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.
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.
Walked around the one street town many times each time discovering something new!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, â€œNo booking, no roomâ€. 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 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.