Backpack,  Hike-Backpack

Traveling to the last Sharangi-La : Bhutan

In the summers of 2015, I get the chance to escape to the beautifully secluded Buddhist nation of Bhutan. There was no particular reason for the trip, as I just wanted to visit a country out of my comfort zone so I started with the closest one, India’s neighbor, Bhutan.

It took me a week to research for the trip, to chalk out the routs, the destinations, the monasteries I can cover, and of course the accommodation. But after a week of research, I though of not using any of the notes I have made and traveling on the hunch. As a travel junkie, I was kind of obsessed with visiting Bhutan since I had visited Himanchal and monasteries in lower Himalayas. I entered Bhutan through Phuentsholing, a border town which connects Bhutan to India.

How you can reach Phuentsholing? And where you should Stay?
By Train– Closest station to Phuentsholing: Hasimara:
The most preferred route to reach the border town is to reach the Hasimara by train. And then take a taxi or bus which are very frequent. Hasimara can be reached from Kolkata as well as Patna. As the Indo-Bhutan Border is just 17 Kms away from this town, you can reach Jaigoan (Indian town which shares border with Phuentsholing-the town on Bhutan’s side) in half an hour.
By Flight to Bagdogra Airpot(WB)

One can travel from Bagdogra to Jaigaon in approx 4 to 5 hrs. Shared cabs, jeeps and buses are available near Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal in Siliguri and they charge up to 200 to 300 INR person.
By Bus
If you are traveling from Kolkata, there are buses which take 12-16 hours. Sadly, the buses run only on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and cost 653/- INR.
Paro
For me, I traveled to Bhutan via bus from Siliguri, where I traveled through bus again from Begusarai (it’s a district near Patna). So from Phunsholing where I traveled by Bus, I took a shared jeep to Paro Valley which actually take 6-7 hours. The route is incredibly scenic and no words can explain the beauty of this journey. There are cafes and waterfalls on the curves and turns of the road which passes through the clouds romancing with the peaks of Himalayan range.

Tiger’s Nest
Taktshang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest -The Taktshang Goemba (which translates as Tiger’s Nest Monastery) is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. The most amazing thing you will find about this Monastery is that its miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. I mean like, seriously? Show this to any Civil student and that would turn into a dream project for him/her. When you will visit this place, in the depth of the silence of the valley, only sounds are the murmurs of water from nearby waterfall and the creaking of the prayer wheels. According to the local folklore, it is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress (a manifestation of his consort Yeshe Tsogyal) to subdue the local demon, Singey Samdrup and therefore its called Tiger’s Nest. Hmm…Interesting. Neither we are guru, nor we know how to fly the tiger ! So to visit this beautiful mystical corner of the world, one has to Trek for 2 Hours from the parking space. The bottom from this Paro Valley is 700 meters (2,300 feet) which is a straight steep gorge from Paro Taktsang Monastery. There is a cafe located enroute the monastery. One can easily take a break and recharge oneself here with some refreshments before plunging henceforth. Try local food and please keep the trek plastic free!

Paro Dzongkhag
Opening hours 9am-5pm
It is said that, no trip to Bhutan is complete without visiting Bhutan’s most impressive and well-known dzong-Paro Dzongkhag. At this place you may perhaps find the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. The massive buttressed walls that tower over the town are visible throughout the valley. Overall its a well preserved fortress & friendly place of interest. One can have a aerial view of Paro with beautiful valley & terraced farmland. An interesting side note: scenes from Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1995 film Little Buddha were filmed here.
Other places to visit in Paro- Kyichu Lhakhang, Druk Choeding

How you can reach Phuentsholing? And where you should Stay?
By Train– Closest station to Phuentsholing: Hasimara:
The most preferred route to reach the border town is to reach the Hasimara by train. And then take a taxi or bus which are very frequent. Hasimara can be reached from Kolkata as well as Patna. As the Indo-Bhutan Border is just 17 Kms away from this town, you can reach Jaigoan (Indian town which shares border with Phuentsholing-the town on Bhutan’s side) in half an hour.
By Flight to Bagdogra Airpot(WB)
One can travel from Bagdogra to Jaigaon in approx 4 to 5 hrs. Shared cabs, jeeps and buses are available near Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal in Siliguri and they charge upto 200 to 300 INR person.
By Bus
If you are traveling from Kolkata, there are buses which takes 12-16 hours. Sadly, the buses runs only on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and cost 653/- INR.
Paro
For me I traveled to Bhutan via bus from Siliguri, where I traveled through bus again from Begusarai (it’s a district near Patna). So from Phunsholing where I traveled by Bus, I took a shared jeep to Paro Valley which actually take 6-7 hours. The route is incredibly scenic and no words can explain the beauty of this journey. There are cafes and waterfalls on the curves and turns of the road which passes through the clouds romancing with the peaks of Himalayan range.

Tiger’s Nest
Taktshang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest -The Taktshang Goemba (which translates as Tiger’s Nest Monastery) is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. The most amazing thing you will find about this Monastery is that its miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. I mean like, seriously? Show this to any Civil student and that would turn into a dream project for him/her. When you will visit this place, in the depth of the silence of the valley, only sounds are the murmurs of water from nearby waterfall and the creaking of the prayer wheels. According to the local folklore, it is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress (a manifestation of his consort Yeshe Tsogyal) to subdue the local demon, Singey Samdrup and therefore its called Tiger’s Nest. Hmm…Interesting. Neither we are guru, nor we know how to fly the tiger ! So to visit this beautiful mystical corner of the world, one has to Trek for 2 Hours from the parking space. The bottom from this Paro Valley is 700 meters (2,300 feet) which is a straight steep gorge from Paro Taktsang Monastery. There is a cafe located enroute the monastery. One can easily take a break and recharge oneself here with some refreshments before plunging henceforth. Try local food and please keep the trek plastic free!

Paro Dzongkhag
Opening hours 9am-5pm
It is said that, no trip to Bhutan is complete without visiting Bhutan’s most impressive and well-known dzong-Paro Dzongkhag. At this place you may perhaps find the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. The massive buttressed walls that tower over the town are visible throughout the valley. Overall its a well preserved fortress & friendly place of interest. One can have a aerial view of Paro with beautiful valley & terraced farmland. An interesting side note: scenes from Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1995 film Little Buddha were filmed here.
Other places to visit in Paro- Kyichu Lhakhang, Druk Choeding

Thimpu
For Thimpu holds the cultural legacy of this great Buddhist kingdom. As it’s the capital city of Bhutan, its relatively very advanced then all the regions of Bhutan. Thimpu holds some beautiful natural wonders as well as monasteries. It also holds some really great restaurants and clubs where you can enjoy local cuisine and get drunk for midnight parties.

Dochula Pass
This pass in the lap of Himalaya is so scenic that it should be painted and framed on the fall.

Trashichhoedzong
I visited “fortress of the glorious religion” or Trachicho Dzong Thimphuit, late in eve on my last day of the trip. You feel so amazed by the architecture of the houses and buildings which were initially built in 1641 and later rebuilt in its present form by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. The campus holds royal houses, main secretariat and administrative buildings which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. You can easily spend couple of hours touring this place and its insanely surreal.
Thimphu Chorten (Memorial Chorten)
This was the first spot I visited in Thimphu ! It is kind of unique cause as I entered I saw a lot of the locals were making rounds of a shrine and offering prayers. There was a shade for the people where some old people were sitting and praying by rotating their prayer beads. According to the buddhist belief, they say that you must go around the main memorial at least 3 times while offering prayers . You could also go inside and visit the shrine by paying entry fee for tourists. You can get amazing vibes if you go to this place, sit and meditate. Its kind of different.

What to eat in Bhutan
Ofcourse Ema Datshi (chilies and cheese). You got to eat this dish because if there is any dish which can be a national dish for this amazing nation, its this. I partially cooked it and later savored it till it get finished.
Jasha Maroo or Maru (spicy chicken) is another thing you must try if you are nonvegetarian. If you are a foody, you will cry out of joy after eating this.
Accommodation in Bhutan
Hotels in Paro- Upto 800/- INR.
Hotels in Thimpu- Upto 1000/- INR.

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