The Land of the Thunder Dragon (BHUTAN) – Day 6

23.12.2010 (Thursday)
Mala Bazar (West Bengal) to Thimpu (BHUTAN) = 281 kms

Starting Place: Mala Bazar (West Bengal)
Starting Km Reading: 5339 km @ Mala Bazar
Starting Time: 05.40 A.M.
Closing Km Reading: 5620 km @ Thimpu (Bhutan)
Closing Time: 21.00 P.M. Night @ Thimpu

We were up by early morning 5 A.M. and got ready by 5.30 A.M. after a hot, hot bath all 4 of us. I should really say that both the kids were so co-operative & helpful without creating any fuss or throwing any tantrums for waking them up so early in the morning & giving them a bath & getting them ready.After a quick repacking we came down and saw that the climate was very chill & cold. Temperature was 10 Deg C.This is the place where we are supposed to take the left turn towards Binhaguri, Banarhat & Nagrakata and this will take us towards Jaldpara, Jaigaon & Phetsholing. The time was 6.00 AM Morning.We witnessed an early morning sun rise & the majestic sun in all its grand RED color.

The Majestic Sun Rise


Watching an early morning rising sun is a real treat.At 6.37 AM we stopped at this place to watch the Sun against the background of a lonely tree & it looked just great again. Took some quick snaps & we were on our way to Jaigaon which is the last border town between INDIA & BHUTAN.

Watching the Sun Rise from the Fields

We crossed the Jaldpara Wild Life Sanctury and the statue of a Rhino outside the park main gate was inviting but we had to drive on.The time was 7.25 A.M. Morning.We were passing through tea estates on both sides of the road now and we were 18 kms short of Jaigaon & Phetsholing and 190 Kms away from Thimpu the capital of Bhutan. The time was 7.56 AM.When we saw the far away mountains which were looking white & eroded we never realised that we have to drive through those mountains towards Thimphu.

Rhino Outside the Park

White, Eroded Mountains

Here we are right in front of the main entrance to the beautiful Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.This was our first trip where we were officially going to drive from one country into another country. It was a wonderful moment as we had driven from so far away.The odometer reading on the car on 23rd December 2010 at 8.30 AM Morning at Phetsholing was 5450 KMs.We had stared from Coimbatore South India on 17th December 2010 at 10 P.M. Night and the odometer reading was 2126.We had covered 3324 KMs one way from Coimbatore to Phetsholing Bhutan now.I made my last phone call from my Mobile to HVK as after Jaigaon I was not sure whether I will be able to inform HVK any status updates. HVK wished us all the very best & have fun.We first went in through the welcome arch which was guarded by Royal Bhutanese Soldiers. They did not stop us nor check us.There a lot of Indians visiting Bhutan from North West India mainly from Bengal / Assam etc.I went straight in and further away I saw a car parking & safely parked the car.

Entrance to the Kingdom of Bhutan

HVK had made it clear to park the car at designated car parking areas only.  Getting inside BHUTAN I felt like a satellite which was separated from the booster rocket and leaving behind mother earth into the space and loosing contact with India. Indian Mobiles don’t work inside BHUTAN & international roaming is very expensive too. Although I had requested my mobile service provider AIRTEL to give me international roaming so that I could be in touch with HVK & my parents & in laws & friends the mobile did not work.It was difficult for me to communicate to HVK our position. It was like being a baby being separated from the umbilical chord of the mother.I enquired with the parking attendant as to where was the immigration counter where the permits are issued. It was just a small distance away.We just went to that building and went to the 1st floor and we met an officer on duty by 9 A.M. and asked her what the procedure was to get a permit.She explained to us to get the application form from across a photocopy shop & fill it up and submit & a webcam will capture our photo. They needed a photo – ID proof. I had carried passports of all 4 of us. We filled up the forms & submitted to get a permit.

They took photos of me & my wife.They said it is not necessary to get permits done for small kids as they were our dependents.It is better that we go to the immigration office early morning before 9 AM and be ready with the filled up forms & photo-ID proof to get the entry permit. This immigration office just after a petrol pump when you enter the main arch. Any local will be able to tell you.We had some time till the permits to get ready & we went across to a hotel & had breakfast & were back & we collected our Permits.You will be issued 2 types of permits at immigration office. There was another form to request for a permit to visit the restricted areas. This office at Phetsholing gives permits only for visiting Thimpu City & another city called Paro.Apart from this special permit every individual will be issued an entry permit for non-bhutanese visiting Bhutan.

This is similar to the VISA stamping on your passport. Of course they don’t do any stamping on your passport.Once you received the special area permit & individual visit permit for non-bhutanese visiting Bhutan get photocopies at least some 6 sets of these. You will be needing them to be submitted at various check posts on the way.After receiving these permits we went to RSTA (Road Safety Transport Authority) office this is similar to our RTO in India.This department issues a permit for your vehicle be it a 2 wheeler / 4 wheeler which is coming from India on a visit to Bhutan.This is the building where you have the RSTA office. This is a big bus stand and in this big building on the 2nd floor you will find RSTA office. Here you will be meeting Senior Transport officer.Just outside his office there will be some staff & collect the forms and fill up all relevent details.

The Building that Houses the RSTA Office

Make sure that you carry the 4 original documents related to your vehicle
1. R.C.Papers (Registration Certificate)
2. Driver’s License (DL)
3. Vehicle Insurance
4. Pollution Check Certificate (Pollution Under control Certificate PUC).

Once you will up the form and attach the form with photo copies of the above 4 certificates submit them to the staff & the staff will submit it to the RSTA and he will verify & approve & then you will have to pay a fees for taking your car and they will give you an official receipt. Please remember the permit for the vehicle will be given only when you have received the permits from immigration office. The RSTA will ask for a photo copy of the entry permit special permit to be attached with the form.Here in this picture below my son Uthamkumar is with Mr.Sonam Gyeltshen – Senior Transport officer of RSTA.

Uthamkumar with Mr.Sonam Gyeltshen

He was so thrilled to know that we had come all the way from South Indian city of Coimbatore just to visit Bhutan and we had travelled 3344 kms so far.He made me sit with him for more than 15~20 minutes just to talk about our trip so far & wanted to know about my previous trips.Finally he was so happy he game me his visiting card & told me in case of any problems / issues while in Bhutan just to give him a call & he will help me out. Very kind of him. He was a nice man.

At last with all the original permits received for the passengers & for the car and after taking sufficient photo copies we headed on our way to Thimphu at 12.30 PM afternoon.The distance from Phuetsholing to Thimpu as per this sign board below is 170 kms and if think we can make it in some 4 hours then we are mistaken. It will take some 6~7 hours of hilly terrain drive with roads winding and in many parts eroded and in very bad shape. In some ways these roads are dangerous if you are not used to hill driving.On the way you will see how dangerous is the route, land slides, huge boulders fallen on the road side from the top of the mountain, rocks falling off from the cliffs, heavy wind, heavy fog, road filled with pot holes and tarmac eroded at many places and a lonely drive.Before starting from Phuetsholing to Thimpu I tanked up my linea. Went to the pump next to immigration office (all pumps are run by Indian Oil Companies mostly IOC, BP & HP) Bhutan Oil Distributors and filled 30 liters of diesel @ Rs.37.24 per ltr and paid Rs.1117/-.With tank full & a piece of mind we headed on our way to Thimpu.

Entrance to the Royal Court of Justice

Dangerous Roads Across the Mountains

We stopped at this monastery just for a while to take some photos.

The Monastery

The time was 2.50 P.M.I really enjoyed driving in this part. This road keeps going on & on and you can see at times the road in the far away mountain.We stopped at this canteen called DANTAK Canteen run by Indian army. Indian army officers & jawans halt here for tea / coffee & snacks. I met an officer behind the counter and he was from Kerala. I latched on to him in Malayalam language & he was so thrilled.He told me Saar please come inside & sit in this special room which is normally meant for the senior army officers when the visit this canteen. We were given some royal treatment & it felt like a great welcome. He ensured that we were served well and it was a pleasant experience.I personally thanked him & shook hands with him and he wished us a happy journey & insisted that we pay a visit on our return journey. The time was 4.50 PM evening.

Art on the Road Side

Beautiful Mountains

Dantak Canteen

We stopped at this sign board at 7.10 PM and we had to still cover 54 KMs to Thimpu.

54 Kms to Thimpu

Finally we came across the check post & main entrance to Thimpu City at 7.55 PM and we have to stop here and get go the check post & show all the papers and they will stamp and make a note of all details.It is mandatory to stop at all check posts & show all documents.

Thimpu

Linea in Thimpu

The temperature outside was near ZERO & very chill & windy. If you are not used to this you can be in some discomfort. Well I had a heavy jeans jacket and inside I had worn warm clothing.I was also using the heater inside the car as kids were feeling the cold.Now and then they would touch the rear glass & laugh & giggle and touch me or my wife to show how cold it was outside.

Zero Degree C

The traffic rules & regulations are to be followed very strictly. Bhutanese are very careful & good drivers & they are very courteous to give way. They don’t rush and drive rashly. They have patience at traffic. Direct contrast to Indians driving. We can leant a lot from these people.

Follow Traffic Rules

Finally we reached city at 9 P.M. Night and found a good hotel for stay. We stayed at HOTEL SINGEY. The room was very specious & big & neat. The tariff was Rs.1300/- per day.Luckily there were 3 cots and they gave us 1 room heater & we requested them to give us another as we had 2 small kids. They were very accommodative & helpful.We ordered for hot parathas, dal fry & white rice hot milk for kids, the dinner cost us Rs.493/- and after dinner slept off after a tiring journey.In Bhutan the Indian Rupee and Bhutan currency called Nu is converted 1 to 1. i.e Rs.1 = Nu.1 So you can give them Indian rupees and they will accept and give change in a mix of Indian currency & Bhutanses Nu. Avoid carrying notes of Rs.1000/- denomination as they are not accepted as there is a lot of fake & counterfeit Rs.1000/- notes in circulation in North India.

We had some good staff at this hotel who became our friends. Tanka Prasad Sharma who was called TP by his friends, a beautiful lady by name Devi a cheerful lady by name Sonam.TP was very kind enough to give me his personal mobile & I hade phone calls to HVK first & informed him briefly the developments after Jaigoan to Thimpu. He congratulated all of us & very pleased with the result. He asked me to put a local Bhutan Tel SIM and use it for 3 ~ 4 days.

I called up my parents, in-laws & some of my friends and also sent a lot os SMS to people who were keeping track of my journey. Thanks TP. I paid him for all the calls & requested him to get me a prepaid SIM for 3~4 days use which I got it next day morning itself.
The hotel details are
HOTEL SINGYE
Thimpu, Bhutan
Tel: (0) 975 – 2 – 333229
Email: hotelsingyethimpu@yahoo.com

9 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Enjoying your post………….

    Great job !!!!!

  • Aditya says:

    What a series it is turning out to be….

    Can’t wait for the next part….

    Awesome!!!

  • Nandan says:

    So we are in Bhutan. Yipeee.

    How did it feel when you crossed over Mahesh ? Driving into a country. Wow.

  • MN says:

    Hi Mahesh Semwal, Vishal Rathod, Aditya & Nandan,

    Thanks for all the comments & very happy to know you all have enjoyed the blog so far. More to come..

    Yes finally should I say “Mission Accomplished”!!! (Only half way through, it will be only complete when we reach home back safe)

    I will have 1 final surprise for you all at the final end. Not now.

    We reached Bhutan after driving from a small town Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu South India 2 adults (1 driver me & 1 non driver my wife), 2 small kids (7 yrs & 3 yrs) in a brand new car and by GOD’s grace no puncture, no breakdown for the car & driver, no calls to any helpline, full faith in GOD and full of self confidence and remembering what Swami Vivekananda has said “All powers are within you, realise that & you can do anything”

    That kept me going on & on..there was no releiver driver for me so I had to do multiple roles become driver, navigator (I did not have any GPS/On-line maps), father, companion, porter, photographer et all..

    One really has to enjoy going through this experience and a very long journey like this anywhere is really worth it.

    The sense of joy & happiness for all 4 of us to know we are entering Bhutan a foreign country by road was slowly sinking in. After getting the entry permit & permit for car we realised finally here we are in Bhutan the Land of Thunder Dragon!!!

    My wife had never travelled at all before marraige. In the last 3 years she has seen places with our 2 children which we never imagined travelling through Kerala, Karnataka, MH, MP, GJ, RJ, AP, OR, WB, Sikkim, & now Bhutan.

    All travellers have to spend Time & Money and in return what you get is long lasting photographic memories which you can recall & enjoy..priceless!!!

  • drtaher says:

    Where are the remaining installments, sir? I am sure we would all love to read about your actual travel within Bhutan. Do share and oblige, even if it is in brief. Thank you.

  • Gaurav says:

    Awesome Post :)

  • MN says:

    Dear drtaher, Ghumakkar publishes the blog one day at a time to keep the tempo going.

    It is like having a full course meal which comes with so many dishes slow & steady. I know sometimes it can be frustuating to wait but what to do I can pnly say have patience sir.

    I could have shared with you all who are reading this blog on Ghumakkar a link that will give you all a more detailed info but if I do Vibha will be upset so I promise to share with you all this at the final end. I am sure you will enjoy going thru that blog once again from the beginning to end. The next blog of going inside Bhutan will be interesting.

  • sbhatiait says:

    Hello

    Your plan seems to be very good with complete details, I am planning to visit in 3rd week of June 2014, Please help me to know some points.

    1.Is it possible to cover Bhutan in Public Transport?

    2.About Hotel booking I am not demanding for room services and luxury, mostly prefer to stay at government
    hotels, so is there any government hotels too?

    3.Which would be the nearest railway station-Alipurduar or ?, I will be coming from Delhi(Faridabad)?

    4.I will be travelling with my wife and child (8 yrs, old and active in travelling)

    Thanks
    Sandeep Bhatia

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