Travel to Bhutan, of all places!
Travel to Bhutan via Jaigaon and Phuentsholing
Conquering the World, Atleast that is what the whole trip of Bhutan & Sikkim was for me. My batchmate and friend at NMIMS, Rajesh and his wife Ruchi invited me on a trek to Sikkim. It started six months ago when I casually told him that I’d be keen to join him in an adventure trip which would give me a chance to do travel photography. For a guy like me who keeps hovering between fit & unfit, depending on how many fruits I’ve eaten on a particular day, I’d made it amply clear to him that it has to be a ‘beginner’ level trek, else I might end up being a liability for him.
And he knowingly duped me into signing up for the Yuksum-Goecha La trek, which any guy in the ‘know how’ will tell you that it’s meant for advanced trekkers. But first, we were travelling to Bhutan, to ‘prepare’ for the real trek.
I completed packing luggage a few hours before leaving home, as usual. This time it weren’t the usual trolley bag or camera kit. It was a rucksack filled with a bedding, a carrimat, headlamps, ice axe and such non-corporate stuff.
Rajesh & Ruchi thankfully made it to the airport at Delhi on time inspite of a delayed start from Chandigarh. And we caught up at the ‘cute’ airport in Bagdogra, which loudly announced ‘No Photography anywhere’. It is an Air Force base station.
Approximately four to five hours from Bagdogra is Jaigaon, India’s border town before entering Bhutan. It’s counterpart is Phuentsholing in Bhutan. In Bagdogra/ Siliguri, which are twin towns in the state of West Bengal, and also the gateways to the Himalayas in this part of the country, preparations were on for an election rally where PM Narendra Modi was to address the local crowd. Fortunately, he was late and we got saved from getting stuck in traffic. We met thousands of people who were walking on foot to the venue, and scores of bikes with supporters carrying party flags. It got dark pretty early and the evening was cloudy and hazy, but whatever we could make out in the setting sun, appeared to be a scenic drive with green pastures, forest trees and hills in the distance.
All you have to do to enter Bhutan is drive under the huge arch announcing ‘Welcome to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan’. Entry to vehicles is restricted after 9 pm and we were short by a few minutes. So we took the pedestrian route next to the main gate.
The moment you cross over, there is a distinct difference. The roads are cleaner, well paved and the buildings neatly constructed. Being on a tight budget, we searched for an acceptable hotel and shoved our several backpacks up to the first floor of Kuenga Hotel, which is right at the entrance of this town.
Bhutan is half an hour ahead of India, and in this small border town, life shuts down pretty early. By 10 pm, the streets are empty and most restaurants closed. We quickly search the area and find one which is still taking orders. All three of us are hungry and we gorge on chicken fried rice, thupka and chicken.
Travel documents to Bhutan for Indian citizens:
Indian citizens entering Bhutan by road require to carry an Identity proof (Passport or Voter ID card only) and two PP photos. Fill up an application form at the Entry Permit centre and you are good to go.