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Old 24th June 2018, 12:36   #1
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Default An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan

"Papa, How many more Kilometres?" Junior D queried innocently.
"Kilometres and Kilometres..." started Mr D, eloquently.
For a moment he paused as he rehearsed the idiotic chant he has now honed over years for the same question from the little ones.
"...In these days of degenerating decencies...from Washington DC to Miami beach, blah blah (meaningless gibberish) blah blah... diplomacy and duplicity become interchangeable from complicated... America to America...!!!”
As he finished the last words, he grinned triumphantly and a silly smile of satisfaction and self proclaimed smartness spread over his face. He was already basking in his own glory as he thumped down his authority in the knowledge of medieval Malayalam movies. Cheap Thrills, I'd say!

For the non Keralites, without exposure to the scent of Mollywood story telling, you wouldn't understand head or tail of the above. I apologise; But explaining that incoherent concoction of English words is way beyond my skill set. So, let's leave it at that. Absolutely not worth the effort too.

Mr D's answer to the query anyway, didn't lighten the mood within the car.
The two little kids (junior Ds) looked on in silent exasperation.
The good lady wore a smirk of disdain. They know he is beyond repair.
While, Mr D in his mind, patted himself on the back for the flourish of "incoherent Angrezi" he doled out to his hapless victims.
I am sure, Wren and Martin would have been turning in their graves!!

I could see Mrs D leering at her husband through the rearview mirror with a stone cold look in her eyes.
Apparently, he has eaten up his allowance of jokes for the day! Rightfully so, for the mockery he made of an innocent query.
Oblivious of the impending danger, I saw him shamelessly pasting his characteristic stupid grin which he routinely does after every such dramatism. Really, someone really has to sit him down and knock sense into his grey matter.

Before we get any further into the misfortunes of Mr D, I guess I should introduce myself.
I am Mr D's XUV. The well motivated, yet exasperated assembly of metal parts.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180505_151624c.jpg

Motivated by all the wonderful places Mr D hurls me to. Yet, exasperated at the misfortune of having to pen down his stories.
Afterall, there's a limit to the imagination, vocabulary and clatter of a machine, held together by nuts and bolts.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180510_112554.jpg

This is not the first time I am writing a travelogue. I have been dragged into this earlier too:-
1. Vizag to North East Road trip
2. My Autobiography
3. From Vizag to the Western Ghats
4. Kochi to Vizag through the hinterlands
5. Kochi to Coorg

Believe me, I have done my bit to motivate him to write. He has penned some articles and travelogues few years back; But that's now part of history. Then I can understand his predicament. I rather empathise with him when he says: -
"English isn't my mother tongue. And I am equally bad at Hindi..."
Well, considering that he was born, brought up and spoilt in the heartland of Mallu land, I concur to the Hindi part.

Last edited by SDP : 6th September 2018 at 10:28. Reason: Fixed URL expansion issue by switching back to http from https
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Old 29th June 2018, 17:00   #2
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Default The Background

Background Script

Mr D did an incredible drive to Ladakh last year (Aug 2017). Starting from Vizag, he scaled the heights of Himalayas and then drove me all the way down the length of the country to Kochi.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-dsc_026201.jpeg

Full of 8635.5 Kms, spanning across 20 days.
He coyly says, " I drove from Vizag to Kochi; and took an enroute halt at Ladakh".
Well, needless to say, there's no travelogue on it. He blames it on his work schedule, I lay it down more straight and simple: "Laziness".

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20170901_17015301.jpeg

The Ladakh drive was with his friends, minus the good lady and the two kids.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20170827_13394501.jpeg
Me during the Ladakh trip, flanked by the beasts of fundagenie (to my right) and abirnale (to my left)

Knowing the avid travel enthusiasts the good lady and kids are, I should commend Mr D's courage to plan a trip to Ladakh sans them.
No points in guessing the flared nostrils, irate eyes and the tempestuous temper that greeted him home after the trip.
The otherwise happy lines on the face of kids also transformed to frown curves, plummeting Mr D to tremendous pressure.

He coaxed them, cajoled them, even bribed them with chocolates and toys.
No respite. He took them on drives to Munnar and Alleppey.
The only good outcome was that I got to see some more nice places. The kids didn't budge, neither did the Home Ministry.
This could be repaired only with as momentous a road trip like Ladakh; if not, better.

And the Theme Develops....

He started contemplating places of visit.
Many places were considered. From Rann of Kutchch to Himachal to Spiti to Ladakh to the far east Nagaland.
A passing query to the kids saw the Atlas taking shape in front of Mr D's eyes:
"Disney Land, USA, South Africa, Kenya, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia..."
A quick glace at his purse and Mr D decided never to ask opinion to kids again.

A few animated discussions with the all important "Purse Thickness", Google Baba and Uncle Cloud later, Mr D's planning faculties were fixated at 'The Land of the Thunder Dragons- Bhutan'. The kids were pitching for a foreign trip and he checked that box too with Bhutan.

Well, he was anyway scaling the not so humble diagonal width of the nation to reach till Bhutan. So, whats the harm in adding another five days and tread Sikkim too? And so, Sikkim and its snow clad ranges joined the itinerary.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180503_102944.jpg

Bhutan and Sikkim, having eluded them in their previous trip to the North East from Vizag, Mr and Mrs D were too eager to lap it up with full earnest.
Mr D penned in a travel guide to Tawang when he returned:-
A Tawang Holiday Guide

Mr D's organisation, whenever he asked for leave, was considerate on him till date <frantically touches wood>. May be he placed it opportunely well within the "Time and Space" theory. Or may be, he had quite kind-hearted bosses. Or may be he was just plain lucky till date.
Anyways, once again his elaborate coaxing skills (or rather the benevolence of his boss) saw him gleefully trotting out with a handsome 25 days of leave firmly clutched under his armpit.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-dsc_0538.jpg

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 18:21.
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Old 29th June 2018, 20:32   #3
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Default Drive Plan

O Lord, Grant me torque in my engine to scale the scary inclines,
Newtons in my coil springs to tide over the moon like craters;
and abundance of wisdom, to tolerate the absurdities of Mr D

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180504_065335.jpg

That used to be the prayer I woke up to every morning during the preparatory phase for the drive. After all, it was 25 days and it isn't that easy to tolerate that man. He wears the same pair of shoes for all his drives, plays almost the same playlist, wears the same set of shades, has a few select T shirts that he keeps inter changing to his own whims and fancies. In the past five years (almost) of me occupying his garage, I haven't seen him getting any further than two red T shirts, two black and one grey. That I have a little colour blindness, I can't differentiate the difference between dark blue denims from (little) darker blue denims. His clothes over the years, have transformed into living organisms, I'd say.

Well, for all that he is worth but, Mr D does planning to the tee. I couldn't ask for more in that department and there is nothing that's left untended before he starts on any of his drives. The route is finalised, destinations mapped, stop over places jotted, including food joints enroute, places of interest and places to halt for the night. Since travelling with kids, he is pretty particular in this aspect.
He draws out a plan and sticks to it like a house fly on Jaggery.

Credits where it's due.

So, on 16 Apr 18, towing two kids (aged 9 &7) and Mrs D, he revved me up and set out for the almost 9.5k road trip from Kochi. Destination- Bhutan, Sikkim and anything that doesn't bite in between. 9254 Kms, 25 days, 13 states, 2 countries and a puncture later, as we pulled into the garage on 10th May, there were none flashing more teeth than me.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180416_13242201.jpeg

Well, it wouldn't have been possible without the thorough support and point to point guidance from Bhpian HV Kumar aka HVK. From the methodology to wriggle out from the cusp of angry locals to puncture repairs to food Gyan to road conditions- we got served everything on a platter. Most typical of his ways, HVK always went out of his ways to render help, despite the unearthly hours at which we disturbed him.

The drive in itself was beyond what could be equated to words; in its proportion to the expanse of the country on which the tyres rolled and for the varied cultures and traditions we witnessed through it.
Thank you very much HVK. Here's to more and more miles on the rubber.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180416_10470101.jpg

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The Drive Plan

Mr D had his cousin's marriage to attend at Pune. So, the drive effectively panned out to be a small circling around the country, starting on 16 Apr 18.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-route-chart.png

Some figures:
  1. Distance run- 9254.1 Kms
  2. No of days- 25
  3. Total Fuel- 728.45 litres
  4. Amt spent on fuel- Rs 48,323.9
  5. Overall Rs/ Km- Rs 5.22 / Km
  6. Mileage-
    • Overall- 12.7 Kmpl
    • Highway Kochi to Bhutan- 13.23 Kmpl
    • Hills and mountains (Bhutan and Sikkim)- 11.58 Kmpl
    • Highway Sikkim to Kochi- 12.75 Kmpl
  • Road conditions, all the way till we entered Sikkim was good to very good.
  • Roads in Sikkim have scope for improvement.
  • The point to note was that roads in Bhutan with similar terrain was all nicely laid.
  • Return journey from Siliguri to Kolkata was through Bhagalpur Purnea. Except for the city traffic at Bhagalpur, this route is recommended over the Malda- Farakka route.
  • Wayside restaurants with family in UP/ Bihar on highways is far and few in between

    Disclaimer
  • In this travelogue, I will only be covering Bhutan. I am already torturing you with my atrocious version of English. I don't want to sentence you to "Death with Travelogue".
An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180511_042036.jpg

Last edited by aah78 : 8th September 2018 at 20:28. Reason: Image inserted in-line.
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Old 30th June 2018, 00:40   #4
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Default Bhutan Intro and Thread Title Distribution

Bhutan- The Land of Thunder Dragons

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180428_150251.jpg
Tiger's Nest- the poster of Bhutan

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180426_134130c.jpg
Dochu La Pass.

The drive till Bhutan took us through a plethora of landscapes.
From the evergreen spreads of Kerala, through the plains and hills of Maharashtra scorched in summer heat...
To the cattle strewn highway stretches of MP, through the barren expanse of UP/ Bihar, to the tea gardens in plains of the Dooars in WB, till we hit the mayhem at Jaigaon, the International Border.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180422_144647.jpg
Vultures by the highway!!! View from somewhere near Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

Having halted at Siliguri previous night, we reached comfortably in time at Phuentsholing. The shift in atmosphere from Jaigaon (the Indian side) to Phuentsholing (the Bhutan side) was pretty stark. It is just a gate and a wall that separates the two nations. There is a policeman standing at the gate as you enter the Kingdom of Bhutan. He keeps smiling at you as you drive past, waving at times, with a cheerful ever present glitter in his eyes. The Kingdom is very friendly indeed and they welcome their guests with both arms spread.

The first thing that you notice as you cross over to the country is the impeccable traffic sense. No honking, no unruly drivers, no hurried overtaking; absolute discipline. Here, no one seems to be late to reach anywhere. Even cars with Indian registration behaves well as they cross over the border.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180423_123526.jpg
Notice pedestrians crossing the roads only on zebra crossings and all vehicles stopping over for them to cross, in a single file.

(On the contrary, during our return leg, we did notice that Bhutan vehicles when in Indian soil behaves like any Indian vehicle. They honked, they overtook and splashed the slush to paint a wall brown from the kerb).
I think behaviour changes when you cross the border. Its the air who is the culprit.
Or, it is the realisation that "In India, if you keep waiting to give way to the other vehicle, you will probably reach nowhere"

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180429_144357.jpg

MapMyIndia doesn't work in Bhutan.


As I foresee, this report is going to overflow my potentials to maintain some semblance of sense. (Eek, I didn't bargain for this when I started the travelogue!!).
What levels of torments do I have to live through! As I perspire on the keyboard to make sense of English language, Mr D has callously converted himself into a permanent furniture in front of the TV.
I aint going to get any help from him. So, utilising my miniscule wisdom, I have divided the narrative into a few headings. You may click on respective links to go directly to your choice. (After all, I understand that there is indeed a limit to listen to the clatter of a machine)

Title Distribution
1. Time to Visit
2. Of Dzongs, Lhakhangs and Chortens
3. Immigration and Own Car Permit Procedure
4. General Pointers, Mobile Connectivity and Shopping
5. A few places to visit
6. Taksang Gompa- The Tiger's Nest- Paro
7. Phuentsholing
8. In and around Thimphu- 1
9. In and around Thimphu- 2
10. Dochu La and Chele La
11. Punakha Dzong and Suspension Bridge
12. The Royal Flower Exhibition- Punakha
13. Concluding the Bhutan Sojourn

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 8th September 2018 at 14:43.
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Old 29th July 2018, 13:19   #5
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Default Time to visit, Planning your journey.

At the Outset.

1. We did the standard route- Phuentsholing- Thimphu- Punakha- Paro- Chele La- Ha- Paro- Chhuzom- Phuentsholing.

2. Though Mr D had all the will, motivation and inclination to do East Bhutan too, the East – West Highway construction did not turn out to be his good friend. With frequent road blockages and battered roads, he chose not to venture there on the first visit, especially with kids and the good lady.

3. Since we did only the basic, classic circuit, this travelogue will also be limited to that. The road construction would be over by Dec 18 (as per local knowledge attained during the trip). Any one going to Bhutan after Dec 18, it is strongly recommended to visit Phobjikha valley, Gangtey trails and Trashigang.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180423_18093201.jpeg

How to Plan your Journey. To experience Bhutan, you can choose to smack some excitement and drive through the Himalayas; or fly in and out of Paro.

1. Best time to visit Bhutan is between October to December. The sky is clear and it remains sunny. It gets colder in January and Feb till early March. Once spring starts (early April), it is again a good time to visit till monsoons starts to create some trouble by July. End April is particularly beautiful with the blooming of rhododendrons, flooding the valleys with colour,

2. If you are going by air. Druk Air offers direct flights to Paro (the only international airport in Bhutan) from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bagdogra. Travel websites may not list these tickets. You may need to contact Druk Air travel agent in the city for tickets. Also, there are no daily flights. Therefore, your travel itinerary should be catered accordingly.

3. My travel was through Phuentsholing for entry and exit, and therefore I will not have first-hand knowledge to comment on travel by air.

4. There is another gate to Bhutan at Gelephu. However, entry into Bhutan through that gate is allowed only for Bhutan nationals and personnel of Indian Army on deputation to Bhutan with IMTRAT. You can however, exit Bhutan through Gelephu after your circuits. (Necessary endorsemenst in your permits will have to be done at Thimphu for that).

5. Siliguri to Phuentsholing is a 4- 5 hr drive. So, if you start in time, you can reach Phuentsholing; get your immigration and permits done and be on the way to Thimphu/ Paro on the same day.

6. If you are running tight on schedule, the above method is recommended where you can save a day.

7. Set a target for departure to 1200 hrs. If you are running beyond it, my suggestion would be to stay at Phuentsholing itself and travel the next day.

8. Visit Thimphu first rather than Paro. Permits for Ha, Punakha or anywhere else is issued only at Thimphu.

9. Cater for six hours for the drive from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. You can drive faster and reach in 04:30 - 5 hrs also. Then in that case, have you actually enjoyed the drive?

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 11:58.
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Old 29th July 2018, 13:35   #6
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Default Of Dzongs, Lhakhangs and Chortens

Some Terms Before we Start (Credits for compiling the terms- Ashok Kamath in HVK Forum on Facebook)

1. Lhakhang- Temple or place of worship.

2. Dzong- Fort like structures which functions both as the administrative centres, seat of power (Govt offices ) and also houses monasteries where Buddist way of life is taugh to disciples. Festivals of respective districts are held on local Dzongs.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-dsc_025401.jpeg

3. Chorten- Stupas or rectangular structures. These are mostly colourful and in different sizes. These can be found everywhere including highways, hilltops, valleys and even remote areas. Chorten are the oldest Buddhist religious monuments.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-dsc_0154.jpg

There are 8 different kinds of Chortens in Buddhism each referring to major events in the life of Buddha. It is rare to see all the 8 Chortens together. One is in Wangduephodrong near the bridge. 8 Different type of Stupas or Chortens are The Lotus Blossom Chorten, The Chorten of enlightenment, Chorten of many doors, Chorten of descent from God Realm, Chorten of miracles, Chorten of reconciliation, Chorten of Victory, and Chorten of Nirvana.

Of Dzongs, Lhakhangs and Chortens- Entry, Attire, Fees etc

1. Please carry your entry permit to all the places of your visits at the restricted areas. These are at times checked at the Dzong gates.

2. Visitors are to dress appropriately to all Dzongs in Bhutan. Men are expected to wear full sleeve shirt and ladies are to dress conservatively. The authorities can deny you entry into the Dzong if you are not dressed appropriately.

3. The traditional dress of Bhutan is easily available to be bought throughout the country. Men wear Gho, a knee length rode tied at the waist. Women wear a Kira, an ankle length garment much akin to a saree, accompanied by a light jacket called Tego. Now, the Kira to be complete needs to have the jacket along with the inner shirt whose sleeves are folded into the sleeves of the jacket. Without this inner shirt, the Kira isn’t complete.
(Note- Casual wearing of Kira by visitors, does not invite scorns anywhere in the country. Rather, Bhutanese are glad for that and whole heartedly help us in the method of wearing them. However, if you are entering a Dzong in their attire, it has to be the complete attire i.e, the inner shirt, the jacket, the bottom skirt and a scarf. You will not be permitted for entry otherwise.)

4. At all Dzongs and Lhakhangs there is an entry fee of Rs 300 and Rs 500 at Tiger's Nest for foreigners (Indians included). However, you dont have to pay the entry fee if you are not entering the temple/ administrative complex. So, in case you intend to just visit the structure and admire its grandeure from outside, you need not purchase the tickets.

5. In my opinion, The Tiger's Nest (Taksang Gompa at Paro), Changangkha Lhakhang and Tashicho Dzong (The main Administrative complex of the country) at Thimphu are places worth the money spent on tickets.

6. At Punakha Dzong, you can enter within the main complex without the ticket, but to enter inside the sanctorum you will need to buy tickets (in my opinion can be avoided as there's nothing much to explore within).

7. The entry fee to Tashichho Dzong covers a guided tour around the place (The guide comes free with the entry fees). The ticket will entail your entry till the main courtyard. There are two temples within the Dzong. Of which only one is open to visitors. And that temple was under renovation when I visited (expected to open only after August as per the guide). So, effectively, you can enter only till the courtyard. Even that is worth the money as the guide will give you a good run through the history, culture, heritage and customs of the fortress.

8. Do visit the Tashichho Dzong view point after sundown for a view of the Fortress that is elegantly lit up with the citylights in the background. Also Paro Dzong lit up at night is a wonderful sight.

9. National Memorial Chorten at the centre of the city in Thimphu is completely not worth the money you spend to enter it. However, if you are on a religious tour, then don't pay heed to my words.

10. Taking pictures inside the altars of Dzongs, Lhakhangs and monasteries is strictly prohibited.

11. Take off your caps inside Dzongs, temples and in front of the National Flag.

12. Walk clockwise while crossing Dzongs, temples, monasteries, prayer flags and other religious artefacts.

13. Do carry water and caps. Punakha especially is warmer than other cities of Bhutan.

14. Do carry something to eat when visiting Punakha Dzong. There are no decent restaurants nearby. However, when we visited, international flower festival was underway at the adjacent grounds and there were stalls on the festival.

15. By the time I finished with Bhutan, I got so dzonged out that I didn't have the energy to visit anymore monasteries in Sikkim that I visited next.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 12:10.
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Old 29th July 2018, 13:40   #7
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Default Immigration and Own Car Permit Procedure

Immigration Procedure

1. Indian Nationals do not require passport to visit Bhutan. A valid, recognised ID proof is sufficient to process the immigration formalities. Following are valid identity proofs: -
(a) Passport.
(b) Voter’s ID.
(c) Birth Certificate for kids. (School IDs not accepted).
2. Adhaar card is not an accepted form of identity in Bhutan. In case you are carrying Adhaar card as ID card, you can still obtain permits after endorsing it from the Indian Embassy (around 500 m from the immigration office). This will eat another half an hour to an hour from your time. At the embassy, following required: -
(a) Two additional passport photos.
(b) Original of the document to the verified.
(c) Rs 135 verification cost at the embassy.
3. Regional Immigration Office, Royal Government of Bhutan, Phuentsholing. This is from where you will get your permits. Cater for half a day here. On a good day, by lunch time, you should be having your permits and sim cards in your hand. Vehicle permit time additional.

4. No fees are charged for immigration permits. Take sufficient copies of the permit. It will be needed at every nook and corner.

5. Documents required to be submitted for immigration permit:-
(a) Application Form.
(b) Proof of Identity.
(c) One passport size photo per person visiting.
6. At Immigration Office.
(a) Submitted documents first verified at ground floor.
(b) Post verification, they are to be taken to another office in ground floor where finger print and photos are taken (all individuals).
(c) These are then given for approval (takes around 10 mins max).
(d) These approved documents are to be taken to first floor (any one person can go from the group). The documents are kept at the office and printed permit will be handed over to you.
(Carry some water, juice and snacks. The wait will be a bit long and humid)

7. Mondays will find more rush at the Immigration centre. Be prepared accordingly in case you are reaching there on a Monday.

8. For visit of places beyond Paro and Thimphu, you will require Special Area Permit, which is issued from Thimphu immigration Office on all working days. The Immigration Office at Thimphu will ask for a copy of your permit issued from Phuentsholing. No money is to be paid. It is recommended to write all places in the form (Phobjikha, Boomthang, Ha, Punakha, Gangtey etc. It is free of cost. In case you change your plan, already having the places in your permit will give you flexibility)

9. Cater for additional days when you take the Special Area Permit. It is free of cost and will cater for unforeseen eventualities of delay during the journey.

10. Visit Thimphu first rather than Paro. Permits for Ha, Punakha or anywhere else are issued only at Thimphu. So, first get the permits extended at Thimphu and then start the journey.

11. The basic permit issued at Phuentsholing is valid only for seven days. Should you plan to extend your stay, then that also can be done only at Thimphu.

12. Renewal of your individual permit and vehicle permit needs to be done at Thimphu, if:-
(a) You are staying in Bhutan for more than seven days.
(b) If you intend to visit any place other than Thimphu and Paro.
13. Carry enough photocopies of the permits. You will require to hand over copies at each checkpost. There are three checkposts (IIRC) enroute till Thimphu.

14. You will also need copies of your permits for obtaining a local sim card (highly recommended) and also at your hotel of stay.

15. If you do not have a prior hotel booking at Paro/ Thimphu, permits are not issued. They will ask for a confirmation letter from the hotel to be endorsed along with your application forms.

16. Carry sufficient passport size photos (atleast five each) of all the visitors in your vehicle.

17. For entry across the border at Phuentsholing and roaming around Phuentsholing you don't need any permits. The permits are checked around 6 kms from Phuentsholing towards Thimphu.

18. Phuentsholing gate is open from 6 Am to 8 PM normally.

19. It is important to reach Phuentsholing and Thimphu Immigration offices on a working day to obtain permits. Also check local national holidays before you start.

20. Get your permits stamped at all check posts. In case you don’t do this, you will be fined at the next checkpost.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180906_182600.jpg
This is how the immigration will look like.

Own Vehicle Permit Procedure

1. Yes, it is very much possible to drive your own vehicle into Bhutan.

2. You cannot drive a self driven hired car to Bhutan (zoom car et al)

3. In case you are travelling in your own vehicle (Indian registered), the vehicle permits are obtained from RSTA, Phuentsholing. It will take another half an hour of your time.

4. It is important to be suitably dressed when visiting any office in Bhutan. Formal or semi formal is recommended.

5. Vehicle permit is issued only after obtaining immigration permit.

6. Documents required for own vehicle permit-
(a) License- two copies (The name on the license should be the same as entered in immigration permit).
(b) Insurance- two copies.
(c) Pollution Certificate- two copies.
(d) Registration Certificate - two copies. (The name should be the same as entered in immigration permit).
(e) Copy of the permit obtained from Immigration Office.
(f) Application on plain paper.
7. I repeat, you cannot get the vehicle permit before obtaining the personal immigration permit. IIRC, the RSTA office is open till 1500 hrs BST. Therefore, if you get delayed in obtaining individual immigration, then you might be stuck at Phuentsholing for one more day. All the more reason why you should reach the immigration office early in the day for your procedures.

8. Charge- Rs 100 per day.

9. The vehicle permit, like personal immigration, is valid only for seven days and only till Thimphu and Paro. This needs to be extended at RSTA at Thimphu if you intend to visit any other places at Bhutan. The process is hassle free and will not take more than half an hour.

Last edited by Eddy : 13th September 2018 at 14:14. Reason: Typo
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Old 29th August 2018, 21:25   #8
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Default General Pointers, Mobile connectivity and shopping.

General in Bhutan

1. Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of us. That is, the Govt offices in Bhutan opens at 0830 as per your Indian watch.

2. Bhutan currency is Ngultrum. Bhutan being a dependant economy, the exchange rates are same. You do not need to necessarily convert any notes in Bhutan. Indian money (all denominations 100, 200, 500 and 2000s) are accepted everywhere.

3. The value of 1 Nu = 1 Rs

4. Fuel prices are atleast Rs 15 cheaper than in India. The cheapest in the country is at Phuentsholing. However, when Mr D spoke to the Indian taxi drivers there, they were not very happy with the fuel quality. Climb 45 Kms up, you reach a hamlet called Gedu. Mr D tanked me up there and he was mighty impressed with the fuel there. Topping up there on the return would be a good idea.

5. Google maps will work in Bhutan; but only to show you your location. Navigation will not work. The ‘Map My India’ maps on my infotainment system did not have maps of Bhutan (Ofcourse!!! Else it would have been called “Map My Bhutan” right?)

6. Though Navigation doesn’t work, still downloading offline maps before hand is strongly recommended.

7. Trashigang is the largest district in Bhutan; and is said to be the best part of Bhutan. A 17 hour journey from Thimphu makes it less travelled and also untouched. (We didn’t visit Trashigang).

8. Trashigang and Boomthang valley are opined to be the most beautiful parts of Bhutan. (We didn’t visit Boomthang too).

9. Bhutanese Cuisine. The staple food for Bhutanese is Red rice and dry beef/ potato cooked with chilly and cheese. Their daily home food are (compilation courtesy- Ashok Kamath @ HVK Forum) National Dish - Ema Datshi (Tomato, Cheese, Chillies), Keva Datshi (Potato, cheese, Chilies), Sumo Datshi (Mushroom, Cheese, chillies), Jasha Maru (Chicken spicy), Fish Maru and Fish Paa to name a few. Momos are also common here and tastes excellent. Local Drink Ara (arag) is also something to try. Also dont fail to try the local drink SUJA, made of Yak milk and tastes salty.

Something for the Road

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1. Standard Route- Phuentsholing- Thimphu- Punakha- Paro- Chele La- Ha- Paro- Chhuzom- Phuentsholing. However, the most beautiful valleys and views are hidden in East Bhutan. We couldn’t venture there because of the East- West Highway construction during that time and also the frequent road closures. We kept that pending for the next visit .

2. Road conditions and surface is good through out the circuit; irrespective of rural/ urban region or terrain.

3. Hardly anyone honks and therefore be extra careful at blind curves due to the trucks that may charge at you from behind the bends.

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4. Many curves arent wide enough and you will be forced out of the road on to the shoulders. It would be a better idea to stop, reverse and give way than to zip past. All truck drivers are accomodative and there were none who didn't stop and give me time to reverse and give way.

5. In case of passage of the Royal King's convoy or a Minister's entourage, there are no formal road blockades as we are used to here. However, all vehicles are expected to pull over to the side and stop, and let the convoy pass without hindering. A black SUV with beacon lights will indicate the oncoming convoy.

6. Traffic sense is immaculate and there is absolutely no honking or nasty overtaking. Pedestrians always have right of way and vehicles are expected to stop for them to cross at all times.

7. Speed limits are monitored and respected.

8. Uphill traffic always gets right of way.

9. Right indicator means – ‘do not overtake’- If the vehicle ahead of you flashes its right indicator, it means you should not overtake that vehicle. It might have stopped for some uphill traffic or for some other reason to avoid any traffic issue. If you see a vehicle coming towards you with its right indicator flashing, means he has stopped for you and you should go towards it without worrying about traffic.

10. Left indicator means you may get ahead – If the vehicle ahead of you flashes its left indicator, means it’s asking the vehicle behind it to come ahead.

11. Do not try to bribe the police Officers. They are non-corrupt and bribing will not be taken lightly.

12. Many roads in Thimphu are one way. Keep a lookout for signs.

Connectivity

1. Tashi sims are affordable and data speeds are good too.

2. Your Indian local sim cards will work seemlessly at Phuentsholing. My Airtel sim gave me 4G data with good speeds. However, if you travel just five kms from the city, the connectivity goes to zilch.

3. Tashi sim (The local sim) is easily available right outside the immigration office.

4. Photocopy of immigration permit is to be attached for sim card along with PP photo. Cost of sim- Rs 180/-, comes with talk time of Rs 100. I added on Rs 200/- for 1.8 GB data.

5. Tashi sims gave connectivity at most places. However, there are spots of blindness. Afterall, these are still Himalayas. Laws of Physics are still laws of Physics.

6. Bhutan ISD code is +975. Mobile numbers of Bhutan are 8 digits and not 10 digits like in India.

Shopping

1. The best souvenirs were at the base point of Paro Taksang Monastery, before the climb. There is a small market kind of set up near the car park where local artefacts are sold. There is also a full fledged market for curios in the town. However, we found better collection and better deals at this daily market at the base of the trekking trail.

2. Also, souvenirs in Paro were cheaper than Thimphu.

3. Buying of artefacts is monitored by customs. Please retain your cash memo/ bill with you.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 8th September 2018 at 14:34.
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Old 29th August 2018, 22:03   #9
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Default Indicative list of places to visit

Bhutan is undoubtedly a beautiful country. There are numerous places to visit and one can't possibly list everything on a page.

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Also, we did not visit the whole of Bhutan. We only did Thimphu, Punakha, Paro and partially, Haa. The more beautiful parts like Phobjikha valley, Boomthang, Trashigang etc were sadly missed on this visit.
Thoroughly disappointed with himself, Mr D has promised himself that he will make a second visit to Bhutan to cover the remaining parts; first his pocket should permit, of course!
(Going by his financial discipline, I don't see that coming soon )

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1. I have listed below the places which Mr D pulled out from his preparatory notes. Important places are highlighted in "Bold".
2. We haven't visited all the places in this list.
3. Snaps and few details will follow of the places we did venture to, in subsequent posts.

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Note-
1. Cameras are allowed inside Dzongs and Lhakhangs; but not inside the inner sanctum sanctorum.
2. No external artefact is allowed inside Tiger’s Nest (including camera, mobile, walking stick or umbrella).
Places to visit (Standard Circuit)

A. Phuentsholing

1. Karbandi Monastery (Phuentsholing Throngbe). On the way up to Thimphu, around 5 kms from town. Recommended visit close to sunset time.
2. Crocodile Zoo (avoidable unless you have too much time to spend).

B. Thimphu

1. Budhdha Statue is an awesome place to be. Dont miss. Visit during the evening time and spend some time there. It is an imposing structure on a hill top, the statue that overlooks the valley and the 160 + ft structure can be seen from any part of the city. The car goes right upto the gate of the structure. This is popular as the largest Buddha statue in the world. Located at the end of a beautiful 8 km drive from the city, it is also known as Kuensel Phodrang or Buddha Dordenma.

2. TaKin reserve, Motithang. TaKin, a goat antelope is Bhutan’s National Animal. There is a reserve that’s established to protect these animals.

3. Changangkha Lhakhang. A beautiful temple set atop a hill, which gives picturesque views of the city and valley. It is close to the Ta-Kin reserve. This is the oldest temple in Thimphu.

4. Trashichho Dzong. A 350 years old fortress which is the main administrative complex of the country, located near the King’s Palace. It is also called as “The Fortress of Glorious Religion”. All main government offices functions from here. The entry fee to Tashichho Dzong covers a guided tour around the place (The guide comes free with the entry fees). The ticket will entail your entry till the main courtyard. There are two temples within the Dzong. Of which only one is open to visitors. And that temple was under renovation when I visited (expected to open only after August as per the guide). So, effectively, you can enter only till the courtyard. Even that is worth the money as the guide will give you a good run through the history, culture, heritage and customs of the fortress.

5. Pangri Zampa Monastery.
6. Tango & Cheri Monsatery. A day’s hike from Thimphu.
7. Handicrafts market. Also known as authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazar.
8. Bhutan Postal Museum.
9. Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan. Non-profit organisation whose aim is only the preservation of the age old and valuable culture and traditions of Bhutan.
10. Folk Heritage Museum, Thimphu.
11. Clock Tower. In the centre of the city, is an Old Classic Clock Tower with an open amphitheatre. This is a famous landmark of the city and is covered with some interesting carvings and paintings. There are colourful prayer wheels too nearby.
12. National Memorial Chorten. This landmark monument is located in the centre of the city. Having paid Rs 300 per head and also since Mrs D suffered a bad fall here, this place didn’t leave a good taste in the mouth of Mr D and family. He would recommend you to avoid it.
13. Simtokha Dzong.


C. Paro

1. Taksang Gompa. Well this deserves a separate post in itself and justice would be done.
2. Paro Dzong.
3. National Museum.
4. Drukyel Dzong.
5. Chele La. Highest pass of Bhutan separating the valleys of Ha and Paro.
6. Haa Valley. This is an isolated and sparsely populated valley West of Thimphu which is also abundant in natural beauty. This also houses the Headquarters of the Indian Army Training Team at Bhutan.
7. Paro Town.

D. Punakha

1. Dochu La Pass. Enroute from Thimphu to Punakha. With 108 beautiful chortens, this place sits atop the hill with a panoramic view of the valleys.

2. Punakha Dzong. This is arguably the most beautiful Dzong in the country. This Dzong was the second to be built in Bhutan and it served as the capital and seat of government till mid 1950s. All of Bhutan’s Kings have been crowned here. This is still the winter residence of the dratshang (official monk body). While we visited, it was a national day at Bhutan. We were fortunate to see many special rituals being conducted at many Dzongs and Chortens at all the places we visited. The King of Bhutan also visited Punakha Dzong to offer prayers on that particular day.

3. Suspension Bridge. This is the second longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. This is located almost at the backyard of the Dzong. The bridge can be accessed from the back portion of Punakha Dzong or through a separate path which leads to the approach to the bridge. Both requires a hardly 15 minutes walk to reach.

4. Chimi Lhakhang.
5. Khuruthang. Township near Punakha Dzong.

E. Phobjikha Valley. This is a bowl shaped glacial valley which is one of the most scenic places in the country. This also is an important wildlife preserve of the country.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-dsc_0196.jpg

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 18:49.
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Old 30th August 2018, 01:20   #10
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Default The High Point of the trip- Tiger's Nest or the Taksang Gompa

Taksang Gompa, aka The Tiger's Nest.

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View of Taksang Gompa from where the trail starts. It is a wonderful climb.


Sir, I am Techen Dorji. And I will be your guide for the day” said the short and fit man, in polished, unaccented English. Mr D and his kids found his name amusing. Perched atop the ponies, they had a rather curious look on their faces when they heard his name for the first time. He could speak affluent English, Hindi, Nepalese, Bhutanese and a host of local languages which I can’t even pronounce.

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How far to the summit?” queried Mr D as the man skillfully guided his pony up the steep path strewn with small rocks and slush mixed with generous layers of pony poop that have accumulated over years. It has just been some ten minutes since they started the ascend.
The man glanced at Mr D through the corner of his eyes. He was all of just 5 ft and Mr D easily towered over him with his 6 ft grandeur. Coupled to his height, a broad set of shoulders and a not so modest waistline (which rather be called circumference), Mr D was not a figure the puny little man would discount. Seeing the irate gleam in the eyes of Mr D, the man knew that he was reaching his limit.

How far to the summit?” Mr D queried again, panting and between his gasps. The kids giggled, reminded of the dramatics and the 'incoherent angrezi' he doles out to them for a similar question. Remember “…. In these days of degenerating decencies…”???
Just around that bend” replied Dorji, reassuringly. But, as soon Mr D would find out, in Taksang trail, this is the local colloquial which spells “Dilli abhi door hain”. He gathered some breath from his breathless state and trotted on. With the strain of the exasperating climb bearing down on him, Mr D just didn't find any amusement in Dorji’s name anymore.

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The good lady and the kids took a pony each for the climb. While Mr D took to walking. Despite his size, Mr D is a fit person generally. He can easily run a 10 Km, can play most games and loves outdoor activities. However this climb, for the inexperienced, will snatch the carpet from beneath their feet. So, Mr D found little difficulty in the beginning. Once he attuned his senses to what lay ahead and learnt how to peg the walking stick, he was pretty comfortable.

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Leaving her pony aside, Mr D's daughter also joined him on foot for most part of the climb. I tip my hat to her resolve; hats off!!
There will be many vendors who will lend you a walking stick at the base of the trail for Rs 50. Never say no to that piece of wood. The most useful Rs 50 that you would ever spend in your life.

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First view of Taksang Gompa during the trail. On a lower height towards the left, you can also see the cafeteria (which Mr D didn't know when this picture was clicked). We will revisit this snap sometime later with a little more details.

Around 45 minutes of gruelling climb later, they reached the Cafeteria. This is around 40% of your climb to the Gompa. The hired ponies will take you only till here. The remaining distance has to be trekked on foot. You can tell yourself that the steepness of the climb decreases a tad little from here on (make believe statement for self motivation) . While in actuals, you wouldn't know the difference.

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The point till where the ponies will take you. Just beyond here, another 50 metres ahead, you will see the diversion which will lead you to the Cafeteria.
Do not worry that the diversion will take you far. There is a road which connects directly to the trail from the Cafeteria too.

Whoever has reached till this point, Mr D would strongly recommend that you complete the trek. It isn't as demanding as it would appear.
Moreover, you came all the way till Paro, climbed half way and then decide to return? Think again.
How often will you be coming this way again? Think again.
There were many ladies, children and even elderly women who completed the trek with us. The extra effort is completely worth it. If they can do it, so can you.

Mr D and family took a small break at the Cafeteria to munch on some local snacks. A 'version' of tea was served along with the local biscuits. Unable to sustain the attack on his taste buds; with all due respects he sipped on some black tea instead.

Soon they were all back in the trail. The good lady and junior D were still relatively fresh, having rode on the pony till then. The more difficult part was only about to start for them. Daughter D was a little tired; yet she trotted on regardless.

Though the spirits and morale was squarely in place, soon they were tapping on their energy reserves; yet the trail kept stretching with each passing bend. Winding, bending and at times disappearing behind a hedge, sometimes diving into the thickness of the jungle, only to reappear to stretch furthermore.
The climb too.

Mr D brought out his best motivational skills to keep the smile curve intact and added to the misery with some atrocious jokes. Fortunately for him, the good lady chose to save her energy for the climb rather than throwing the stick at him.

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They took breaks in between (like playing with sticks as above), munched on the sandwiches and chocolates they carried.

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All along, they (especially the kids) found good company with the friendly dog who tagged along somewhere along the way.
(Carry eatables, chocolates and water in your bag. Very necessary, especially if you have kids. This will also mean that you will have load to carry on the way up.)

After a while of trek, the trail gives way to steps. This is where you get the first proper view of the Tiger's Nest. Boy, what a view that is!

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First the flight of steps start descending. Quite a whole lot of them. A welcome break from the long climb. Well, the thought that these needs to be climbed on the way back will wipe that smile off your face.

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Looking back, you can smile at flight of stairs that you have come down.

Before you start the climb to the final stretch you cross a small bridge (seen on the snap above), and a waterfall on your left side as you go up. Once you cross the bridge, you start climbing again. This climb isn't as tiring as you have the Gompa in sight all the way through.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180428_163036.jpg

Will power will see you through this anchor lap till the entrance.
(Mr D and kids counted the steps on the way back. No points in guessing that he forgot the count no sooner had he reached his car. However, counting the steps is a good way to keep your mind away from the exasperation of climb)

It took them three and half hours and tons of morale boosters to reach the Gompa. There are numerous temples within the Gompa, replete with history, literature, fiction, folklore, theory and beliefs. (Er, what else did I miss?). This thread is already extending beyond my vocabulary skills; and therefore I will stop short of flaunting my knowledge in that too. So, fullstop.

The actual Tiger's Nest, the place where Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours, is in an equally complicated, similarly unique, inaccessible corner. Request a resident monk if he would be kind enough to take you to the place. A girl who studied Budhism at the Gompa offered to show Mr D and his family around. The meditation place is quite tricky to reach. Mr D had to bend his 'not so humble' frame in obtuse and acute angles to finally crawl into the place which gave genesis to the term "Tiger's Nest".

It is a calm, serene and must visit place inside the temple. There are images of 12 Bodhisattvas with everglowing butter lamps in front of each. This is right on the face of a steep cliff that is on the opposite side from where we ascend, with a steep vertical drop below, an equally vertical extension above and over looks a deep valley ahead.

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The return is easier compared to the climb. The initial part you descend and then the climb starts. As you depart, the Gompa keeps tempting you with its majestic grandeur in numerous frames.

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By now, you are rejuvenated after the temple visit and armed with the motivation that you are returning. Once the descend starts, though it is faster than climb, be cautious.

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-img_20180428_174112.jpg

This is the opportunity for you to slide down the inclines and paint it red (yes, you can call it 'slip and fall' also). Also, this is the time when you may develop cramps.

It took Mr D and family three and half hours to climb and two hours fifteen minutes for the descend. The return trek, they started at 1600 hrs (in the month of April). By the time they reached the base, it was twilight. Had they been 15 minutes late, I would have had a much more eventful story to narrate.
In case you haven't guessed till now, there are no street lights, and mobiles doesn't work anyway. Mr D would thump his chest and strongly suggest that you keep a cut off of 1530 hrs (BST) to start your return trek.

Now, to revisit an image posted earlier:

An XUV500 speaks - 9500 km escapade from Kochi to Bhutan-picture1.jpg

This gives an overview. Seen in the snap are the cafeteria, Taksang Gompa, Zangdok Pelri Temple and Ugyen Tsemo. Yes, the highest point where you can trek to is not Taksang Gompa.

On the trail, there is a diversion which leads upwards towards the summit of the hill. There are two temples accessible through here post a more rigorous trek- much venerated for Budhism, but out of the regular tourist route. Zangdok Pelri sits on the opposite ridge of Taksang, across the deep chasm, overlooking Taksang Gompa.
Right above, on the summit of the ridge of Taksang is Ugyen Tsemo. Ugyen refers to Takstang and Tsemo means 'the top' or 'the head'.

A few Points you can keep in mind.
  • Entry fee into the Gompa- Rs 500. Even for Indians.
  • Timings-
    Winter (Oct- March)- 8 AM - 5 PM
    Summer (April- Oct)- 8 AM- 6 PM
    Lunch Break- 1 PM - 2 PM
  • Get a walking stick from the bottom of the trail. You get it on a rent of Rs 50 each. Will be the most fruitful Rs 50 you'd ever spend.
  • Wear light clothing. Half way up the climb, all your sweaters will find its way around your waist and in your hands.
  • Carry water. A must!!!
  • Carry some snacks, sandwiches etc. Yes, Chocolates- instant energy!
  • Nothing is allowed inside the temple. No camera, mobile phones, hand bags or even your walking stick.
  • Start the climb early so that you can do it in your own pace. (Rest and photography included)
  • The pony will go only till the cafeteria. The cafeteria is a midway place where there actually is a cafeteria which serves food, snacks, soft drinks, tea etc. That is just half way through. The Gompa is still some way to go.
  • If you have ventured till there, I strongly urge you to complete the hike till the temple. Mr D's kids, aged 7 and 9 did it with ease (of course with a little coaxing and morale boosting talks). There were old ladies who completed the climb without trouble. Believe me, it's worth it.
  • They will charge you around Rs 600- Rs 900 per person per pony. It will also depend on the number of ponies you take (when you can bargain a better deal) and also the time of the year.
  • The rate of the pony is only one way, for the climb. The return leg, you will have to trek down. Even if you find a guide with his ponies, he won't allow you to get on his pony on the way down as it is a little unsafe.
  • There are enough places to rest enroute.
  • Do not litter in the forest area. There are trash cans positioned at frequent interval distances.
  • Finish off the trek before it gets dark. Believe me, once it gets dark, IT IS SCARY!!!. Keep in mind that the sun sets early and the evening slant rays penetrate much into the thick undergrowth of the trail. No points for guessing that there are no street lights. Don't even think about mobile connectivity.
  • Though it is easier to descend than to climb, be particularly careful on the way back. You might slip and have a 'battle scar' to flaunt for future or you might even develop cramps.
  • We started our trek by 1130. Reached Tiger's nest by 1500 hrs. Started back by 1600 and reached the base point by around 1815. It was twilight by the time we reached back. There were a few people who were behind us and they had a harrowing story to tell.
  • There are toilets available at Cafeteria, the base of the trails and also at the Gompa. IIRC all are on payment basis, Rs 50 I guess.
  • Depending on prevalent weather, carry an umbrella if you deem it necessary. If it rains in between your climb, Good Luck!
  • Once you are back at the base of the trail, please do a round of proper stretching; lest you may wake up next morning discovering new muscles in your body and also with arms & legs functional only to dismal levels of flexibility.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 00:49.
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Old 3rd September 2018, 14:31   #11
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Default Phuentsholing

I am starting to feel a bit relaxed now. The way I have been trying to create sense in a sentence, my vocabulary skills have flexed to its limits. In the world of nuts and bolts, I am already in the levels of a lexicographer now.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I would let those thousand words to speak from now on; while I sip on a tall pitcher- Of soft drinks I meant.

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Tenacious Stare.
Crocodile Zoo- Phuentsholing.

Phuentsholing- Karbandi Monastery

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The monastery is around 5 Kms up hill from Phuentsholing towards Thimphu.

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In case you are staying over at Phuentsholing the day you reach, then plan a visit here close to sunset.
The place gives a wonderful and unique view of the mountains ahead and the plains of the river bed below.
So, sitting in Bhutan, you will be gazing at a river bed in India.

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Junior D trying his hand in a little photography.

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The kids did have a great time indeed. And it is pasted all over their face.

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There's a Kings palace on the backyard of the monastery.
In case you are wondering, that number plate reads- "Bhutan". No numbers.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 12:13.
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Old 6th September 2018, 01:05   #12
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Default In and around Thimphu- 1

Thimphu is the capital city and therefore, the tourism is centred there. Everything that transpires in the country radiates from this clean, quite and beautiful city. Places to visit have already been covered in an earlier post. I will just rush you through the places we visited here.

Tashichcho Dzong A 350 year old Fortress which is the main administrative complex of the country. Entry for foreigners without s guide is not permitted.

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Picture taken from Tashichcho view point which is nearby the Dzong.

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The entry fees is Nu 300/-.

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Junior D kidding around.

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We were here. Customary 'stamp' snap. With our guide- very cool chap.

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The King's palace is just on the backyard. The area around the Dzong is very nicely done up with beautiful spread of grass. The day we visited the dzong, it was the national day and we were fortunate to witness some rituals and abundance of local populace at all places we visited.

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Night view from Tashichcho View Point.

Budhdha Statue. This is a very nice and quaint place to be. Do not miss.

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View of a small part of the city.

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The Budhdha Statue, as seen from a different and distant angle.
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It surely does look over the whole city, like a protector.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 6th September 2018 at 15:58.
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Old 6th September 2018, 01:27   #13
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Default In and Around Thimphu- 2

Changakhang Lhakhang

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Climb to the temple. A few steps. You get a panoramic view from the top. Well worth the climb- for the view and also the unique temple in itself.

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View from top.

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The butter lamp room.

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Another view from top.

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Junior Ds with two local friends.

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A few snaps which didn't fit in anywhere else

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The country I guess is obsessed with making homes on inaccessible and adventurous places.

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"And the winner of the best hairstyle is..."

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Welcome to Thimphu- Welcomed by the King and Queen themselves.
In most public images, the King always appears with the Queen and the Prince. Hardly did I see any images which did not portray a family portrait.

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The main bazaar in Thimphu. Right in the middle of the city, this is hard to miss. It is hard not to notice the cleanliness, parking, traffic sense and discipline.

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Mr D's family with a few local friends. When Senior and junior Ds were struggling to make sense of the paraphernalia of their National Dress, they happily obliged to help. The very kind hearted people they were, they offered us refreshments and even food; which Mr D politely refused.
However, this snap will be a long lasting memory.


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Last edited by aah78 : 8th September 2018 at 20:32. Reason: Image inserted in-line.
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Old 6th September 2018, 02:13   #14
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Default Dochu La and Chele La

Dochu La. Enroute from Thimphu to Punakha. With 108 beautiful chortens, this place sits atop the hill with a panoramic view of the valleys.

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Dochu La is popular amongst tourists as it offers 360 degree panoramic view. Also, anyone passing from Thimphu to Punakha cannot miss this place.

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Enroute Dochu La.

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When we visited, there was a viva exam going on of tourist guides.
This was after their written exam clearance. Mr D chatted up with one of the candidates and gathered some tit bits about their procedures.
Boy, aren't they serious about their stuff!! The examiner taking the oral exam is very particular about what they know about the history, lineage and culture of the country.
I have never seen such an exam conducted in India for tourist guides!

Chele La

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Chele La is the highest pass of Bhutan separating the valleys of Ha and Paro.

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Yaks definitely will get right of way.

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Tachogang Lhakhang suspension bridge, enroute to Paro from Thimphu.

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Oh, by the way, Paro Dzong. I almost forgot!!!

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Old 6th September 2018, 18:56   #15
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Default Punakha Dzong and Suspension Bridge

Punakha Dzong

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The Dzong is a place of astounding natural beauty. You can laze around for hours here.

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If you are not so spiritually inclined, you can do away with visiting the sanctum sanctorum of the temple within the Dzong. However, the remaining part of the Dzong is a must visit if you visit Punakha.

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Me with the vibrant colour spread of Punakha Dzong.

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The famous suspension bridge behind the Dzong. There are two access routes to the bridge. One is through from behind the Dzong and the other is a small drive around from the parking lot.
On both routes, you will have to walk for around ten to fifteen minutes to reach the bridge. Gentle walk and well worth it.

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The room with a view!

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The view from the hotel at which we stayed at Punakha, over looking a beautiful valley.

Last edited by dhanushmenon : 8th September 2018 at 13:41.
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