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Bhutan – Sneak Peek

I was talking to Ravi when he suggested that I do a teaser on my Bhutan trip to start off with. I was telling him that since I’d taken loads of pictures (as usual!) it would take me some time to upload everything and write my travelogues. So here it is, just a little sneak peek into the lovely and exotic kingdom of Bhutan.

We started our Bhutan trip from the border town of Phuntsholing and travelled to the little but charming town of Paro, where there are more street dogs than people.

on the road to a town called paro
The scenic approach road to Paro


We got acquainted with red and green hot spicy chillis garnishing every dish. In fact, chillis are a dish in itself.

We walked up to the incredibly majestic Tiger’s Nest monastery (Taktshang Goemba), perched on a cliff edge. I puffed and panted, but just standing opposite this awesome structure (the mind boggles when you think of how it was built at that location!) was worth the climb.

gimme more! the tiger's nest

Walked around the one street town many times each time discovering something new!

town square
The town square of Paro

The airport is definitely unique. The runaway meanders across the valley floor and a river runs parallel to it and in between the two is the airport building, built in the Bhutanese style architecture, like all buildings.

From Paro, we journeyed to Thimpu, the capital but I had been spoiled by Paro’s quaint beauty. To start with, hotel rooms are hard to find without prior booking. Secondly, the main town area wasn’t that clean. At least in Paro, each shop had a waste bin in front that was duly collected the next morning by the garbage truck. In Thimpu, many of the drains were filled with garbage and litter. The Trashi Chhoe Dzong was a scenic spot a few kilometres away from the town but it houses offices during the day and was not accessible to the general public.

Lone ranger Seat of power

I was impatient to get moving. From there, we crossed into the Punakha valley, an expanse of beautiful green and yellow fields dotted with houses and a couple of strategically placed monasteries and dzongs. The Punakha Dzong is located at a memorable spot indeed – right on the waterfront. Inside we met a monk called Kaka inside who treated us to guavas.

Looking down
The road that leads to Punakha

We crossed via the town of Wangdue Phodrang, which has a lovely view across the river as you ascend the slopes towards the Wandgue Dzong (but we didn’t stop and just admired from the distance). The river is a strange green in colour here and looks rather pretty.

The river runs through it
The river runs through it at Wangdue

From Wandgue, we went in search of the black necked cranes in Phobjikha Valley. They come there every year, or so I’d heard. Unfortunately, they must have known I was coming because they didn’t appear. The locals said the bad weather might have delayed their arrival. We walked around the peaceful and serene rice bowl shaped valley (with less humans and more animals) and marveled at the beauty around. There are several trails in this region and you can easily spend about 3 days just walking around the plains and mountain side.

Discussion
The Phobjikha valley is great for walking around

We travelled further into the geographical centre of the country : Trongsa : a very small town again with one intersection where most of the activity is centred. The Trongsa Dzong is located right in the middle of the mountains, just below the town. From the opposite mountain is the vantage point that looks straight at this imposing structure that has a waterfall just beside it. A view not to be missed. From the vantage point there is also a walking trail that goes down and up the mountain and takes about 2 hours to reach the monastery. Not for the faint hearted.

Brothers in arms
Monks at the Trongsa Dzong

From Trongsa, we decided to get started on our return journey since the further we travelled, the longer it would take to get back. And we were also unable to cover more than 20 kms an hour on the curvy and hilly roads. The scenery was however probably some of the best we’d seen : high mountains, steep valleys, mustard fields, and trees that had turned yellow, copper, deep red as the leaves changed colours.

Fields of gold
Fields of gold

The main disadvantage was finding hotel rooms in Bhutan. Everything decent or available is booked for enormous contingents of foreign tourists in blocks so everywhere we get the same response, “No booking, no room”. Independent travelers, be warned : it’s better to get all the hotel bookings done through a tour operator in Thimpu to avoid this hassle.

The thunderbolt Take a spin!

The return journey took us 3 days. On the way back we stopped at Punakha and then Paro again : the place that had become our favourite. From there, it was another day’s ride back to Phuntsholing, the border town. And back to India. Back to the Indian hills, we chilled out in Kalimpong for a few days not doing much except taking walks into the town centre, window shopping and eating. And then it was back to come back to civilization.

Like they say, all good things must come to and end.

Bhutan: Sneak Peek – The Album

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30 Comments

  1. Awesome post n pics…..

    “The main disadvantage was finding hotel rooms in Bhutan. Everything decent or available is booked for enormous contingents of foreign tourists in blocks” …

    How expensive is Bhutan for tourists. And is it very much crowded by tourists???

  2. @ ck: thanks! definitely stunning.

    @ seeji: it’s not very expensive for indians as we don’t need to spend 200 dollars a day(which is compulsory for foreigners). there are reasonable and decent hotels but the only catch is that they need to be booked well beforehand. didn’t see any indians beyond thimpu! lots of foreign tourists.

    @ prashant: thanks!

  3. Pingback: Bhutan | DesiPundit

  4. Memories refreshed. I was there many years back and have some great photographs, not digital. That monastry at Wangdi Phudrong is a must see. I don’t know how you missed that. Now they do not allow photography inside it. But I have fantastic pictures of the interiors and the deities too! May be I will post them at some point of time

  5. It’s actually now $250 a day for foreigners…which means, effectively, a ban on all but the wealthiest (including me!). Thanks for beautiful pictures of a land I’ll never get to see.

  6. was here for several years as a kid …. glad to revisit the old places through your eyes!(or technically your camera lens!)

  7. Srikanth says

    Stumbled upon your blog and, after seeing seeing the pictures of Bhutan, I just HAD to leave a comment here: Awesome pictures!! And a very nice blog! 🙂

  8. Rakesh says

    Hi Anita, I stop by blog at regular intervals and was quite surprised to know bout ur Bhutan trip…I and four others are heading to Bhutan the coming weekend for a 9 day trip…I sent you an email to your yahoo id anitabora AT yahoo dot com, for some inputs. I would highly appreciate your reply.

  9. Radman says

    Anita,
    can you give us a flavor of the cuisine to be had as well as the restaurants and bars themselves? thanks.

  10. @ Vinod: glad to refresh your memories. unfortunately, we were passing through and did not get the time as we were running late. but we did check out most of the other dzongs! do post the link if you manage to put up yours!

    @ sirensongs: wow, then it’s even more effective. but we still came across heaps of foreign tourists! more pics coming!

    @ Neel: glad you could do that!

    @ prasoon: thanks! will get to the detailed one soon!

    @ Born a libran: thanks!

    @ Pranjal: super idea but decèmber will be very cold!

    @ Srikanth: thank you for the comment, much appreciated! glad you liked them!

    @ Rakesh: hope you have a great time! details sent via email.

    @ Radman: i will write about the cuisine and places we ate in coming travelogues. meanwhile, the lonely planet is the perfect guide for bars and restaurants!

  11. Reached ur blog by accident… and am glad it happened. Lovely blog.. & lovely pics.

    Bookmarked u… will b a frequent visitor to ur work here…

    Keep it goin gal..

  12. @ Shree: thanks so much, hope to see you again!

    @ ugyen: thanks for then nice words!

    @ sampath: thanks! yes, very similar scenery…

    @ Bhavna: glad you stumbled upon it! will definitely check out yours!

    @ Drukstylz: stay tuned!

  13. OMG! The pictures are bewitching. Great job on the writeup too. Did you figure out which are the best hotels if you did make bookings in advance? I am partial to hotels that are built with local materials/architecture/etc., so you get a feel of the place indoors too, rather than the modern ones.

  14. Yo Anita,
    Thanks for the name dropping bit! Sorry, though, that I’m seeing it after a long time. The photos are top quality and showcase your skill very well. They keep alive my determination to get myself a NIKON!
    Cheers,
    Ravi

  15. @ shantanu: thanks! we used the lonely planet for finding hotels. in the peak season, it’s best to book before hand. the nice thing about bhutan is that ALL buildings have to be made in the traditional style! they can be modern inside, but outside they all look the same 🙂

    @ ravi: no problems, better late than never 😉 a nikon is very much in order i think!

  16. Sonali says

    Hi Anita,
    Thanks for this lovely experience. Have been planning to visit Bhutan for some time now … Now the itch grows stronger…

    Beautiful

  17. I’ve stumbled across your blog and I think its simply fantabulous!! You have a way with words and pics are simply beautiful!! Do you use some kind of filter in your photos?

  18. Smitha Gopalkrishnan says

    Hi Anita,

    I am a regular visitor of your blog especiall your travel stories. I was deeply inspired by your write up on your trip to Bhutan and wanted to a make a trip there. Its just that my planning is very last minute, i plan to go early next month! I live in Bangalore, could you tell me how you went about booking your travel, did you go through an agent or a particular website and get your bookings done? If you have the time, please do drop in a line at my email id – smite13@yahoo.com. Thanks!

  19. Hello Anita,

    I was planning a trip to Bhutan early next month, and some searches on the net led me to this page.
    Beautiful writeup.

    I just have one question though – I have 6 days on my hand, and I wanted to visit both Bhutan and Sikkim. Do you think a quick visit to Phuntsholing to Paro, and back to Gangtok is possible ? Or would it be too much on the road?

  20. Pingback: Meet the People- Anita: The Club Mahindra Coorg Trip » Travel Tales from India

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