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Old 28th May 2009, 08:05   #76
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Thanks Abhi, Anup and Akbaree for your comments.
I am glad that at last there is some information now available on the net on self drive travel to Bhutan and the various permit requirements and associated parapharnalia for Indians.
Virtually all currently available information is meant for foreigners and lot of Indians get turned off by all those pieces of information. The rules for Indians and the rules for foreigners are totally different.
As, I said earlier, I am thankful to HVK for doing a principal part of this job for me.
@Abhi - please control your wishes, at least till November, because most of these roads have now been blocked by landslides and washed out bridges. Bhutan has been devastated by cyclone Aila. It will take them some time to recover.
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Old 28th May 2009, 08:30   #77
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amazing, so Bhutan is now added to my long drive lists. Sigh... my list is getting longer and longer
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Old 28th May 2009, 09:13   #78
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More pictures from Bhutan, from my album, shot by my co-passengers Srinath and Kesri:

1. Valleys en route Punakha
2. Paintings in Punakha Dzong
3. Trongsa Dzong in Central Bhutan
4. Roads of East Bhutan
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Last edited by hvkumar : 28th May 2009 at 09:17.
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Old 28th May 2009, 09:35   #79
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Some more pictures from West, Central & East Bhutan

1. Manas River near Trashigang, East Bhutan

2. Trumsingla, 12400 feet, highest road in the Thimphu-Trashigang, West-East Highway

3. Wangdu Dzong, on road from Thimphu to Jakar in central Bhutan

4. Namling Falls, East Bhutan

5. Building, near Wangdicholing Palace, Jakar, central Bhutan

6. Monks, inside Punakha Dzong
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Last edited by hvkumar : 28th May 2009 at 09:41.
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Old 28th May 2009, 15:25   #80
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Superb travelogue.

Where did you stay in Jaldapara - in Hollong?

Nice to see that you spotted a Leopard and Rhino. I had the luck of only seeing the small animals.
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Old 28th May 2009, 16:18   #81
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Superb Sudipto Dont have any word to appreciate.
My friend also visited this Place but I dont think so he went so depth as u are. He is another great traveler
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Old 28th May 2009, 16:21   #82
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Arindam
We stayed at the WB Tourism lodge in Madarihat and went to Hollong next morning for the elephant ride when we found the rhino and saw it to our heart's content for a long time from very close quarters. As you can see, getting it to fit the screen of my camera was a challenge because I was carrying a 75-300 zoom. In fact I had to wait for it to move out a bit to get its full body on the frame !!

The leopard. hmmmmmmmmmmmm. We "spotted" it in the Khayerbari leopard rescue center !!! As such we didn't really spot it in the wild. This new rescue center is a huge enclosure inside the forest (the one near Jaldapara WBTDC lodge has been scrapped). They organise silent drives in battery operated vehicles inside the enclosure - somewhat Singapore style.

I deliberatly left it unmentioned in the post to just see how many people actually notice it and ask questions. Congratulations on being the first one to ask.

At the elephant riding point we enquired about Hollong bungalow but they said they don't have any provision whatsoever to offer rooms on the spot. All bookings have to be done online from Calcutta or Siliguri. Apparently there is a driver's room called Room No. 10 which is given out to tourists (illegally) but I didn't want to stay in the drivers' room. I would love to go and stay in Hollong next time. We had the same bad luck in Mongpong as well.

The WBTDC lodge on the main road near Madarihat has been nicely refurbished now and we quite enjoyed our stay there. New tiles on the floor, new fittings in bathroom, Sony Bravia on the wall. Everything new.

But I must say, at Rs 1460 for a non-AC room it is atrociously priced. Bhutan was way cheaper than this.
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Old 28th May 2009, 19:37   #83
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Since I was visiting Thimphu after 20 years, I wasn't too sure as to how much change I would see and how I might react to those changes. What I discovered is that essentially the city remains the same simple and idle town that it was. But it has grown in size. The roads have a lot more cars than there used to be.

The most visible and significant addition to the Thimphu skyline is the emergence of various commercial enterprises and modern buildings. But I am happy that virtually all the buildings have followed the traditional architecture style.

Let me try and present a few such faces of Thimphu as I saw them.

Even a simple thing like the windows of a grocery shop are painted with traditional symbols. Men and women proudly wear their national dress

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-1streetwindows.jpg

A few old ladies spinning yarn for weaving clothes sitting on the main arterial road of Thimphu on a normal full working day morning.

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-2streetammas.jpg

The immigration office further up the same road. Note the absence of pedestrian traffic

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-3immig.jpg

The Taj hogs an important part of the city's skyline and real estate
Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-4taj.jpg

The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan building. This is definitely something new to me in Bhutan.
Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-5ricbl.jpg

Note the number of offices it houses. Perhaps the world's smallest stock exchange too
Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-6ricbldetails.jpg

This clock tower was possibly there 20 years ago but the surroundings have definitely become more upmarket

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-7clocktower.jpg
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Old 28th May 2009, 20:02   #84
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Default Swiss Bakery, Thimphu

If you go to Thimphu, you can miss everything but please don't miss the Swiss Bakery. It's part of the city's, if not the country's heritage. It was set up by the country's first expatriate who came from Switzerland sometime in the 60s and never went back.
He changed his name to Tenzin Dorji and lived here everafter, having completely changed himself to the Drukpa lifestyle. Thimphu in those days was just a paddy field by the side of Wangchu river.
I once read a full page article in the New York Times on Sunday magazine on this bakery and they called it one of the top ten best bakeries in the world !!!

I have no way to benchmark its products' taste and judge whether NYT was correct or not but they simply taste out of this world to me. Be it the cheese omlette or the eclairs or muffins or rum ball. And they don't cost the moon. Certainly at par with let's say Flury's of Calcutta but taste wise a thousand years ahead.

You can seriously get drunk after eating two Swiss Bakery rum balls. I simply immersed myself in their products despite being an insulin taking diabetic. I didn't have the courage to take my blood sugar reading for a week after this.

Here are some pictures of the unusual restaurant. It doesn't look anything gorgeous. The interiors are clearly 50 years old. But man the food they serve is exquisite.

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-sb1.jpg

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-sb2.jpg

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-sb3.jpg

Wet Bhutan and Green Dooars-sb4.jpg
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Old 28th May 2009, 21:04   #85
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Sudipto, your travelogue is special.
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Old 29th May 2009, 10:43   #86
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Simply awesome. I need to get out before I totally loose it after reading this travelogue. Amazing pictures with great details. Can be made a an absolute referral thread for Bhutan.
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Old 29th May 2009, 11:58   #87
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one of the best travelogues!!

superb narration with nice pics.
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Old 29th May 2009, 12:06   #88
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Very very nicely written travelogue, Sudipto-S-Team. I am planning to visit Sherubtse College in Sept-Oct with my own car. It is located at Kanglung (in Trashigang) which is less than 250 km from from Guwahati. Will it be possible and safe to extend the return trip going west till Trongsa and then coming southward through Zhemgang, Suray and Galephu to reach Kokrajhar or Bongaigaon in Assam?
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Old 29th May 2009, 12:39   #89
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To go to Kaling (that is how I found the local signboards written) it is best to enter Bhutan through the Samdrup Jhonkar border (Dirrang on India side). The border is 100 kms from Guwahati via Rangiya and Tamulupur. From samdrup, it is 162 kms to Kangling where the Sherbtse College is situated (25 kms before Trashigang).

NH34 from Saraighat Bridge/ Jalukhbari Round is good all the way to Rangiya where you take the Bhutan road. After Tamulupur, road is in bad shape since road widening is on. Be ready to pay lots of tips to kids and adults who stop the car. You will see lots of armymen on patrol, it being prime Bodo agitation lands. Driving after dark is not advisable.

Once you cross into Bhutan, road upto Deothang is bad, since that is also being widened. I can imagine it will be a running river now that the rains have started in that region.

After that, it is a fantastic road all the way to Khaling.

I took 5 hours last month to drive from Khaling to Samdrup Jhonkar and around 3 hours from there to Guwahati.

Trongsa - that is more than a day's drive away from Trashigang, 392 kms. Very difficult to cover in a day, and you may have to take a break at Jakar which has some hotels.

I did not go to Gelephu which is the other border town (close to Bongaigaon), but I think that is 275 kms from Trongsa.
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Old 29th May 2009, 12:59   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tortoiseNhare View Post
Very very nicely written travelogue, Sudipto-S-Team. I am planning to visit Sherubtse College in Sept-Oct with my own car. It is located at Kanglung (in Trashigang) which is less than 250 km from from Guwahati. Will it be possible and safe to extend the return trip going west till Trongsa and then coming southward through Zhemgang, Suray and Galephu to reach Kokrajhar or Bongaigaon in Assam?
Thanks that you like the travelogue. Monsoon changes all the road equations in Bhutan, especially in eastern Bhutan. If the roads are good and restored by October then your route is perfectly doable. But whether the roads are good or not you have to check at that point of time.

HVK's distances are highly dependable since they are collected through his own travels.

I look up Kuensel Newspaper for the latest updates on floods and road conditions and other such things.

Shemgang is a rarely visited area. Khengpas live there. It is visibly poorer than the rest of the country. I used to live first near Gaylegphug (a Khengpa resettlement village called Norbuling on the otherside of Moukhola) and then in Mongar. So if you do undertake this journey you will be going to both my places - where a part of my heart still lives.

I am not too sure if exit through Gaylegphug is allowed anymore. Entry I know is not allowed. The other side of Gaylegphug upto a place called Samthaibari near Bongaigaon is a very dense forest. Twenty years ago when I went there it was one of the most dangerous places in the world with Bodo agitation at its peak. I suppose things have changed now.

If you are going to Sherubtse College, I am sure you have friends there. They will help you with the latest information.
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