Trip to Bhutan – Thimpu, Paro and Phuntsoling

Table of contents for Bhutan - Trek to Taksang Gompa

  1. Trip to Bhutan – Road trip from Siliguri to Thimpu
  2. Trip to Bhutan – Thimpu, Paro and Phuntsoling
  3. Taksang Gompa: A Holy Trek in Bhutan

The next morning, Thimpu was still awash with continuous drizzle. The days plan was to visit Paro and return. Then I wondered aloud “return and do what” as there was nothing much to explore in Thimpu except for rows and rows malls filled with consumer items from Thailand, China and Malaysia. Friend came with the idea as to why not shift to Paro, explore the old town. We checked out and headed for Paro and rang up travel agent to fix us a hotel there. Good feeling to be on the road again, a purpose to go to a new place, excitement specially so when we came to know that Paro is a very picturesque place with nature’s bounty a plenty.

Countryside Road to Paro

Countryside Road to Paro


We drove back on the same road towards Phuntsoling. Just outside Thimpu there were apple orchards almost bordering the road and roadside stalls selling fresh apples from the orchard. We could see apple trees bowing down with weight of too many apples. It was a luxurious availability of just plucked fresh apples and it was only prudent to buy some to relish the freshness. We bought some and ate along the way, juicy and fresh.

Fresh From farms

Fresh From farms

After about 25 kms drive we reached Chunzom and got our papers checked before taking the right turn to Paro. The traffic to Paro was light with very few vehicles on the road. We passed through another cluster of roadside shops selling apples and vegetables, I snapped three little girls, in their “Kira” going to school, giggling. Children all over the world are the same, apotheosis of innocence, no care in the world, no tension and not at all affected by the environment. We drove on savoring the green freshness of the country side, valleys of yellowish rice fields dotted with trees and hemmed in by hills that stretched beyond the horizon.

Girls to school

Girls to school

The road to Paro was silky smooth appearing and disappearing along the many folds of the mountain of Alpine forests. We passed through many “Chortens” along the highway. “Chorten” meaning a “container”, a space for worship or offerings, also built in memories of Lamas, High Officials or to protect a place a path or an area such as cross roads, high mountain passes against evil spirits. Perhaps the culture of these Chortens date back to old Bon Religion as it is believed to be in existence even before the emergence of Buddhism in to the land. The architecture of these Chortens are based on 5 elements; the square base symbolizes the earth, the half dome symbolizes water, the conical spire symbolizes fire, the crescent moon and the sun atop symbolizes air and vertical spike symbolizes the light and wisdom of the Buddha. Such Chortens are seen abundantly in Ladakh.

First landmark we came across on way to Paro was the one and only Airport of Bhutan, a beautiful land strip located in the Valley, surrounded by green fields and misty mountains on either side. Few kilometers before entering Paro Town, almost hugging the Paro Chu (river), we were greeted by the majestic presence of Paro Dzong (Fort), an imposing citadel built in Circa 1646 that that now houses government offices. A wooden bridge, perhaps as old as the leading to the main entrance that is guarded by two deities on either side; a Mongolian man holding a Tiger on a leash and another man holding a black yak, as the guarding deities. The building has a very beautiful and unique old Bhutanese style wood work that would have been carved by experts in the trade of yore that date back to almost 500 years ago. Just above the Paro Dzong stands another edifice called “Ta-Dzong” meaning watch tower that now houses the museum.

After crossing the Paro Dzong as we entered Paro town, I was awestruck by this out of the world scenario. It was like we were lifted from the modern world of concrete jungle and chaotic traffic to the most serene, peaceful Shangri-La in a different world, except, perhaps for the presence of few modern transport plying or parked along the roadside; Paro was original, pure and traditional Bhutan. Both sides of the main road were lined by traditional stone-wood Bhutanese style buildings that housed shops, restaurants etc. A building with grocery shop had the King’s photo prominently displayed.

Paro Street

Paro Street

A Shop Building with King’s Photo

A Shop Building with King’s Photo

We met our guide who took us to our destination, Galling Resort, about 3 kms away from town along a graveled road. Located on the banks of Paro chu; the property was tastefully constructed and painted in unique mud color ethnic Bhutanese style. The view from the balcony was breathtaking with Paro Chu rumbling right in front across the road, part of Paro beyond and finally the valley rising to meet the misty mountains that made the distant horizon. Anyone with an eye for the nature or a plain nature lover is bound to be enchanted by the natural beauty, landscape that would make not spending couple of days almost impossible. We did just that. The resort was warm, comfortable with a cozy lounge, wood paneled bedroom and comfortable attached bath. Our rooms had the same view as balcony and decided to keep the curtains drawn and windows opened so as to be part of the beautiful view.

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

Green all around

Green all around

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

Paro

After a hot cup of welcome tea and biscuits we saw our rooms rather suits and drove back to town for a look see and browse the shops. For lunch we walked in to a restaurant and ordered Vegetable momo, soup and ema thachi, Bhutanese dish of cottage cheese and chili. We enquired after the general direction, route and location of Taksang Gompa and drove towards that direction. We drove through a beautiful country side and passed through golden paddy fields. We crossed ruins of an old Dzong (fort) spread across large area. After about 10 kms the road started climbing up gradually making twists and turns as it did. There were small cottage lodges and a cafeteria as also couple of houses, Chorten before the road entered pine forest. After driving for about 5 kms of gradual uphill track we came to a clearing as the road came to an end. We looked around the area for a while and concluded that this place would be the base for onward journey to Taksang Gompa. It was confirmed by a villager collecting pine cones for his hearth. We returned back to the resort. I decided to trek the next day morning. At night, we had our usual drinks in the room and dinner at the main dining room. It was a peaceful sleep soothed by the steady sound of river, Paro-chu, flowing across the property. Next day we would trek to Taksang Gompa.

“The great end of life is not knowledge but action” – TH Huxley

16 Comments

  • Oh my… Paro is as picturesque as it can get… Leaves you wanting for more….

    Thanks for sharing and making us part of your experience…

  • Naturebuff says:

    Wow, what an absolutely beautiful place it is! Loved all the pictures and the write-up but my favourite is the bridge on the Paro-chu? Stupendous! Thanks for sharing this lovely corner of the world with us!

  • Mani says:

    Thank you Sandeep & Naturebuff for your nice comments. I am happy you guys liked the post. Do catch up with the last part, Trek to Taksang Gompa. God Bless

  • veena says:

    The hills, the clouds, the greenery and the peace ……….only the fortunate get to be there ! God bless you for taking us there through your words and pictures !!

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Colonel,

    Another pretty account of the Happy Bhutan.

    Cities are planned, architecture is defined, traffic is organised, countryside is beautiful, people are happy. What more do you want?

  • Vipin says:

    Wow, Colonel saab, seems i have just gotten back from Paro, loved it thoroughly! A wonderful piece of writing and brilliantly captured images…kudos! Your writing is so expressive that it transports one to the actual location even without looking at the photos…great!

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Mani Sir – Heard a lot about Paro, including the beautiful airport, and now seen real honest images as well. I do not see many people in the pics though, may be there are not as many there as we see around here.

    So Chilli-Paneer is a popular dish in Paro as well. Looking fwd to the trek. Thank you.

    • Mani says:

      Hi Nandan,

      The dish is called, “IMA TASHI”, it is 50% each of Cottage Cheese and Bhutanese Hot Chilli, hope you get to taste it soon !!

  • Paro is beautiful…so as your description Col.
    Enjoyed thoroughly and now the trek…

    ‘Greenery all around’ – a perfect post-retirement place or a similar place – how I wish my dream to come true! Will others at home agree…that’s the question

  • shilpa says:

    Mani Sir ,
    Read your blogs on Bhutan , its very helpful , want to visit with family , will 10 to 12 days be good enough to visit and which places ? kindly help.

  • Dina says:

    What a detailed description of the place.. My husband & I are planning to go there soon. Thank you Ghumakkars

  • Krishnan Iyer says:

    Hello Colonel. This made for an excellent read and would certainly serve as input for my road trip to Bhutan from Siliguri. Hope to run into you someday and listen to your stories over a few fingers of whisky.

    Cheers,
    Krishnan

  • mani says:

    hi Krishnan, glad you enjoyed the article. I live in Siliguri, so just call me and come over to my small den. whisky on the house with lots of gup-shup to boot. would love to share an evening full of whisky and sausages with travel lovers like you.973320984.

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