Sitting at Kolkata I was wondering whether to spend the Durga Puja vacation being in the city of Joy where its the biggest celebrated festival or travel to some serene place on my bike and explore the unexplored.Its then, I decided to start my road trip to the land of spirits-- Bhutan.
Being on the road and burn some tyres is something that has always given the kick.So I choose to start this trip from Kolkata on bike. Most of the people who has travelled to Siliguri advised me to transfer my bike to Siliguri & start my Bhutan trip from there(The most convenient way to start the trip).
But the bug to do things my way, made me plan my itienerary this way. Kolkata- Siliguri-Bhutan-Siliguri. And send the bike back to kolkata on transport from Siliguri.
Initial plan was to reach Malda (Midway to Siliguri) on day -1. But the roads were really bad after Krishnanagar and we could only reach till Berhampore(Murshidabad) . and yes I was wondering though out my ride whom do I blame for such bad roads-- central govt. -- wb govt or my decision to choose this road.
There is nothing much to see on the way other than Hajaridwar (1000 doors) World Heritage Monument at Berhampore & Imambara right opposite to it.It used to be the court of Justice during the British era for the undivided Bengal, Orissa & north eastern states. Worth a visit.
The only stretch of good road comes right after Berhampore for some 90kms where you can ride at a good speed of 90kms ph.Then comes the traffic of Farakka the barrage of 2.5 kms which was really good to cross. Then comes the bad roads till Raigunj. Don't forget to have lunch Polasanda Punjabi dhaba.
From Raigunj there are two options to reach Siliguri.(Ask locals they will guide you). We took the country side road & we didn't regret to ride on the curvy roads of small villages.
Its shorter-- traffic is minimal and lots of greenery.Then we hit the Highway with Siliguri some 80+ kms away. Got to see Pineapple farming & fresh pineapple juice right on the Highway (34kms from Siliguri)...and not to forget beautiful tea gardens to explore.
All I can say I didn't regret for a single moment riding from Kolkata. Then came the the plains and the last hustling busy town Siliguri.( Entry to all the hills).If you have time you can take one day trip to Darjeeling & come back for ur trip to Bhutan.
The next stop was Jaigaon-- the last town on Indian border. The border town of Bhutan Phuntseiling is very different from Jaigaon. All of a sudden you see a difference of culture, buildings, roads & people. Its very easy to cross the border. Just walk through the entry gate on foot. And yes remember if you are a smoker you won't get ciggrates in Bhutan (NO smoking Country-- Its illegal). Though you can find youths smoking in a bar. Suggest you find your own way to take cigs to the new country.
You can't travel beyond Phunseiling without a valid paper Visa.So get your Visa done there. If you are going by Bike or Car carry the following docs to get a permit from the Bhutan RTO.
Documents to carry:
ID Proof, (Preferably a passport, Election Card, Driving License) remember make sure your photo is clearly visible to avoid hassels.
RTO Book, Pollution Certificate, Valid Driving License, Insurance Paper (If you are planning to take your own Vehicle).
It takes roughly 3-4 hours to get all valid papers to go beyond Phunseiling.
The road trip to land of hills--spirits--Zongs--Masks--Monks starts from here. If I start writing all my experiences it will take atleast 5000+ words to express what I felt during this trip.
So make your own Itienrary and find your own words to express your time in Bhutan.
Few things not to miss while you plan your Bhutan Trip:
1. Plan to do it on road then flying to Paro. Roads are well maintained and views are amazing throughout.
2. Spend more time in Paro if you like Solace & peace then the hustling capital town Thimpu.
3. Plan when there is a dance festival (Either Thimpu or Paro Zong Dance Festival) its worth every money spend to watch people wearing Masks and doing the trafitional dance.
4. Visit to Tiger Nest however difficult people may say it is. The views from Tiger Nest is breathtaking.
5. Go to Chelela Pass highest Pass on Bhutan kingdom.
6. Eat local food & drink at local bars. (Liquor is cheap & XXX rum is as good as Old Monk)
7. Visit to Zongs wearing full sleeves. Half sleeve -- caps-- umbrealls are not allowed.
8. Get a local SIM activated to communicate back home.
9. Its 30 mins ahead of IST so plan accordingly.
10. Go to museums and take local guide to understand more about the culture & bhutannese way of living.
11. Visit to Dochula pass & Budha point from Thimpu. You will miss something if you don't do it.
All I can say Bhutan is beautiful....breathtaking and a place given a choice I would like to settle down. People are simple helpful...and live life to the fullest. They still have belief & worship in their King & Queen. You will see more photos of Kings & Queens than any God across Bhutan. They sing...dance....eat & live life like there is no tommrow.
A decision worth made travelling to Bhutan on Road.