Bhutan : The Land of Thunder Dragon!

Everybody makes some new year resolution and look forward to certain opportunities to practice the same. Though, i have not been too keen on making resolution and sticking to it, i also made a resolution first time in my life on the occassion of 28th new year, i have witnessed so far. The idea was to be more outdoor, more extrovert and more social. Grabbing any opportunity to visit new places, meeting new people and getting acquainted with more and more known and unknown places and persons were the parts of the plan.

May be it was also the idea of the almighty to help me out in carrying out my new year resolution, my office colleagues came with the idea of visiting Bhutan during new year’s holidays, courtesy “Negotiable Instrument Act”. It was indeed a grand step towards fulfilling my resolution in the very beginning of the year. Definitely, i jumped to the idea and hence a group of 13 persons proceeded for Bhutan on 1st of the January 2014. The year 2014 started with a bang and i could not have asked for more. Though some people in the group were apprehensive that Bhutan will have nothing new in store for us, as we have seen everything in Sikkim and it may turn out after the visit that Sikkim was more beautiful and scenic. Some were enthusiastic that they will be able to witness a new variant of Tibetan culture and practices from close quarters.

With those conflicting thoughts, we proceeded to Bhutan from Gangtok, via Jalpaiguri (West Bengal). In the afternoon of 1st January, we reached Phuentsholling, a border town of Bhutan and biggest commercial hub of the country. For me, the travel to Phuentsholling was sheer pleasure, as we travelled through many tea estates and road to phuentsholling was just superb and in complete contrast to the image of indian roads.

Phuentsholling : Gateway of Bhutan

Phuentsholling : Gateway of Bhutan

After reaching Phuentsholling, we started our struggle for obtaining permits for individuals and vehicles, so that we can visit Paro & Thimphu, two most famous tourist destinations of Bhutan. Some members faced difficultites in obtaining permits,as they were not carrying proper identification papers recognized by Bhutanese authorities.They had to resort to Indian Embassy’s help to get travel permits. Indian citizens need to carry Voter Identity Card or Aadhar Card for identification purposes and one or two passport-sized photographs.

Our initial impression of Bhutan was of not so tourist-friendly nation, however it changed as we progressed further to Paro & Thimphu. We stayed at Phuentsholling first night and next morning, proceeded for Paro via Gedu, Chukha and Chhapcha Valley, around 175 Km away from Phuentsholling. It was a smooth ride of six hours, courtesy Project Dantak of Border Road Organisation of Indian Army. One topographical difference,which i observed between Sikkim and Bhutan is that Sikkim mountains are lush green and replete with numerous streams, flora and fauna, while Bhutan Mountains are rugged and naked.

As we proceeded to Paro, the weather got colder with increasing altitude. Finally, we reached Paro and the first impression of the small city was quite good. Like other hill stations, it also reflected neatness and calmness. We could hear gushing sound of Paro river flowing in the vicinity, just after entering the city. Paro also boasts of a miniature Airport, which has flights connecting it to Indian cities including Bodhgaya, a major Buddhisth pilgrimage centre.

Paro Airport is the only International Airport in Bhutan

Paro Airport is the only International Airport in Bhutan

Overview of Paro Airport

Overview of Paro Airport

Paro City

Paro City

It was freezing cold in Paro in the evening and we literally ran for the shelter and got accomodated in hotel rooms. All types of Hotels are available there in Paro. Searching for vegetarian food in any part of Bhutan may be a difficult task especially in Paro, as local people take mainly non-veg food. We also came to know an interesting thing that Television and Radio were banned in Bhutan until late 90’s in a bid to preserve their culture from onslaught of any undesired influence.
After getting refreshed and equipping ourselves with all the winter-wears we had, we took a stroll in the empty lanes of the city and interacted with some locals, mostly young bhutanese girls. They were genuinally very warm and hospitable towards us. We got all the information regarding places to visit in Paro and their historical importance from them.

Next morning, we started our local sightseeing and the first on the list was Taktshang Monastry (Tiger’s Nest). People playing Archery were the common sight along the way in Paro.

Tiger's Nest (Taktshang Monastery) at Paro

Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang Monastery) at Paro

Perched on a cliff-top, Bhutan’s Taktshang monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, is one of the most breathtaking temples in the world. The Buddhist place of worship is built on a rock around 3,000m (10,000ft) above sea level and stands above a beautiful forest of blue pine and rhododendrons. The main temple complex was built in 1692 and is considered to be one of the holiest for the Bhutanese people. There are no proper roads and visitors have to trek for hours to reach the temple. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on a tigress’ back to subdue a local demon. Thereafter, he meditated here for three months. It is blessed and sanctified as one of Bhutan’s most sacred religious sites.
Apart from monastry, we visited old fort of Paro and museum and then started for next destination, i.e. Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan Royal Kingdom and power centre of the country (around 50 K.m. away from Paro) taking with us wonderful memories of beautiful Paro. Again following the same pattern, we reached Thimphu in the evening and stayed in hotel to get ourselves recharged for next day’s tryst with the capital city.

Thimphu City

Thimphu City

View of Thimphu Valley on the way to Buddha Dordenma Statue

View of Thimphu Valley on the way to Buddha Dordenma Statue

Thimphu, as a capital city was like any other commercial place and full of shopping centers and many of us went on shopping spree, despite knowing very well that almost all the goods are mainly imported from India and hence costlier.
Next Morning, we started our local sightseeing with Buddha Dordenma statue, one of the largest statue of Lord Buddha in the world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.

Buddha Dordenma Statue

Buddha Dordenma Statue

Standing from the statue, one can see entire view of Thimphu Valley. Like Rashtrapati Bhawan in India, Royal Palace of Bhutanese Kingdom is also an attraction of Thimphu, so we decided to pay a visit to the royal family. The palace, located just outside the main city, looks imposing and imperious.

Dechencholing Palace

Dechencholing Palace

Having seen the treasure of happiness of Bhutanese people from the close quarters, it was time to say bid adieu to the land of thunder dragon and we started for another exhilarating journey way back to our motherland taking vivid and colourful memories of the hill nation with us.

May be some happiness was rubbed on us too!

  • A grand welcome to you, Amit Kumar! Your debut story here is about the same place with which I started my journey at Ghumakkar during last March,2014. You refreshed my memories of Bhutan tour. You have photographed much better than me. Great! Hope your journey at Ghumakkar will continue and we will read more of you :-)

    • Thanks Anupam for your nice words! I have read your posts on Ghumakkar and therefore I must say that the appreciation coming from you means a lot to the debutant writers like me.

  • Mukesh Bhalse

    At the outset a warm welcome to ghumakkar Amit, Your first post here is a bang. The post is written in a very interesting manner. The pictures were captivating. Bhutan is indeed a culture reach tiny country which is on my radar too. Let’s see when it gets materialized.

    Keep posting here your another travel experiences too and also keep encouraging other authors on ghumakkar through your comments.

    Thanks for sharing such an alluring post with us.

    • Thanks Mukesh for your encouraging words! I am glad that you liked it. Yes, Bhutan indeed is a good travel destination. I do hope that your plan to visit Bhutan gets materialized very soon.

  • Welcome Amit in Ghumakkar family. Well narrated post accompanied with beautifully captured pictures.
    Thanks for sharing .

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  • Uday Baxi

    Dear Amit

    Welcome.

    A very splendid post on debut. All photographs are equally impressive.

    Keep travelling and keep sharing.

    • Thanks for your nice comment Uday ji! I am glad to know that you liked my post.

  • Welcome to Ghumakkar!

    A well written, fluid post with stunning pictures! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Naturebuff for liking my post. I am encouraged to write more on my travel experiences.

  • very well written post and equally supported by beautiful pics !

    They are not promoting tourism too much to maintain the natural beauty.

    • Dear Mahesh ji,
      Thanks for your praiseworthy comments. I felt the same during my visit. At least they welcome Indians. For tourists of other countries, permit norms are stricter and travel costs are exorbitant.

  • AJAY SHARMA

    Dear Amit!
    Bhutan is a majestically superb place & your write-up has definitely urged a lot many to plan for the destination.
    A warm welcome to Ghumakkar! We wish to see more of your travels.

    Keep it up!
    Ajay

    • Thanks for liking the post Ajay ji! Yes, Bhutan is a good destination for nature lovers.

  • o.p. laddha

    Amit ji
    really a good post with beautiful pics.
    Really Sikkim is more beautiful then Bhutan ?Please reply.

  • Dear Laddha ji,

    Thanks for your appreciating words! As i have spent 03 years in Sikkim, i had the opportunity to see various parts of Sikkim from the close quarters and have visited many places twice or thrice. I am in love with the place, even after leaving it. On the other hands, on a three day’s trip of Bhutan, whatever i managed to explore, makes it a good travel destination for me. Afterall, both are parts of Himalayas.

  • silentsoul

    Welcome to this forum with a dashing entry.. The photos are so beautiful that I saw them many times..

    • Thanks Silent soul ji for your kind words of appreciation! really glad to know that you liked my post.

  • Welcome aboard Amit.

    Very lucidly written. Probably more mundane details would have added to the usefulness of the story. Typically one sees these kind of pics from professional photographers. We do publish photos from our authors with pride and if they belong to someone else then we need to credit the photographer.

    All the best.

    • Thanks Nandan! I would keep in mind to give the details in my coming logs. Thanks for your kind suggestions!