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Old 29th June 2019, 13:16   #1
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Default An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport

Disclaimer: This travelogue is going to be a long one to read. Not the regular type of travelogue to Bhutan one would have heard or read. Credits to Ford EcoSport Owners Groups on WhatsApp, Bhpians SamFromIndia and Samba for the timely inputs throughout my drive. I'm still an amateur in Travelogues.

Most of them would plan for a vacation a fortnight or a month prior to their departure. In our house, the planning is done overnight. Usually, we talk about a place during dinner and the next morning, we start our journey (sometimes almost immediately when we decide to go on a trip).

Mom wanted to travel to a cold place to take a break from the Bangalore heat and I wanted to travel to a new place which would give a unique experience.

Since we have been to almost all hill stations in South India, I told Mom "We'll go to Bhutan by Car". Dad was shocked and said, " Are you crazy?". Mom and I gave one answer, "No matter what, We're leaving to Bhutan by car only." Then after a conversation with mom, dad agrees to come along with us and apply for leave through an e-mail.

The car was recently serviced at PPS Ford and the wheel alignment was done the previous night before the trip day. We did not carry a puncture repair kit, air pump or a dashcam too. Though I had renewed my insurance the night before starting our trip along with a geographical extension because my insurance was valid till 17 April 2019.

The trip was from April 11 to April 22, 2019, and each day was a different experience for all of us since we were driving quite far for the first time. All our stays were booked online while reaching a particular town for the day or we would search in the town itself in person no matter what time of the day it was.

Before I begin with the day-to-day experience, A teaser pic:

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190417_163215.jpg

Day 1: Marathon Drive (11-04-19)
Day 2: Odisha Darshan (12-04-19)
Day 3: Rustic Bengal (13-04-19)
Day 4: Ram Navami Effect (14-04-19)
Day 5: Hello Bhutan (15-04-19)
Day 6: Tiger's Nest (16-04-19)
Day 7: Drive Higher (17-04-19)
Day 8: Blue Baby's 1st Birthday (18-04-19)
Day 9: Losing and Finding our way back (19-04-19)
Day 10: Back to South India (20-04-19)
Day 11: Meeting Dad's Old friends (21-04-19)
Day 12: Homecoming (22-04-19)


For those who are interested in the total trip cost break-up and routes, head to the post after Day 12. Those who intend to travel to Bhutan the best time to travel is from March to May (especially bikers). Monsoon and winter the weather is very unpredictable in Bhutan and they might not allow bikes.

Last edited by jithin23 : 25th July 2019 at 00:13.
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Old 29th June 2019, 14:38   #2
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Default re: An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport

Day 1: Marathon Drive

Places: Bangalore-Srikakulam
Distance: 1150 Kms
Time taken(including all stops):16-17 hours

The tank was filled with Diesel, the sun was yet to rise and excitements soar that this is our first foreign trip that too in a car. The boot was loaded to the brim and we start off from our home by 5.30 AM.

Car Loaded to the brim
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_044832.jpg

Beast ready to soar heights.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_045253.jpg

Trip odo reset after refuel
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Early Morning traffic
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We had stopped in Highway Star, Kolar for a quick bio break and then proceeded further towards Chittoor and stopped for breakfast in Chittoor by 8 AM. In the meanwhile, I get a message from EcoSquads that Bhutan gates are open only on 15th April and 19th April due to elections in the Indian side of the border. I decided to take the risk and did not change the destination.

The first twist in the plot
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Beautiful Sunrise near Kolar
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At Highway Star
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Post breakfast, we moved towards the Golden Quadrilateral and reached Naidupeta by 10.30 AM. Till Tirupati, 4-lane road widening work was going on. Form Naidupeta, the roads were smooth and we were gliding past small towns and the lack of traffic due to elections in AP made it easier for us to drive further in less time. A milestone achieved, Blue Baby had completed its 1st 10000km on this road.

Somewhere near Ongole
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An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_1222121.jpg

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_1222001.jpg

The much revered N5 Food Plaza
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By 2 PM we reach Vijayawada and start searching for good restaurants for lunch. Due to elections, none of the restaurants was open except for this small one on the highway. Nevertheless, the food was too good.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_153446.jpg

Our first refill for the car was done near this small hotel itself. The coastal Andhra roads(especially the interior roads) are very scenic and the driving was a pleasure till sunset. After crossing Rajahmundry, the truck traffic was slowly increasing and by 9 PM we reached Vizag. I decided to stop in Vizag itself but mom got some extra josh and said let's go till Srikakulam and call it a day.

Coastal Andhra Roads
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_160535.jpg


An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190411_234448.jpg

I had booked an Oyo in Srikakulam thinking that the hotel would be in the town. Only after confirmed booking, Oyo shows the location that the property 40Km away from Srikakulam. This was a bummer from Oyo since they did not give me the right location and I was stranded and it was a priority to find a good hotel to crash. So decided to cancel the booking with Oyo and start searching randomly in person. After enquiring with a few locals near the city centre, they suggested us to go to Hotel Vijetha. We went there and took an AC room and crashed for the night. The room was average at best.

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_065653.jpg

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Old 29th June 2019, 16:14   #3
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Day 2: Odisha Darshan

Places: Srikakulam-Chilka-Puri-Konark-Balasore
Distance: 600 Km
Time taken: 15 hours

The first day was fun with a little bit of anxiety at the end of the day due to the hotel booking goofing up.
The second day started with a simple breakfast a little away from Srikakulam(again a small shack but amazing taste) and within a couple of hours, We're in Odisha. There's a stark contrast in the development of Andhra and Odisha. Odisha has come a long way in terms of development but still has plenty more room to become fully developed.

Distance Driven So Far
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_070835.jpg

The Simple breakfast(I don't eat Idlis but this was good and fluffy)
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Changing Landscapes
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Welcome to Odisha board was too mainstream, so I decided to put this.
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A glimpse of Chilka(there's much more than what meets the eye)
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By 10.30 AM we reach the eastern ghats where we can see The Chilka lake and trains passing as small toys beside the saltwater lake. The Second fill-up is done after crossing these ghats and we take a detour towards Puri. The roads are far from being levelled or tarred on this countryside road. However, the surrounding landscape makes up for it. An interesting observation is that, in this part of the country, the ambulances used are TATA Sumos and Boleros. It takes us almost 2 hours to reach Puri from this detour and by lunchtime, we're in Puri.

Chilka Lake ft. Blue Baby(Ford EcoSport)
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_1036571.jpg

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_1038491.jpg

The Countryside roads are always good for the eyes
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Puri was all guns blazing with its sweltering heat at 42 deg. Celsius. Trust me, my feet were burning and we had to walk quite a bit from the parking to the Jagannath temple. I could not click pictures since I was told that cameras and mobiles are not allowed. The temple is nice but the unruly crowd and dirty surroundings would not want one visiting Puri again another time.

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_130133.jpg

Blue Baby in full Glow
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Your's Truly
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By 2.30 PM we were driving on the Puri-Konark marine drive and it was a well-maintained road with no traffic at all. We ate lunch near the Konark Sun Temple. We ate fish meals in Odia style and the food was amazing! I found Odia cuisine to be tastier than Andhra cuisine.

The architecture of the Sun Temple is comparable to the likes of Hampi (Hampi is on a different level though) but the ASI is trying its best to preserve the remaining ruins of this architectural marvel. This temple has a crazy level of attention to detail to such an extent that the pictures don't do justice and it has to be experienced by seeing it directly. Each and every element of The Sun Temple is intricately designed and each structure has its own significance.

One unpleasant incident was that there are a few touts who claim parking charges repeatedly even though we have paid parking charges and received a receipt for the same. Beware of such people and it's better not to get into a tussle with these people. More law enforcement is required in the interest of tourists. We were stopped twice for election checking and on both occasions, I get off the car and say I'm travelling from Bangalore to Bhutan. The cops are amused and let us go immediately.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190412_153153_hdr1.jpg

The ubiquitous "Wheel" of Konark
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After seeing the Sun Temple, we thought of heading towards Kolkata via Cuttack, Balasore and reach Kolkata by midnight but the weather had its own surprise. We crossed Cuttack after 6 PM and by the time we reached Balasore around 9 PM, there were strong winds accompanied by rain which almost swayed our car from one side to another. So, I started to drive on the service road to find for a hotel to stay for the night and we decided to stop for dinner as well. To our luck, the hotel was a new hotel which was located atop of a shopping complex and the rooms were neat and very reasonable.

The stay for the night.
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Average distance and mileage per tankful
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-imgonlinecomuatwotoone4xswrd6vfrx.jpg

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Old 23rd July 2019, 12:12   #4
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Day 3: Rustic Bengal

Places: Balasore-Kolkata-Malda
Distance Travelled: 600 Kms
Time Taken: 19 hours

We wake up early by 5 and wait for the hotel guy to open the gates because in this part of the country sometimes people run away without paying their hotel bill so the gate remains locked till 6 AM. We start off our drive towards a friend's place in Garia, Kolkata by 6.15 AM.

The hotel in a shopping complex
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Sunrise and highway drives are a treat to the eyes!
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The much-revered Sync 3 and it's an indispensable part of the EcoSport
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Blue and Green
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The roads from Balasore to Kharagpur were wide and well-paved such that we could reach silly speeds in no time and the spare traffic made things easier. From Kharagpur, one needs to turn right to Kolkata or continue straight towards Durgapur for Siliguri. Since I had to meet a friend, we went towards Kolkata.

Somewhere near Kharagpur
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We wanted to stop for breakfast near Kolaghat and to our bad luck the restaurants were full and we couldn't find a place to eat breakfast. So we moved further towards Kolkata via Santragachi and Kona Expressway.
After crossing the 2nd Hoogly bridge the nightmare awaits. There's one traffic light near Satragachi junction before getting on the bridge that is parallel to Howrah bridge, that signal will make you wait for half an hour to 45 minutes which was very frustrating. Driving in Calcutta requires a lot of patience because people will try to overtake you from all possible gaps and they start honking way too much. This includes even cars and buses unlike in Bangalore, most of the bike guys filter through gaps.

After a brief brunch and some route guidance at my friend's place, we were set to leave towards Siliguri and we started late afternoon from Garia.right outside the apartment was the first damage done to my car ever. I had grazed near a huge boulder whilst parking and the plastic bumper got a small hole through it. Dad was upset and told that we'll go back home and I'm like .Then I comfort my dad by telling him that in big trips, these small bruises are common.

Biswa Bengal Circle
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Only damage till date (see the black bumper)
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NH-2
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We exit Kolkata via Dum Dum airport road towards Dakineshwar and Burdwan. The real challenge of the drive starts after Kolkata and Kolkata-Siliguri route will test your mental strength big time. From here, things will be different, narrower roads, unknown places, unfamiliar faces and unknown language to save ourselves if the need arises. By 3 PM, we had to tank up and we had stopped at a COCO on NH 2. By 5 PM we are into interior Bengal where farmlands and greenery are seen in abundance and when out of nowhere Gmaps takes us into this pic below in Bolpur

When Gmaps goofs up.
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This sight worried us about the sorry conditions of the villages in our country.
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Rustic Beauty
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As we started travelling further from Bolpur and the sun setting down, my parents started to get worried about seeing the people and the surroundings thinking that we would be mugged or robbed. Luckily bhpian SamFromIndia had pinged me the key bhpians of Kolkata and I happened to get in contact with Samba. To our luck, the mobile network was strong and Samba happened to talk to us over the phone about the road conditions further and told us not to worry about the surroundings and its normal. My parents were relieved after hearing his conversation with me and Samba had told us not to go via Rampurhat, instead go via Khargram, Morgram and on Farakka highway to reach Malda.

The roads that petrified my parents
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By 11 PM, we reached Farakka and this is where all hell breaks loose. The truck traffic gets maddening and is stopped for hours or days. Since we were unaware of this, we got stuck in a jam in the midst of the trucks. Then Samba had called us and told us that we can go on the wrong side from Farakka onwards and this got confirmed when a cop told us to go on the wrong side of the road. Samba had told us to check-in at Golden park but the hotel guys were reluctant to book rooms ver phone because Mamta Banerjee was arriving at the hotel the next day. Meanwhile, we were searching for other places to stay in Malda and it wasn't good at all. So we ended up requesting the Golden Park hotel staff in person at midnight and we assured them that we will leave by 7.30 A.M and Voila, we got our room keys by 1 A.M. Still, My parents and sister were unable to digest the shock of unhygienic conditions in Malda town.

Those who are travelling from the South, be prepared for such sights and good washrooms or places like A2B or Mc'donalds won't be available on such stretches and don't get petrified by the surroundings. You might find hardly any decent and hygienic places to eat itself. So stock up snacks and water from a big town or city itself (ideally at Kharagpur/Kolkata/Burdwan/Durgapur).

Last edited by Aditya : 27th July 2019 at 08:43. Reason: Fixed on request.
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Old 23rd July 2019, 13:42   #5
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Day 4: Ram Navami Effect

Places: Malda-Siliguri
Distance: 280 Kms
Time Taken: 9 hours

Before we start off, Dad wanted to was the car since it was very dirty. Little did he know there was something more than this to come by the end of the day. We tip the watchman to was the car and we started off towards Siliguri.

First wash in the trip
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Never did I imagine that I will take an entire day to cover 280 Kms. All credits to the ardent devotees of Lord Rama and the truck jams who took over to the streets and highways. Ram Navami celebrated on a large scale here and we were stuck between a myriad of trucks yet again until a saviour( A North Bengal bus) leads us from the treachery( still e takes us whatever non-existent roads are present). We follow the bus diligently until we landed in Bihar on a highway which was packed with stationary trucks on either side with just enough space to get our vehicle above the median.

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_095954.jpg

The Saviour Bus
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Nice bamboo bushes
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Our car almost got stuck in the slush and Dad reversed the car just in time to avoid being stuck. Guess what would have happened next? As I told earlier, something more was coming later and the car gets dirty and coated with slush and bonus: Mom and I also got a slush bath.

After a couple of hours, the clean car gets dirty!
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_121901.jpg

After the Slush bath, the locals offered us a small space and water to freshen ourselves up and stopped for lunch after Kishanganj. On either side of the highway, there are mini trucks laden with people and speakers emitting out Bhojpuri songs. All these people are so excited that they will do any sort of ruckus and accompanying these mini trucks are commuter bikes and people shouting "Jai Shree Ram". I haven't witnessed something on such a grand scale in Bangalore. Then we strike a conversation with a few bikers heading towards Sikkim from Hyderabad. A cop walks towards me after noticing the car. He says " Be cautious in Islampur as a lot of violence takes place during festivals, drive with caution". As soon as he told us this, he went to stop other cars after we crossed the barricade.

Here the fun starts. On reaching Islampur, we run around the town in circles only to realize that we cannot proceed unless the festival is over. What was running in my mind was somehow I have to make it to Bhutan the next morning no matter what. Then I come up with an idea that let dad drive and I will dance my way out of the town by saying "Jai Shree Ram" and escort my car from the front. Trust me, throughout the town, I danced my way out along with the crowd and we were back on the highway by 2 P.M. I wish I had a dashcam in my car which could record those moments!

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_135924.jpg


Then I update the Bhpians about my whereabouts and we started reaching near Bagdogra by 3.30 P.M. The rains and the tea gardens on either side were so mesmerizing to see. In half an hour, I get a call from my friend's dad that he has arranged us for a stay in Siliguri. In an hour's time, we reach the place where my friend's dad had told us to and freshened up for a while and after that started washing the car again!

An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_142921.jpg

Quite close to the North East.
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Tea Garden in Plains is for the first time I'm witnessing.
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An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_144537.jpg

We told the cook to pack extra food since we know we will hardly find a good restaurant on our way tomorrow and we had experienced it first-hand yesterday. after dinner and some talk with my friend's dad, I started booking the hotels in Bhutan(Paro and Thimphu) on booking.com and then take a print out so that to get the permit at the Bhutan border. I thought of buying some woollens for the mountains, but the shops were closed on account of Ram Navami and I called it a night after the refuel and small shopping search.

What a location to be in away from home!
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190414_145258.jpg

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Old 23rd July 2019, 15:22   #6
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Day 5: Hello Bhutan

Places: Siliguri-Phuentsholing(via MalBazaar, Hasimara, Jaigaon)-Paro
Distance: 300 Kms
Time Taken: 14 hours(including immigration formalities)

After 4 days of driving, we are going to finally make it to our First abroad trip ever and that too in our own car makes the feeling so special. But, there's one caveat: If we do not finish the formalities by today (15 Apr) noon (by 3 PM) then we won't be allowed till 18 May post 6 PM due to elections being held in India. This was doable since we made up our minds to enter Bhutan by today and we entered the border by 9.30 AM(IST).

Siliguri's Big Ben
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Gateway road to enter the mountains and North East
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An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190415_063221.jpg

Lush greenery
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Just a few km before the border
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From Siliguri onwards, the drive is so scenic that the air of the mountains and the Teesta river starts welcoming you dotted along with Army personnel and of course a few Bhutanese vehicles here and there. As we reach Jaigon, I stop the car aside and search for a mobile shop so that I can take my Passport size photos for the immigration formalities. So now there's an idea of how unplanned, spontaneous and adventurous the trip went by so far. Well, more to come as we move on further.

Bye-Bye India for a few days
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Main Border Gate
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Second Gate
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Immigration Office (parking is next to the immigration office behind hotel Druk)
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190415_1021461.jpg

All Indian cars must enter through Gate no.2 at the borders and the traffic rules are to be followed very seriously once you're across the Indian border. There will be no leniency by the cops or administration just because we are foreigners.
Note: Bhutan Immigration office is open only on weekdays.

A few guidelines to be followed while in Bhutan:

1. Do wear full-sleeved clothes (men, women and kids) while you are entering any Bhutanese Government building or a Dzong(temple). I learnt it the hard way.
2. Ask the police, if you don't know something(be it traffic rules or parking) but please DO NOT break any rule as this will make the cops very annoyed.
3. Respect the law of the land and the mountains. speed limit must be maintained at 50Kmph on highways( this is very useful for the drastic climate changes and sudden rise in altitude of the roads, thus ensuring no fatigue for the driver and passengers as well as being safe) and 30 Kmph inside cities and No honking in town areas unnecessarily.
4.No smoking and strictly No drugs in Bhutan. However, if you want to smoke, ask the hotel reception about where to smoke, there are designated spots to smoke, but not in public.
5. Ask the person's permission before you want to click a picture with them (even if it is a child).
6. It is not necessary to change the currency but please do carry a lot of cash in hand with you since Indian debit cards might not work in Bhutan (I did change the currency for my own gratification).
7. Do book hotels near prominent places and not in remote locations.
8. Download offline Google maps (Very Important since mobile data does not work properly).
9. Give way to upcoming vehicles and use indicators liberally. when the indicator blinks left, it means that you can overtake. When the indicator blinks right, this means that you are not allowed to overtake.
10. Drones are not allowed unless you get special permission from the competent authority in Bhutan


Procedure to get Bhutanese Permit( For Indians and Bangladeshis):

1. Passport/Voter ID( original and 2 copies)
2. 2 Passport Size Photos
3. Trip Itinerary( can be handwritten too)
4. Confirmed Hotel Bookings(only a formality but it is a must)
5. Application Form

For the Vehicle Permit:
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190415_135350.jpg

Since Bhutanese are very punctual, you need to be half an hour prior in whatever you need to do( be it permits, food, taxi,etc.) because Bhutanese work slow and their time is half-hour ahead of ours(i.e GMT 6 and IST is GMT 5.30 hours). Most of the tourist spots close by 5 PM and open post 9 AM. Car permits cost Rs.700 per week and the permit is issued on per week basis only.

We start sending Mom and Sister to stand in line for the immigration and Dad and I start filling the forms and keeping the documents in order(Passport helps to save a lot of time). this process takes about 2 hours as there are 2 layers of approval. One is to verify your itinerary, hotel bookings and the other to get he approval seal. Then go inside counter 1 there's another door and get the documents sealed and signed. Once all these are done, you need to stand in any one of the counters and get the permit seal. There will be a lot of agents in line, if you're on your own, you can request the agents to let you in front.
Solo travellers are not encouraged, however, you can find fellow bikers or travellers and merge in as one group.

The Immigration Office interior
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Do remember that permit will be issued only for Thimpu and Paro for 7 days (can be used for CheleLa) in P'ling. If you need to go beyond Thimphu, you need to apply for an extension permit in Thimphu.

Car Permit (Only 1 person is allowed to drive)
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The RSTA building(same building for bus stand too)
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Once, this is done you need to drive straight to the RSTA because they are open only up to 3 PM post which you have to wait till the next day.
In the RSTA, you need to first pay the application fees of a nominal amount and then need to get Insurance(in case if you don't have a geographical extension). If all the documents are in place, submit it to the officer in charge and do not pester him/her (they get very annoyed if we keep peeping or asking them when we'll get our permits). For leased vehicles, company/employer permission is needed(not so sure about this) and for Zoomcars, an authorization from Zoomcar management is required. After obtaining the permits, I start my first drive abroad and Welcome to Bhutan.

The Bridge gives a feeling like Mini Korea
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By the time, we started off to Paro, it was about 3.30 PM and the sun sets very early in Bhutan say by 5.30 PM. There are two places where all must stop for immigration stamp. One in Rinchending(5km from Phunthesonling) and the other in Chukha(82 Km from Rincehnding).

Beautiful Tarmac maintained by the Army
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Most of the things are expensive in Bhutan, but me being me, I try to find the best value for money wherever I travel to. So I stop in small home side restaurants rather than fancy big ones and decent hotels to crash for the night.

Somewhere near Gedu, a thick blanket of fog appears at the road and we can hardly see the road right ahead of my car. Within a span of the 10 minutes, the fog disappears and the weather gets very cold. As I was driving further and further, it was getting darker and I could manage to drive with ease in the mountains and it's the first time I'm driving in the Himalayas. The stock projectors and fogs did a brilliant job of illuminating the winding roads. Great work Ford!

Cloudplays
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The Tri-junction
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By 7.30 PM, we reach the junction towards Paro and Thimphu and we headed towards Paro. We were greeted into Paro by the Majestic sight of the Paro Dzong lit up, closed airport and empty streets by 8.30 PM.

The Majestic Paro Dzong
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Now, the Shock of our lives is that the hotel guy does not pick our phone calls(mobile signal is not so strong in Bhutan even after using Tashicell). So, we were tensed and ended up sitting at the bridge beside the river. Luckily after 10 minutes, a tourist guide had just arrived with his guests and he had guided us to a beautiful hotel just off Paro though he was reluctant to tell us initially.

We check-in at the place which the guide had referred to and the hotel guys are shocked that how come we know this place and the price we got the room for 4 was a steal! This place was the best place we've stayed on our entire trip.

The room for the night
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190415_214048.jpg

Last edited by jithin23 : 24th July 2019 at 23:55. Reason: punctuation
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Day 6: Tiger's Nest

Steps walked: Didn't count at all
Distance driven: 20 Kms
Time period: 1 day

Tiger's place is a default place to go when one is in Bhutan and many of them give it a miss due to the steep terrain to trek. I love to trek and why would I miss out on the most sought after place to visit in Bhutan.

A heads-up on Tiger's nest

Tiger's Nest or Paro Taktsang is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world. There are 8 temples inside Tiger's nest and only 6 temples are accessible to tourists. There are intricate depictions of human and animal life for which a guide is essential to explain without which we will not understand.
There are several butter lamps lit inside the temple and devotees(tourists) can also light a few butter lamps at a nominal cost. I will not be elaborating on the history of Tiger's Nest since many would have read about the history of Tiger's nest as it is present in previous travelogues in Team-BHP or some of you would have googled it.

Before heading to Tiger's Nest:

1. Make sure your health permits you to climb up. If you have breathing or knee issues, please do not risk your life and give the place a miss. Nothing is more valuable than your life. Even though mules are there to carry you that's only for 50% of the distance and rest of the distance and return must be walked by foot. Take the walking stick if you're going by foot, it certainly helps.
2. Carry water, mint and some dry fruits, it helps. Medicines if you require to.
3. Get the tickets before 1 PM else you are not allowed to climb to Tiger's Nest. Ticket counter opens at 7 AM and there is a 50% discount if you show a valid student ID card (school or college ID and this is applicable across all tourist places in Bhutan).
4. Take your time to climb the peak and do not plan of going to any other place for the day.

I wake up fresh and active and wait for the others to get ready. Meanwhile, I discover a spot to sit beside the river right opposite my hotel and click a few pictures.

Time for some picture spam pics:

Aww, What a cutie.
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The essentials for a trip(happiness too of course!)
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Blue Baby in Bhutan
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Empty roads
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The "spot" which I referred to earlier
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Family and the mighty Ford! without which the trip would not have happened
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Bikes all the way from home are a happy sight
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We reach the parking lot of Tiger's Nest by 8 AM and we negotiated with the mule agents so that my parents and sister can take the mule and I preferred to trek. I start at 8.30 AM and reach halfway by 9.45 AM. Parents were waiting for me to climb and We reached The Tiger's Nest by 11.30 AM after taking several breaks between the trek. What's worth the arduous trek are breathtaking views.

A twist happens on reaching the entrance: I was wearing a 3/4th pant and hence was not allowed into the sanctum. So, I decided to wait for my parents to return after seeing the temples and I can exchange clothes with Dad. The ordeal did not end here. The policeman was still not willing to let me in saying that there's no guide and in that tension, I showed my sister's student ticket. The cop starts talking rudely and after that, I decided not to see the temple at all, but a miracle happened. Out of nowhere a couple of Bhutanese guides apologized to me profusely for causing inconvenience to me and took me into the Tiger's Nest and guided me through the visit inside Tiger's Nest. Now, you can relate to the first point about being in Bhutan.

One of the prayer wheels are housed in here
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Trek up!
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The family at the middle of the trek/ mule climb
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Tiger's Nest!
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Bird's eye view of Paro valley
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freshwater to drink
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After all this, we started descending from Tiger's Nest and we wished that it did not rain on our way back. The descent was slightly tricky and by the time we reached our car it was 3.30 PM and we headed straight to the hotel to freshen up and give our body some rest. We had lunch in the same hotel where we stayed. The food we had was Ema Datshi(Chili Cheese gravy), Kewa Datshi (potato Cheese gravy) and rice for lunch. Every food item in Bhutan is made fresh and they take about 15-30 mins to make your meal.
Most of the Bhutanese prefer eating more meat items and red meat for the cold climatic conditions.
A tourist bus had arrived by the time our lunch had arrived and the tourists were Indians. As usual, they started asking us how we drove all the way from Karnataka and a few other questions like how many days, budget and the likes.

From L to R: Bhutanese rice, Kewa Datshi, Ema Datshi
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Beautiful Cherry blossoms, you'll find them in most of Bhutan.
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Paradise!
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By evening, we wanted to explore Paro town and boy, everything including souvenir is very, very expensive in the main street of Paro (after Paro Dzong). Parking places are provided and one is expected to park in the parking lines only. After some exploring, we went near Paro Dzong bridge to sit beside the river and feel the calmness of the place. Post which we went back to the same hotel where we stayed previously and called it a night. Today, we get a bigger 4-bed room for the same cost what we had paid previously.

More pics:

Pine Forest
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Furry Friend leading the way for Ford!
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The main shopping street in Paro
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Some car stats
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Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 25th July 2019 at 00:33. Reason: Thanks for sharing. Minor Typo corrected.
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Day 7: Drive Higher

Places: Paro-CheleLa-Thimphu
Distance: 120 Kms
Time taken: 11 hours

After visiting Tiger's nest, we wanted to go to the highest peak in Bhutan, Chele La. This is on the way to Haa valley and the roads are narrow. We check out from the hotel and start climbing up towards Chele La.

On the way to Chele La, we can see a bird's eye view of the airport and we happened to see a flight take-off (only 4-5 flights in a day). As we drive higher and higher, the road gets smaller and smaller. After 20 Kms Snow can be seen in patches and Yak can be seen grazing nearby.

Paro Airport Runway
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Yak
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We reach Chele La by 9.15 AM and started to see what's around. One can find prayer flags as well as snowy peaks at a distance. Right next to the signboard, there was a camper truck which was selling souvenir and food. The food (Noodles and momos) served was delicious and piping hot. We picked up a few Souvenir as well and started our descent by 9.55 AM as the weather was in the lower single digits and I had no sweater.

The Man and the machine
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On our way back, the roads were being asphalted by The Army and this took about an hour to set. In the meanwhile, I started having a casual conversation with the Army Officer. Once the roads were asphalted, we went into a supermarket at Paro and coincidentally found a restaurant within the Supermarket. The lunch for the day was Bathup (looks like chappati in a soup).

Bathup
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Restaurant within a supermaket
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Post lunch, we went to see the Paro Dzong and again, a guide is recommended to see and understand the murals in the dzong. This took about an hour and after which we proceeded towards Thimphu. We decided to give the Paro Museum a miss due to time constraints. By 5 PM, we reach Thimphu and immediately went to visit the National Chorten. The ambience of the Chorten was so good that this place felt like a paradise.

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View from Paro Dzong
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Interior of Paro Dzong
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Bhutanese Flag
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A small heads up on the Bhutanese flag: The dragon is the most prominent part of the flag and is called as Druk in Dzongkha. The yellow part signifies The King's power and the red part signifies the ministerial power.

The Guard tower
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Thimphu starts
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Memorial Chorten
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surroundings of memorial chorten
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Such scary creature drawings are common across most of the buildings in Bhutan
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There is a small canteen right above the car parking near the Chorten and I remember we enjoyed munching on our snacks in that canteen (I don't remember the dish names though).

Bhutanese version of samosa, bonda and dosa!
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Again, our hotel room booked via booking couldn't be found and we went in search of the resort name that our previous stay owner had told us. This search for the resort was the scariest moment ever in the trip. We are negotiating a steep ghat track post-sunset without any guard rails and halfway through, my dad could not withstand the shock and got Chest pain. I wanted to enquire with someone and to our surpise, there were a bunch of stray dogs ready to attack us. Thankfully, we got spared and we decided to go back to Thimphu and search in the city itself. After searching for another hour, we found Amma's suites and he had given us 50% off on the room rent. So we decided to stay here and crash for the night.

The scary road (Right opp Buddha point)
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190417_193557_hht.jpg

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Day 8: Blue Baby's 1st Birthday

Places: Thimphu-Siliguri
Time took: 16 hours
Distance: 300 Kms

Today was our last day in Bhutan and we were feeling sad that we are leaving such a peaceful country. We started off to discover Thimphu by going to the Royal Takin Reserve. On our way towards the reserve, there was a steep gradient and I have not driven in rush hour hill traffic and the car stalled right in the middle of the hill. We asked a taxi person to help us out. He offered us help and we thought of seeing the other places in Thimphu in his taxi itself rather than waste time by searching for directions because we had to reach Siliguri by night. He happily agreed to it and before that, we wanted to fill our tummies and no guesses for it. We found another canteen near where our car was parked. The canteen is frequented by government officials and the taste was amazing. Today we tried momos and ramyon(Korean noodles, and the Bhutanese like Korean products. More on their cars later).

The taxi driver was friendly and he was telling us about the benefits Bhutan government offers them, and by the time we were done with our conversation, we had reached The Takin Reserve.

The hotel we stayed
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Traffic police doing his duty diligently.
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The canteen where we ate breakfast
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Intricate designs everywhere!
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Fancy car wash behind the hotel
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The Takin reserve entrance
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The Takin
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This looks like a deer
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The Takin looks like a sheep with a goat's head. It is endemic to the eastern Himalayan region and worth a visit to this place.

The next place we head to is the viewpoint of Thimphu. The viewpoint spot was crazy but on the whole, I liked Paro better than Thimphu. Paro was more quaint and Thimphu is more commercialized than Paro. We spend some time clicking pictures over here and then we head towards Buddha Point. We could get a glimpse of the Taschchio Dzong(Bhutan's main government and administrative office) but the public is allowed inside the Dzong only in the evenings on weekdays(5.30 PM-6.30PM) and on Saturday from 9.30-5.30. We decided to give Simply Bhutan a miss because we had to cross the border by sunset.

Thimphu viewpoint
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Taschchio Dzong
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Buddha Point
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At Buddha Point, there's a huge statue of Buddha and one can see a bird's eye view of Thimphu City and the peaks surrounding it. Inside the Buddha Statue, there are murals and smaller Buddha statues. Gives a very good vibe though. There's a place where Dalai Lama visits at times near the Buddha. There was a lot of touristy crowd out of which the majority were Indians.

Panorama of Buddha Point
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By noon, we were near the archery stadium and we were witnessing an archery tournament. The targets are quite far and the Bhutanese are masters at it since Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. They have a keen interest in football as well. Once the tournament concluded, we bid adieu to our taxi driver and head straight to Ford showroom to get a proof of entry that we have come to Bhutan by our car as well as to get a general check-up of the car. Before heading to Ford showroom we had shopped for some souvenir as well.

Archery stadium
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This is the place to get souvenirs(near the Indian embassy Nehru- Wangchuk building)
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The Dragon souvenir going wth Dragon's sibling(TDCi)
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Standing proud
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Ford and our Family! (the showroom manager is to my right)
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What better way to celebrate the car's first birthday. Celebrate it 3000Kms away from our home and that too in a foreign land. After some brief conversation with the manager, he had agreed to give a letter of appreciation and acknowledge the same to Ford India.
The Ford showroom manager obliged for some pictures as well. After a brief lunch session, it was time to leave Thimphu and head home. Punakha and DochuLa will be visited next time I thought to myself and I started driving towards Punthesonling.

What a drive!
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A tiny waterfall beside the road
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The surroundings which made me ponder on how I managed to drive
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fogged up
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As I was driving further, only then I started wondering to myself how did I drive all the way to Paro that night by seeing the landscape on either side. We happened to witness a landslide on the opposite mountain from the road we're on. We had stopped to pick up some green apples for the journey ahead. By the time we crossed Gedu, it starts getting colder and again the Fog was so bad that I had to stop the car for a while for a cup of tea and then proceed gingerly. On our way back, we had to get the exit stamp as well at the same checkpoints (Chukha and Rinchending) I had mentioned earlier for us and the car. We reached the border gate by 6.30 PM and there was a lot of traffic at the gate. So, I decided to refuel in Bhutan itself till the traffic settles down. We were back into India by 7 PM (IST) and the difference in the surroundings as soon as you cross the border varies from clean and well-managed surroundings in the Bhutan side vs unclean and ill-managed surroundings on our side. Also, back to our wrong side driving in this part of India.

Diesel is quite cheap in Bhutan
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last stop and first and last tank up in Bhutan. This guy drinks less though.
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From Hasimara, I was tired and gave the wheel to dad and I slept behind. We tried searching for a good restaurant on the way near Mal Bazaar but we couldn't find one. Guess what we did? We stopped at a CRPF camp and had chapati dal with the CRPF troops. Do not reveal too much information about your whereabouts to them as they tend to criticize at times (Understandable, since they work away from their families and hometowns and struggle for our safety).

Just before reaching Siliguri, some Army personnel stop the car and ask us to prove our identity and show what we've got. after the formalities, The Armymen had asked my parents why are we travelling so late at night ( around 10.30 PM) in this route and says it's not very to travel at odd hours in this route. later, they told us to drive carefully and within half an hour, we reach Panitanki Junction. You know the drill, search for hotels personally and if none matches, book an Oyo. I had checked Oyo first but it was too expensive or quite away from the city. But after some more search, we found one just at the city periphery and call it a night after confirming our booking with the property over the phone because we did not want to run around in circles at midnight.

Last edited by jithin23 : 24th July 2019 at 23:54.
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Some Interesting bits about Bhutan and its car scene

  • Maruti's rule the roost in our neighbourhood as well. Common cars are WagonR, Celerio, Alto, Swift and Brezza.
  • Toyota comes in second with Rush, Land Cruiser, Hi-Ace and some pickups and minibuses.
  • Hyundai & Kia being third is present with Creta, luxury vans and other cars like the Veloster. I feel the cars HMIL makes are Bhutan Specific and cars like Veloster are imported from Korea. even small cars of Hyundai such as the old Santor and Grand i10 are present
  • Ford comes in fourth with Ecosport and Endevaour being a common sight. The Ranger Pick-up is also available.
  • Mahindra sells only its puck-ups in Bhutan.
  • Honda sells its sub 10 lakh cars here and Ssangyong sells Tivoli and Rexton here.
  • One interesting bit is that women drive trucks like MAN and I was shocked seeing a lady drive such a behemoth in the hills.
  • The best part is the ambulance dos not blow a siren, rather he blue beacon keeps flashing and we give way to the ambulance immediately after seeing it in the mirror. One silent country which values happiness, I say.
  • Majority of the petrol pumps found are Bharat Petroleum.

About license plates of Bhutan

There are a few types of license plates in Bhutan which one can find useful in identifying. They are:
  • BP- This stands for Bhutan private
  • BG- This stands for Bhutan government
  • BT- This stands for Bhutan taxi
  • RBP/RBA- This stands for Royal Bhutan Police and Royal Bhutan Army

Now for the car spam in pictures!

Hilux comes via India, why not launch it in India, Toyota?
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The gangster spec Land Cruiser
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Mahindra's workhorse
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Kia's Luxury SUV
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Well, that's from India
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Peak hour traffic
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Even Bhutan wants a Kitna deti hai
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Hyundai Tucson
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Creta is very common in Bhutan
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The new and old EcoSport. the new one looks smart, rugged and sharp while the old one looks rugged.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190417_120345_hdr.jpg

One for the Dzong
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190417_150439.jpg

Ssangyong Tivoli looks better than XUV 300 in person, but the interior is the same
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190418_085447.jpg

A couple of mini buses
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190418_114632.jpg

Hyundai Veloster imported from Korea
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190418_121902.jpg

Ford Showroom in Bhutan
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190418_124221.jpg

The Ranger pick-up interior. Very good for a pick-up truck. Ford, why don't you launch such good vehicles in India.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190418_124507.jpg

Never knew Hyundai makes Vans
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-dsc_0409.jpg

Toyota Rush
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-dsc_0444.jpg

Last edited by Rehaan : 25th July 2019 at 17:53.
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Old 24th July 2019, 18:37   #11
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Day 9: Losing and finding our way back

Places: Siliguri-Dankuni(via Malda-Farakka-Murshidabad-Morgram-Burdwan)
Distance: 670 Kms
Time: 16 hours

The sun rises very early in this part of the country. So early that we get ready before the actual sunrise can begin to, say by 5.30 AM. By 6 AM we check out from the hotel and we start our journey praying that we do not encounter any truck jams on our way and say Jai Google baba to guide us safely till Kolkata(Dankuni). Still, a thought was running in my mind that why don't we travel via Bihar, MP, MH and then head home since I always prefer taking different routes whenever I'm on a trip.

Tiger resting in the hotel porch
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_053634.jpg

See you again tea gardens
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_061209.jpg

After crossing Bagdogra, Gmaps showed us some other direction and little did we know that we will end up right next to Bangladesh border. Dad was sarcastically saying, "Take me off to Bangladesh too now". Actually, he is surprised by how we ended up near the border. After driving further, We happened to spot a VW Vento with some high-ranking officials travelling in it. Those gentlemen told us to follow their car till Malda after we approached them. Had they not been there, we would have gone via Bangladesh

Total trip distance
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_054336.jpg

Bangladesh border a stone's throw away
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_073056.jpg

The "apple" which saved us from hunger
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-dsc_0516min.jpg

The sweeper car we followed
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_072942.jpg

The main road after Raigunj
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_092130.jpg

I wonder how they manage to adjust and sit
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_101910.jpg

The hotel we had stayed- Golden Park
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_110541.jpg

Malda, the less spoken, the better
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_115330.jpg

There were no places to eat on this route and we were prepared to eat the green apples from Bhutan for breakfast. We were still following the Vento and after 100 Kms, he says that this highway road will lead to Malda. Since we've been driving from dawn, we took a bio-break. Another fortunate incident was that there was a VIP convoy that stopped beside us. We started following them till Farakka because they would get their path clear and following them made sense at that time.

Truck Jams
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_115756.jpg

The VIP convoy
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_122247.jpg

Finally, bye Farakka
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_132044.jpg

Finally, we came out unscathed from the dreadful truck jams near Malda and crossed Farakka by noon. We continued to drive further until Murshidabad to stop lunch. Initially, we had stopped in two places where buses had stopped but returned back to our car because the restaurant was very poorly maintained and cockroaches crawling over the food. then we decide to stop at another place and it turned out to be a suitable place to dine with family, albeit without any crowd at all.

The only decent hotel in the surroundings
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_141133.jpg

By 3 PM, we left Murshidabad and proceeded further towards Bahrampore thinking that roads were good but that turned out to be the biggest blunder we made. This road was under construction and our average speed reduced to 15 Km/h. We should have taken the Morgram route as the roads were better there. Took us till sunset to reach Burdwan road and we made it to Burdwan by 7 PM after negotiating some near misses with the villagers who let kids/cattle and themselves to cross the road deliberately to extort money and especially the buses. I had to stop and move towards the fields as the SBSTC bus was bang opposite my car at good speed trying to overtake a bike. After entering the town, the traffic gets more unruly as I was gingerly driving my way out of Burdwan towards NH-2. One needs a lot of patience to drive on these roads.

Village roads
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_173642.jpg

Last sunset in Bengal
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_173842.jpg

On reaching NH-2 GQ, we stopped for a tea break and the route was easy from here. One straight road to Dankuni and today we were better prepared as we had booked an Oyo near Burdwan itself for a stay in Dankuni while we were refuelling the car. By the time we were closer to Dankuni toll, there was a massive traffic jam which took us about 2 hours to cross 10 Km. This reminded me of the traffic back home. We had to go off the road to dodge the traffic and we finally made it to the hotel by 10 PM.

Distance driven today
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_193431.jpg

Getting off the road
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190419_220108.jpg

Last edited by jithin23 : 24th July 2019 at 23:53. Reason: (Duplicate) picture removed on request.
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Old 24th July 2019, 22:53   #12
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Day 10: Back To South India

Places: Dankuni-Srikakulam
Distance: 750 Kms
Time taken: 14 hours(Including all breaks)

After crossing Kolkata, the remaining stretch is way easier to drive and the entire route is a national highway stretch with good tarmac. Though the stretch became familiar since we crossed it earlier, nothing exciting happened except for two things: Good food and empty roads.

Safe parking between the trucks at a truck parking
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_055648.jpg

The Famous Yellow Taxi
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_071945.jpg

After several days of driving on the highways in India, we were able to eat a square meal and the places we stopped were good as well. Breakfast stop was made right after Kharagpur, lunch stop in Bhubaneshwar and dinner somewhere in Andhra. We did not want to try the famous sweets of Odisha which are a common sight on the highway because we did not want to take a risk by consuming roadside sweets and we are unfamiliar with the place.

Breakfast stop
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_100152.jpg

Still, a lot more to go home
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_103853.jpg

Farmlands
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_104513.jpg

Fastag enabled tolls to make highway driving easier
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_111303.jpg

Election Campaigning
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_110914.jpg

Toll booths in some parts of Odisha
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_120242.jpg

Delicious Odia Lunch
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190420_153808.jpg

Only one small incident that happened was near Chilka, a huge boulder was on the road and since it was dusk, dad was unable to notice it and went over the boulder. I told him to stop and we check the underbody of the car. Thankfully there was no damage and the engine guard got a scratch. right after our car went over it, a brand new Dzire too went over the same boulder and he had suffered some engine damage from the underside.

By 10 PM we stop in Srikakulam and head to the room we were familiar with, Hotel Vijetha. However, today their rooms and service were so bad that we decided to not stay over here. The receptionist guy told my dad that refund cannot be given and we have to stay. On learning about the scene in the reception, I go and confront the receptionist and he does not budge. Then I told him that his rooms were bad and not fit for staying and if he refuses to cancel the booking and refund the amount, I told him I'll write a negative review and close the hotel (actually it was just to scare him). Guess what? He cancelled the booking and gave the money back and then I found a nearby hotel called Grand comfort inn. The rooms here were very nice though a bit expensive.

Lesson learnt: Be confident in whatever situation you are in. Never lose hope.

Today's Driving Stats
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-tbar2qd63c-copy.jpg

Day 11: Meeting Dad's Old Friend

Places: Srikakulam-Vijayawada-Ongole
Distance: 600 Kms
Time: 14 hours ( including the 3-hour break in Vijayawada)

Today, we can finally have our favourite South Indian style cuisine starting off with podi dosa. breakfast was served in the restaurant adjacent to the hotel where we stayed. After munching on some lip-smacking dosas, we gather quick pace and by lunch, we're between Vizag and Rajahmundry. familiar roads and familiar language make things easier.

a decent hotel
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_072628.jpg

Familiar signboards
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_095632.jpg

Bypassing Vizag
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_111214.jpg

The Eastern Ghats are still in sight
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_115438.jpg

Fields near Rajahmundry
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_161817.jpg

For lunch, we belted on Biryanis and Andhra meals to satiate our taste buds for some spice in our tongues. By evening we reach Rajamundry and take a detour to discover the beauty of the Godavari dotted with paddy fields on either side. After some exploration, we head towards Vijayawada and reach by 5 PM at my dad's friend's place. We spend some time in their house and by 8 PM we leave Vijayawada. I wanted to go via Hyderabad but parents were against it by saying its better to travel on a known road rather than an unknown road. Once you cross Vijayawada and go towards Ongole, the roads are amazing and can drive on upper triple digits with ease. An added advantage is that the roads are access controlled.

Brilliant roads from Vijayawada-Ongole
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190421_201337.jpg

We make it to Ongole by 10 PM and stay in the city centre for the night. The exhaustion on our faces was evident and the sorrow of ou trip almost coming to an end was setting in.


Day 12: Homecoming

Places: Ongole-Home(Bangalore)
Distance: 500 Kms
Time taken: 8 hours

For one last time in this trip, we unpack and pack our bags to get back into the mundane city life and this has been the longest time all of us have not been at home. Last day of any trip evokes a sad feeling and so did we feel the same.

Hotel Pavani is on NH 5 towards Chennai side. Good place for breakfast.
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190422_080801.jpg

We start off from Ongole by dawn and stop for a final refuel in Nellore and I thought of could lay my hands on the famous RIyaz Pot Biryani in Nellore. Since we were very early(7.30 AM), we could not taste this mouth-watering biryani. An hour later, we stop for breakfast in Naidupeta. The dosas here are amazing as well and post breakfast, it was the same old route we were accustomed to driving on i.e. Sri Kalahasti-Tiruapti-Chittor-Kolar-Home. By noon, we're in Nangali and by 2 PM we reach our house with a heavy heart. The memories of the trip will be etched forever in our minds for the rest of our lives.

Almost back home
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190422_123916.jpg

The Car stats for the entire trip
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-tbnzg4pwju.jpg

A mandatory wash after every trip
An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport-img_20190422_185926_hht.jpg

Last edited by jithin23 : 24th July 2019 at 23:51.
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Old 24th July 2019, 23:44   #13
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A few pointers about our trip:
  • I got to know more about myself as well as my family members through this trip and it was a life-changing experience.
  • The roads out there can be unpredictable and deal with any situation with a calm demeanour and with ease.
  • Be prepared for any type of shortage be it fuel, food or medicines and keep a stock of these things in handy.
  • Accept the situation and learn to embrace it. Do not force yourself to drive more if your body is tired or have too many plans in a day.
  • I love driving and I will continue to drive to most of the places in India no matter how far they are as a road trip gives you a better insight of our country and the pleasure of being behind the wheel is priceless!
  • All our refuels were either done in COCO pumps or Reliance pumps.
  • Ignore the small damages while on a trip. your mood will get ruined.
  • Some of our hotel stays were in close proximity of a Ford showroom or service centre.

A few pointers about the car: EcoSport a.k.a Blue Baby
  • Rock-solid build quality which will keep its occupants safe.
  • Driving dynamics and braking are quite good according to SUV standards.
  • 6th gear and cruise control are essential for this class of vehicle as it has an all-rounder capability.
  • The 2nd gear lag is very bad, especially more pronounced in the hills.
  • Comfortable for 4 adults with necessary tech.
  • Projector Headlights with fogs are brilliant.
  • Efficient diesel mill, but it begs for a torque upgrade and 6th gear.
  • Effective AC and cools the entire cabin within 5 minutes.
  • Sliding armrest needs to be added.
  • Very useful Sync 3

Let's do some math and stats regarding the trip:
  • No.of full tanks: 8
  • Distance driven: 5970 Kms
  • Average driving time: 12-14 hours/day
  • Average money spent per day: 5-6K INR
  • Best mileage: 22.8 Km/l
  • Worst mileage: 17 Km/l
  • Average mileage: 18 Km/l
  • Average Speed: 46 Km/h
  • Lowest diesel price: Rs.59/l in Phunthesonling, Bhutan
  • Highest diesel price: Rs. 71/l in Chilka, Odisha
  • Average diesel price: Rs.65-66/l
  • Most distance travelled on a tankful: 850 Kms
  • Least distance travelled on a tankful: 650 Kms
  • Average tankful range: 700-750 Kms

Trip Cost Summary:
  • Toll: 4585
  • Diesel: 24000 (taking 3K as the average cost per tankful)
  • Hotels: 23000 for 11 days at an average cost of 1916 per night for 4 people
  • Food & Snacks: 12800
  • Misc. Expenses(entry fees, car permit, souvenir): 5000

Total Expenses: Rs. 69,385

I'll share the exact no.of tolls and the alternate route shared by Deep Banerjee on FB. Credits to him and my wrong timing that I found this a month after my trip.

Toll list Bangalore-Siliguri
CustTransaction.xlsx

Alternate route shared by Deep Banerjee on FB (can take reference from Vijayawada)
Name:  FB_IMG_1559265334631.jpg
Views: 143
Size:  73.2 KB

Writing a travelogue on Team-Bhp takes more time and care than the trip itself, nonetheless a wonderful way to express our thoughts. Until time permits for another mega road trip, the weekly or monthly night outs/trips should suffice the wanderlust within me. Take care and drive safe folks!

Last edited by jithin23 : 25th July 2019 at 00:11.
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Old 25th July 2019, 00:36   #14
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing, Jithin!
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Old 25th July 2019, 11:12   #15
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Default Re: An unplanned drive: Bangalore to Bhutan in an EcoSport

Great travelogue. You are really lucky that your parents also love to drive.
I traveled a bit in TUV300, I could literally feel the roll at the rear even at 100. Did your parents feel comfortable in the rear seat of Ecosport (as this is a pseudo suv) ?
For such a long trip, did you plan any measures regarding breakdown and medical emergency?

Last edited by rahulskumar : 25th July 2019 at 11:16.
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