Bhutan in Nov

#1 Oct 26th, 2015, 23:48
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#1
Dear IMrs,

Would be embarking 7 days family trip to Bhutan. All planning is done. the itinerary in Bhutan looks like this:-

21 Nov - Bagdogra _ Phuentsholing (Bhutan Border)
22 Nov - Phuentsholing - Thimphu
24 Nov Thimphu - Punakha
25 Nov Punakha - Paro
27 Nov Paro - Phuentsholing

How does it look?

The trip also covers Darjeeling post Bhutan and Puri post Darjeeling.

I would be posting my travel experience on this thread. Having been to Sikkim in end Dec I am reasonably prepared for Bhutan.

See you around 18 Nov with preliminary posts.
My Foreign Trips will have to wait, There is so much to See in here in INDIA itself

My Contributions:-
Road Trip Hyderabad - Indore - Hyderabad
Travelogue-Pench Tiger Reserve, Kerla Over Land in Journal Section,
Sikkim ,Murud harnai by Road, Bhutan in 7 days
#2 Nov 5th, 2015, 15:04
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#2
Looks great...
With Winter setting in, carry layered clothes, Punakha should be warmer in comparison. Have a early start each day, it is safer to complete your journey in daylight.
Expect a 30 min wait for all your meal orders. Most of the restaurants tend to take last orders by 8.00 pm.
Always stock up with water/snacks or fruits during your car journey - be prepared in the mountains - road blocks, land slides do happen.
Have a great trip.
"It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. "
— Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture)
#3 Nov 5th, 2015, 20:54
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#3
Thanks ashok777 for the good advice. The programme is finalized and it rolls from 21 Nov, takes us to Bhutan then to Darjeeling and finally to Puri / Konark before returning back to Mumbai on 04 Dec (happens to be the Navy Day)
#4 Nov 5th, 2015, 22:53
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#4
Hidden Gems

Do look up my notes here
http://www.indiamike.com/india/cross...tes-t215035/2/

Look forward to your trip report and some amazing pictures.

Weather Update - http://www.kuenselonline.com/

Current
November 05, 2015
Type
Region
Max
Min
Thimphu 24 6
Gasa 10 -3
Trongsa 17 7
Bumthang 19 5
Trashigang 21 9
Sarpang 28 19
Phuentsholing 29 17
Source: Meteorology Division, DHMS, MOEA, For any weather information : call hotline 339673
#5 Nov 17th, 2015, 21:57
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#5

Start of the trip approaching

Friends,

We are all set to embark on our Sikkim - Darjeeling trip. We are flying down from Mumbai - Kolkata - Bagdogra and there after it would all be road travel. All arrangements done through Tibet Tours and Travels a travel company with whom we did Sikkim trip in Dec 2012.

we are prepared for winters there moderate or strong. Have packed our camera too. Utilized advice of Ashok777 and are eagerly looking forward to the trip. Youngest on the trip is my son, 24 and eldest is my Mom at 79. Have plans to climb Tiger Nest Monastery with my son.
#6 Nov 20th, 2015, 20:06
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#6
Tomorrow morning we fly to Kolkata and then to Bagdogra. Apprehensions are always there at the start of the journey like would it be too cold at Bhutan, would the ATMs work at Bhutan or we should carry large cash, how would be the food at Bhutan etc. As it always happens, once the event starts to roll, it always finishes mostly well and sometimes with some minor issues.

We start our tour tomorrow with the Hope of Success.
#7 Dec 4th, 2015, 16:24
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#7
Hi Harshad

I am eagerly waiting for your TL. Please update.

Regards
Swati
#8 Dec 24th, 2015, 13:16
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#8

Seven Day Trip to Bhutan - Travelogue

Day I – 21 Nov 15 – Mumbai – Kolkata – Bagdogra – Phuntsholing


At Mumbai Airport

This day was essentially a day of non stop travel. We left home in Mumbai about 0400 and reached airport terminal T2, the most beautiful airport terminal in India, in time to board 0610 AI flight to Kolkata. There was a big chaos on the airport at Ai check in counters. We had done web check in and had boarding passes but we had to sill give baggage at Baggage drop off point.
First airline staffer that we asked told us to join normal queue. One other person gave us a vague answer but finally one other staff of AI guided us correctly. After all the formalities we boarded the flight and reached Kolkata by 0920.

At Kolkata Airport

New terminal at Kolkata was modern (reminds me that their old terminal was a contrast) building with lots of Aero bridges and counters for check in. As for infrastructure it is at par with any other airport. When we came to departure area for our spice jet flight which was post 1300 hrs we were greeted by a triangular display of masks of Bengal.This colourful display was attraction to all the people reaching Departure (at least from arrival hall where this display was right on the route).

Masks of Bengal - Photo I


Mask of Bengal - Photo II


Masks of Bengal - Photo III



We are a Company - In Company of Masks


Baul Singers - Cut Out


Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport now boasts of modern infrastructure, wide area, large no of baggage Belts and check in bays. Few things stuck me. Firstly, there are no (at least I did not see) rest rooms between aero-bridge and baggage belt though one has to cover great distance to reach baggage belt.

Secondly while the building was modern, the Kolkata work culture of being laid back remained intact among airport staff. Luggage from AI flight took long time to come the belt. The airport still does not have inline x ray facility (understand it is still Work in Progresses). The staff speed is relaxed one unlike other airport.

New Terminal - Baggage Belt Area


New Terminal - Check In Area


Since we had nothing much to do, we waited for two of our relatives to join (they came to Kolkata by train). Once they came it was just freshening up, eating something and thereafter a wait for our outbound flight.

We boarded the fight on time. Our flight took off on time but had to circle around Bagdogra airport for some reason. Finally we got out of Airport by 1500. Got into waiting Innova and left for Phuntsholing. The move was quick. With a small break for tea, we made it to Phuntsholing in just 4 hrs and 30 min at 1930.


On the Road to Phuntsholing

The road from Bagdogra till crossing Siliguri town was busy and took maximum time. Few kilometers from Siliguri road widening work was progressing for about 30 km. That stretch was full of dust. During this journey the road generally has the tea gardens through out the journey. Also beyond about 50 km from Bagdogra it has forests on both sides with wild elephants who roam around the country freely and are dangerous.

In our trip too, after it became dark (at 1700 hrs) we saw rear and tail of an elephant, the last one from the herd which had just crossed the road and our driver stopped. Soon we heard trumpeting sound of angry elephant. Our driver said it they return or some more elephants cross; it may become very dangerous to be caught on the road. He just turned back and drove half a km to create space. After a few minutes wait and probing for sounds of elephant, when he felt safe, he resumed the journey. It was first encounter with the elephants in the wild and it looked scary.

Reaching Phuntsholing

We reached Phuntsholing at 1930 IST. The permit office for Bhutan permit (which recognizes only two documents for identification proof of Indian citizens ie either Passport or Voter Id Card) closes at 1930 hrs (IST). Our permits thus would have to be made tomorrow.
First Glimpse of Phuntsholing


We checked in into Hotel Park.

Room of Park Hotel


It is a small but good hotel not far from Bhutan gate and the Buddhist Temple in the market. The room was comfortable. Here we got first taste of hassle free and comfortable life style of Bhutan. All the staff working in Phuntsholing hotels mostly stays at Jaigaon, the Indian side town which is 500 odd meters from this hotel (understand cost of living at jaigaon is cheaper than Phuntsholing). The hotel staff has to go to Jaigaon in stipulated time hence the restaurant closes at 2130 IST (2200 Bhutan Time).

Dinning Hall - Park Hotel

We placed dinner order and went out for a stroll towards Bhutan gate. The roads were well laid out and very clean. Very few people were on the road. We did cross to Jaigaon and the contrast was instantly known. Jaigaon was full of people and usual Indian small town signs were all there, dirt, litter, dust, crowd etc.

Bhutan Gate from Phuntsholing Side




Artwork on Bhutan Gate


King of Bhutan's Photo on Bhutan Gate


Soon we returned to hotel had our dinner including a Bhutanese dry chicken dish called “Bja Sha Paa” and Ema Datsey (Chilies and Cheese) . Post dinner we slept after about 45 minutes (a precaution against stomach upset particularly in hills though Phuntsholing is just 300 m above MSL) post dinner. After all, our day had started at 0400 at Mumbai and we had covered miles through two flights and one road journey.
#9 Dec 25th, 2015, 13:00
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#9
Nice and a very promising beginning. Subscribed.
#10 Dec 30th, 2015, 09:48
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Smile Seven Days Bhutan Trip - A Travelogue - Part II

Day 2 – 22 Nov 15 - Phuntsholing – Thimphu

We reached Phuntsholing yesterday after the Permit office had closed. Having not been able to do anything on that issue, today was the day to get our permits and travel into Bhutan to Thimphu, the capital city. Phuntsholing is also in Bhutan but there is no permit required to enter this city. Indian citizens have to take permit and if they are travelling in their own cars then I understand permit for car also needs to be taken.

Our travel management firm told us that their representative would reach us by 0900 (Bhutan Time, henceforth, in my narrative all timings would mean Bhutan time 30 min ahead of India time. After all we have reached a foreign country). They also asked us to be ready and we were quick to get up, get ready, have breakfast and we were ready at dot 0900. Then it was a wait for TTT person to arrive. Well he did finally arrive at 1015 hrs. Form filling, mostly done by him, for five of us took about 10 minutes and off we were to Permit office. The office seemed very effective and we got the permits in flat 15 min.

He then asked us to return to hotel and get ready for the move. The vehicle came by about 1050 and post proper loading we started for Thimphu by 1100 hrs. This day being day of journey, only spectacular part of the journey was the changing landscape as we climbed up from Phuntsholing (1240 ft) to Thimphu (7600 ft). From usual semitropical greenery at Phuntsholing where even mangoes grow to conifers around Thimphu was the main thing to watch.

The road from Phuntsholing to Thimphu is maintained by Project “Dhantak” of Border Road Orginasation (BRO) of Indian Ministry of Defence. Incidentally, Dhantak is the name of the Project under which this road is maintained by BRO. Road maintenance in these areas is a tedious task and we could see BRO teams working at various places.

Road to Thimphu


A Bridge with Prayer Flags


The road is about three lanes (1.5 lanes per side) for most of the distance. It is free of potholes, has good surface and also good signage throughout the journey. The exception is when it is traversing steep hill sides to gain height where the road is as narrow as in any other hilly area.



Nice Quality of BRO Maintained Road

We took total 2 stops in a total 5 hrs travel time. First stop was at hotel Shelgoen at Wangkha, very closed to a major Hydro electric power project in the valley below. Next stop was very close to Thimphu at a place called Whatsa (easy to remember, very close to Whatsapp).

Hotel Shelgoen Signboard


Soon we were at a decorative gate announcing our arrival at the outskirts of Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan since 1955 when the capital shifted here.

Welcome gate of Thimphu


Glimpse of Thimphu - Outskirts


Thimphu impressed us. The roads were wide. Traffic was not heavy (we were used to traffic in Indian cities). It was disciplined and people showed patience and courtesy to other drivers. Hardly any Horn Honking was done, in fact we heard very little of the beast called horn, which in India one feels that the switch for horn is fused and horn keeps blaring. Both sides of the road had five to six story houses constructed in Bhutanese style or at least maintaining a Bhutanese style façade. Most buildings had Photograph of present king (and in some cases the queen also) or last king or both prominently displayed on them.


Soon we reached the Clock Tower area (city center) where our hotel, Shantideva was located. Whne I tried to reach the reception, I was shocked that I had to climb two flights of stairs but then realized that only one flight of stairs need to be climbed if one comes from other side (Hotel was between two main roads). Hotel does have a lift but from their reception to upper floors of the hotel. Hotel 89 which is close by has a lift from ground floor (as its reception is situated on the ground floor unlike Shantideva). Once inside, we found the hotel to be neat and clean. The rooms were comfortable and the staff good.


After check in, we decided to move out to the market. Let me remind the readers, Bhutan is another country having its own culture and way of life. There is no point comparing things to things back home. Inadvertently, we all do this mistake at least on day one in the heart of Bhutan at places like Thimphu or Paro. Because of this habit of going by own experiences, we were shocked to see at 1900 many shops were on the verge of closing and most of them closed at 1930 hrs.

Traffic Island in Clock Tower Area


We had to zerox our permit issues at Phuntsholing (for applying next day for another permit to travel to Punakha) and at 1930 we could barely find only one shop in the clock tower area. Any way resigned to the fact that we are in a place having different way of life we returned to Hotel (whose restaurant closes at 2030 hrs). We finished our dinner by 2100 hrs.


The best was yet to come. We all thought let us have ice cream. When we asked the reception staff about ice cream shop, they indicated that it is right opposite the hotel but it may be closing now. We rushed only to find out that it had closed a long time ago around 2000 hrs. That was eye opener. We never thereafter went by our standards and adopted local standards from the next day. That finished our day II in Bhutan.
#11 Dec 30th, 2015, 10:10
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#11
just what i wanted. A detailed TR from an experienced Master.
Good going, Harshad.
Question: I like driving and am currently planning for my next trip some where that side ( still vague) there are no issues taking an Indian registered private vehicle, self driven, there? Any pre formalities that need to be done?I noted that you mentioned that a permit was needed. Could you elaborate?
#12 Dec 30th, 2015, 13:43
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#12
We took a hired Bhutan Number vehicle but my inquries at Phuentsholing indicate that for taking indian vehicle (self or driver driven) a permit needs to be taken may be from same office from where we take permit for people to travel to bhutan. If you plan to go to Punakha, etc, check with permit office at phuntsholing if you need to take additional permit for vehicle at Thimphu (like we have to take for people). Another input is I understand with Indian DL you can drive a Indian registered vehicle in Bhutan but not a bhutan registered vehicle.

Enjoy your trip. regards
#13 Jan 8th, 2016, 20:32
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#13

Smile Seven Day's Trip to Bhutan - A Travelogue

Day 3 – 23 Nov 15 – Thimphu Local Sights

Today it was to be local sight seeing at Thimphu. We started off around 0900 with first task being to apply for beyond Thimphu permit. We went to this office of immigration at Thimphu where our driver submitted the application for permit and I went in only to sign. The permit was to be ready post Lunch.

Not counting the stop for submitting our permit application, our first stop of the day was at National Institute of Zorig Chusum or Arts and Crafts institute commonly also referred as Painting School by some. It is a government of Bhutan institute. A board on one of the buildings says “Get Skilled be Somebody. Be useful to Yourself, Be useful to Parents, Be useful to Community, Be useful to Tsa-Na-Sun (I have no clue what Tsa-Na-Sun means)”.


Institute Letterhead


The Motto of "Painting School"

As understood while talking to some students, people peruse their University degree, etc. However, those who can’t make cut for university education are encouraged to follow training courses in traditional Bhutanese arts.


One of the School Building

There are courses that are offered for four year duration and may be one or two odd courses are of five year duration. It is obvious that these course are in depth and intense. The school offers courses in Painting, Wood Carving, Sculpturing, Embroidery, Weaving, etc. The girls in Weaving class was humming a beautiful Bhutanese song and it felt very soothing. It is a visual treat and a photographer’s delight to watch, keeping silent, these people going about their training. The eye for details and objective of attaining perfection is worth mentioning. It is a don’t miss place provided one can respect their work and maintain silence.


Painting Class


Sculpture


Weaving

They also have a shop selling the students creation. Entry fee to the institute for a visit, if I remember correctly, is Rs 100 per person.


In Their Store


Student's Work on Sale

After this visit we went to some local handicraft shops while walking to Folk Heritage Museum. Bought nothing much as felt the prices beyond our budget though our visit to craft school had educated us about the efforts in creating these handicraft.

Folk Heritage Museum is in a big compound where one enters through a gate, not very ornate but a simple one. After buying tickets (Rs 20 per person as I recollect) a flight of stairs takes us to this Three story country house built in traditional rustic Bhutanese style. As we entered the courtyard, we got to see demonstration of a traditional Bhutanese snack “Rosted Rice” or Zaw Ngowni. In this, the rice is soaked in water for about 8 hours, pat dried on a cloth and rested on the cloth for about hour and then roasted in a thick pan till fully crunchy. The roasting can be dry or with oil and Bhutanese seem to be using Mustard oil. It is an all time Bhutanese snack. We tasted it when hot and fell in love with it.

Having polished some Zaw Ngowni, we proceeded into the house. The ground floor was meant for the animals of the household and it had related items for tending them, etc on display. First floor was mainly the cook house which had the kitchen utensils and gadgets like Noodle maker, Mustard oil extractor (yes they extracted their own mustard oil), etc. Since photography in the house is not allowed, I am placing some photos of the courtyard of this place.


Sitting Area of Folk Heritage Museum


In the Courtyard of Folk Heritage Museum

The top floor was 'house temple', living area (and the guest stayed in house temple) and a balcony. This floor thus had appropriate items of display related to living room. There is actually a fourth floor which is covered roof top used as a store house. Only issue I see in visiting this place is climbing up to various stories. Those having problem climbing would feel bad that they can’t visit this place.

This place also has a restaurant which serves traditional Bhutanese food for individuals and groups. We had lunch there (after finishing day’s sight seeing). The National Library was next place to visit but since it was only to view its two buildings, we decided to give a skip to it.

After finishing this visit we went to viewing point. As the visit to Thimphu Dzong and Parliament House is not allowed, only way to get glimpse of them is from this view point. The Dzong (from this height and distance also) looked big, decorated and grand. Made in Bhutanese style ( and that is my complaint, all the architecture is generally in one style, Bhutanese) it looks very colourful. The Parliament building right behind is also similar in looks and décor.


Thimphu Dzong from View Point


The main surprise came when our driver pointed very grayish looking single storied buildings in a forested complex right of the Dzong and stated that they are Palace complex of fifth (and current) King. Having been used to Grand Palaces of Rajasthan, we just could not believe him and reconfirmed the fact with a Tour Guide in the vicinity who confirmed it. We were told that the bigger and grander palace is outside the town where the fourth king lives.



Parliament House, See One of the Palace in the right front corner with green roof

Next place on the agenda was visit to a old Buddhist temple called Changangkha Lhakhang, a 15th century temple on a hillock. A highly revered place by people of Thimphu valley. All new born children are brought to this Avalokeshvara Temple (temple of Buddha of Compassion with 11 heads and 1000 arms) for their first outing after birth to either obtain a name from the priest or to have ‘darshans’ of lord Buddha. It is temple built in old style. Not as grand as other Dzongs it has its grandeur in the prayer bells, about 50 of them, along the periphery of the temple building. Though this place is on a height, it has both stairs and ramp to climb and hence is manageable for everyone to climb.


In the Courtyard of the Temple


Prayer Wheels Around the Temple


Another View


Big Prayer Wheel inside

Another place the list (after we decided to skip Traditional Medicine Instutute) was Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang. This place has a big statue of Buddha or Shakyamuni also called Buddha Dordenma Statue. In this over 51 m height statue gilded with gold lie over 125000 smaller Buddha statues (which of course we cannot see).

Situated on a ledge of a hill this massive Buddha sits atop a throne placed on a two story platform. Devotees can do Pradakshina of Buddha at both levels of massive platforms. On the second level, right under the throne of mighty Buddha is a temple of Four headed Buddha with gold plated columns and other structure. This place is going to have a massive complex built around but it is still Work in Progress. Both the Buddha and the various sculptures and the temple at level two are worth making a trip.


The Buddha Statue with Aura (Courtesy The Sun Lurking behind the statue)

Final destination was Memorial Chorten, a stupa like memorial built in memory of third King of Bhutan. This place is regularly visited by members of Royal family. When we visited this place, some kind of nonstop prayers were being rendered and the place had plenty of devotees taking rounds (Pradakshina) of the Chorten. We did visit it but soon left the place and returned to hotel.


The Memorial Chorten

While my wife and other people choose to stay at Clock tower area to have lunch, me and my son choose to have traditional Bhutanese Lunch at Folk Heritage Museum. The museum has a restaurant which serves only Bhutanese food including Roasted rice and running snack. Their menu has all the typical Bhutan things, Ema Datsey, Potato Cheese, Red rice, Chicken and pork Bhutan style and other such things. The butter tea Suja is a constant companion. The food was good but three days trying out local food finished my enthusiasm after this lunch.

After the Lunch we both decided to give a look to National Library buildings, to which we had given a skip. It was a good thing that we did. There are two buildings of National Library, the old traditional building and also new modern building but again constructed in Bhutanese style (how else one expects building to be done up in Bhutan). Both building were proportional from center line and very colorful. They were real photographers delight. We photographed them to heart’s satisfaction.


National Library New Building


Painting in the Lobby


National Library Old Block

Post this visit we walked back to hotel Shantideva and relaxed for a while. There was a cultural programme happening at Clock Tower and we could watch it from the room window. We enjoyed the programme but it got over at 1930 in true Bhutan tradition. Post this programme it was dinner and the sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s trip to Punakha.
Last edited by harshad; Jan 8th, 2016 at 22:31..
#14 Jan 20th, 2016, 22:01
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#14

Seven Days Trip to Bhutan - A Travelogue - Part 4

Day 4 – 24 Nov 15 – Thimphu – Pukakah and Punakha Sights

Travel via Dochula Pass

After a very enjoyable day at Thimphu visiting various sights and enjoying local food, bidding good bye to Thimphu we left for Punakha at 0900 via Dochula Pass, highest pass in Bhutan. First stop over was on the road at Immigration Check Post where the permit to move up from Thimphu to country side is checked. There are a few stalls available just short of the check post selling local apples etc. We also picked up some. The apples were tasty but some of them were spoilt.

Within a short time we reached our first Wow moment of the day by reaching Dochula Pass at 0945 hrs. Dochula Pass has a reputation of being foggy, misty or cloudy around it. But today was different and we had, in front of us, majestic Eastern Himalayan (Bhutanese call it Gigme Singye Wangchuck Himalayan range) Snow Covered ranges in their full glory with neither mist, nor fog nor clouds obscuring them. Our driver told us that we are very lucky, such clear view of the Himalayan Mountain range has been seen after a considerable gap. We thanked our luck.


Wow Moment

At Dochula Pass

The Himalayan range was breathtaking and next about 30 minutes were devoted to just clicking the ranges and us with ranges by various cameras, our canon DSLR and cameras of all the mobiles I mean. See the result.


Panoramic View of the Ranges


One More View


Tari Gang Peak


Yet Another View


Can't have enough of it

The range has 10 major peaks and Gangkar Punsum (Mt. Masanggang) at 7564 m(as shown in the photograph below) is the highest peak of this range and it happens to be in the extremely right of the range.


Another solemn and important place to visit here is not ancient like most things in Bhutan. It is 108 memorial Chortens (the official name is Druk Wangyal Khang Zhang Chortens) a group of 108 Chortens(religious memorial cenotaph) built covering three layers on a raised hillock to honour the Bhutanese soldiers killed in 2003 battle with ULFA rebels ( who had 30 camps in Bhutan) to flush them out. These rebels were carrying their attacks in India from these camps in Bhutan. They have been constructed following the local astrological and religious practices.


108 Chortens in their full glory

Climbing the hillock to visit the memorial had a additional advantage of getting a unhindered (by the trees) view of Himalayan range. Once we were done with visiting the Chortens we went down to the restaurant to have a cup of tea. Though the prices are on the higher side, it is a good place to have a cup of tea (and to eat if breakfast is due). One can sit indoor or outdoor in the bright sun (if the sun is up).


Enjoying Outdoor Seating at the Cafe at Dochula


Indoor seating also is good

It is worth mentioning that there is a temple, Druk Wangyel Lhakhng, left of this café and on a raised hillock overlooking the valley below. We somehow did not visit it.


Druk Wangyel Lhakhng can be seen in the right corner

Post tea we left for Punakha. If the drive was uphill till Dochula, it was all downhill post Dochula till Punakha. There is widening of the road happening between Dochula and Punakha and hence the drive is dusty and uncomfortable, a price we have to pay for better roads tomorrow.

As we were heading for Punakha our driver checked up from his friends there about closure timings of the Punakha Dzong (only place of visit in Punakha, though there may be things to see nearby or treks etc around Punakha) and somehow gathered a impression that it does not close during lunch time. We, therefore, decided to go to the Dzong directly.

The Punakha Dzong

The view of the Dzong as we approached it was impressive. Situated in the middle of the confluence of Mo Chu and Fo Cho (Mother river and father river) this structure looked big, imposing and colourful. We reached the Dzong crossing a bridge of traditional style of single span cantilever type (though it is of a recent construction). There used to be an ancient draw bridge(as gathered locally, however, Wikipedia says that bridge too was cantilever type) over this river but it seems it got burnt down in a fire thus this replacement bridge had to be constructed.


Bridge to Dzong


View from Across the River



Garden on either side (This one is left of the Dzong)



Flag post in the Courtyard of Dzong

Admiring the beauty of the surroundings and the flowers, etc . we enjoyed our time. The complex has many Jacaranda trees (two at the entrance and many more in the garden to the left of the dzong) which had their full bloom of flowers.


Jacaranda Tree at the Entrance of the Dzong (this one is on the left)

We climbed up the stone followed by wooden stairs, steep ones, to the Dzong, only to be disappointed to be told that it has closed a minute ago. The Dzong closes from 1300 hrs to 1500 hrs and opens thereafter from 1500 hrs to 1700 hrs). Obviously there had to be a change of plan.


Two Flights of Stairs (to get into Dzong)

Driving back towards Punakha we came across Yak Herder’s Club, a restaurant on the river bank. We decided to have lunch there. This place is interesting with the utensils and other articles of yak herders were used for decor. It also has good view of the river flowing behind it and area beyond it.


The food here is made on order and thus it takes a while, may be 20 min. The food that we ordered was tasty, well made and hot. We enjoyed our lunch and returned to the Dzong which had just opened post lunch.

Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful and bigger Dzong. Built in 1637, like all Dzongs, it is Religio-political HQ of Punakha district. In fact Pukakha was capital of Bhutan till 1955 when it was shifted to Thimphu. Dzong has administrative seat as well as a monastery where young boys learn Buddhism to become monks. There seems to be Mummified body of Zhabdrung, first Rinpoche, who was instrumental in creation of this Dzong kept in there. Only the King and the head priest are allowed ‘Darshans’ of him that too only when they take their post

It is a big Dzong with three courtyards, a temple to Buddha of compassion in the last courtyard is equally beautiful. I will not write much about the dzong as enough material is available on internet. I will let the photographs do the talking.


Prayer Wheel at the entrance


First Courtyard


One of the Building There


Worship going on in First Courtyard


Passage to other Courtyard


Ornate Building


Buddha of Compassion temple


Courtyard of Temple / Chief Monk Area


Chief Monk's residence (as told by a Security Person)


Wall Painting


Wall Painting

Hotel Stay

Post our visit to Dzong we came to our hotel which is little out of the town overlooking a valley through which a river flows. Hotel Vara immediately impressed us. As we parked our vehicle and asked the reception to send someone to pick up the luggage a big band of women power came to our vehicle. Each one picked up one or two pieces of luggage and laughing, smiling and making fun of each other they brought all the luggage into our rooms. It was so pleasant and different.


A Wing of Rooms of Hotel Vara with Campfire Site in Foreground

The reception as also our rooms had ample use of wood. The rooms were big, tastefully furnished and comfortable. The bathrooms were also big and modern. Each room has a place to sit with cushions, etc, at the window that allows you to look at the valley. The hotel had a sit out and a camp fire area overlooking the valley. There were small things done differently like corridor lighting, rainwater drain from the roof, etc.


Hotel Vara Receiption (See the richness of Wood)


Sit in at Window in the Room


Innovative Water Drain System


Unique Display of the Board


Unique Floor Lighting in the Corridor

Camp fire is lit for bigger groups (or even a smaller group) for a payment. We rested for some time in the room. Did photography of the room and the hotel. Following Bhutan tradition, placed our dinner order by 1930, had our dinner by 2030 and retired for the day. A stroll outside might have been a good idea but outside was too cold.

PS - Though the parts of this blog are taking time, be rest assured that balance three parts would definitely follow.
Last edited by harshad; Jan 21st, 2016 at 10:13..
#15 Jan 24th, 2016, 18:03
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#15

Seven days Trip to Bhutan - A Travelogue

Due to error in displaying the photographs, re-posting all four parts sequentially. Sorry if the text appears repetitive because it is a re-post.

Day I – 21 Nov 15 – Mumbai – Kolkata – Bagdogra – Phuntsholing


At Mumbai Airport

This day was essentially a day of non stop travel. We left home in Mumbai about 0400 and reached airport terminal T2, the most beautiful airport terminal in India, in time to board 0610 AI flight to Kolkata. There was a big chaos on the airport at Ai check in counters. We had done web check in and had boarding passes but we had to still give baggage at Baggage drop off point.

First airline staffer that we asked told us to join normal queue. One other person gave us a vague answer but finally one other staff of AI guided us correctly. After all the formalities we boarded the flight and reached Kolkata by 0920.

At Kolkata Airport

New terminal at Kolkata was modern (reminds me that their old terminal was a contrast) building with lots of Aero bridges and counters for check in. As for infrastructure it is at par with any other airport. When we came to departure area for our spice jet flight which was post 1300 hrs we were greeted by a triangular display of masks of Bengal.This colourful display was attraction to all the people reaching Departure (at least from arrival hall where this display was right on the route).


Masks of Bengal - Photo I


Mask of Bengal - Photo II


Masks of Bengal - Photo III


We are a Company - In Company of Masks


Baul Singers - Cut Out

Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport now boasts of modern infrastructure, wide area, large no of baggage Belts and check in bays. Few things stuck me. Firstly, there are no (at least I did not see) rest rooms between aero-bridge and baggage belt though one has to cover great distance to reach baggage belt.

Secondly while the building was modern, the Kolkata work culture of being laid back remained intact among airport staff. Luggage from AI flight took long time to come to the belt. The airport still does not have inline x ray facility (understand it is still Work in Progresses). The staff speed is relaxed one unlike other airport.


New Terminal - Baggage Belt Area



New Terminal - Check In Area

Since we had nothing much to do, we waited for two of our relatives to join (they came to Kolkata by train). Once they came it was just freshening up, eating something and thereafter a wait for our outbound flight.

We boarded the fight on time. Our flight took off on time but had to circle around Bagdogra airport for some reason. Finally we got out of Airport by 1500. Got into waiting Innova and left for Phuntsholing. The move was quick. With a small break for tea, we made it to Phuntsholing in just 4 hrs and 30 min at 1930.


On the Road to Phuntsholing

The road from Bagdogra till crossing Siliguri town was busy and took maximum time. Few kilometers from Siliguri road widening work was progressing for about 30 km. That stretch was full of dust. During this journey the road generally has the tea gardens through out the journey. Also beyond about 50 km from Bagdogra it has forests on both sides with wild elephants who roam around the country freely and are dangerous.

In our trip too, after it became dark (at 1700 hrs) we saw rear and tail of an elephant, the last one from the herd which had just crossed the road and our driver stopped. Soon we heard trumpeting sound of angry elephant. Our driver said it they return or some more elephants cross; it may become very dangerous to be caught on the road. He just turned back and drove half a km to create space. After a few minutes wait and probing for sounds of elephant, when he felt safe, he resumed the journey. It was first encounter with the elephants in the wild and it looked scary.

Reaching Phuntsholing

We reached Phuntsholing at 1930 IST. The permit office for Bhutan permit (which recognizes only two documents for identification proof of Indian citizens ie either Passport or Voter Id Card) closes at 1930 hrs (IST). Our permits thus would have to be made tomorrow.


First Glimpse of Phuntsholing

We checked in into Hotel Park.


Room of Park Hotel

It is a small but good hotel not far from Bhutan gate and the Buddhist Temple in the market. The room was comfortable. Here we got first taste of hassle free and comfortable life style of Bhutan. All the staff working in Phuntsholing hotels mostly stays at Jaigaon, the Indian side town which is 500 odd meters from this hotel (understand cost of living at jaigaon is cheaper than Phuntsholing). The hotel staff has to go to Jaigaon in stipulated time hence the restaurant closes at 2130 IST (2200 Bhutan Time).


Dinning Hall - Park Hotel

We placed dinner order and went out for a stroll towards Bhutan gate. The roads were well laid out and very clean. Very few people were on the road. We did cross to Jaigaon and the contrast was instantly known. Jaigaon was full of people and usual Indian small town signs were all there, dirt, litter, dust, crowd etc.


Bhutan Gate from Phuntsholing Side


Artwork on Bhutan Gate


King of Bhutan's Photo on Bhutan Gate

Soon we returned to hotel had our dinner including a Bhutanese dry chicken dish called “Bja Sha Paa” and Ema Datsey (Chilies and Cheese) . Post dinner we slept after about 45 minutes (a precaution against stomach upset particularly in hills though Phuntsholing is just 300 m above MSL) post dinner. After all, our day had started at 0400 at Mumbai and we had covered miles through two flights and one road journey.

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