Showing posts with label Bumthang. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bumthang. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Druk Diaries: An experience of a lifetime

During January 2015 when I first mentioned that I think we should drive to Bhutan, the family's response was cautious. I think they initially though that I was joking and they let it pass. As day came nearer, I started preparing for it. Slowly everybody was on board.
The original plan was to start the trip in second week of April, but my family has to be in Delhi during first week of April. We decided that they will directly join me in Kolkata and I will drive from Bengaluru to Kolkata alone. My all the road trips have been with family and this was the first time when I was planning on driving more than 1500 kilometers alone.
You can find the total trip map above. We reached Bhutan by taking east coast of India and then came through central India. The total distance of the trip was upwards of 7700 kilometers and total fuel consumed was more than 850 liters. I did not keep track of total toll paid for this trip but it must be more than Rs. 4000/-.
Here is the detailed account of the trip.

  1. Prologue
  2. Bhutan Road Trip Process
  3. Day   1 : Bengaluru to Rajahmundry
  4. Day   2 : Rajahmundry to Kolkata
  5. Day   3 : Kolkata to Asansol
  6. Day   4 : Asansol to Siliguri with blessing from Baba Vaidyanath of Deoghar
  7. Day   5 : Arriving in Bhutan, Siliguri to Thimphu via Phuentsholling
  8. Day   6 : Permit Extension, Thimphu sightseeing
  9. Day   7 : Thimphu local attractions and Dochu La
  10. Day   8 : Thimphu to Trongsa via Punakha
  11. Day   9 : Trongsa local attractions
  12. Day 10 : Trongsa to Bumthang and Bumthang local attractions
  13. Day 11 : Bumthang to Phobjikha and chillout at Phobjikha
  14. Day 12 : Phobjikha to Thimphu, personalized stamps at Thimphu GPO
  15. Day 13 : Thimphu to Paro, Paro Dzong
  16. Day 14 : Taktsang Lhakhang or Tiger's Nest, a great trek
  17. Day 15 : Chele La, Haa and Paro Market
  18. Day 16 : Return journey, Paro to Purnea
  19. Day 17 : Return journey, Purnea to Kanpur
  20. Day 18 : Return journey, Kanpur to Bhopal
  21. Day 19-22 : Break at Bhopal, Fixes to the car
  22. Day 23 : Return Journey, Bhopal to Bengaluru
This trip was a test of endurance for us, all of us in the family, which we passed with flying colors. Many times it was tough, particularly during that dark, rainy night of drive to Trongsa, when we had no idea whether we were even on right path or the final day of drive when we decided to do Bhopal to Bengaluru without taking at break. At around 12:30 AM when I was really sleepy, my wife, who doesn't prefer to drive in night, offered to drive and that hour and half of drive by her made it easier for us to reach without taking too much risk.
Before this trip, the maximum that we had driven in a day was approximately 985 kilometers, i.e. Pune to Mount Abu. Now it stands at 1500+ kilometers.

If I were to do it again
If I were to do it again, I would probably modify the itinerary as follows.
  1. Do Dochu La as part of drive to Punakha and stay in Punakha
  2. Do Trongsa in day time and continue and stay in Bumthang
  3. Move Paro to start of the trip
  4. Couple of days extra for Mongar and Trashigang, 1 day to Mongar 1 day in Trashigang and then exit via Samdrup Jongkhar
Because of under construction roads, drive to east is specifically painful in Bhutan currently. It is very difficult to drive long distances across West-East highway. If locals were to be believed, it would probably 2-4 years before things would become better.

Lessons Learnt
  • How important are your own tools in the car. The puncture guys whom I found on highway neither had spanner nor jack that would fit my car.
  • It is very important to have a pump in your car. With a slow leaking tire, my trip would have been very difficult if I did not have pump with me to fill it up
Thanks are in order
This trip would have been much harder to plan and execute if not for the support of many friends on HVK Forum on facebook including but not limited to Rajneesh Khare for all the help around central india,  Sandipan Mallick for all the help around east specifically Kolkata and Asansol and showing a friendly face in hotel, Panduranga Kudige Shenoy for helping me finalize the Deoghar route, Kumar HV for all the guidance, direction and help and everbody who is working with HVK Central Hotel Desk
If I missed somebody, it is not intentional, I am thankful for any help extended by anybody that helped me make this trip successful.
Finally thanks are in order to my wife and daughter for agreeing and putting up with the madness of being on the road for more than 20 days.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 11 - Bumthang to Phobjikha

While our drive from Thimphu to Trongsa, we had encountered several construction zones where traffic was stopped based on a time table. We were not convinced that we can escape the road blockade. So we decided to do the return journey in two stretches. The idea was to reach as close to construction zone as possible and then next day start really early so we can escape all construction activity before it starts.

So we chose Phobjikha valley because we could find a decent hotel there.

5:20 AM We decided to depart really early. Whole staff of the hotel was still asleep. As promised, let left the key in the hotel room, opened the gate and exited the hotel.
We had planned our departure in such a way so that by the time we reach Trongsa, breakfast service in Yangkhil resort would be open and we can do breakfast there.
7:25 AM We reached Yangkhil resort.
8:10 AM We left Yangkhil Resort and in a short span of time, we crossed the Bjeezam checkpost. This is the same checkpost which we had encountered late at night couple of nights back.

As we were driving, we saw this board for Chendeyji Resort. We just thought to check it out and may be have a tea.

9:35 AM The place is really good. When we reached they only had tea ready. So we just had the tea and started our onwards journey. If you are travelling with family, both Yangkhil Resort and Chendeyji resort have clean restrooms.
Now we were all set to continue our journey till the destination.
The next milestone was Pele La. In our eastward journey earlier, we completely missed the Pele La because it was already dark by the time we reached. Also we were so anxious to reach the destination that we pretty much did not pay any attention to anything.
Pele La is another pass at an height of approximately 3400 mts. Just after Pele La, the road to Phobjikha valley forks off.
The road into phobjikha valley is just about a dirt road. The town is a sleepy little town with nothing mapped even on google map. We just drove around and finally found our destination for the night, i.e. Hotel Dewachen. We did not find any other place worth staying. The caretaker almost behaved as if he is doing us a favor by offering us a room. Here is our review of the property.
The view of the valley from the property is amazing. You can see nature in its full glory.

We tool a little walk, rested for a while, had a dinner and called it an early night since we had to start early next day with a hope that we will cross all the construction activity before its start time i.e. 8 AM.

Druk Diaries: Day 10 - Trongsa to Bumthang and Bumthang Local

As per the new plan, we were to go to Bumthang for a day and then return back. We started from Trongsa just after breakfast. As you drive towards Bumthang, you see the first sight of snow capped mountains.

8:30 AM We were on the road to Bumthang.
10:00 AM We were at the rest area. See in the map, I have marked it. It had decent toilets. There is nothing else there.

10:15 AM We reached Yotongla, it is mountain pass at 3425m.

10:38 AM Crossed Kiki La, 2800 m.

11:30 AM We reached the Jakar Village Lodge. Here is my review of the place. We were the only guests in the property, so we decided to go to the town and find something to eat there. The first place to visit was Dzong since it was very close to the lodge.

Corridor in Dzong


While in the Dzong, we met bunch of local school girls. There were clearly impressed with Indian soaps. They asked my wife, "आपके पति परमेश्वर का नाम क्या है"| They walked around with us for a while and then vanished somewhere.

12:15 PM We started back from the Dzong. Now the first order of the business was to find some place to eat. The owner of our lodge had mentioned Cafe Perks, we tried looking for it. Couldn't find it.

Finally as I was aimlessly driving, saw Hotel Ugyen Ling and  decided to have lunch there. They were kind of not ready but said, if we order and wait, they would cook stuff for us. So we ordered and waited for the food. Here is my review of the place.
2:30 PM Finished with lunch, started for the Jambey Lhakhang. it is very near to the hotel
It is a very small monastery.
Jambey Lhakhang

Jambey Lhakhang

Jambey Lhakhang
The next destination was Kurjey Lhakgang. We were told that this is the main monastery in the region. Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived. We could just walk around the compound.
Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang
Next we decided to head to Mebar Tso, or the burning lake. According to the legend Terton Pema Lingpa had a vision of the sacred treasures that Guru Rimpoche had hidden within the lake centuries earlier. However the people of Tang and the local ruler were cynical of his claims. In order to prove his claims, Pema Lingpa held a butter lamp in his hand as he jumped into the lake. After remaining under water for a long time he re-emerged holding a chest and a scroll of paper with the butter lamp held in his hand still burning bright. Thereafter, the lake came to be known as Mebartsho (the burning Lake).
Final stretch of trek to Lake

At Mebar Tso
5:30 PM We started back from Mebar Tso. Drove straight back to the town. As we were driving through the main market, finally spotted the Cafe perks, so decided to have a coffee. Here is my review of the place.
Finally reached back hotel around 6:30pm. Decided to have an early dinner. Since we were planning on leaving early morning, we settled the bills in the night itself. In most Bhutan hotels, one should confirm if they would be open that early, otherwise just settle everything in the evening. The owner told us to just hang the keys in the room and leave.