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Old 22nd October 2013, 19:46   #1
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Default To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

With the Pooja Vacations looming the kids wanted to go out for a longish trip. The elder one had been pestering me for a Bhutan Trip since 2010, when I had come to this enchanted land as part of the 3rd Indo Bhutan Friendship Car rally. So called up a few friends in Bhutan and finalised on the destination. Earlier plan was to do an West-East drive through the country but then decided for a more sedate journey plan so as to cover this beautiful land one valley after another. So for this time it would be just the western part starting from Pheuntsholing-Paro-Haa-Thimpu-Pheuntsholing.

Since this is tbhp so I shall start with the pictures of one thing we all love-Cars. Bhutan is a paradise for off road addicts and it shows with the large number of 4X4 vehicles. Earlier there were no import duties and therefore, we used to see a lot of foreign off roaders mainly Japanese Toyotas, Hilux being the most common. However, due to an ever growing number of cars, the Royal Government has now banned the Import of cars into this last Paradise.

So as the first post lets start with the beauties caught on camera.
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Last edited by wanderernomad : 22nd October 2013 at 19:56.
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Old 22nd October 2013, 22:54   #2
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Default re: To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

Good to see that you remain true to your handle. Rated 5* and now Awaiting for the complete saga to unfold. I wonder if we can buy pre owned 4x4s from Bhutan and register them here also what are the fuel prices there.

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Old 22nd October 2013, 23:27   #3
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Originally Posted by khoj View Post
Good to see that you remain true to your handle. Rated 5* and now Awaiting for the complete saga to unfold. I wonder if we can buy pre owned 4x4s from Bhutan and register them here also what are the fuel prices there.
The idea crossed my mind too but since there are restrictions on importing second hand vehicles from abroad so it would not be possible. As Bhutan does not levy any duties the vehicle costs are real. A Hyundai Tuscon Petrol version costs about 8.25 lakhs. Petrol and Diesel prices are cheaper. Diesel for example costs 50.67 to 52.37 per litre. Am not too sure about the price of petrol though but will cross check once again.

Entry Permits:

Are given 7 days a week from 0800 hrs to 2100 hrs BST. The venue varies. On normal days they are given at the immigration office while on public holidays and weekends and after office hours are given from a small office by the Royal Bhutan Police building on the right side of the road just inside the Border Gate.

Vehicle route permits are given at the RSTA office in fixed time slots but on Public Holidays they can be had from 1100 to 1300 hrs only at the RSTA office over the P/shling Bus Stand. While route permits will be given for all Bhutan if you ask real nicely the Individual Entry permits are given for only 7 days and that too for only Paro and Thimpu. It can be extended easily at the Immigration Office at Thimpu for another period of 7 days.

Carry a copy of your Passport/Voter ID Card and if travelling with Kids carry their Birth Certificates or a Government Issue ID Card if you have one. For kids less than 12 years a school ID card would also do.

Lot of hotel options at Pshling and in Paro and Thimpu. However, be aware that this year there is a lot of European Tourist coming into the country and over the weekend people were willing to pay upto 2000NU for sleeping in the restaurants. So if you are planning on going book in advance at Thimpu. You can PM me for contact numbers of a few options.

Driving in Bhutan: The people are slow drivers and do not honk as a rule. In cities this is fine but on mountain curves this habit is deadly as the roads are narrow and the drivers reaction time is much slower as they are not used to much traffic on the roads. The result:
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Old 23rd October 2013, 09:57   #4
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D-Day was 12/10/13 and though we wanted to leave early but as it usually is with the best laid plans we could leave only by 0935 hrs. The days pit stop was going to be Guwahati. The roads are good except for about 10 odd kms from Bokakhat to Jakhalbandha as you cross the Kaziranga ranges. The road from Nagaon to Guwahati is a dual carriageway 4 laned concrete. There are patches in between that are broken dirt tracks especially as you approach the bridges and also around the town of Jagiroad. We reached Guwahati around 1500 hrs and had a small lunch meeting up with our neighbours in Jorhat who were already in Guwahati for the vacations. Thereafter, we had a sunset river cruise before proceeding to the IIT Guwahati guest house for the night. The detailed trip log for day 1 is as follows:
Jorhat: 0935 hrs: 74916 Kms.
DerGaon: 0950 hrs: 74935 kms.
Numaligarh: 1020 hrs: 74965 kms: Fuel 30 ltrs Rs 1680. Bfast @ Numaligarh Dhaba.
Bokakhat: 1115 hrs: 74977 kms.
Kohora: 1135 hrs: 74999 kms.
Jakhalbandha: 1215 hrs: 75044 kms.
Missa: 1235 hrs: 75060 kms.
Nagaon: 1300 hrs: 75089 kms.
Raha: 1330 hrs: 75119 kms.
Jagiroad: 1400 hrs 75161 kms.
IIT Guwahati: 2000 hrs: 75237 kms.

The river cruises at MG Road Guwahati start at 1730 and 2030 for the sunset cruise and the dinner cruise respectively. Charges are 250/200 for upper deck/lower deck for adults and 200/150 for the kids aged upto 12 yrs. The sun is already set by the time the sunset cruise leaves the moorings. Probably in summer it is an appropriate time but for winters they should really re schedule for 1630 so that you can see the setting sun while on board. The cruise lasts about an hour and is highly recommended. They have meals and snacks that are served on board on payment basis but are reasonably priced. Some pictures from the day 1.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 11:34   #5
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Default re: To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

Great start wanderernomad, Bhutan is next on my list and I hope you put in all the details. By the way you did not mention which car you were driving?
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Old 23rd October 2013, 12:51   #6
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Day 2: 13/10/13.

The IIT Guest house is at a very scenic location across the Saraighat Bridge but next time if you manage a booking with them please insist on a ground floor room as close to the reception as possible, as they have a huge guest house and God Forbid if they give you a room on the 3rd floor towards the outer fringes, the mere trek back from the dining room shall substitute for the night walk after dinner.
The trip log for Day 2:
IIT Guest House: 0830 Hrs: 75237 Kms: Charges Rs 700 room 400 for 3 breakfast and 1 dinner.
Fuel near GAU Airport: Rs 500: 75263 kms.
Mirza: 0900 hrs: 75268 kms.
Chayagaon: 0925 hrs: 75285 kms.
Boko: 0940 hrs: 75302 kms.
Dhupdhara: 0954 hrs: 75322 kms.
Dudhnoi: 1015 hrs: 75349 kms.
Krishnai: 1025 hrs: 75364 kms.
Agia: 1049 hrs: 75379 kms.
Kabaitary: 1100 hrs:75396 kms. Crossed the Mighty Brahamaputra here.
Uttar Salmara PT II: 1110 hrs: 754121 kms. The option here was to either go left down the banks of the river towards Dubri or go right towards NH 31 C. We choose the middle path to continue straight through the town of Bongaigaon towards NH 31C. And there it got all confusing.
Bongagaon: 1130 hrs: 75430 kms: We reached in pretty good time as the road was excellent alebit a little narrow. However, the town is all confusing without any porper markings and a one way on the heart of the town. GPS tried its best to get us out but with so many lanes and bye lanes I thought it better to approach a CRPF QRT for directions. And what a relief it was to know that we were headed in the right direction and if we continued following our nose we would hit the highway in another 2 kms at Kajalgaon: 1200 hrs: 75441kms.
Serfanguri: 1250 hrs: 75477 kms.
Gossaigaon: 1325 hrs: 75505 kms.
Sri Rampur: 1340 hrs: 75514 kms.
Uttar Kamakhyaguri: 1350 hrs: 75533 kms.
Alipur Duar Turn off: 1400 hrs: 75546 kms.
Hasimara: 1435 kms: 75585 kms. Had lunch at a Dhaba here by the road side. Nice place and ok food.
Jayagaon Turnoff: 1600 hrs: 75589 kms.
Pheuntsholing: 1630 hrs: 75604 kms.

The day in pictures: 1. Crossing the River at Kabaitary. 2. Road from Uttar Salmara to Bonagaigaon. 3. Pooja Pandal at Bongaigaon. 4. & 5. Lunch at Hasimara.
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Last edited by wanderernomad : 23rd October 2013 at 12:53.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 13:19   #7
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Default re: To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

This is turning out to be a statistical travelogue with information about the hidden/forbidden country that was not available before.

Glued..bring it on..!

p.s: btw, there is another thread on the dragon country here.

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Old 23rd October 2013, 13:24   #8
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Default re: To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

Nice start wanderernomad! Bhutan is a great place, that too in proximity for people living in East or north-east. I was there last December and enjoyed the serenity and the laid back living of the country. The effect is such that whenever I see a picture or a documentary on Bhutan, I feel like visiting the place again.
Looking forward to your posts. Keep posting a lot of pictures.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 23rd October 2013, 14:01   #9
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Default re: To the Land of the Thunder Dragon : Bhutan

Wonderful trip and details.

I am hitting Bhutan during late december and early Jan 14.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 14:52   #10
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Good to read a travelogue on new places. Will be reading keenly. But one request though, it would be good if you format your posts well. Tried reading last two posts, but lost somewhere due to too much information posted in one paragraph.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 16:50   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gd1418 View Post
This is turning out to be a statistical travelogue with information about the hidden/forbidden country that was not available before.

Glued..bring it on..!

p.s: btw, there is another thread on the dragon country here.
Thank you Guruji. Yes there is another one here who travelled to Bumthang as well and that too by Bus. Combined we should have enough literature on this hidden jewel soon on the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Nice start wanderernomad! Bhutan is a great place, that too in proximity for people living in East or north-east. I was there last December and enjoyed the serenity and the laid back living of the country. The effect is such that whenever I see a picture or a documentary on Bhutan, I feel like visiting the place again.
Looking forward to your posts. Keep posting a lot of pictures.

Regards,
Saket
Thanks Mate, yeah lots of pictures coming up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rkbharat View Post
Wonderful trip and details.

I am hitting Bhutan during late december and early Jan 14.
Great. You shall be driving down or flying in? Need any assistance PM me and I shall spring up a few local contacts for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shipnil View Post
Good to read a travelogue on new places. Will be reading keenly. But one request though, it would be good if you format your posts well. Tried reading last two posts, but lost somewhere due to too much information posted in one paragraph.
Chief point taken and will try to sort it out in the next posts, but please bear with me in case I fail as we sarkaari people have an unconscious tendency of confusing everyone with our writings.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 17:29   #12
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One of the main interest in Pshling was the cheap shopping options due to Dhaka Sales shops. However, this time I found lesser number of such shops and also the price attractiveness was not there. One of the reasons given was the depreciating rupee against the dollar for the higher prices.

To Do:
1. walk around the shops.
2. visit the temple and do enjoy the time there as its the central park of Pshling.
3. visit the Crocodile park, which is about 500 mtrs from the RSTA Bus Stand.
4. To eat there is the Zade Chinese restaurant. Slightly expensive and the portions are meagre. Do try their American/Chinese Chopsuey. It has a good unique taste. Hotel Peljorling is another good option for food. Has a separate kitchen and dinning in case you relish Bhutanese cuisine which is predominantly Beef, Pork and Chilli.
5. Tank up on fuel as I found the prices here to be cheaper than Thimpu. Still trying to confirm if its true or the prices rose in the 4 days interval when I fueled again at Thimpu.

A rough estimate map of Pshling showing the locations of various eateries, poi and the RBG offices where you need to go.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Pshling.pdf (133.8 KB, 299 views)

Last edited by wanderernomad : 23rd October 2013 at 17:30.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 17:53   #13
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Nice start
Can't wait for more.

Could you also share the route on google map (image) if possible?

~Best,
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Old 23rd October 2013, 17:59   #14
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An excellent start and subscribed to the thread wasting no time.

I used to be living in Bhutan a decade ago. I was in Wangduephodrang . Maruti Omni used to be the most common taxi cabs and Land cruiser Prado and Hilux pick ups amongst most popular private cars.

Wonderful places and great memories. The drive from phuntsholing to Thimphu and then to Gasello/Wangdi still remains the most adventurous journies on the road that I have ever done so far.

BTW, did you try the famous "Doma"?

Last edited by M35 : 23rd October 2013 at 18:01.
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Old 23rd October 2013, 18:41   #15
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Nice start
Can't wait for more.

Could you also share the route on google map (image) if possible?

~Best,
Thanks mate, I have got the route recorded on my GPS. At the end will try and post the recording. IN Bhutan I have tried to record a beeline GPS track with some Important POI's. Will try and see if I can get to export the track to a gmap compatible file.

Quote:
Originally Posted by M35 View Post
An excellent start and subscribed to the thread wasting no time.

I used to be living in Bhutan a decade ago. I was in Wangduephodrang . Maruti Omni used to be the most common taxi cabs and Land cruiser Prado and Hilux pick ups amongst most popular private cars.

Wonderful places and great memories. The drive from phuntsholing to Thimphu and then to Gasello/Wangdi still remains the most adventurous journies on the road that I have ever done so far.

BTW, did you try the famous "Doma"?
Thanks Mate. Yeah the journeys still stay exciting though the conditions have improved and become horrendous at the same time during the last decade. Will try and put up some pictures of the roads as well.

During the evening while walking around the market with nothing to do I just enquired as to the time the Immigration Office opened on Tuesday. Remember I had reached Pshling on a Sunday and was informed that Monday was also a public holiday due to Dussera, so I was resigned to the fact that I wont be able to get the entry and route permits made till Tuesday morning. Many of the threads available conveyed that the immigration and RSTA offices worked only Monday thru Friday from 0800 to 1600 hrs BST.

I was staying in the BRTF Officers mess and one of my Friends in the RBG conveyed that he would request another RBA officer posted at Pshling in RBP to try and help me in securing the permits in the shortest possible time on Tuesday, so I can leave for Paro by 1000 hrs. A casual query in the market however, provided a ray of light. A small office in the RBP office made permits on weekends and after office hours till 2100 hrs for commercial entries. Maybe I can go and try out my luck.

So filled with hope, I walked across the road. It had a good crowd and the officers were refusing any more applications due to about 400 permit backlog for the day. I walked in and the short conversation went like this:
Me: Hello, excuse me, is it possible to get entry permits today?
IO: Hello, NO we have a huge backlog. Please come back tomorrow morning at 0800 hrs. But you can take the form and fill it up tonight.
Me: Thanks, what do I need for the kids as proof?
IO: Birth Certificates.
Me: Ohh I don't have them but will a Government dependent ID card will do?
IO: Are you a Government Officer? Do you have your ID Card?
Me: Yes, want to see?
IO: No Sir, how many people are you?
Me: 4, 2 Adults, 2 Kids.
IO: Please come back at 2045 hrs along with family and we shall prepare the permits for you but you can only collect them tomorrow morning.
Me: Thank you very much, I appreciate. I shall collect them tomorrow morning. See you.

I rushed back to the Mess and took out the Originals and the photocopies of the papers along with the passport pictures of every one. Now came the twist, I was on IST and the IO meant BST. 2045 IST meant 2115 BST and the office closed at 2100 BST.
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