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Old 4th January 2018, 18:00   #1
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Default Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Year end shutdown again and time to get out of house.
2017 was rather a dull year with almost no travel done throughout the year. Partially attributed to the younger one falling ill often & the rest attributed to the ever increasing work at office. So when the shutdown came & when we saw that our younger one was keeping fit we were quick to get a plan charted.
Bhutan was on our to-do list for a long time. So after a quick check with few of my friends for a travel agent reference who could book us a package we were all ready with a plan.

Day1:
Bangalore to Bagdogra to Phuentsholing.
Pretty un-eventful day. Bangalore traffic made sure that we were super tired at the start of the travel itself. It took us 3 hrs to reach the airport. The spice jet flight was scheduled at 1200hrs which took off at the exact time and reached Bagdogra at 2:50 PM.
After reaching Bagdogra we met our travel agent who was waiting for us. After exchanging pleasantries we quickly started out towards Phuentsholing.

Find a glimpse of this day in the below video.



Route map from Bagdogra to Phuentsholing:

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Place were we stayed:

http://drukhotels.com/phuntsholing/

Day2:
Phuentsholing to Thimpu

The day started with visiting the immigration office. Immigration office is situated just in front of the Hotel we stayed (Hotel Druk) so it was quite easy for us to get to the office in time. Our travel agent had done all the ground work required to get the necessary permits for us to visit Bhutan. (In my opinion this is one big advantage of going through a travel agent) and hence we had some time to spare so we went for a small walk across the street to see the gate that separates Bhutan from India

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We were done with the formalities by 2:00 PM & then we headed towards our destination Thimpu.
This drive of 165 kms is one hell of ride through the mountains see for yourself what I am talking about



The route:
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Place where we stayed:

http://www.nhh.bt/

Day 3:
Thimpu sight seeing and Paro.


Glimpses of the Day:
Buddha Point:
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Changangkha Lhakhang:

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Handicraft Market Thimpu:

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Dochula Pass:

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Finally we proceed towards Paro

Route from Thimpu to Paro:
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Points to be noted:
1) The handicraft market in Thimpu is a place were you need to put your bargaining skills to the best use.
2) Don’t miss Dochula Pass
3) Punakha was not in our itinerary hence we would have missed Dochula Pass. If not its en route to Punakha so you won’t miss it.

Day 4:
This day was for us to explore the beautiful valley of Paro.

Catch a glimpse of this day here.


We started our day with the visit to the foot hills of Taktsang Monastery, Tiger’s Nest.
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This is one of the most celebrated landmarks in Bhutan, However to reach the Monastery you need to survive a day long hike. We had to give this a skip since we had a kid with us. however we did spent some time soaking in the majestic views of the Monastery and then headed to see the places around in Paro.
While coming back from Tiger’s nest we visited a Gift shop on the road side which provided us with some traditional Bhutanese clothes to try on. We spent some time there clicking few pics here.
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By the time we came out of the gift shop it was time for lunch and we grabbed a quick lunch from a near by hotel and proceeded towards the Watch Tower, Ta Dzong. This place is converted to national museum and it overlooks the beautiful valley.

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We spend considerable time in the museum going through and learning about the different cultural aspects of Bhutanese people & Bhutan.- Photography was not allowed here.

We proceeded towards Rinpung Dzong towards the evening. It was a very peaceful place and we spent some time in the temple offering prayers.

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Sight of the Paro valley was amazing from here

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Later in the evening we roamed around in the Central Street of Paro and did some shopping there before calling it a day.

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Day 5:
Paro to Phuentsholing

Today we were returning back to the border town and back to our home. The drive from Paro to Phuentsholing was altogether a different experience during the day time.



Few glimpses from the road trip:

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En route there was a small waterfall which too provided some nice photographic opportunities

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We did spend some time in the eve in Phuentsholing exploring its local markets and did some shopping as well. Finally around 7 PM we retired for the day.

Day 6:
Phuentsholing to Bagdhogra to Bangalore:
After an uneventful day we land in Bangalore around 8:30 PM. Thus winding up an amazing trip to the last Shangri La on Earth.

Few Points:
1) For immigration carry your passport or voter id. – Aadhar card is not recognized.- For kids if not passport, birth certificate is a must.
2) Follow traffic rules when in Bhutan. If not then not only the cops but the locals as well won’t spare you.
3) No Honking in Bhutan
4) No littering in Bhutan. The contrast between the either sides of the gate mentioned in the video is very striking.
5) This drive from Phuentsholing to Thimpu is scenic & hectic at the same time. Prepare for delay due to motion sickness.
6) No talking on phone while driving in Bhutan- Traffic cops here have eagle eyes. Our driver got fined and had to go through
20 minutes of grilling for doing the same.
7) No Jaywalking allowed in Bhutan
8) Try the yummy Ema Datshi (National Dish of Bhutan )

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9) Avoid shopping in Paro and rather do it in Phuentsholing. We found the prizes to be lesser atleast by 30 to 40%.
10) Looks like land cruisers are the national vehicle here..Have never seen so many of these in one place.
11) Actually me not a big fan of these kind of package tours. I prefer planning everything on my own. But this time laziness caught up.
If I do it again I will definitely do it on my own.
12) If you can spare enough time to self drive, then do that –nothing can beat that.
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Old 4th January 2018, 19:50   #2
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Default re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Nice short and crisp log there. Your pictures do justice to it.

This also brings lots of fond memories of our Bhutan trip in some 5 years back. Beautiful place where I would love to go back again.

True that traffic in Bhutan is very disciplined. Would like to share an incident when me and my wife were taking a walk on the footpath. We intended to cross the road, hence stood and started waiting for the cars to cross first. Watching this, the cars on the road stood still and gave us the way to cross the road. We were literally shocked, of course, pleasantly to see cars stopping on road to give pedestrians time to cross first!

And yes, motion sickness! How can I ever forget that. This was the first time when I was sitting in the backseat of a car for so long (Pheuntsholing to Thimphu) and on hilly roads. I started feeling sick within an hour or so. I did shift to the front seat but since I was already sick, it didn't help. I reached Thimphu puking the entire way! This is when I discovered that I get car sick in the rear seat. May be this was meant to be a self driven trip rather than being driven around

Thanks for reviving those memories through this log.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 6th January 2018, 00:42   #3
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Hello. A nice short travelogue. Incidentally, even I happened to visit Bhutan during the same time. But we (my wife and me) took a flight from Kolkata to Paro as we were travelling on a weekend and getting a permit is possible only at the Paro airport.

Sharing below a few pictures which might add to the travelogue

The scenic Paro Chu (river) at sunset:
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On the way to Tiger's nest trek:
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A chilly Christmas morning at Dochula Pass. Notice the frozen dew on grass and snow capped peaks in the background.

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Punakha suspension bridge (longest in Bhutan):

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Mo Chu river bed. Our guide told that you can't see any of these rocks during summers, when the glaciers melt.

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Wife trying some awesome photography from Gangtey Palace Hotel. The 2 bright buildings in the background are the Paro Dzong and the National Museum.

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Last but not the least, a view of the majestic Mt. Everest from the plane:

Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue-2017_1222_09013100.jpg

Coming to more team-bhp stuff, was truly surprised by the sheer number of high end/luxury vehicles on the road.

Our cab driver told that there is 100% tax on vehicles imported from India, and an Innova Crysta costs 40 lacs on road (INR).

The driving habits of people are more in line with the western/European countries than India. To apply for a commercial/taxi driver license, one has to first get a private vehicle driving license and wait for a minimum 2 years.
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Old 8th January 2018, 17:38   #4
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Hey, didn't know about this. Would have got more details else over the weekend.

- Have heard about on road discipline at Bhutan from multiple people. A case of how proper enforcement can change the situation on-ground.
- Looks like you have moved towards V-blogs from your photography.
- How is the food from a vegetarian point of view?
- Was the decision of flying down to Bagdogra only due to cost of direct flights to Paro?
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Old 9th January 2018, 09:24   #5
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by saket77 View Post

True that traffic in Bhutan is very disciplined. Would like to share an incident when me and my wife were taking a walk on the footpath. We intended to cross the road, hence stood and started waiting for the cars to cross first. Watching this, the cars on the road stood still and gave us the way to cross the road. We were literally shocked, of course, pleasantly to see cars stopping on road to give pedestrians time to cross first!

Regards,
Saket
Thank you Saket for sharing your experiences.
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Old 9th January 2018, 09:29   #6
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dhawal20 View Post
Hello. A nice short travelogue. Incidentally, even I happened to visit Bhutan during the same time. But we (my wife and me) took a flight from Kolkata to Paro as we were travelling on a weekend and getting a permit is possible only at the Paro airport.

The driving habits of people are more in line with the western/European countries than India. To apply for a commercial/taxi driver license, one has to first get a private vehicle driving license and wait for a minimum 2 years.

Nice pics there Dhawal20. Thanks for sharing. Regarding the driving commercial driving license our driver too shared the same info.
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Old 9th January 2018, 10:02   #7
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Hey, didn't know about this. Would have got more details else over the weekend.

- Have heard about on road discipline at Bhutan from multiple people. A case of how proper enforcement can change the situation on-ground.
- Looks like you have moved towards V-blogs from your photography.
- How is the food from a vegetarian point of view?
- Was the decision of flying down to Bagdogra only due to cost of direct flights to Paro?

-Regarding Road discipline what really amused us was that it was not the cops on duty who was enforcing it, it was more by the people there.

- My first shot @ v-log. Not a great work though I guess.

- We didn't find food to be a problem. Surprisingly the brown rise that we have in Kerala is the staple food here . I never knew that brown rise was used in any part of the world other than Kerala and of course it was combined with an overdose of cheese based curry known as Ema Datshi.

- Decision of flying down to Bagdogra was made due to reasons two fold. One the cost & 2nd one because of the scenic drive between Thimpu & Phuentsholing. However I strongly recommend against it. We spend a lot of time on road because of not flying into Paro. ( Bagdogra-Phuentsholing, Phuentsholing- Thimpu , Thimpu to Phuentsholing & from Phuentsholing back to Bagdogra )

In my opinion the ideal way of doing this trip is to fly in & out of Paro. Hire a Taxi from Paro & then visit the places. To get to see the scenic beauty between Thimpu & Phuentsholing may be invest half a day and go for a leisure drive for half of the distance. In this was you would save at least 3 days which can be used to visit more places in Bhutan. Few places that I missed covering are Phunaka, Jakar and of course I would have loved to spend few more days in Paro itself. Any ways there is always a 2nd time.
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Old 14th January 2018, 22:41   #8
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Default Re: Visiting the last Shangri-La on Earth - Bhutan Travelogue

First of all a big thanks Sreehari for uploading the videos and pictures, which gave a nice feel of the places. This is the first video I saw of Bhutan and would love to visit it in the future.
My question is about the travel arrangements made for you by the travel agent. Could you share the details of how to get an authentic agent to plan the trip in Bhutan, what all documents would be required (passport and Voter id you already mentioned) anything apart from that. How to get the currency of Bhutan? Do they accept Indian Currency?

Thanks again for all your effort for providing the details.
Sourav
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Old 15th January 2018, 10:01   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sourav.info111 View Post
First of all a big thanks Sreehari for uploading the videos and pictures, which gave a nice feel of the places. This is the first video I saw of Bhutan and would love to visit it in the future.
My question is about the travel arrangements made for you by the travel agent. Could you share the details of how to get an authentic agent to plan the trip in Bhutan, what all documents would be required (passport and Voter id you already mentioned) anything apart from that. How to get the currency of Bhutan? Do they accept Indian Currency?

Thanks again for all your effort for providing the details.
Sourav
Thank You Sourav for the Nice words.

Regarding Travel arrangements:

I did start of my trip planning through http://traveltriangle.com ,I decided to go ahead with http://www.thetravelbookonline.com after few friends referred me these guys.
Overall these guys were quite good. They took care of almost everything for me including flight tickets, they recommended hotels for us and also arranged the necessary permits. However in these kind of destination travels a lot depends on the actual guys who execute the itinerary at the destination. That's were we felt that things could be better. Though I was very happy with the back end team in BLR, was bit disappointed by the way entire thing got executed.

Things that didn't go well with us:
1) We had asked for Innova as a vehicle for commute knowing that the terrain is going to be a difficult one, however what we got was a Ertiga which did contribute a lot to the motion sickness that we had to go through.

2) The car was stinking of PAN and alcohol. Not a nice feeling when you are with your family.- The driver though was well mannered had this habit of taking a dosage of some local made alcohol and then to cover the smell use PAN. So the combo of these two did gave us a tough time.

3) One thing that I feel that the back end office should have done was to warn against flying into Bagdogra. They should have recommended to fly into Paro. Though cost was a factor for this decision , but if they had strongly recommended against it we would not have done it. If we had traveled to Paro we could have added more destinations to the itinerary.

Things that went well were
1) The best hotels were selected for us and it was a great experience almost at all hotels expect for the Paro one were we did face some hiccups. I would attribute it to coincidence.
2) The person I interacted with ( Madhu) was extremely good he did his best to meet all my needs .
3) The permit process was a breeze. We were in & out of the immigration office under 15 min, quite contrary to a lot of others who ended up wasting half a day there.

So if you are planning on this trip with whomsoever ask them to get a good car for you and also strictly direct them to provide you with a driver and a car which does not stink.

On the document part, Your passport/Voter id & Birth certificates in case of kids should be enough. Also do carry around 6 passport size photographs of each traveler.

Yes they do accept Indian currency. In fact we never exchanged any currency we just used the Indian currency that we had with us. However we found that in most of the local places cards are not accepted. In hotels and restaurants they did accept, however not at the local markets.
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