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Old 10th August 2016, 15:11   #1
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Default Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios

A drive to the Himalaya's in monsoon & that too in a sedan did raise a few eyebrows! The typical statements and questions i had to face before the trip were like-

Its a bad decision.
- Yes i know!

There will be land slides and slush on the road. - That's fun!

You wont be able to cover all the parts of Bhutan. - True, am not into a drive to cover the whole of Bhutan, neither i am into a Bhutan expedition, i just want to enjoy a monsoon drive in the Himalaya's!

What if you get stuck on road? -
I have no idea. Will carry enough food and always keep enough reserve fuel in the tank!

Its useless to tell you something sensible, you will do what ever you feel like! - Yes!

So as i have decided to go for the trip. Lets share the itinerary!

30.07-2016 - Kolkata to Siliguri
31.07.2016 - Siliguri to Phuntsholing & a drive on the scenic Lava road from Damdim.
01.08.2016 - Phuntsholing to Thimpu
02.08.2016 - Thimpu to Punakha & drive around Punakha
03.08.2016 - Punakha to Thimpu & Thimpu sightseeing
04.08.2016 - Thimpu to Paro via Haa valley and Chelela pass
05.08.2016 - Paro to Chalsa
06.08.2016 - Chalsa to Malda & a morning drive to the forests of Chalsa, Murti, Chapramari & Gorumara.
07.08.2016 - Malda to Kolkata via Shantiniketan

My co-passengers - Me & my parents! Yes they were fine traveling to Bhutan by road in monsoon & and this idea of the road trip was my dad's brain child! He wanted to visit Darjeeling in monsoon and i asked why not Bhutan as we visited Darjeeling last November itself and he promptly agreed. My mom liked the idea too.

Preparation's for the drive-

Got the car thoroughly checked up.

Carrying basic essentials needed for a road trip for both humans and car! For example, extra fluids for the car and medicines for us!

Getting our permits done from Bhutan Embassy Kolkata prior to the trip.

We never kept a fixed itinerary as in monsoon roads may be closed, so have to decide on the go.

Its off season so never bothered to book the hotels in prior too.

Sharing few teaser pics which shows the essence of a monsoon drive -


Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0851.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0833.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0840.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0866.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0925.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0927.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1039.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1152.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1156.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1173.jpg

And few teaser video's-

A drive through the fog or rather cloud!



A bit of slush drive-



A scenic drive beside Paro chu.


Last edited by Samba : 14th August 2016 at 01:07.
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Old 10th August 2016, 20:31   #2
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Day 1, Kolkata to Siliguri - 528 kms

Any one travelling to North Bengal will know how unpredictable this route is! So to be on the safer side we decided to start by 4am. The starting of the journey was smooth. By 5am we reached Burdwan, took Sh7 via Futisako & Khargram. We crossed Moregram by 7-15am and by 8-15am we reached Farakkha to get royally stuck! A truck broke down at Farakkha so the traffic was one way. Was stuck on Farakkha for flat one hour.

By 9-20am we crossed the dreaded Kaliachowk and from there it was crawling traffic till Malda. Reached Golden Park Malda by 10-30 am and took the first much needed break for a heavy brunch. We relaxed a bit had food and resumed our journey after an hour or so.

Drove till Raigaunge and GPS showed Dalkhola route to be 1-38 hours slower so our automatic choice was to take the Botolbari- Dhantola road. The drive was a breeze till Dhantola with sparse traffic. The last half kilometer stretch at Dhantola is in horrible state. My car bottomed out twice. Later came to know it can be avoided by a side road. After Dhantola the road condition at Islampur was a bit bad but the rest were fine. We reached Siliguri by 4pm and checked into hotel Monarch Anchal.

Since we started our journey by 4am in the morning and that mean we had to woke up by 3am, plus when Himalaya's call its hard to get a sound sleep! So with less sleep all three of us were tired and decided to take rest in the hotel itself rather than going out in Siliguri town. So we called it a day.

Day 2, Siliguri to Phuntsholing & a drive on the scenic Lava road from Damdim - 209kms

We got up around 7am, had breakfast and hit the road by 9am. Soon we were cruising through the scenic Sevoke road and crossed the Coronation bridge & took right for the road to Phuntsholing via Dooars. By 10-30am we were at Damdim and decided to have a drive on the Lava road which goes via Gorubathan. The low clouds were hitting the hills and it was slightly drizzling. We had the perfect essence of a monsoon hill drive through the lush green Himalayan terrain.

Sharing few pics from the drive.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0828.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0830.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0833.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0834.jpg

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Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0841.jpg

We spent a good 2 hours on this roads with loads of photo stop. By 1-30pm we all were hungry so decided to have our lunch at Sinclair's Chalsa. The food was excellent and the ambience was great too. So we decided to spend a night over here on our return journey from Bhutan.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0842.jpg

Around 3-30pm we resumed back our journey for Phuntsholing. It was drizzling and sunny both, with the rains playing hide & seek with us. We were enjoying the drive to the utmost.

Joldhaka river in full flow.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0846.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0849.jpg

Clicked these pics somewhere near Gorumara forest,while on the go.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0852.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0851.jpg

Finally around 4-30pm we reached Phuntsholing. Finding a good hotel with parking took us around 15 minutes. But at the end the result was satisfactory. We checked in at Hotel Orchid.

The view from our hotel room balcony.
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0853.jpg

In the evening we strolled around the Phuntsholing market, had dinner and called it a day.

Last edited by Samba : 14th August 2016 at 01:12.
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Old 12th August 2016, 00:45   #3
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Day 3 , Phuntsholing to Thimpu - 165 kms

9am RSTA office opens from where we had to get our car permits done. So we got up around 8 am but soon realized that Bhutan time is 30minutes ahead of IST & it was already 8am in our watch! So practically in half an hour we got ready and reached the RSTA office as soon as it opened. We were first to apply but in the beginning things were not looking positive. The officer told us, due to a fresh landslide he needs to collect prior information whether hatch backs or sedans should be allowed or not. Bigger vehicles were allowed. For that he asked us to come back after 30 minutes. One can imagine how that 30 minutes were for us!

But this time luck was on our side. He told us to be careful and granted the permit. Came back to our hotel had break fast and we left for Thimpu by 11-30am.

By 12pm we crossed the first check post and crossed a place where a bridge was under construction with out much difficulty. Soon we reached the landslide zone and to my horror half of the road was washed out and the other half was full of slush and undulations. Drove over it with utmost care but still managed to get 2-3 underbelly hits but we were out of the mess! What a relief!

After this the drive was smooth and scenic.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0856.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0858.jpg

Around 1pm we all were hungry so stopped for a momo break over here.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0859.jpg

Soon we crossed Chukha and roads suddenly became narrow but road surface was excellent. The only problem was the trucks coming from the opposite direction were coming in much higher speed and none were honking on the turns though in few places it was marked to honk. Though i honked in each turns still had to swerve few trucks head on. After Chukha, crossed a check post where we got our permits stamped and resumed back our journey.

The road surroundings were very scenic. Had few photo stops on the way.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0861.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0862.jpg

By 4-15pm we reached Thimpu.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0863.jpg

Now finding a hotel at Thimpu was getting a bit difficult for us as we were not aware of the one ways. So parked the car in a parking lot near the clock tower and walked to the hotel. We checked in at Hotel Thimpu Towers. From there i asked a hotel guy to accompany me till the car and guide me till the parking and he obliged.

The view from our room.

At 6-20pm
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0866.jpg

At 6-50pm
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0873.jpg

At 7-30pm
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0880.jpg

Hotel Thimpu towers. The room with half opened curtain was where we were put in.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0876.jpg

In the evening we went for some local shopping had dinner and called it a day.

Last edited by Samba : 13th August 2016 at 20:00.
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Old 13th August 2016, 00:52   #4
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Day 4, Thimpu to Punakha & drive around Punakha - 101kms

We woke up with a view like this from our room.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0881.jpg

For Punakha we again need to extend both our and our cars permit. So our first work was to visit the Thimpu immigration office and get our permits extended to Punakha & Haa valley. We submitted the xerox copies of our previous permits and filled up a form. We were requested to come back after 30 minutes.
So we decided to drive around Thimpu and come back in half an hour.

A couple of pics from the drive.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0886.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0888.jpg

We reached the immigration office by 9-40am and were asked to wait for another 10 minutes. By 9-50am we got our permits and headed straight to Thimpu RSTA office to get our car permit extended till Punakha and Haa valley. This was done with in 5 minutes. With all the permits done we came back to hotel, checked out and left for Punakha by 11-30am.

The drive was nice and roads were more or less devoid of traffic as its a off season. In the first check post we got the permits stamped and in next 20 minutes we reached Dochula. Its at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet.
Dochula is famous for the 108 Chortens.

Pics from and around Dochula-

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0889.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0891.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0892.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0895.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0896.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0893.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0894.jpg

After Dochula, road for the next 10kms were wide and excellent. But soon after that the road condition deteriorated drastically and it was slush all over. Thankfully it was hard Slush. So with careful driving i managed it with out much problem but in my mind i was thinking if it rains today it will get difficult while returning! And it rained the whole night! More on that and the return journey later!

So after a bad patch of 17kms, the last 10kms till Punakha was a breeze. We check in at Damchen resort by 2-15pm.

View from our hotel room.
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0897-1.jpg

Few familiar stickers at the main door of the reception!
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0897-2.jpg

Etios enjoyed a scenic parking location too!

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0900.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0902.jpg

Had a late lunch and used the hotel wifi for some socializing activities whiles my parents took some rest.

Around 5pm we decided to go for a drive around Punakha. It was one of the most scenic drive in the entire Bhutan trip.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0911.jpg

Punakha Dzong

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0913.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0914.jpg

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Mist from the river.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0918.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0919.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0923.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0925.jpg

Here people must say 'how green is my valley' !

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0927.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0930.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0934.jpg

Punakha Dzong looked lovely with the lights on, in early evening.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0941.jpg

We drove back to our resort by 7-15pm and decided to take few night shots around the resort.

Night view of Punakha.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0943.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0945.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0952.jpg

After a splendid after noon drive and some photography session in the evening, while we were having dinner it started to rain heavily. In the back of my mind i hoped that the rain will subside in an hour or so but it kept on pouring heavily for the whole night. So with not much to do we called it a day.

Last edited by Samba : 13th August 2016 at 20:09.
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Old 13th August 2016, 01:13   #5
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Day 5, Punakha to Thimpu & Thimpu sightseeing 65 kms

It rained the whole night but the morning was bright and sunny.
We got ready and checked out by 9am.

Ariel view of Punakha.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0954.jpg

We crossed the first 10kms and then the bad roads started. To my fear yesterdays hard slush got softer and it was a mess all around. I was driving very slowly following the tyre marks. But unfortunately the trye marks i was following were from bigger vehicles like trucks or buses so it formed a high rut in the middle which was turning out to be a problem for the Etios. The car got scrapped in few places and in few places the front bumper was touching the ruts. At the end with few underbelly hits and wheel spins i managed to come out of the 17kms mess in 1 hour.

A couple of video for reference. These are the small slush we faced. I do not have the video of the longer one.





Soon after crossing the hurdle we reached near Dochula and to our good luck we could view the Jumolhari peak.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0957.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0958.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0959.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0965.jpg

Have a look at the front bumper to get an idea of the height of the slush we had to negotiate.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0969.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0972.jpg

From here the drive till Thimpu was hassle free.

Ariel view of Thimpu, just before reaching Thimpu.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0974.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0977.jpg

We reached Thimpu by 11-30am and again checked in at Hotel Thimpu Towers.

Had lunch and post lunch mom decided to go for some shopping. Me and dad followed! While they were busy shopping i took few pics around the city.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0977a-1.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0977a-2.jpg

Only one car parked with white registration plate!

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0977a.jpg

Late afternoon we decided to visit the Buddha park. Its one of the tallest Buddha statue in the world. Instead of taking our own car we hired a local taxi for the trip.

Pics-

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0979.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_0988.jpg

Thimpu city after sundown. The lighted Thimpu city looked beautiful at night.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1004.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1009.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1023.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1026.jpg

We reached back hotel around 7-30pm. Went to a local restaurant to have dinner and retired for the day.

Last edited by Samba : 13th August 2016 at 17:40.
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Old 13th August 2016, 01:37   #6
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Day 6, Thimpu to Paro via Haa valley and Chelela pass- 197kms

This was our last day at Thimpu. So bid adieu to Thimpu and left for Paro via Haa valley. Haa valley is an Indian army base. The road till Haa is beautiful but the road is a bit narrow and full of turns. Had to be a bit slow else it was getting uncomfortable for the co-passengers. So was driving at sedate pace of around 40-50kms/hr.

A pic en-route to Haa valley.
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1028.jpg

Thimpu to Haa valley is 105kms and took us around 3 hours. By 12pm we reached Haa.

Some pics of the beautiful Haa valley.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1029.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1032.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1033.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1034.jpg

Left Haa valley around 12-30pm and our next destination was Chelela pass at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Its 26kms from Haa valley and reached in half an hour.

View of Jumolhari peak from Chelela pass
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1040.jpg

View of the famous Tigers nest monastery from Chelela pass.
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1046.jpg

This man cycled to Ladakh last year, this year he is cycling around Bhutan.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1062.jpg

Few pics around Chelela Pass.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1038.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1039.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1048.jpg

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Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1061.jpg

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Old 13th August 2016, 01:56   #7
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Continuation of day 6

From Chelela pass to Paro is a 42kms down hills drive which took us around an hour.

Pics just before reaching Paro.

Etios : Enough of highways now i want runway!

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1063.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1066.jpg

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Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1068.jpg

We reached Paro around 2-30pm and checked in at Rema resort. Thanks to Bhpian 1100D for the pointer. This resort commands an awesome view of Paro. By the time we checked in, the lunch time at our resort was over. So they recommended us a restaurant at the market where we can get good food. Got freshened up and left for Paro market. Had a sumptuous lunch and decided to drive around Paro after some shopping from the local market.

Some pics around Paro.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1077.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1079.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1081.jpg

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Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1095.jpg

A small video of a very scenic drive beside Paro Chu.


Came back to our resort around 6-30pm and it was getting dark. With the lit up Paro city the view from our resort was amazing. So decided to try my hand on some night photography.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1100.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1101.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1102.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1104.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1106.jpg

Night view of the famous Rinpung Dzong.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1109.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1111.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1117.jpg

A pic of our cottage at Rema resort
Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1118.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1121.jpg

This was the last day for us in Bhutan from this trip. The planed destination for the next day was Chalsa.

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Old 13th August 2016, 02:22   #8
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Day 7, Paro to Chalsa - 253kms

We got up to get an amazing view of Paro from the balcony.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1123.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1124.jpg

Left picturesque Paro around 9-00 am.
The drive was smooth, i was not driving fast, was just enjoying the beautiful vista's of Bhutan. Halted for a momo break and again resumed our journey after 45 minutes. The drive till Gedu was smooth. But as soon as we crossed Gedu things started to turn a bit adventurous. Had to encounter dense fog or rather cloud for a stretch of 20kms. At places the visibility was so poor i cant even see the bonnet of my own car! Had to roll down the window and see by peeping out of the window! The icing on the cake was, it was drizzling on top of that which made the visibility more worse!

Attaching a video for reference. For the dense fog part please see the last 3 minutes.



The point where the video was stopped there was a land slide zone where half of the road was gone! It was scary but luckily a local road worker came from no where with an umbrella and asked me to follow him. He just walked the entire 100 meter stretch in front of my car and before i thank him he vanished in the cloud! He was god sent! This 20kms stretch took me more than 1 hour to cover. As we came near to Phuntsholing things started to look better and sunny yet again.

An ariel view of Phuntsholing.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1125.jpg

We crossed the check post, submitted our permits. Stopped at the very next petrol bunk and refueled petrol at the price of diesel till the brim! In Bhutan petrol is Rs/NU 55/Ltr!

Around 1-30pm we crossed Phuntsholing and entered Joygoan. What a contrast! Traffic suddenly became unruly and every one was honking and trying to squeeze through! What a relief, i can again drive the way i used to drive. In Thimpu and other cities in Bhutan its no honking, no over taking and a speed limit of 50km/hr. I must say we should drive to Bhutan at-least once a year to get our driving manners rectified!

We all were hungry and it was already 2pm. So stopped at a dhaba near Holong and had a sumptuous lunch. By 4pm we reached Chalsa and checked into hotel Sinclair's.

View from the hotel and few pics inside the hotel property.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1131.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1133.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1134.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1148.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1149.jpg

It was a nice and cosy stay. We had an early dinner by 9pm and retired for the day.

Last edited by Samba : 13th August 2016 at 20:20.
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Old 13th August 2016, 02:42   #9
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Day 8, Chalsa to Malda & a morning drive to the forests of Chalsa, Moorti, Chapramari & Gorumara - 320kms

Our plan was to drive till Malda and stay overnight instead of doing a hectic Chalsa - Kolkata in one day. As Chalsa to Malda is just a half day drive we decide to cover the jungles of Dooars in the morning and leave Sevoke around 12pm. These are hardly 20-30kms drive from Sinclair's Chalsa. All the forests are located in a close proximity to one another and are a part of one single forest.

Let me straight away share the pics of the lush green Dooars-

At Murti reserve forest

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1152.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1155.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1156.jpg

At Gorumara reserve forest

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1162.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1165.jpg

At Chalsa reserve forest

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1166.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1167.jpg

At Chapramari reserve forest

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1168.jpg

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1169.jpg

With a heavy heart we left Dooars by 12pm and headed towards Malda via Siliguri.
'Want to get back to the hills as soon as possible' is the feeling every time i cross the Coronation bridge at Sevoke while returning! Siliguri to Malda was an uneventful drive. To avoid the Dalkhola railway crossing we took the Botolbari road and the drive was smooth. Reached Golden Park Malda around 5pm.

There we met this guy who hired this self driven Auto for an India trip. They were 15 people in 5 autos! They were from UK.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1172.jpg

With some chai and pakoda enjoyed the torrential afternoon rain, had a late dinner and called it a day.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_1173.jpg

Day 9, Malda to Kolkata via Shantiniketan 405kms

This was the last day of our journey. We stared lazily around 9-30am. Crossed the dreaded Kaliachowk with hardly 10 minutes traffic jam and crossed Farakkha smoothly. As we had ample of time we decided to come back via Shantiniketan instead of taking the shorter Sh7 route. We reached Shantiniketan around 2-15pm. Visited Kankalitola via Sonajhuri. Was disappointed to see the whole stretch of Sonajhuri has been tarred now. The earlier feel is now lost.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-ip-9.jpg

Reached Kharimati around 3pm for a late lunch and left from there by 4pm. The drive from Shantiniketan to Kolkata was fast. Instead of taking the shorter Bhedia route i sticked to the main highway via panagarh. By 6-30pm we reached home.

The odometer reading for the whole trip.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-ip-10.jpg

Visiting Bhutan was altogether a different experience. Its so close to India but the feel is totally different. May be because it a different country or may be the terrain is different or may be its the way i am thinking! But over all i just loved the experience and will definitely visit Bhutan again and next time, will like to see the more interior parts of Bhutan.

How Etios performed for the over all trip?
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/long-t...ml#post4032036 (Toyota Etios 1.5L Petrol : An Owner's Point of View)

Last edited by Samba : 14th August 2016 at 01:34.
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Old 13th August 2016, 02:53   #10
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Few small bits from the trip-

How to get the permits-

To save time at Phuntsholing we decided to get our permits in prior from Bhutan embassy in Kolkata. They issue only for people, for car one has to get it done from RSTA Phuntsholing.

For the people traveling-

We went to Tivoli Ballygaunge office and asked for the procedure.

Documents required-

1) Passport is the 1st preference. If one do not have a passport they need to have a voter ID card along with another valid ID proof. They do not accept Adhar card.

2) 2 Passport size photographs for each of the travelers.

3) They will give a form which needs to be filled and to that form the xerox copies of the photo ID proofs are needed to be attached with the passport size photographs.

4) Carry the original ID proofs to apply for the permit & carry the same original ID proofs for the trip too.

5) Apply at-least one month prior to the travel date. They will issue the permits 5 days prior to the travel date.

6) Permits for only Thimpu & Paro can be done from here. Further permits and extension of the number of days has to be done from Thimpu immigration office.

7) The maximum number of days they will give in the permit is 7. Extension can be done from Thimpu.

For vehicle-

This has to be applied at the RSTA office in Phuntsholing.

Documents required-

1) Carry the original permits of the people traveling in the car. Get one xerox copy for each of them.

2) Carry all the original car documents and carry a xerox copy of the RC book, insurance, Pollution & road tax.

3) For safety get you insurance add on for Nepal & Bhutan. I got it done for around 500 rs extra.

4) Write a hand written letter in the below format and attach it with the above xerox copies.

Ecstatic Bhutan and lush green Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_6485.jpg

5) Apply for the permit and pay a token amount for the permit and get the receipt. Show the money receipt and you are done. They will issue your car permit. Keep around 1 to 2 hours max for getting this done.

6) Phuntsholing RSTA office opens at 9am Bhutan standard time.

Extension of permits-

For the people traveling-

1) Visit Thimpu, immigration office. Office opens at 9am.

2) Get one xerox copy of the 1st permit which mention's Thimpu and Paro for each of the traveler. Fill up a form mentioning the number of days you want to extend and the places you like to visit and submit it. Come back after 30 minutes and collect the permit.

3) Though there are no check posts on the way to Haa valley, still getting permits done for the Haa valley is recommended.

For the car-

1) Get a xerox copy of the extend permits and the xerox of the original car permit.

2) Visit RSTA office Thimpu with the original documents.

3) They will keep the Xerox or may not keep, by just seeing the originals they will extend the existing car permit by writing and stamping the add on places.

Few rules in Bhutan-

Bhutani currency is NU and its value is same as INR. In Bhutan they accept INR without any problem.

Smoking in public place will attract fine.

Try to be in formal dress when visiting there office.

In main cities do not honk or over take. Where as in the hill roads one can definitely honk in blind turns.

No need to honk or flash light to over take the car ahead. He will give you signal to pass you ahead if you follow him for a bit.

When the car in front put the left signal on, that means he will move to left so you can safely overtake from right.

Bhutan cops are very strict and law abiding so be careful to park the car properly and maintain every road rules properly.

Drivers are very courteous. They will stop for you in a crossings plus they do follow the rule -Pedestrians first. Locals also expect the same behavior from us.

There are no light signals, in crossings you will find cops with hand signalling.

Bhutan standard time is 30 minutes ahead of Indian standard time.

Tourists can get local Tashi sim by submitting a xerox copy of there permits. This works out much much cheaper than activating international roaming. Plus data connectivity is also available on paying. This sim has a validity of 30 days.

Do not miss to get the permit stamped at the check posts. Before exiting Bhutan do submit the original permits at the last check post and then exit.


Hotels we stayed in-

Hotel Monarch Anchal- Siliguri

Location- 3.5/5
Room- 3.5/5
Food- 2.5/5
Parking- Yes
Room Tariff - 4,000 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed.
Overall- 3/5

Hotel Orchid- Phuntsholing

Location- 4/5
Room- 4/5
Food- 4/5
Parking- No, Opposite to hotel in paid basis.
Room Tariff - 3,000 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed.
Overall- 4/5

Hotel Thimpu Towers - Thimpu

Location- 4/5
Room- 4.5/5
Food- 3/5
Parking- No, In front of hotel in paid basis.
Room Tariff - 5,500 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed. Breakfast & welcome drink- Complimentary.
Overall- 4/5

Damchen Resort - Punakha

Location- 4/5
Room- 3.5/5
Food- 4/5
Parking- Yes
Room Tariff - 3,400 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed.
Overall- 4/5

Rema Resort - Paro
Location- 5/5
Room- 4/5
Food- 3.5/5
Parking- Yes
Room Tariff - 2,800 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed.
Overall- 4/5

Hotel Sinclair's - Chalsa

Location- 5/5
Room- 4/5
Food- 4.5/5
Parking- Yes
Room Tariff - 8,200 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed. Breakfast & welcome drink- Complimentary.
Overall-4/5

Hotel Golden park - Malda

Location- 4/5 for people traveling by car. Its away from the city & located right on the highway. Without personal conveyance its not a very friendly location to stay.
Room- 4/5
Food- 4/5
Parking- Yes
Room Tariff - 2,800 INR for a double bed room with an extra bed.
Overall- 4/5

Signing off, thanks for reading. For any query please feel free to ask.

Last edited by Samba : 14th August 2016 at 01:42.
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Old 14th August 2016, 07:06   #11
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!

What an way to start a Sunday!
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Old 14th August 2016, 08:23   #12
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Indeed, what a start for a Sunday morning! It's another gem of a travelogue. Of course, given the standard you have set for a travelogue in Team-BHP, nothing less was expected. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and photographs, also showed it to my better half. Likely, Bhutan would be in the itinerary of our future North Bengal trip!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
...
Day 9, Malda to Kolkata via Shantiniketan 405kms
This was the last day of our journey. We stared lazily around 9-30am. Crossed the dreaded Kaliachowk with hardly 10 minutes traffic jam and crossed Farakkha smoothly. ...
Samba! The dreaded jam at Kaliachak is almost a thing of past now. The traffic is already plying through divided carriageway within the town area. The major work that is ongoing there right now are for two small bridges towards Farakka and the service road. By this Pujo, one can expect both Toll operation for Farakka - Raiganj section and 4-laned traffic through Kaliachak town to begin!

Cheers,

Last edited by gmhossain : 14th August 2016 at 08:29.
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Old 14th August 2016, 11:26   #13
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Wonderful travelogue there. Enjoyed it thoroughly. And special thanks for putting up the procedures at the end, it helps others a lot.

And a request, can you put up the route you have done in a map format. You have travelled in roads less frequented by others in this section, hence asking you.
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Old 14th August 2016, 11:30   #14
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Samba, what a travelogue! I was at Chalsa three weeks ago amidst heavy monsoon and enjoyed the trip thoroughly. Went to Phontshiling also. But I would not dare to drive on the hills during this time. Kudos!
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Old 14th August 2016, 16:19   #15
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Brother! It's an excellent trip that you have described here. Your fog busting video really got me on the edge of my chairs. When the Santro you were following suddenly pitted on the left, the Etios almost plunged into a white smoke, spine chilling! The calm unknown road and that sudden feeling of being alone in the eire fog is indeed very much adventurous.
A big thumbs up for your co-passengers, they need a special mention. Infact, for your dad, whom I have the privilege to know personally, co-passenger is sort of an understatement, he's a big motivator in such trips and a more than a capable driver. The way he was guiding you, simply impeccable.
Bhutan is definitely on my cards, let's see if we can get on a drive together, it's been a while after the Darjeeling trip! Loved your photos!

Last edited by arindam_xeta : 14th August 2016 at 16:47. Reason: After thoughts
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