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Passage to Bhutan

Bhutan Chronicles, Oct 2007: After getting our permits to enter Bhutan, the road journey from the border town of Phuntsholing to Paro took us around 9 hours. The road is not in a good shape due to frequent landslides and soil erosion.

on the road
On the way from Paro to Phuntsholing

In the small border town of Phuntosholing, we need to halt a full day to get our permits. Since we need both an entry permit for ourselves and our vehicle, we require a whole day to sort out the documents.

It is not the easiest task to find the Immigrations Office : there are hardly any signs. Thankfully, it’s a small town and we ask a few people how to get there. One thing we notice is the number of one-ways. For a small town, there are many. So missing the turn once meant we had to go all the way around again.

The other thing is that both the rider and the passenger wear helmets. It’s compulsory and people abide by it.

Finally, we find ourselves at the Immigration office. We are one of the first to arrive but aren’t too welcome : the bored looking officials are busy playing computer games! We find the right counter : 3 : and undergo the necessary photo taking ritual.

Apparently, they will pile up all applications till they get enough and then take it for all the signature and red tape thingies they do with official documents. We were told to come back after an hour, but it took a lot longer. We passed time at the office itself and it was around 2 and a half hours around 1230 pm that we were finally issued our permits (only for Thimpu and Paro) and told that further permits need to be taken at Thimpu. We were now legally allowed to stay in Bhutan for 7 days.

For lunch, we tried a place called CN Restaurant near our hotel where I settle for a harmless fried rice (I am rather suspicious of everything else in the menu at this stage!).

After that, it was another few hours spent at the RTO (not sure what it was called) organizing our vehicle permit. That done, we felt rather accomplished.

The next day we got an early start to the day at 8 am and set off for Paro.

Once we’re out of the sweltering town of Phuntosholing and start climbing almost immediately, it’s a welcome relief. The air gets cooler and the scenery gets better as we ascend. Unfortunately, though there are hardly any shops in sight for a cup of tea or coffee.

A few hours into the journey, the road deteriorates as this area witnesses a lot of landslides. All along, huge rocks and boulders lie on the road and it’s not a nice thought : one of them hurtling towards you just as you’re crossing. Apart from the bad roads, the journey is pleasant : many a times we are riding through cloud cover.

At a place called Gedu, around 1130 am, rather famished (as I usually am at this time) we come across a house with an inviting sign saying restaurant. The lady says she has Maggi and we also ask for omlettes. And I have to tell you folks this (if you didn’t know already) – Maggi, actually tastes really good when you’re really hungry!

Maggi never tasted so good!

From there, another hour later we’re at the famous Dantak canteen : not only does it have a view point it also serves masala dosa. But I’m not too keen about trying South Indian food in Bhutan so I pass and settle for a very oily channa bhatura instead. On the way is a beautiful waterfalls, emerging out of the hills in the distance – we stop for a while and take some photographs.

restaurant on my window sill
masala dosa! dantak

At around 330 pm we reached the confluence from where the road splits in 3 directions : to Paro, Thimpu and the HAA valley. Unfortunately, it starts to drizzle just then. Showing no signs of abating, we continue in the rain : I pull out an umbrella which is soon bent out of shape in the strong wind. But there is nowhere to take cover so we continue. An hour later, rather soaked, we enter Paro valley. Even through the drizzle, I am quite taken in by the beauty of this place.

closer view
A waterfalls somewhere on the way

A huge valley with golden yellow fields spreads out before us, bordered on all sides by hills and a river snakes through it. I can just imagine the sight – if it wasn’t so gloomy. From the vantage point, we get a glimpse of the tiny but beautifully done up Paro Airport and the runway, in the middle of the valley.

the cutest airport?!
The Paro airport from a vantage point on the road

A few minutes from there, we enter the town and decide to try the same hotel we had tried in Phuntsholing – Peljorling. We are lucky : the sleepy guy at the counter agrees to Rs 500 bucks after some negotiation. We are soaked to the bone and cold and enjoy the warmth of the small but rather cosy wood panelled rooms. I order a vegetable noodles (with about a litre of oil) : I have still not warmed up to Bhutanese cuisine and then I blow out like a candle in the wind!

We are now officially in Bhutan – kingdom of the dragon.

from anywhere you sit (or stand)...
A street dog looking out into the town

Phuntsholing accomodation:
Hotel Peljorling, Near Bhutan Main Gate, Phuntsholing
Ph: 00975Ò€”252833
Rates: 400/500 : s/d (basic rooms)

The Passage to Bhutan album


  1. Hey! Please check your rediffmail. There’s an email waiting for you πŸ™‚ Expecting a reply…Thank you πŸ™‚

  2. lavs: πŸ™‚ yeah, it’s snack time for me too!

    divs: ah, this is just the beginning πŸ™‚

    shobha: thanks! got the mail and have responded!

  3. i loved the first picture (on the way from Paro to Phuntsholing) – that’s a postcard right there!

    i have always wanted to visit Bhutan and after seeing these pictures and reading your post, i am more determined to make that happen.


  4. Pingback: Passage to Bhutan | DesiPundit

  5. Wow! You had the Maggi at Gedu! It really is one of the highlights of my own Bhutan visit. Here is the post I wrote after my visit in 2005:

    Relevant extract:

    “One night stay for these visits was at a place called Gedu, and I had the best Maggi ever in a small restaurant near the only bus stop in Gedu. KP and I had gone for a walk and decided to try the Maggi there just for the heck of it. What an amazing decision that turned out to be! They cook it differently from what the Maggi packet specifies and they put different spices in it as well. I don’t know how they do it, but it is awesome. So much so that KP, ES and I skipped our official breakfast next morning and went to have Maggi. You might wonder about why I am ranting about Maggi so much, but then, you didn’t have it.”

  6. @ sukanya: thanks! i love it too πŸ™‚ and you must plan a trip. it’s a lovely place. and don’t forget to stay a few extra days in paro. it was my favourite!

    @ vivek: haha, i couldn’t help smiling reading your post! such a coincidence! enjoyed reading about your trip also! you met the royal highness? wow, i am so jealous πŸ™‚ he’s really good looking. and so is his son (the one who is his successor!)!

  7. Nitin Srivastava says


    Love the first pic…..
    fountain pic even more….


  8. Anita,

    The son is the King now. He took over a while ago.

    We didn’t “meet” the then King, only saw him from a distance. We met the present King, who was Crown Prince back then.

  9. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Bhutan: Travel and Noodles

  10. Oh yes, there’s something about differently cooked Maggi. Had a great one in a small shop on our way back from Belur once. One more reason to visit Bhutan now πŸ™‚

  11. Hey Anita,
    Beautiful pictures!

    Bhutan, along with some parts of North-east India has long been on my list of places to visit. This read was a vicarious pleasure, thanks!

    And that thing abt Maggi is indeed true. πŸ˜‰

  12. @ rash: yes, definitely one more reason, and more reasons coming up soon!

    @ geeta: you must visit then! and let me know if you need any help πŸ™‚

  13. Anita,
    Just finished reading the informative and visually appealing blog post on your recent visit to the kingdom Bhutan. Not remembering much background about the country from my school history books growing up in India, I did wikipedia some about Bhutan. It was a great eye opener. I imagine the air must be pristine being surrounded by the Himalayan range and not being heavily industrialized. Their rivers and streams are probably fed by glaciers on the high mountain ranges.

    IMHO…It remains to be seen if the tiny kingdom can survive the encroachment of their land by the Chinese, similar to what happened to Tibet.


  14. Superb first pic!!

    P.s: New blogger… would love to hear from all you people in my blog!! Pls visit and post comments on how i improve it!


  15. gr8 post. I have read some of your blogs and I want to congratulate you first that you are having an amazing writing ability which makes your blogs very much readable and interesting. One thing which I have noticed again and again in your blogs is that you describe any subject with great enthusiasm.

    I hav started a blogroll and would love to add u r blog there. can I? pls reply soon.


  16. anita,i follow your blogs regurarly.why are you updating your blogs less frequently.You have such a big fan following, this is not fair da

  17. Love the doggie, isnt’ Kit Kit jealous. BTW wanted to ask you, where do you keep the kitty when you ramble? Do you know of any good doggie kennels, where they really really take good care of doggies (Dont have a doggie now, asking for a friend). Do drop me an email and let me know.

  18. Pingback: Flavors of Bhutan at Blogbharti

  19. You had posted some great pictures earlier too. Yes, the dosas at the Dantak canteen with a view are simply out of the world. If I recall correctly, you had posted a picture of the Taksang Gompa too, that monastery perched seemingly impossibly on a cliff.

    Did you visit it, after an arduous but exhilarating climb from Paro? That place is actually amazing. The best are the pigeons who have made that cold and almost forbidden place their home. Watching them fly there is an experience you don’t forget for a lifetime.

  20. Hi,

    I am planning to go to Bhutan around April this year. It would be great if you could share a bit about how you went about preparing for your trip. Also where can we get more info about going to Bhutan.


  21. @ guruprasad: thanks! i’m very bad with tags and will try!

    @ Aqua: thank you. i’m booking a copy for you already ;0)

    @ KDphotoman: you’re right. it’s pretty much like the way you imagine it! i do hope it remains that way and they are able to preserve their natural heritage and their environment.

    @ shravan: thanks! and all the best for the blog πŸ™‚

    @ Sunil: thanks!

    @ Rohit: thanks a ton for the nice words! always nice to know at least someone’s reading all these words being churned out πŸ™‚ please do! will drop in at your blog too!

    @ smitha: gosh, thanks for reminding me. not sure but life has been like a whirlwind the last few weeks with lots of things happening so i feel like i’m doing way too many things and not enough writing πŸ™‚ but will get back to more regular posting soon!

    @ Lubna: kittie usually stays at home. for long stays i give a key to a friend who drops in and checks in on her. unfortunately, travelling in pets is rather difficult in this country. they have quite a few good kennels in bangalore. you can check with yashbans.

    @ Vinod: yes, we did do that trek – it was amazing – one of my best experiences to go up there and come face to face with the goemba is something one can’t express in words!

    @ akshat: sure, i’ll be writing a few more posts so keep track of them. if you need any more information, i found the lonely planet very useful and used it throughout the journey!

  22. Lovely!! While I always knew that Bhutan is breathtaking, these photos have inspired me to mastermind a trip.

  23. shitiz says

    We are planning to visit bhutan next week and will be reaching PhuntsholΒ­ing late on saturday. any idea if the entry permit office will be open on sunday?

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