was my favourite and it was available throughout Bhutan.
After wasting the hours at lunch table, we were late for Simtokha Dzong, hence we decided to skip it, and instead saw the Royal Botanical Garden and Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha before sunset. Royal Botanical Garden had variety of flowers. Only few flowers and roses were around. Seemed like the blooming season was still away. Statue of Buddha was on top, from where entire Thimpu city can be seen. Also, it was so windy, we could hardly stand still.
We wrapped up the day by booking the tickets to Bumthang in advance for the fourth day, and further continued walking up and down the Norzin Lam lane, where they had different lane specifically for sale of handicrafts. It was costlier than we expected. After asking for permissions from each owner, I clicked the arts.
Next day, we had to leave for Cheli-la Pass (Highest pass on road & restricted area) at Haa valley. We bargained a lot for Thimpu-Haa-Paro, but the driver was adamant on Rs. 3500. He was calculating the return fare to thimpu and Haa village. While roaming the streets in the evening, we stopped a cab, and asked for the charges for same. When we insisted on Chelila Pass, he agreed for Rs. 3000. Haa village is further 30-35 kms ahead from Cheli-la. After assuring ourselves of the lowest cost for same, we agreed for same.
16th October - Next morning, we were ready by 7.00 am for Cheli La Pass. Road to Cheli la goes from the outskirts of Paro Town.
We had our breakfast at Airport restaurant, which had a classy feel. Also, the occasional flights of Druk Air can be seen hovering above. Road kept winding up and entire Paro Town along with the Air strip for Paro Airport can be seen. Luckily, we saw a plane landing on the strip.
We reached Cheli-la by Afternoon. There were other tourist buses too at the spot. The mighty, Bhutan’s most sacred mountain - Mt. Jhomolhari can be seen from here.
We were back to Paro town by 4.00 pm. Driver took us to Hotel Peljorling, got a place to stay for Rs. 750.
We had lunch and set out to explore the quaint town of Paro, also with the intention of booking a taxi for next day’s hike to Taktsang and remaining sightseeing. We first went to Taxi stand. Guy came forward assuring us that Rs. 3000 was the best deal one can get around. We were not too happy. We left the stand and walked down the road. Saw a taxi halting at one end, went upto him and asked the same, he gave us the best deal of Rs. 1500, and assured us that Hike and sightseeing can be covered in one day. We were too ecstatic for next big day.
17th October - As pre-decided, we got up early and were at the base for the trek by 7.30 am. We, three, soon got separated, I was the last one, Alpa moved ahead on the zig zag route, Kaveri took the villager’s route, which was steep but shorter. She had company of some local ladies who entertained her with their lifestyle tales. I started taking shortcuts (straighter unmarked paths) in that zig zag main route, offcourse other tourist too followed the suit. It was amazing climb, with occasional stopovers, allowing the horses carrying the tourist on its back to pass, chatting up with other foreign tourists. Finally, after 2.5 hours, reached the topmost point, Kaveri was waiting there. From this point onwards, the descend starts and the entire Monastery can be viewed on the backdrop. A photo-op session of selfies followed. After an hour of descend and further ascend, we reached the iconic Taktsang Monastery. After the security check, we took almost one hour to tour the entire place. We started the descend at 12.00 noon. I and Kaveri took the shorter villagers route, reminded us of Sahayadri treks, because of slippery soil and steepness. We were down by 1.00 pm. We continued further for rest of the sightseeing starting with Drukgyel Dzong, considered as the most beautiful and famous archaeological sites, is now in ruins. Looked like a fort. Next was Kichu Lhakhang.
We were actually too tired, thought of dismissing ‘another lhakhang’.
But, this Lhakhang was one of the most beautiful and wondrous place to see. Photography was not allowed inside. We were in awe, when we saw those magnificent statues inside. Must visit for all.
We were back to the main town, saw another plane flying overhead and rushed for National Museum of Bhutan. We hurriedly caught the glimpse of Bhutan’s heritage, story behind butter tea, meaning of different masks, wild life, flora and Fauna, also the history of Himalayan plate Entire Paro town can be seen from here. The serpentine Paro river and the town located on its banks. Rinpung Dzong was next, unfortunately it was closed, because, it was already 5.00 pm. We just saw it from outside. We went straight to the Paro Taxi stand, our driver had already fixed us a share cab to Thimpu for Rs. 200 per head.
We reached Thimpu by 7.30 pm. We didn’t want to stay at Hotel Singye again, hence thought of exploring other options. The driver took us to Hotel Zey Zhang. We saw most of the occupants were Indians. Even the owner was very courteous and humorous.
18th October - We already booked the next day for Punakha Sightseeing for Rs. 3000. The road was being re-constructed to Punakha, hence, driver warned us of road blocks, ensured us to be on time. We left for Punakha by 6.30 a.m., crossed the patch before road could get blocked.
We had a brief halt at Dochula Pass, which offered a 360 degree view of Himalayan ranges. There were 108 Chortens built to honor the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003. We rushed back to the cab, to cover the next patch of road before the block. We reached Punakha by afternoon. It was a picturesque town.
We first visited the magnanimously built fortified Dzong on the confluence of Mo and Pho river – Punakha Dzong. Special permit is needed to visit this Dzong. Arguably the most beautiful dzong in the country. We took almost an hour and half to go around, soak in the peaceful surrounding, sat for some time and were back on the road. The driver asked us if we want to walk on the sand on the bank of the river, we were too thrilled. The scenic view was too spectacular to refuse.
After some rounds of photos, we decided to leave for Chimi lakhang. There was an hour’s walk from the main road. Saw the sun shining with all its might, we decided to give it a skip. Went around the place scanning the handicrafts. We were back on road to Thimpu, again paid a short visit to Dochula Pass.
19th October - We stayed back at Thimpu, because we had next morning bus to Bumthang. It was a whole day travel with breathtaking sceneries. We had to collect the permit from checkpost, that was taken from us, while going to Punakha. I got it stamped.
We reached Bumthang late at 7.30 pm instead of 5.30 pm because of some technical snag in the bus. Being dark, it was not advisable to roam around in search of accommodation. Instead I asked the traffic policeman regarding a place to stay. He guided us to Hotel Ghatsholing, located at the back of the bus stand. We got two bedded room for Rs. 800. After the grueling journey of more than 8 hours, we were too tired. Bumthang was the sleepiest town. Every shop shuts by 7.00 pm. I avoided going out. Alpa & Kaveri scouted for dinner, finally found one restaurant open. Winter had set in. We could feel the chill down the marrow.
20th October - By next morning, Alpa’s bout of cough increased, she required rest. She preferred to stay back at hotel, while I and Kaveri went out for Bumthang Sightseeing.
We went to Taxi stand, again the quoted price was 1500-2000 for just 3-4 places. We thought of asking some cab out of taxi stand. After waiting for some time, we found a cab, a young talkative chap- Christo, agreed to take us around for 1200, also acting as guide. We first went to Mebar Tsho, which is more of a river gorge than a lake. It is considered one of the most sacred site.
Next was Kurjey Lhakhang, there were three temples to explore, being afternoon, they were closed. But we were lucky, when one monk came around and he opened up the temple for us to view inside. The middle temple was built around a cave with a body print of Guru Rinpoche imbedded in the wall. Soon thereafter, we visited the Jambay Lhakhang. When we saw the statues inside, we were awestruck. The monks were playing the music instruments, chanting the prayers, creating a different aura around.
We were allowed to go around the main idol, watching each and every idols in awe. Bhutan has plants which flowers in abundance. We got the opportunity to pose with them. Last on list was Jakar Dzong, which was being used as administrative offices. We took a round, entire Bumthang town can be viewed from here. We finished the entire sightsee by 2.30pm. We back to the hotel, picked up Alpa for lunch. After lunch, we rested for a while before going back to the town to enquire about the bus for Trashigang.
Got a shock of life, that the bus tickets are supposed to be booked at Thimpu. Infact, when I had enquired at Thimpu for same, they asked us to book at Bumthang. We caught the traffic policeman, told him our dilemma. He assured us of help and asked to return by 6.00 pm sharp. We didn’t had cash with us, after sending Alpa and kaveri to get the money from ATM. I chatted up the policemen, and they were amused by us, three girls going backpacking across Bhutan. People usually don’t go beyond Punakha or Bumthang, and here I was repeating the story to all the three policemen, who were too pleased to hear my tale.
21st October - Finally, we got three seats for Rs. 500 each, which later turned out to be double booked. The bus comes directly from Thimpu, halts in night at Bumthang and goes next day to Trashigang. It was again a whole day journey with remarkable views. Snow had started settling on trees.
There was greyish tinge on the whole landscape, which looked like ash, but on closer inspection, it was thin layer of snow. I was ecstatic at such an amazing sight, reminded me of post card view of Switzerland. We reached Trashigang by 4.30 pm. Settled for Hotel close to bus stand for Rs. 750. The experience at Trashigang was not that great like the other towns of Bhutan. Even the room, we stayed had cockroaches. Being at pen-ultimate leg of journey, we ignored the problem and focused on next day’s day trip to Trashiyangste.
22nd October - We got up late, thinking it won’t take much time for a day trip. We enquired with the hotel owner regarding the charges to visit Trashiyangste. He quoted 3500, coming down to 3000. We felt, we were being taken for a ride. Thanking him, we left for the taxi stand, where the guy who quoted 3000 was already speaking to the other taxi drivers. We felt something amiss, directly asked the cops, regarding the charges, they told us, it should be about 2000-2500.
We were just thinking of skipping the trip, suddenly a guy approaches, for Rs. 2200, to and fro trip. Although, he looked shady, we were on the verge of skipping the trip, finally thought of taking the risk and it looked too tempting to say no, after coming so long. We got in his truck, and were off to Trashiyangste. I usually prefer to take a nap to avoid the nauseating feeling, that I get in these twist and turn roads, instead I was wide awake, watching his every turn, because he smelled very drunk, we realized this later. Instead of being worried to death, Kaveri kept him busy with conversations, while we provided back support, making sure he doesn’t doze off. After watching his driving for some time, I realized these people usually drink and he was following all the rules, which was sign of safe driving.
It was a long journey, with road blocks in between, almost after 3 hours we saw the sign of some civilization. Trashiyangste was the last town on Bhutan side, thereafter, it was mountains, leading to Arunachal Pradesh on Indian side. Chorten Kora is an important stupa next to the Kulong Chu River, the symbol of peace and harmony, inspired by (Bodhnath Stupa in Nepal), and is esteemed highly by the people of Bhutan. After the brief tour around, we went back to Gom Kora, which was on the way.
It was a picturesque temple, located amidst the rice field. The background was very beautiful, here I took some selfies with the old ladies who were watching and smiling. It was already 6.00pm and sun had already set. We missed out on Trashigang Dzong, we got down at main street, walked down to hotel. We had already booked our next day’s bus tickets to Samdrup jongkhar for Rs. 240 per head.
23rd October - Next day was the last day of travel in Bhutan, It was a again a long journey, started at 07.30 am and reached by 4.00 pm. From mountains to plains, there was unsettling feeling that rushed through my mind. The sight of far off plains, reminded me of the bliss that I was leaving behind. Samdrup jongkhar had the mixed crowd of Buddhist and Hindus.
Being the main day of Diwali, there were bollywood songs on the loudspeakers. Shopkeepers performing Lakshmi Puja, one owner gave us ladoos to eat, while we were clicking pictures and watching the celebrations around. Our permits were taken at the Forest Check post, we reached one day ahead of plan and had a full day for Guwahati trip, because of Paro (I had kept two days for Paro).
24th October – Next day, we crossed the border on foot, caught the Bus, which took us to Rangia Town, from here, there were share taxis to Guwahati city. We hopped in one and landed in City by afternoon. We were dropped on the outskirts of the city. Hired an auto, which took us to main city, showed us some hotels for accommodation (Being off season, hotels were running empty). We zeroed in on one, which was closer to the Airport bus service (near Guwahati Railway station). We had half day in hand plus the next day till 2.00 pm. I kept a day buffer, for any unforeseen circumstances, which we adjusted with single day at Paro; instead now we got 24 hours extra. Khamakya Temple at Guwahati was kept optional initially, but now we had time to visit Khamakya Temple (7 kms).
After 2.00 pm, we set out, took the local bus and got down at the entrance. Khamakya temple was located on top of the hill, to go there, share taxis ply. We got into argument because instead of regular Rs. 10, they started asking Rs. 20. We were furious at how these people can change rates on sight of a tourist. We were too adamant to budge, finally another taxi came, when he assured us that he would charge according to meter, those people started abusing him. We got in anyway, we had to pay little extra but we didn’t mind that. It was the ransom attitude at the holy place of those people that actually pissed us off. I didn’t like the place, because like those taxi drivers even the people who offered more money were taken directly in as compared to people like us who preferred to go through queue. Well, it is the story of all the pilgrimage centers across India. And yes, this entire incident, reminded us WE WERE BACK IN INDIA. In the evening we took the Brahmaputra cruise, it is good for couples, I do not know about Kaveri & Alpa, but I was helluva bored. After the cruise, we went around the Bazaar area, looking for jackets, shopped for some tea.
25th October – We got up late by 8.00 am. I had a direct flight at 5.45 pm, Kaveri had train journey of 2 days at 6.00 pm, while Apla had one stop flight at 3.45 pm. I and Alpa left at 10.00 am in the Airport Bus. While Kaveri stayed back till checkout time. I and Alpa reached home by 11.00 pm. Kaveri reached on 27th.
This was an epic journey, which seemed like an eternity, I did had a half empty feeling while leaving Trashiyangste, for which I promised myself I will go back again maybe for a trek at Trashiyangste or Bumthang in future.
1. One photograph and a copy of passport or Voter’s ID are required for entry permit at Phuentsholing. Even for extended & restricted permit, again one photograph each and copy of entry permit is required.
2. Shopping at Phuentsholing is cheaper than other towns.
3. Every restaurant has a bar attached. People drinking on another table is very common. And yes, they do mind their own business.
4. Thuppa and Thupka are different. Thuppa is the rice porridge served in the early hours or late at night to beat cold along with tea whereas Thupka is the watery noodle dish with a dash of vegetables and chicken or any other meat.
5. While travelling in bus, make sure to reach on reporting time, to upload bags in the carrier section, so as to avoid paying charges to the other guys for helping you. Because the person, uploading the bags is being already paid by the driver himself.
6. There was no issue for currency anywhere. People gladly accepted Indian currencies. Infact, at the restaurant, they asked us for Indian currency, we exchanged them with 1000 notes. They need these currencies to trade with Indian Markets across the borders. Because, most of the things are imported from India by Bhutan.
7. ATMS are available at every town, BOB(Bank of Bhutan) and BNB (Bhutan National Bank). One caters to Maestro cards and other for Visa cards.
8. Maximum charge to move around in town is Rs. 60/-. Some may charge higher as return fare, which can be avoided if you look around for other drivers.
9. If going in cold season, make sure that the geyser works or else it would be very hard time finding a hotel manager in the early morning.
10. Ask for permission before clicking any pictures of handicrafts. It is the respectable way. And yes, they do not deny, except at Monasteries and some important crafts.
11. Always, try to strike a deal for sighseeing outside the taxi stand. You may get cheaper rate as compared to the ganged up rates of Taxi stand.
12. Almost all the buses start from Thimpu itself, book the tickets in advance.