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Old 31st August 2010, 18:45   #121
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Default Bhutia land border village

Now we are entering Samdrup Jonghar, the road straight is no go zone for Indians from this border point as per local authorities; whileas Phultshiling customs & immigration office says the opposite. See, so much we Indians get back for helping the Bhutias, shame on our Government.

Anyways Indians can turn right and visit the few shops of the village and look at the few parked vehicles & a prayer wheel before turning back into civilization.

The fist picture is what you shall see last if you are not planning to return to your homeland.

Guwahati getaways: Bhutan-san907.jpg

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Old 31st August 2010, 19:01   #122
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Whether it is Phuntsoling or Samdrup Jhonkar, the contrast in road conditions is starkly visible - the run-down rutted roads of India and the smooth tarmac in Bhutan. Once teh road widening from both the border towns is over, one can look forward to fantastic roads all over Bhutan.

On the Indian side, when I went last year, from Samdrup/Darranga till Tamulpur, it was like wading through a mud pond, after which I saw some excellent roads to Rangiya. This year, it looks like the road from Rangiya to Tamulpur has also deteriorated.

With such incompetence and corruption in India, I am not surprised that the Bhutias are smirking and sniggering at India and everything Indian, notwithstanding that India is a friendly neighbour.
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Old 31st August 2010, 19:53   #123
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Default So her's the way out

This is what you would see as you exit the area allowed to Indians in Bhutan over here.

Guwahati getaways: Bhutan-san936.jpg

Look at the Oil pump picture, its Indian Oil, so the Bhutanese will be walking all their lives if India don't supply it with fuel.

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And i feel more sad and humiliated because the Bhutanese places we Indians are not allowed to enter from here are connected by roads constructed & maintained by India's own Border Roads Organisation.

Shame India shame.

Last edited by San Phrangmung : 31st August 2010 at 20:02.
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Old 31st August 2010, 21:10   #124
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I agree with your sentiments. I have been under the impression that Samdrup Jhnokar Immigration Office also issues permits for Indians entering Bhutan through this gate. Looks like Indians can only exit this way - like I did last year.

Did you make enquiries about the rates charged at the hotels in Samdrup? Or how good or bad they are? Lonely Planet does not think much of these hotels, had poor reviews.
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Old 31st August 2010, 22:11   #125
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Quote:
Originally Posted by San Phrangmung View Post
...stop every Bhutia, tell them to get down from their vehicles, frisk them, que them up, make them stand in the sun, tell them to furnish government identification papers, license, passport, photograph, fill up forms, deposit the form and come back after 24 hours to find out if they have been allowed to enter...

That's how the Bhutias have been treating Indians...

So why should we Indians give the Bhutanese the liberty to enter every place of India...?
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And i feel more sad and humiliated because the Bhutanese places we Indians are not allowed to enter from here are connected by roads constructed & maintained by India's own Border Roads Organisation.
San, I've felt your sentiments to some extent too. But do you wonder why the Bhutanese behave towards the Indian tourist like they do? I had some long conversations about this with the owner of the hotel I stayed in.

The Bhutanese (not the Bhutias - that's a tribe, mostly from Sikkim) are terrified of Indians. Every time the Bhutanese come to India, they are stolen from, cheated, robbed, heckled, made to pay bribes to get their work done, lied to, talked to rudely, mocked and generally made to experience a life they are never used to in Bhutan. However, their society cannot think of paying us back in the same coin. Crime is almost unheard of in Bhutan. You can leave your car unlocked overnight and nothing will go missing from it. Discipline among the Bhutanese is paramount. Corruption does not exist in Bhutan at all.

So they are super-extra-careful about who they allow into their little island of peace and tranquility. Often, the immigration official will assess an Indian visitor by the look on his face and how he behaves and talks. And if the immigration official does not like the fellow's face, or feels the person may create any disturbance in Bhutan, he can and does turn down the entry permit. Only, he won't tell you a direct "no". He'll make 10 excuses and ask for 10 other papers.

But if you are a member of the Indian Armed Forces, or know someone in the Indian Armed Forces/BRO posted in Bhutan very well, and he vouches for your integrity, the reception you get in Bhutan is far far different from if you were to approach on your own. A phone call from even an Indian Army Major posted in Bhutan, to the Immigration office can expedite the process of getting your permit to anywhere in the country extremely quickly. Even better, if you have a Bhutanese friend in Bhutan, and he is willing to vouch for you through a phone call, the welcome is significantly different.

I think we have no right to impose our way of life on the Bhutanese. On the other hand, I pray that someday, their way of life can be imported into this great country of ours, where games are being played with the common man's wealth.
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Old 1st September 2010, 12:01   #126
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I can't say that it was really a bad incident. But a little abrupt considering the politeness and friendliness one generally encounters in Bhutan.

Behind the friendliness, I could sometimes sense a contempt for Indians and things Indian mainly because of our poor civic sense, bad road manners and attitude of getting away with anything, especially corruption. Plus, Indian labourers who toil on construction projects are looked down upon, and that rubs off on tourists like us.

The permit check post at Pinchinang was unfriendly, but the border gatekeepers at Samdrup Jhonkar were outright rude and made condescending remarks as I showed them my papers and exited into India.
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San, we are getting some lovely tabelaus from rural and small-town India like never before! Despite the veneer of modernity - Airtel mobile ads, etc - I think life seems to have remained the same, except that I can see more unemployed youth loitering around and less people working the fields.

In Bengal and Assam, bicycles remain the primary form of transport for most unlike many other more prosperous parts of India where they have been overtaken by mobikes.
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Whether it is Phuntsoling or Samdrup Jhonkar, the contrast in road conditions is starkly visible - the run-down rutted roads of India and the smooth tarmac in Bhutan. Once teh road widening from both the border towns is over, one can look forward to fantastic roads all over Bhutan.

With such incompetence and corruption in India, I am not surprised that the Bhutias are smirking and sniggering at India and everything Indian, notwithstanding that India is a friendly neighbour.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
I agree with your sentiments. I have been under the impression that Samdrup Jhnokar Immigration Office also issues permits for Indians entering Bhutan through this gate. Looks like Indians can only exit this way - like I did last year.

Did you make enquiries about the rates charged at the hotels in Samdrup? Or how good or bad they are? Lonely Planet does not think much of these hotels, had poor reviews.
First of all thanks a lot for sharing the photographs HvK, the more the better, now i can see what a lovely drive i missed this Sunday.

As you said, the Samdrup officials were not cooperative but diplomatically polite. However the
Bhutan policeman deployed to open & close the gate were rude & offensive making understandably dirty remarks in their language.

The Bhutanese bad & negative attitude towards Indians as you mentioned is something we must give them back as well if things are to change. We
must put the same restrictions to the Bhutias as they have put on Indians wishing to visit Bhutan.

The small patch of shops and knick knacks that we cross on the highway surely shows that the wind of change has hit rural Assam as well. Mobile connection and direct to home television has specially opened up the world to those living in rural areas. Its a diffrent story that the government is able to provide only a few hours of electricity daily.

And, yes the bike era has not yet hit Assam, people being still poor mostly could afford only a bicycle.

Please add a few pictures of rural Bengal here for one to understand the similarities. Bengalis and the Assamese have lot of things common, specially foodwise, 'eelish' being favourite of both communities.

As for the roads, India started having good ones only after Vajpayee initiated the four laning projects across the country. And, North East as you are aware is 50 years back than mainland India in every area. Therefore it will be years before you see some real good roads across the region.

As for Samdrup accomodation, i did not check any.

And, seriously Bhutan is talking India's friendliness for granted, things must be changed.

Last edited by San Phrangmung : 1st September 2010 at 12:14.
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Old 1st September 2010, 13:54   #127
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@San - I agree with your sentiments and the discriminations you see across the border. There may be things that the Bhutanese have taken for granted, but then, I also agree with the viewpoint of SST.

I believe that Bhutanese government and the people have been able to run the country in a much civilized manner compared to India. This is specially true when you see the attitude of the local people, who do not spit on the road, walk along footpaths, where motorists do not honk, dont break lanes and obey traffic rules.

All these have not happened all of a sudden, but have been inculcated in their upbringing. We in India, have a general sense of lawlessness everywhere and much burdened with the ever increasing population.

All that Bhutan have achieved are from there limited resources and support from neighbouring countries. These comments are from my sole visit to Bhutan this year as part of the Indo-Bhutan rally (http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian...ly-2010-a.html (3rd Indo-Bhutan Friendship Car Rally - 2010)) and I was pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness of the places that I passed through. I guess, they are very protective about the quiet little country and strive to keep it that way.
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Old 1st September 2010, 13:56   #128
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Dear San,

Boy, you have taken me down memory lane-I last entered Sumrud Jhonkar in 1978-I had to go there to get Police clearance as our artillery guns fire into Bhutan. Before we start firing and after, we had to get clearance, so two visits a day one in the morning and one in the evening. The gates used to be opened whenever they saw our Army jeeps approaching.

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Col J H Mayne
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Old 1st September 2010, 20:33   #129
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Quote:
Originally Posted by San Phrangmung View Post
And, seriously Bhutan is talking India's friendliness for granted, things must be changed.
LOL... Indo-Bhutan relations are far more complicated than just friendly neighbours. The document below makes for interesting reading, esp. page 10 onwards. For India, Bhutan is a convenient buffer between ourselves and China. The Bhutanese viewpoint in the relationship is what we tend to ignore.

Quote:
III. Some Issues of Concern
While India and Bhutan share an extraordinarily warm friendship, issues such as the state of relations with China continue be a cause of some concern to both countries. Considering the importance of Bhutan’s economic relations with India, the liberalization policies in India and its implications for Bhutan is an additional development to take into account. More recently, the illegal presence of militants using Bhutan as a base and hideout while rebelling against the Indian government resulted in the Bhutanese army taking military action to flush out the insurgents.
v11-6.pdf
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Old 1st September 2010, 21:07   #130
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Very interesting read, SS, the document you attached has a wealth of information and perspectives on Indo-Bhutan ties.

IMO, there are some issues worth considering:

- Bhutan's biggest problem is that it is a deeply religious (Buddhist) country, and it is wary of communist China, which has annexed Tibet and destroyed religion. India is a benevolent religious nation.

- Logistically, India is cloer and more accessible, whereas, China is across high passes into high-altitude Tibet. However, the way China is establishing road and rail infrastructure, it is a matter of time before it may be faster to reach Shanghai port than KOlkata or Chittagong.

- Indian port Kolkata and Bangaldesh port Chittagong are lifelines for Bhutan, hence extra-friendly relationships with both these countries.

- The rising popularity and accessibility of cheap Chinese goods may alter economic equations in years to come. So far, Indian goods have been preferred. Contrast this with regions like Manipur and Mizoram where cheap Thai goods have been widely available in preference to Indian stuff.

- Of late, Japan is emerging (or already is) teh largest donor for Bhutan, helping fund roads, buildings and religious institutions, mainly thanks to the Buddhist connection and maybe Japan finds an enemy of China an ally to support.

- Indian army helps guard Bhutan's borders from any form of Chinese incursions, saves them money and gives them big-brother support. Otherwise, a country with a population less than 15 lakh people is irrelevant in global politics and even if an aggressor annexes them, the world will shrug an go on with their daily chores. Indian friendship alters that equation considerably since for India, Bhutan is a buffer zone.
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Old 1st September 2010, 21:11   #131
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I visited Bhutan twice - drove in mobike in 1994, then 15 years later drove in my Scorpio.
In between, there was a transition from father to son Wangchuk, elections and a lot of liberalisation in cultural freedom.

How different is the Bhutan 1994 from Bhutan 2009?

- 2 streets in Paro town today, where there was only one yesterday

- Population has risen to 5.50 lakhs, which is less than what it is in the locality where I live in Thane

- The latest brands of Toyota Land Crusiers and Prados

- Men are no more required to wear the Go, which is a frock-type national costume

- There is now TV, and 3 national English newspapers (there was no TV in 1994)

- Hotel rooms that cost me Rs 50 a day then are now priced at Rs 500

But some things have not changed:

– Tourists are still restricted and we were probably the only Indian tourists in town apart from the Parsi family who we met in Thimphu.

- The place is clean

- Cars drive around in a civilised manner, no honking, no overtaking, no breaking rules.

- The currency Nu is still freely interchangeable with the Rupee – Rs 1 = Nu 1, and you don’t have to go to a money changer

- Everyone speaks Hindi and many English too, although their national language is Dzongka, a Tibetan dialect

- Buddhism still rules, as is evident from the number of people doing the parikramas around the monasteries, the prayer flags fluttering the wind on the mountain sides and the number of Japanese tourists visiting Bhutan
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Old 1st September 2010, 22:07   #132
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
LOL... Indo-Bhutan relations are far more complicated than just friendly neighbours. The document below makes for interesting reading, esp. page 10 onwards. For India, Bhutan is a convenient buffer between ourselves and China. The Bhutanese viewpoint in the relationship is what we tend to ignore.
Attachment 416795
One thing the document does not highlight is the risk Bhutan took when it flushed out the Indian militants in 2003.

We could discuss these issues till the cows come home, but lets keep this forum for things automotive.

Regards
Sutripta
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Old 1st September 2010, 23:00   #133
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It is a pleasure to drive around in Bhutan:

- No honking

- Orderly parking, never out of the line

- safe overtaking

- indicators for turning always, and pulling out

- no swearing and gesticulating

- hardly any police men

Driving in Bhutan is like driving in Singapore and western countries, hard to believe that it is one small corner of the Indian sub-continent.

Most popular small cars are the Alto, Omni, Santro and Getz.
Did not see any mid-sized cars.
Next level is the SUVs and the most popular ones are the Hyundai Santa Fe, Tuscon and higher end the Land Cruiser and Prado.
Pick ups are invariably only Mahindra.
The Mahindra Getaway - hardly seen in India - seems to be the most popular pick-up. Looks like the entire production line is dedicated for Bhutan.
Trucks - the unbiquitous Tatas and some Leyland tippers.
Never saw any mobikes or scooters!!!
Do not remember seeing any bicycles either.
Buses - all minis - are Toyota Coasters.

Petrol pumps are all BPCL/IOC. Almost same price for fuel as prevailing in Assam.
Workshops - you see the small garages that you see in India, so maintenance is not a problem in Thimphu and Phuntsoling.

Petrol Pumps in Bhutan - must be less than 10!!!!

SUVs are really very cheap - if I remember right, the Santa Fe costs around Rs 8 lakhs or so, unless I am mistaken. Never enquired about the Altos and Santros.

Last edited by hvkumar : 1st September 2010 at 23:03.
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Old 2nd September 2010, 03:54   #134
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@HVKUMAR Agree with you totally.

Bhutanese people are disciplined and uncorrupted so far. Though an underlying hatred for Indians is palpable but they make great efforts not to show them.

But after a few minutes into a conversation, if a Bhutanese realizes the other person being gentle and polite, they tend to soften up quite a bit.

Thanks to HVKUMARs logs (Rup Chatterjee had taken it from you) we travelled the whole route taken by you in a Scorpio and visited Phobjika Valley as well. It was a trip that never seems to go away from memory. I quite liked everything about the country and would love to visit again, preferably with some more time.

On entry, had a hard time adjusting because we Indians have a way of seeking easy way out and we wanted to get our permits etc done fast but had to fall in line and get it done by the book which of course frustrated us. Then there was this policeman who shouted "this is not India. you Indians never obey rules." because i had parked our scoprio with one tyre outside the parking lines.

but then I have to tell this story about the niceness of the Bhutanese.

We stayed overnight in a Hotel in Mongar and while leaving I left my wristwatch on the bedside table. This wrist watch was gifted to me by my father when i passed 10th, so it has quite an emotional value for me.

now I realised that i have left the watch after driving at least three hours towards Samdrup Jongskar when at a check post i tried checking the time .

Then all my copassengers started thinking about how to get the watch back. we got the number of the hotel from the directory with the check post with the help of a bhutanese gentleman (the incharge there). The hotel owner had found the watch and kept it in the counter and asked us to come back and take it. But i was against driving back three hours because that would mean we would not be able to go to samdrup by that night.

So, we requested that gentleman (the official) to please collect it somehow from the hotel and courier it to me in Kolkata. I was willing to give the courier charges and some more. He did not want to do it and he told me the reason. "Sir, I cannot guarantee that I will get it back. If i get it back and send it by courier, and if by chance you dont receive it, you will think that I have pocketed the watch and the money as well. I cannot take that risk."

when i assured him that i would know that he tried and would not blame him if i did not receive the watch, only did he agree.

And to my disbelief, after about a two weeks of returning from the trip, i got a call from that gentleman saying he procured the watch and has sent it by courier and that I call him back when I get it.

and I did get that watch. I could not thank him enough.

NOW, the question is If that had been Darjeeling or Gangtok for that matter, would i still have the watch. it is anybody's guess.

If we are hated there, we are to blame. there is no running away from that.

I would love to visit Bhutan again.

P.S. Yeah, they could have some vegetarian restaurants in the interior parts as well. that was the only dampner for me. had to carry a stove and loads of maggi.
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Old 2nd September 2010, 11:26   #135
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Darranga is locally famus for the annual mela, a mini Pushkar of sort. As per reliable sourses, people from nearby areas come not just for trade but get a taste of Bhutanese flesh.

Otherwise its more like a cantonment town also in the border.
The picture you shall see here now are of the permanent daily market to which Bhutias from across the border come regularly as things are cheaper here than in their own land.

Well its no Wagah or Indo Pak border so ther's no gate or restrictions on India side.
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