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Old 1st December 2017, 18:18   #1
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Default West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

The main idea behind our extensive trip to Bhutan last year was that we would visit every nook and corner at one go. But the number of days that we could manage was not enough. So we did Eastern Bhutan extensively and left Western Bhutan for future visits as it is easier to do Western Bhutan frequently from Kolkata within less number of days. The next opportunity came just after an year and there was another incentive as well. My college friend and dormant bhpian Rajarshi had recently bought a Scorpio S4 4WD. I do not usually like to drive others vehicles, but he is an exception. I have driven all his vehicles for many kilometers and I treat them like my own. There is no inhibition when I drive his vehicles, I do not have to think what the other person might feel if do something incorrect. In one word, I am very relaxed when driving his vehicles and I had always wanted to drive a Scorpio in the hills for a substantial amount of kilometers. So the planning was done in a jiffy, 3 days in Paro and 2 days in Thimpu and back.

Day 1: Kolkata - Paro

Team-bhp moderator Gannu_1 was in town and in the morning of our day of travel I gave a quick visit to him and his immaculately maintained Polo GT TDI.

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We started at 5 o clock in the evening and bhpian debarshim's new Endeavour also joined us, they were travelling to Kaluk. The first halt was after palsit for some evening snacks that Debarshi Da and Chandrima Di had packed for all of us.

A customary selfie
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Next halt was at Malda for refueling. The Scorpio was a delight to drive, the engine was smooth, acceleration was better than my Thar and most importantly it was very peaceful inside, unlike the Thar. This really helps in a more relaxed drive and keeps tiredness levels low even after driving for quite some distance. We took the Botolbari route after Raigunj and I started gunning the Scorpio as I love the twists and turns on that road. The civic police on the Botolbari route is a nuisance at night. They shove the barricades to the front of the vehicle in order to stop them. But thankfully in our case it was not much of a problem. They did not do that seeing a Scorpio hurtling down followed by the behemoth Endeavour Botolbari to Sevoke (approx 160 kms) was a fast drive and took me 2 hours 10 minutes. It was substantially faster than what I do in the Thar. The two cars were together till Coronation Bridge and parted ways after that. We took the right towards Mal Bazar. At dawn I handed over the car to Rajarshi and went off to sleep at the back.

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We reached Phuentsholing at 7:30 in the morning. The rule for vehicle entry has changed a bit from last year. One is not allowed to enter through the main gate anymore. The immigration office opens at 9 am and we had to wait outside. After it opened, we came to know a few more rules have changed. One has to carry a hotel confirmation voucher and the printed itinerary for each day in Bhutan. We did not have either, so called up Sherub of Dharma Lodge and she sent us the vouchers through WhatsApp and Rajsri emailed them to each of our mailboxes. Nowadays we are so used to login to mailboxes through our phones that all three of us had forgotten the passwords. But we needed to login in a cybercafe in order to take printouts of the vouchers. It was total chaos. Finally Rajsri answered the secret questions and was able to gain access to the mailbox and print
The ordeal did not end there. We realised that the behaviour of the Bhutanese people at immigration office has definitely changed in recent times. Last year it was a breeze to get entry, but this time they asked so many questions! In fact one lady told Rajarshi that he would not be allowed entry into Bhutan next time if he does not bring his family. As a bachelor, that Rajarshi is, it is a difficult proposition to get married just for getting entry in Bhutan! I was quite pissed off at one point and even thought of cancelling the Bhutan plan and go to Shillong. Anyways, finally we got the permits and then went to get the vehicle permit at RSTA Bus stand. It was not difficult to get the vehicle permit and we were famished by this time. Went straight to Zen Family restaurant.

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Amidst all the chaos, forgot to mention that I saw a person smiling at me when I was standing in the queue in front of immigration office. The person asked me if I was from team-bhp who had posted a big travelogue on Bhutan. Though he is not a bhpian he had read the travelogue before starting for Bhutan from Bangalore with wife and kid in their Duster. It was a pleasant surprise! His name is Anil and we met again later in Paro, but unfortunately I don't have any picture.

By the time lunch was finished, it was already 1 o clock in the afternoon. We had spent close to six hours in Phuensholing! After getting a Tashi Cell sim card we started towards Paro. Rajarshi was driving the Scorpio and I was sleeping. But after about half an hour I started feeling nauseated. This has never happened to me before. It was strange but I realised that it must be due to the body roll in the Scorpio that people talk about. I started driving after that and felt much better, cannot say the same about the passengers though. We halted a few times en route to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and flowing rivers in Bhutan, finally reaching Paro at around 5:30 in the evening. That was more than 24 hours after starting from home. We already knew the location of Dharma Lodge in Paro and headed straight for it.

Nothing like a hot cup of tea after a long journey
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Tendin, the caretaker of the lodge, had prepared dinner. I was feeling cold and had it on the bed, others had it in the dining room. I had toasts and chips, while others had Ema Datshe, rice and vegetables.

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Ema Datshe getting prepared
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After dinner we called it a day, it was a very long one!

Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:34.
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Old 3rd December 2017, 18:53   #2
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Day 2 : Paro

Places visited : Drukgyel Dzong and Ta Dzong

After breakfast at Dharma Lodge, we went towards the other side of the Paro town to visit Drukgyel Dzong. On the way to the Dzong we saw a snow peak peeping out from behind the mountains. It was Mount Jomolhari or Chomolhari, also known as the Bride of Kanchenjungha. It is the source of the Paro Chu.

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Drukgyel Dzong was a fortress at one time but only the ruins remain today. A new one is being constructed behind the ruins.

View from a distance
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The ruins
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New buildings being constructed
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From the Dzong we headed back towards the main market in Paro and had lunch at Takeaway restaurant.

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After lunch we spent some time beside the beautiful Paro Chu

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Suddenly Rajarshi started feeling a bit down, maybe due to the food along with the hectic travel. We dropped him back at the lodge for taking rest and went to see Ta-Dzong, that is also the National Museum of Bhutan. Currently it is undergoing repairs and the museum has been shifted to an adjacent building. We could take pictures from outside the building. The view of Paro valley from this place is beautiful.

Ta-Dzong
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Paro valley from Ta-Dzong
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Lots of flowers in front of Ta-Dzong
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The building that currently hosts the National Museum
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The Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) as seen from Ta Dzong
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There are cafes lined up in Paro Market. We went to Champaca Cafe. The owner said that Champaca means Magnolia!
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The Rinpung Dzong at night, glittering like a jewel and visible from almost everywhere in Paro
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Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:37.
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Old 3rd December 2017, 22:58   #3
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Day 3: Paro

Places visited : Rinchen Pung Dzong and Kyichu Lakhang

The numerous cafes in the Paro market are enticing and we woke up early the next day to have breakfast in one of them. It was costly but worth the money.

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After breakfast we went to visit the famous Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong) also popularly called as Paro Dzong. It means 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels'.

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Entry fee for the Dzong was Rs 300 per head and it included a guide who explained in details about the history, architecture and significance of the Dzong
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Rajsri with our guide
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View of the wooden bridge on Paro Chhu from The Dzong
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Next, we went towards Kyichu Lakhang, an important Buddhist Temple in the Paro valley and about 5 kilometers from Paro town. The road leading to the temple is beautiful -

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Kyichu Lakhang
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The entry fee was again Rs 300 per head and it included a guide.

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Lunch was done at our favourite Takeaway restaurant and in the afternoon we went to Ta Dzong again as Rajarshi had not visited it the previous day. I am not posting the pics of the Dzong again. However, here is a picture of Paro Valley at night taken from Ta Dzong!

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Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:39.
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Old 5th December 2017, 10:41   #4
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Day 4 : Thimpu

Places visited : Tango and Cheri

We left the lodge early in the morning and started for Thimpu. The place of confluence of Wang Chu and Paro Chu, named Chuzom, comes up on the way to Thimpu. The road is wide and well laid, so it is easy to maintain good pace. We reached Thimpu but did not stop and instead pushed further to a place called Tango to visit the gompa. On the way we were stopped by a few kids requesting for donation for upcoming Tsechu.

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Stopped for a while near a river
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Tango is about 14 kilometers from Thimpu near Cheri mountain. The hiking trail to gompa is a bit steep and the usual route takes about 30 to 45 minutes. We however took the roundabout way, visiting another gompa on the way and it took us more than 1.5 hours to reach.

Art-work on the way to the Tango Gompa
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The hidden Gompa
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An octogenarian monk was lighting up these candles very slowly, it reminded me of Oogway in Kungfu Panda

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Finally, Tango Gompa could be seen in the background but we had no idea how to get there

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Reached the gompa after an arduous hike

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Tango monastery was under renovation at the time of our visit. Stones and wood were taken upto the monastery via this -

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The gompa from a distance. It was very difficult to get a clear view.

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An incident that happened while going up to the gompa : Rajarshi is a regular trekker and he went up the steep path quite fast leaving me and my wife trailing behind. At the point where one can take the regular and shorter route to the Tango Gompa or take the other round for the full circuit (the Buddhist way of clockwise travel), I was sure that Rajarshi had taken the longer route. So I had insisted that we take the same route. By the time we reached the Gompa we could not find Rajarshi. We started the return hike after taking rest for a while and when we were almost two thirds of the way down we saw Rajarshi frantically running up towards the Gompa. The look on his face when he saw us clearly showed that he was relieved. Rajarshi had taken the shorter route and had waited for us for half an hour and he did not know about the longer route. When we did not reach, he went back to the car park and could not find us there. He was sure that both of us had fallen down somewhere! So started going up again. Though it feels quite funny now while typing it down, I am sure it was not all funny for him at that time!

From Tango we went towards Cheri Gompa. There is a beautiful wooden bridge over the river here.

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We went down to the river side and spent some time. The place was beautiful and one of the best that we have seen in Bhutan. We will definitely go back there someday!

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There was group of young people setting up a bonfire in a sequestered place on the river bank. We chatted with them for a while and took a few pics before taking their leave.

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On the way back to Thimpu, we visited an obscure temple called Guru Lakhang and I am sure no visitor has been there before us. It was a detour through a rough road and I had ventured into that road in order to do some off-roading with the 4WD Scorpio But my dream was shattered when I saw a Santro coming down from the other side!

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We reached Thimpu a little late in the afternoon and had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the clock tower.

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Started from Thimpu after sunset and reached Paro around an hour later. We had coffee and pastries at Brioche cafe before going back to the lodge. Brioche Cafe is highly recommended though the pastries are a bit on the costly side.

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Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:56.
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Old 5th December 2017, 23:29   #5
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Day 5 : Paro - Phuentsholing

Places visited : Chele La and Kela Dechen Yangshi Nunnery

Our last day Paro started with a wonderful breakfast at Champaca Cafe.

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Post breakfast we started for Chele La, around 35 kilometers from Paro. Found this beautiful Jeep on the outskirts of Paro

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Stopped for a few pics.
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We were quite disappointed after reaching Chele La. It was bustling with tourists!

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We left the place quickly and tried to find the route to Kela Nunnery as I had thought it would be a 4WD only road. After searching for quite a while we found the entry point to the trail. It was steep but doable in a 2WD vehicle as well. Another disappointment for me, but the trail was beautiful and there was not a single soul anywhere.

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After going a few hundred meters along the trail we decided to park the vehicle and travel the rest on foot.

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Kela Dechen Yangshi Nunnery

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The view from the nunnery

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Unfortunately, while at the nunnery, my wife got a call from home and we had to leave for Kolkata immediately. It was already 2 p.m. We left the place in a jiffy and went back to Paro to quickly pack our bags. We bid goodbye to Tendin and left for Phuentsholing

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Progress was hampered by truck traffic, but still managed to maintain good pace with the Scorpio. We did 173 kilometers in four and half hours sharp and reached Phuentsholing at 9 p.m. I enjoyed the drive a lot, but not the passengers, as they got tossed around quite a bit. The fog at Gedu also added a little bit of spice to the situation. We decided to call it a day at Phuensholing as it would be too much to push for Siliguri that night.

Day 6 : Phuentsholing - Kolkata

Next morning we started from Phuensholing at around 7. The drive was smooth till Malda where we halted for lunch at Hotel Golden Park. The next part of the journey was terrible as we lost a lot of time trying to squeeze past the huge truck traffic in Malda. Finally we reached Shaktigarh at around 9 p.m. and I handed over the keys to Rajarshi after driving the Scorpio for the last 5 days and 2500 odd kilometers! There was quite a bit of truck traffic on NH2 as well and we reached home at around midnight. It was a hectic return journey.


For a more detailed travelogue on Bhutan, please visit the one I had put up last year - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...olero-4x4.html (Throwback to a bygone era - Bhutan in a Bolero 4x4)

Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:53.
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Old 6th December 2017, 00:19   #6
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

About the Scorpio S4 4WD : This is entirely my viewpoint and I could skip this part as it is not related to the travelogue. But still wanted to document it down somewhere for future reference as 2500 kilometers is quite a distance to form an opinion about a vehicle. Also I would like to mention that the view point about Scorpio is relative in the sense that one has to keep in mind that I drive two crude vehicles, a Thar and a Bolero.

Pros :
1. Superb engine
2. An excellent mile-muncher in the plains. Quite fast if kept in the turbo zone
3. Less fatigue over long distance compared to Thar or Bolero
4. Nice seating position and steering position
5. Lot more luggage space compared to the Bolero
6. Overall visibility is quite good. A pillar is not as intrusive as some other SUVs
7. Fuel economy is far better than Thar inspite of being heavier
8. Brakes are far better than the Thar

Cons :
1. Excessive body roll in the hills
2. Turbo lag becomes evident in the hills
3. High beams are on the inside part of the headlight unit, so they do not light up corners during turns in the hills. Static bending lights provided in the S10 should be helpful in this case
4. Single nozzle washer seems inadequate
5. Glove box is a farce
6. Power window buttons need time to get used to
7. Micro hybrid functionality is irritating

Overall I feel it is a good buy considering the capability and the price. The body roll might take some time to get used to but there is no other vehicle at this price point that can be as rugged and reliable as the Scorpio.

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th December 2017 at 00:23.
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Old 6th December 2017, 06:59   #7
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 6th December 2017, 09:06   #8
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Very nice Sumitro Da, great pictures and lots of fun. Only three picture of new scorpio ?

Rated 5*. Thanks for sharing
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Old 6th December 2017, 11:40   #9
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Excellent travelogue ( as usual ) blackpearl. Rated 5 stars.

For a moment I thought you have upgraded to scorpio 4WD ( from the title). But after reading the first paragraph I realised that it is not your vehicle. Somehow scorpio doesn't look as good as your Bolero/Thar in these photos ( my personal opinion; no offence to any scorpio owners). Usually your travelogues are filled with wall paper material pictures of your rides. This time it is different.

Sometimes I wonder; what if you had purchased Tata Safari storme instead of Thar.(I know from your ownership thread that you were initially interested in Safari storme). Then we would have got some amazing travelogues with envious pictures of Safari storme in various beautiful locations. Since you are a long distance tourer , Safari Storme would have been a perfect match for you. (Great engine, superb suspension,enormous space and great looks).You would have utilized the vehicle to its full potential and I am sure there would have been a lot of fan following for Safari storme in our forum. ( I know many people who have become admirers of Mahindra Bolero 4WD and Thar - I am an example - after reading your ownership reports and travelogues). I know all these are retrospective wishful thinking but still...
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Old 6th December 2017, 12:57   #10
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Default Re: West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD

Great travelogue and rated 5 stars as well. Shame you had to head back urgently, hope all was well.

In 96 I had trekked, with a group and guide, from Thimpu to Paro over 4 nights. One of my most memorable trips. In those days the National Dress was compulsory, ID cards for locals was compulsory and satellite TV was just about (if at all) makings its way into Bhutan. We stayed at a monastery, Farms and one of the nights in a marble factory.

I remember the local folk, especially on the trek and in the mountains being super hospitable and welcoming.

I hope Bhutan has kept hold of a majority of this charm.
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Old 6th December 2017, 19:32   #11
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Nothing new to say on travelogue's written by you. It's as-usual awesome. Bhutan is beautiful. Rated 5*.
Earlier getting permits were much easier. Booking hotels before a trip just kills the fun of 'go as you like' type of a road trip. Any idea on do we still have to show the hotel bookings, if we get the permits done in prior from Bhutan Embassy Kolkata?

Honestly speaking i feel jealous on you, the way you travel each year and keep on wondering how i can secure a job in your organisation.

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Old 7th December 2017, 11:02   #12
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Excellent write up ( made me feel I was travelling along)

Have been following your tlogs for quite some time and they keep getting better each time

I wouldn't be surprised the Bhutan Govt hires you as their tourism promoter ( maybe by putting up a 'Welcome to Bhutan' large size billboard with your picture in it )
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Old 7th December 2017, 19:16   #13
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Very nice travelogue as expected from blackpearl sir! This particular road trip is one of the best and a once in a lifetime experience for all petrol heads out there. Very nicely written and deserves a 5* rating
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Old 8th December 2017, 10:34   #14
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Brilliant narration and wonderful pictures. The food pictures are making me hungry . Bhutan remains on my to-visit list and both your Bhutan logs have been marked for future reference.
Rated a well deserved 5 stars.
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Old 9th December 2017, 14:27   #15
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Excellent travelogue buddy, there is something about your writing skills and photographs which does keep the readers glued.
Keep them coming.
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