March 15, 2007

Postcard from Bhutan

Just back from an awesome trip to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan - "the last place on the roof of the world" as it is rightly called. Cocooned in the mighty Himalayas, the rich country offered us the best of nature, climate, peace and tranquility - a real feeling of firdaus on zameen. Day T-2 - Getting There (March 01) Entering Bhutan is almost a privilege for any Indian - just carry a passport / voter ID card simply for proof of Indian citizenship and you're welcome to explore the virgin beauty for upto 14 days with a special permit issued almost immediately.

By road, you enter via the Indian town of Jaigaon into the Bhutanese town of Phuentsholing. By air, you could fly Kolkata-Paro or Delhi-Paro thru Druk Air - the only carrier which can fly you to Bhutan. Damages: ~4-5K INR.

I flew down Mumbai-Kolkata-Bagdogra, took a cab to Siliguri and then a 5 hour bus to Jaigaon - all in a day's time! Reaching the border of India-Bhutan by road and standing in front of the Royal Gate was an incredible experience in itself. Stayed in a guesthouse overlooking it. They had an awesome restaurant called 'Vatika' - highly recommended. Room was OK.

Day 0 - Joining the trek group (March 02) Since I had reached a day earlier, the rest of the group (+7) joined in the next day from New Jalpaiguri. This day was mostly just about knowing each other and doing a quick reiki trip across the border to Bhutan.

Day 1 - Immigration, Journey to Thimphu (March 03) The process is fairly simple, and our guide Sonam Wangchuk from our local operator 'Lhomen Tours and Travels' took care of it. It's best to do your bookings with a tour operator before reaching Bhutan so that paperwork is faster and hassle-free. Once done, we headed off to the capital city of Thimphu in a Toyota minubus. The journey was awesome - clean chilly air, breathtaking views of mountains and valleys and random passerbys waving out to us 'foreigners'. Reached Hotel Wangchuk in the evening and settled down.

Day 2 - Thimphu - Gangtey (March 04) Lunch @ 13,000 ft. - drive - stopover at Dochula Pass - Overnight at local farmhouse.

Day 3 - Gangtey - Gogona (March 05) The trail winds up on a slow climb through fields and then ascends the Tselela pass (3400m), which is our lunch stop. Then descends gradually for some time through forests of juniper, bamboo, magnolia and rhododendrons. After the last short climb, reach Gogona village. The people of Gogona were originally nomads and they speak a language called Bjopkha (language of namds). Overnight camp.

Day 4 - Gogona - Khotokha (March 06) Climb up a gentle slope to Shobjula pass (3400m), then down to a wide valley of Khotokha, a summer place of people of Sha (under Wangduephodrang district). Overnight camp.

Day 5 - Khotokha - Chuzomsa - Wangduephodrang - Paro (March 07) Short ascend leads to Mulaila pass (9200ft) then the path descends through an ever changing vegetation till the bridge in Wangdi(Chuzomsa). The trek is approximately 4-5 hours. From Chuzomsa the vehicle brought us to Paro approximately 5 hours. Overnight in hotel.

Day 6 - Paro Sightseeing, Museum, Drukyeldzong - (March 08) Whole day sightseeing in and around Paro with a visit of Drukyeldzong, Museum, Paro Dzong. Overnight hotel.

-------------------------------------- This blog post is a work in progress. Meanwhile, read my travel buddy Shruti's Bhutan notes and do check out my photo-essay on Flickr - arranged by Arts, Animals, Nature and People. Special thanks and mention to my old friend Prateek Deo who has accepted me as his trekking protege and shown me a Life Away From Life!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Now I'm really looking forward to my trip.

Anonymous said...

i just chanced upon ur blog through a common link and boy, i took instant liking at it. i liked the dedication and sincerity with which u hav written all ur blogs...r u blessed with some extra time than the usual 24 hrs, is what i actually wonder????

all i can say is, keep the pace and let those wonderful thoughts come in to u ....m sure i m gona spend quite some time on ur blog. tc

rayshma said...

d pic brought back a lot of memories... had been to bhutan a couple of years back... is SO b'ful. :)

Kaushal said...

@ anon1 - you should! :) have a grr8 time and do share your experiences later

@ anon2 - (hey ppl pls. dont feel shy - speak out with ur own names please!) thanks a bunch :) extra time? lol - that's still a novelty for me much like you. but yea, been a lot more freer the last 7-8 months since i quit the corporate world! thanks again :)

@ rayshma - am glad! sorry about the delay in the full post - will get that off my chest this weekend

ankurindia said...

its a great place .enjoy

Sunil said...

Wow! I'd love to go to Bhutan. Bright & colourful! (Photos on yoru flickr page)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kaushal- just got back from Bhutan. Great trip. Will eventually post details on
http://transit-points.blogspot.com/
:)

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