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Old 22nd October 2013, 22:04   #1
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Default Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...

It had been over a year since I went out exploring and it was getting a bit mundane doing the regular things in life.. So I got inspired by my mothers trip to Bhutan last year and decided to head that way. I had read a few books , watched a few films over the years about the forbidden kingdom and wanted to see if it was what I had pictured it to be..

Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...-bhutan_map.jpg


Planning

Spoke to mom , got an idea of some places and the train from Calcutta. Searched on the internet and found some useful info, though must say there isn't much or information overload , like other places

Booked my flight tickets to Calcutta and then overnight train tickets to Hasimara (Border town) and was all set.

Reaching Bhutan

The usual route taken by most is to fly into Paro or the cheaper and more comfortable option as per me is to take the night train from Calcutta to Hasimra and then a share taxi/bus to Thimpu.

Train:KANCHANKANYA EXP

1> Sealdah (SDAH) starts 8:30pm reaches Hasimara (HSA) next day at 10:33am
2> Return Hasimara (HSA) starts 5:24 pm reaches Sealdah (SDAH) next day at 8:15am

Hasimara to Phuentsholing

Shared auto or taxis available from Hasimara junction. It'll take around 30 minutes to reach(18 KM).

Phuentsholing onwards

If you are lucky you will get a coaster bus to Paro/Thimpu which is half the price that you would pay for a share taxi. Bus is more convenient ,but far and few and difficult to get one. Journey to Paro/Thimpu would take 5-7hrs depending on the road conditions.



Permits For Indians:

Indians need a Permit to visit Bhutan( Its free ). This Permit will take you to Thimpu and Paro only, if you want to go to anyother place , a special permit is required.


You can get it in advance if you have the time in Calcutta or you get it at the border in Phutsoling.

Kolkata Bhutan Consulate

General Bhutan House ,6, Mall Road ,Kolkata 700 080


Contact Numbers:
033 2559 3676
033 2560 0756
033 2560 0049

The Consulate office is located on Mall Road, near to Dum Dum Nager Bazar. Bus Stop is "Clive House", just 2 stops after Nager Bazar towards Airport. It is adjacent to Christ Church School.

The Consulate works from Monday to Friday, that submission of Permit applications is between 9 AM to 1 PM and that delivery of Permit is done after 2 PM on all working days. The authority seems to be very strict on submitting before 1pm.

Documents Reqd: 1>Passport Photo 2>ID and Address Proof (Passport /Voter ID/Driving License)

Calcutta Consulate will give a Tourist Permit upto 14days

Phuentsholing:

There are numerous hotels to stay here and get the permit done.

You can get it done before 1pm . Closed on SAT-SUN.

Documents Reqd: 1>Passport Photo 2>ID and Address Proof (Passport /Voter ID/Driving License)

You will be given a Tourist Permit upto 6-7 days



Permits in Bhutan

Head to Immigration Office at the end of Norzin Lam road past Textile Museum and Duty Free shop with a copy of the permit and passport.

Government Offices in Bhutan including Immigration Office remained closed on Saturdays & Sundays and working hours is 9 AM to 4 PM (BST).

Extended Permit required for travel outside Paro,Thimpu
• Immigration office opens by 9 AM
• Documents required :Photo ,Passport or Voter id card photo copies.
• First, one needs to make an Extension Permit if you are traveling beyond dates mentioned in the initial permit.
• Get a photocopy of Original Permit +Extension permit and then apply for the Special Route Permit.
• Apply for "Special Route Permit" for Punakha,Wangdue,BumThang etc.
• All this could take 2+hours..
• Make a photocopy of both permits.

SIM CARD

A copy of your Entry Permit, a signature on a printed application form, Hotel’s name and Rs. 65/- and you get a SIM ( B-phone is the best) with a validity of 1 month and talk value of Rs.50/-. The process is very simple, fast and friendly. Calling/SMS india is Rs5 per min/SMS.



Money

Indian rupees work everywhere in any numeration, not just 100rs as some websites may inform.. People are friendly and truthful and in my entire stay nobody cheated me or nowhere did I have to bargain.

Pictures here :Some pics to start and more to follow when I write about the places..
Attached Images
    

Last edited by anuradhac : 28th October 2013 at 18:33. Reason: Attachment
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Old 23rd October 2013, 10:04   #2
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains , Monasteries , Monks and more..

Let me correct a few things please. The permits can be obtained at P/shling even after 1600 hrs BST and upto 2100 hrs BST. Route permit for all areas can be taken from the RSTA Pshling itself and it would not need to be extended or modified at Thimpu RSTA. Plus they did not ask for photos again while either extending the permits or for making the permits for the restricted areas. You travelled to Bumthang by Bus as well?
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Old 23rd October 2013, 19:20   #3
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains , Monasteries , Monks and more..

Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderernomad View Post
Let me correct a few things please. The permits can be obtained at P/shling even after 1600 hrs BST and upto 2100 hrs BST. Route permit for all areas can be taken from the RSTA Pshling itself and it would not need to be extended or modified at Thimpu RSTA. Plus they did not ask for photos again while either extending the permits or for making the permits for the restricted areas. You travelled to Bumthang by Bus as well?

Yes I travelled to Bumthang by Bus . A tough onward journey without a proper seat Will pen down more details in my upcoming posts..
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Old 28th October 2013, 18:38   #4
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Bhutan

Bhutan has first traces of in habitation since 2000 B.C and was known for its fertile land and a subsistence living. There were small communities with distinct cultures living almost without much contact due to the tough mountain terrain and following mainly the bon traditions that came from Tibet. Civilization came with Buddhism. It was only in the 16th century did the scattered communities get together into an unified nation.

Bhutan was never ruled by the British and it signed a friendly treaty with India in 1949. Is a country which is taking a cautious step towards the modern age while trying to preserve its culture and nationalism. It opened upto the world in 1961 on its own terms, its then when it started building roads,hospitals,schools etc. funded by indian government. You can feel that its any mountainous part of India when you are there, with most of the commodities at the market being sold coming from india or even the cars,trucks, road signs around. It introduced televisions in 1999 only.

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Bhutan is a nation in transition and is trying to take one thoughtful step at a time but its being bombarded by all the globalization and the invasion of commercial media. Its goal is to control the change and not be controlled by the change when it tries to follow the motto of 'Gross National Happiness" and not GDP.

Gearing up for the trip
Spent a week working remotely from Calcutta , spending sometime at home and also applying for the Bhutan Permit at the Consulate. Didn't want to waste a day at Phuentsholing. Got the 12 day permit ,the day after applying for it . I believe you can get upto 14days from Calcutta and only 6days from Phuentsholing and would need to extend it if you plan to stay longer. One also needs to apply for a special permit once at Thimpu since the entry Permit allows one to visit Paro and Thimpu only.

So after a week took the night train from Sealdah Station to Hasimara. The train passes through some lovely tea gardens in the morning after NJP/Siliguri station. The train was scheduled to reach Hasimara close to 11am but it was late by almost 2hours that day. I took a shared auto from the station to Bhutan Gate about 20dd kms away and then another Taxi to the Phuentsholing Bus stop. There are few buses to Thimpu/Paro but since it was a Sunday , all buses were packed and couldn't find an empty seat. So the option was to either stay back at Phuentsholing (which was the last resort ) or look for a share taxi. Talking around found a share taxi (Wagon R) with other passengers and so the journey into the land of dragon started. For the first time traveler the bus stand there is very basic with no food or rest rooms available.

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Thimpu

Thimpu (175kms) takes about 6hours unless road work or landslides create blockages. The road passes through some pristine forest . After skipping both breakfast+lunch with the long train ride and trying to find next mode of transport , was happy that the share taxi stopped at a wayside hotel after few hours and I ordered some maggi and tea. After that the other passengers started talking and usual with a sense of surprise on a single traveler and checked if I had work there or was some journalist etc.

We reached Thimpu around 7pm and I asked the share taxi guy to drop me at Norzin Lam, the main street in town so that I could search for a hotel. The street is lined with shops selling all kinds of necessities and tons of hotels,even karoke bars. I walked around to the first hotel and it was all booked , not a good feeling after a days travel. Soon got lucky though ,and the second hotel had an empty room. Nice clean room (double bed) with a TV and wifi at their restaurant. Couldn't have asked for more. After resting a bit , walked around trying to get a local SIM . You could get one with a photocopy of your passport and costs just 65rs and valid for a month.

I was expecting it to be a lot more inaccessible terrain or more remote and was surprised by the number of people, vehicles and buildings around. Walked to a hotel nearby for a good plate of beef curry and rice and yes good old indian thumsup for a drink!!

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(Early morning traffic jam at Thimpu , but nobody honks and there is no traffic light)

Being a tennis fan and a bit of a player was surprised to find Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek's US Open Men's Doubles final being telecast live via Tata Sky there . They won that night and it was a good start to the trip...

Next morning , after breakfast (yes you even get good hot alo parathas there!!) , I walked to the immigration up the road to get a special permit for other places - Paro, Punakha, Haa, Bumthang. The lady asked me to fill another form and submit a photocopy of original Permit and wait for half hour. Its a tiny little office and one can easily walk past it.. My plan was fluid and was wondering what to do next. With the permit done within ten minutes , I decided to head out to Punakha , the closest stop as per the map . Just a 2hours ride away. Quickly went back to the room ,cleared the bill , packed up and headed to the bus stand and found a share taxi for the next pit stop.


More pics here :

Last edited by Rehaan : 31st October 2013 at 20:21. Reason: Inserting pictures correctly
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Old 29th October 2013, 13:03   #5
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Punakha


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After collecting the special permit from the Thimpu Immigration office, I headed to the Share taxi stand to get a ride to Punakha. Waited a bit and found the remaining passengers for the Wagon-R. Most of the share taxis there are Wagon-R though there are few Altos around. It had been only 2 days and I had seen quite a few Private SUVs Hyundai Tuscon, Santa-Fe, Toyota Prada etc and maybe just one Scorpio or Bolero that time.

If one has read about the history of the forbidden kingdom or any of the books (written before 2000) you would have had a different picture of Bhutan. I was surprised at the roads, basic goods available everywhere and of-course share taxis and bus(few) everywhere. Having been to more remote parts of India, was also expecting Bhutan to be similar but was a bit of a surprise.


Out of the three co passengers in the share taxi , two were young chaps , new graduates , who were heading out to camp. Both were speaking English and Hindi. My first impression or experience was that everybody seem to know English +Hindi. As the journey started, we started discussing various things about both the countries from religion to film stars etc .. They seem to be quite knowledgeable and mentioned visiting Bangalore, Chennai and Chandigarh etc earlier. After awhile the mist took over and the road conditions deteriorated but it was nothing compared to the breath taking views of the mountains . We passed through Dorchu La Pass and the 108 chortens .

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Another hour or so you reach the town of Lobesa , which has the diversion for Punakha. The young chaps got down here and wished me luck on my further travels. Checked with the taxi driver whether I could get the bus for my further journey at this diversion since I had seen a bus pass by and he said there is just one bus from Thimpu that goes further but I could try my luck next morning. The route than passed through some beautiful views of the paddy fields( green this time of the year) overlooking the mountains. A peaceful surrounding compared to the concrete houses and cars of Thimpu. The taxi guy dropped me at Kurje few kms before Punakha. He said there were only expensive resorts at Punakha and this would be the best place to find hotels. Walked around a bit and found just 2-3 hotels and found a nice and clean room with a small TV again. I was happy that I found a TV there since the US open mens finals with Rafa and Nole was scheduled that night . Wishes do come true sometimes as they say


Kurje is a beautiful valley town with a handful of shops, hotel, post office and school on one side and the river and mountain on the other side. Just like the peaceful rhythm of the place and decided to spend two nights there.Walked out looking for food but none was available but came back and asked and Mushroom Ema Datse and red rice was available and then it was time to rest.

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After that it was just walking around town a bit and reading . It was the first time I was carrying a tablet with ebooks , woah what a convenience and change from lugging around physical books. Another meal(Dinner this time) and alarm set for the 2:30am US open finals. However the street dogs had other plans. They were barking and howling in the highest pitch all night. Had read about the dogs of Bhutan in in some of the books earlier and figured indeed such was the case today. The US Open Finals turned out to be a good match between the two top players of the world that ended around 7am local time and Rafa ruled again. He has been having an amazing comeback after being out for 7months. With the trophy decided it was time to get some rest and then head to the monastery . By the time I woke up and started for the monastery , 11am or so , there was no breakfast available other than a cup of tea but requested the lady at the hotel to prepare lunch atleast.

Punakaha was the capital of Bhutan till mid 1950s and the dzong is one of the most beautiful ones . It has towering white washed walls and red and black caved wood with gold paintings. The first small building was there in 1326 but the structure began in 1637 and completed within a year. Several earthquakes, fire had impacted it over the centuries but it has always been repaired. Its a beautiful structure across the river .

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Took a share auto to the Punakha Dzong 4-5 kms away . At the entrance, the security guards checked my permit and asked me where I was headed next and they gave me some suggestions how to get there by bus. They said I could even try that afternoon but I wanted to just enjoy Punakha and Kurje for the day. Punakha is warmer than Thimpu and it was quite hot in the afternoon sunshine at the Dzong. Walked around the big area with courtyards and various structures. In Bhutan the Dzongs are also used as administrative offices for the village/district and all government officials work out of it too. Back at the hotel the lady had prepared lovely indian chicken curry and rice , first meal of the day.

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After the hearty meal it was being lazy , it was a timeaway from work after all. So rest, books, walking around town happened.

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Old 29th October 2013, 15:46   #6
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Bumthang

After having spent two nights at calm and serene Punakha , it was time to move on to central Bhutan. The next destination in mind was Jakar or if that wasn't possible Trongsa. Wokeup early to a cloudy rainy morning. I walked to the taxi stand in the drizzle and found a share taxi to Lobesa. It was cold , misty and lovely outside and the taxi passed through some yellow and green paddy fields with the mountains fading away with the clouds. If only had a camera handy but alas !!

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There is only one bus from Thimpu that passes through Lobesa and onto Bumthang everyday and its usually difficult to find a seat even from Thimpu if not booked in advance, since these coaster buses have just 15 seats. Taxi was out of question since I was told it would cost 8-9k one way ,just to get there. So I prayed for some divine intervention and was at the Bus Stop at 7a.m., would need to figure out Plan B/another destination if this didn't workout.


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I waited at the bus stop with school kids going (in their traditional attire kira,gho) there way. There is also a big Hydro Electric Power station near by and the buses for the staff was also there and saw lot of Indians as well. After waiting for close to 2hrs and my mind wandering if Central Bhutan would work out , I saw the bus arrive and it was totally packed, however call it divine intervention or the conductor being helpful he took me in. So started my journey to the next pitstop a 10hour bumpy bone crunching journey on a small child's seat but the amazing view around was worth it.

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The person next to me was a government official and we spoke about various aspects of life in bhutan and india . He also mentioned he was flying to dehrudan in a week or so to get some training in surveys etc.

After few hours of bone crunching journey in a small seat where each bone was rattled and I was literally jumping every time the bus went over a pothole , we stopped for lunch at a wayside hotel. A good plate of dal and rice and some local chicken preparation , the first meal of the day couldn't have tasted better.

I saw the majestic Trongsa Dzong from the bus , jutting out of the hills and only wished I could have stopped there. Thankfully, though the road conditions improved after that stop and I also managed to get a regular seat ,business class not really but the last seat on the bus over its wheel !! But there was more to come . It became freezing cold and the wind from outside didn't help . Since Punakha was pleasant and just a regular tee shirt was good enough, I hadn't taken out my warm jacket. No amount of moving around helped and I almost froze for the next couple of hours till we reached the destination. I had been reading Rafa's autobiography only the previous night and where he mentions 'endurance' a couple of times , so that was it !! Thats all I had and needed to get through the roads and the cold weather, it was simple .

We reached Chokor, bumthang at dawn and the first thing I did at the bus stop was to get a return bus ticket from the counter. I didn't want another tough 12 hour ride back !! Walked around a bit trying to find a guest house/hotel and got one just next to the bus station . A very basic lodge , no TV , no attached bath but it was just next to he bus stop and my bus ticket was for 530am. Dumped by bag and asked for a maggi and tea and stretched out a bit , could feel some effect of the bone crunching journey.

After a bit of rest, walked around town. It's a small and quaint town , with a bunch of shops and hotels and one way streets. Went to the taxi stand to check if I could get a taxi for next day to go around locally but it seemed closed. But after a bit of walking around found a taxi and asked the fella , how much it would cost for next days sight seeing. He initially mentioned a good amount, but when I told him I was a solo traveller he said he would charge local rates and gave his mobile number for next mornings excursion. After a nice hot meal , it was time to give the muscles some rest.



Day of Dzongs

Central Bhutan was the first part of Bhutan to have been inhabited with the prehistoric evidence available about the settlements in the Ura Valley. Bumthang was even ruled by an Indian King , Sindhu Raja in the 8th century before conversions to Buddhism happened by Guru Rinpoche. Its also the cultural hub of the country.

The origin of the name Bumthang has two versions . 1> Valley is shaped like a 'bumpa' a vessel of holy water and 'thang' means field or a flat place. 2>particular beautiful women who live there and 'bum' means girl .

Bumthang has 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chumme . Most buses stop at Chokhor a.k.a as Jakar.

Woke up late after the bone crunching journey and after tea and cheese momos for breakfast called the taxi driver for visiting the Dzongs or gompas around. It was the day of the Dzongs : 1>Khurjey 2>Jampey 3>Jakar 4>Tamshing .. The taxi driver promptly arrived at 11am and started the drive across the lovely valley. The chap was very knowledgeable and we had a good discussion all along. He mentioned that most things came from India and was subsidized . Even petrol and gas was cheaper than India. Education is free till 10th standard and after that students on merit list get sponsorship to study in Bhutan or India and that there were no medical colleges in Bhutan either. English was compulsory at school from the 90s or so and I could see that most people were conversant in it and most of the sign boards were all in English only. I asked him the reason for hindi knowledge around other than having indian construction workers around . He mentioned that once TV came in around 1999 most of the younger folks were glued to the Hindi TV serials and thats how they picked it up

I had also read about the fight against Nepali immigrants in the 90s and turned out that he was the third generation Nepail and said it was all peaceful there now. Religion was just a way off life and not bigger than life and that he was christian (though that was an underground religion and there were no churches around) , his grandparents converted when some Austrian missionaries where in Bhutan.

It was a nice day visiting all the centuries old dzongs and also getting to know a little more about the country.

Had a good lunch at an Indian restaurant in town once back and chatted with the two girls at the lodge. All the hotels, lodges, shops I frequented was run by women but these girls were barely in their teens and ever smiling . I asked them why they weren't in school and was told they had to earn their living since they had a step mother who refused to bring them up. Later in the day it started to pour heavily and I tucked myself into the two thick quilts after dinner and some reading and called it a day. After all the tough journey was worth it .



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Old 5th November 2013, 12:44   #7
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Note from Mod : Thread has been moved from Assembly Line to Travelogue section. Thanks for sharing
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Old 7th November 2013, 23:40   #8
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Bhutan :Thimpu Tshechu


Back to Thimpu

After spending two nights at Bumthang, it was time to move on and the next pitstop was Thimpu. Was a the bus stand at 5:30a.m. in freezing cold to start the 12 hour long bumpy ride to Thimpu.

It was just my luck that Tshechu(festival ) was scheduled at Thimpu and I wanted to take part in the festivities. Its a 3day annual festival that attracts tourists from around Bhutan and other countries. I had called up a hotel the previous night ,to book an accommodation since I had heard it would be tough to find a room during this time. After a long journey over the evergreen mountains reached Thimpu in the evening and went to the hotel but was told nothing was there on my name, I hadn't called etc etc. I showed them my mobile call list but nothing they could do at that moment. So I walked across the street to the hotel, where I had spent my first night at Bhutan. Had called them earlier but even they had told me nothing was free. However, found that they had an empty room and was happy to checkin immediately. Hotel was clean with TV and wifi at their restaurant. After a bit of rest , went down and walked around town and could see lot of foreign tourists and people. All the shops were doing brisk business as well. Quite a change from the sparse population at the other places that week. Found Ambient Cafe around the corner and decided to have dinner there. Nice little place with comfortable interiors and one could be transported to a cafe any part of the world. It had all kinds of Italian, Mediterranean stuff , including sandwiches etc. Free Wifi too !! They were playing good old Mark Knofler and Songs from 'Sailing in Philadelphia' playing. It took me back to the time when I had picked up the cassette and was hooked to those songs. The owner started talking and mentioned he had studied in Bangalore. Had a nice plate of spaghetti and hot chocolate and exchanged a few emails with friends and folks and thats how the day ended.


Thimpu Tschechu
Tschechu is a 3day festival and its believed that the ones that witness the festival will be bestowed with luck and their wishes are fulfilled .

The first day of Thimphu Tshechu showcases the Shacham (stag dance) where dancers wearing knee length costumes and stag masks perform a dance depicting the subjugation of the evil wind king by Guru Rinpochhe, the Pelage Gingsum (The three kings of Ging), depicts the victory of good over evil, and the Pacham (dance of the heroes) shows how the people who have performed good deeds are led to Guru Rinpochhe after their life on earth has ended.

The second day introduces the spectacular Zhana Cham, where dancers representing yogis who have the power to take and recreate life, are dressed in large black hats and brocade. The mesmerizing Zhana Nga Chham follows, where the dancers perform a victory with drums following the destruction of evil.

The final day introduces the more menacing dances- Durdag is performed with skull masks and depict the lords of the cremation grounds subjugating the demons who harm tantric Buddhism, Tungam is again performed with terrifying masks, and depict Guru Rinpochhe waging a war against demonic powers, and Raksha Marcham depicts the judgement of the dead.


Wokeup really early , with a chill in the air and walked down to the street to find some tea and found that the street was closed for all traffic and people were setting up shops on the street. After some hot chai got back and by that time the hotel lady was there and asked if I could get some breakfast so that I could start walking to the Dzong around 730am . Post breakfast, I started walking towards the Festivities.

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Its a longish walk across to the end of Norzim la and then further. I asked few people who were around and they guided me towards the direction. As I started walking after a road crossing , I found a monk walking and some local people walking ahead. Few taxis with tourists coming from somewhere and the Dzong visible at a distance. The monk was not able to converse in English or Hindi and he figured I was going there and he asked me to follow him all the way. It was walking through nice tree lined path all the way.

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Once we reached the dzong, he still asked me to follow him and I found some other monks there in the crowd right at the centre of the big amphitheater area , who were waiting for him. They had kept some place and asked me to sit with them. The place was crowded and soon every inch of space was taken . All the nationals were in their traditional attire (compulsory) . The show began at 9am sharp and there were mask dancers, traditional songs, drama etc. and one of the monk who know English would explain things at the start. In the morning it was cold but as the day progressed , the mountain sun took over and all of us were roasted . The heat was actually unbearable. Soon fruits, drinks , food items were taken out by the monks and they shared it with me. I initially refused but they wouldn't let me go. Unfortunately I had just a fruit bun and water and I passed the fruit bun around and they had it with a smile. After spending better part of the day there , i bid them goodbye and started walking back to the hotel. Later in the evening , walked around and picked up some books from Junction Bookstore and was all set for the next stop .


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More pics here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/anuradhac/sets/
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Old 19th November 2013, 19:37   #9
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...

Paro



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After couple of days at Thimpu, started the last leg of the journey towards 'Paro' . It takes about 2hrs from Thimpu in a share taxi. Lovely freshly laid Tarmac.

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After checking into a hotel and lunch , walked around town . Paro, is a small town compared to Thimpu. Houses at Paro are just two storied and spare traffic unlike Thimpu. Most people who travel to Bhutan fly into Paro and then move on. On the way back of exploring the place , I found a gathering and school children and it turned out to be an evening where students were dancing to various tunes - some old traditional songs, some new ones. I had by then gotten familiar with most of the songs , from my long journey to bumthang. Some had nice catchy pop tunes. After that it was just reading and rest.


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Next day was a buffer day at Paro , kept for any travel related delays like land slides etc. Basically a day to just rest , eat , walk around and that's what I did. Walked to the post office to check out the stamps however came back disappointed with just two or three regular stamps. As an avid stamp collector during my school days , had some wonderful 3D (yes) and colorful Bhutanese stamps that an uncle of mine had brought back. Wanted to visit the Thimpu post office but it was closed for the festival and so Paro was the only option.


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And then walked to Dzong

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The next day early morning took a taxi to the base of tiger's nest (500rs round trip) and then walked up the mountain. If you walk at a normal pace with few breaks to take pics and catch up on oxygen , it takes about 40mins till the midpoint where there is a cafe . After that its another one hour.


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The next day was getting to Hasimara and the train back to Calcutta

Pictures here :
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Old 19th November 2013, 20:56   #10
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...

Nice travelogue and some excellent pictures, thanks for sharing
The places look so beautiful with pristine surroundings and clean as well!

Could you also share details of expenses for hotels, taxis, etc and the must-see places, that will definitely help.
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Old 19th November 2013, 23:14   #11
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...

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Originally Posted by NPV View Post
Nice travelogue and some excellent pictures, thanks for sharing
The places look so beautiful with pristine surroundings and clean as well!

Could you also share details of expenses for hotels, taxis, etc and the must-see places, that will definitely help.
NPV: Thanks..

I took share taxis or coaster buses everywhere and its fixed rates (Same rate for locals/tourists). E.g. A share taxi from Thimpu to Paro was 200rs and Thimpu to Punakha was 250rs .

Budget hotels . Clean ,double beds and some places with TV would come to around 700rs per day. There are more upscale ones too. I didn't venture into those.. Each of the city/towns have a central lane and most budget hotels are located on that lane.

Must see places - Punakha ,Paro and Thimpu.. If you are interested in the cultural history of Bhutan or more inclined towards monasteries then Trongza and Bumthang.. but its a back breaking 12hrs journey.. There are 4 monasteries there..
Punakha , I would think tops all of them and I would suggest spending a day or two there.. Hiking to Tigers nest outskirts of Paro also is pretty nice.
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Old 24th November 2013, 09:57   #12
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Default Re: Bhutan : Mountains, Monasteries, Monks and more...

An excellent thread - you have a fluid writing style as well, and you have captured almost every essential detail required by a backpack traveller, including even the abbreviations of the train stations for the IRCTC website!

Just happened to read that Bhutan is planning to ditch the oil burning vehicles in favour of electric vehicles, at least for the government vehicles.

Also I see from the various threads and photos that there are a lot of Indian vehicles (Maruti, M&M and such).

A few questions -

Is private ownership of vehicles allowed?
What are the vehicle prices? Are there any deterrants, such as high import duties, to ensure people don't buy too many vehicles?
Are there any petrol pumps and service stations? I guess there would be, since so many vehicles seem to be plying there, but don't remember anyone specifically mentioning them.
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Old 24th November 2013, 17:37   #13
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Originally Posted by honeybee View Post
An excellent thread - you have a fluid writing style as well, and you have captured almost every essential detail required by a backpack traveller, including even the abbreviations of the train stations for the IRCTC website!

Just happened to read that Bhutan is planning to ditch the oil burning vehicles in favour of electric vehicles, at least for the government vehicles.

Also I see from the various threads and photos that there are a lot of Indian vehicles (Maruti, M&M and such).

A few questions -

Is private ownership of vehicles allowed?
What are the vehicle prices? Are there any deterrants, such as high import duties, to ensure people don't buy too many vehicles?
Are there any petrol pumps and service stations? I guess there would be, since so many vehicles seem to be plying there, but don't remember anyone specifically mentioning them.
Thanks .. Ya I too read about electric car drive in todays paper. Should be an interesting experiment and if it works ,should do a lot of good to the town specially Thimpu..

Responses to your questions here ..

Is private ownership of vehicles allowed?

Yes private ownership of vehicles are allowed and there was easy access to both car and housing loans in tieup with indian banks till last year, which led to a surge in vehicle ownership. I believe they have tightened the loans now and stopped giving out vehicle loans atleast for short while as a taxi driver told me .. This should curb more vehicles on the road , however the rich and moneyed will be able to still purchase it.. The rich anyways go for the high end SUVS and the rest settle for ALTO,Wagon R etc.

Traffic is max in Thimpu and I was taken aback when I saw traffic jam in one way streets there.. But nobody honks or tries to overtake etc like back here.. Once you head out of Thimpu you see fewer vehicles and even in Paro its not that much.

What are the vehicle prices? Are there any deterrants, such as high import duties, to ensure people don't buy too many vehicles?

I am not sure about the cost of the vehicles but I didnt hear about any deterrent as such other than loans being stopped temporarily.

Are there any petrol pumps and service stations? I guess there would be, since so many vehicles seem to be plying there, but don't remember anyone specifically mentioning them.

There are few petrol pumps and service stations and garages in the outskirts of the city.. Like Thimpu there is a special area for garage/service station etc away from residential areas.. I was also told that Maruti has the maximum service stations across the country .. Hyundia,Nissan,Mahendra and Toyota have a few service stations but its more expensive and far and few. .

Petrol was also cheaper than India and is subsidized and supplied by India like most other items. I found few Indian Oil petrol bunks outskirts of the towns and cities and the going rate was 68rs when it was around 79 here.. Cooking gas is also subsidized and cheaper than India ..
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