The Road to Phuentsholing

Day one: The route to Phuentsholing, Bhutan

My flight landed at the civil terminal of Bagdogra at an hour considered unearthly for someone travelling to Bhutan. It was 3:30 PM and all the buses for the day had left. So I had no choice but to pay through my nose and spend Rs. 1800 on a taxi to Bhutan. Little did I know it will be worth every penny of it. The road is a winding one from Bagdogra-Siliguri-Birpara-Jaigaon and finally on to Phuentsholing. With a detour in between due to a broken bridge, the journey got extended from 4 hours to 5 hours. I reached Bhutan at a time when no more vehicles were allowed inside, but the friendly guard let us in. I settled down in the hotel in Phuentsholing. The small town sleeps very early. By about 9:30 all the shops close down and the streets are deserted. It was time to hit the restaurant in my hotel and have a few drinks. The best whiskey available in Bhutan is called Coronation Silver Jubilee.

Day two: The dreamy mountains en-route to Thimpu

Day two started off with the work commitments I had. It was completely different interacting with the Bhutanese Government officials, when you are used to the Indian babus. Work got over by noon and it was time for a quick bite and cool beer to enjoy the afternoon. Had 4 hours off when I decided to go trekking up the highway that leads to Thimpu.

A trek of about 9-10 kms took me to a height of abt 400-500 metres above sea-level. I could see Phuentsholing as a speck of land from there.Sitting on the edge of the road with your legs dangling over a valley with a straight drop of 400 metres is the kind of moment that doesent come too often. I lit up a smoke and saw the clouds speed by in the distance. Weary birds headed home from their fleeting treetop houses. Every now and then a car would pass by with its passengers astonished to see a guy sitting in the middle of nowhere. To them it would look like I was contemplating suicide. But moments and places like these are the ones that give you hope. A lone tree stood in the valley as if waiting forever.

A dog gave me company as he walked up several kilometres with me, sitting in between at times to admire the magnificent work of art. I sat there for several minutes enjoying the beauty and the cool wind. Finally it was beginning to get dark when I decided to head back. There was one thing I always wanted to do. Hitch-hike! So I stood at the edge of the road and got a lift from a passing government official on his bike. He wore the traditional Buddhist robes like all other Bhutanese government officials.

At nightfall it was time to hit the most popular hangout in Phuentsholing and have some good whiskey and some Bhutanese food. There’s Thukpa which is basically soup noodles. And then there is Ema Dashi which is a preparation of Bhutanese Green Chillis in Cheese Gravy. Trust me its absolutely delicious when had with Butter Naans. Or else you would be standing under the faucet for atleast 20 minutes. I finally headed back to the hotel when everything closed down.

The next morning I woke up early to see the beauty of Phuentsholing when it rains. It had rained overnight and the clouds had come right down to greet us (me and the fellow Bhutanese). The last walk to the bus stand was as breath-taking as the rest of my journey. Plans are already in works for the next un-official trip to Bhutan.

More Photos here

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