Showing posts with label Dochu La. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dochu La. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 12 - Phobjikha to Thimphu

We were up early and ready to leave the hotel. As usual, the bills were settled in the night. Everything was still closed. We got into our car, got ourselves out of the gate and we were on our way to Thimphu.

As per our original itinerary, we were not planning on going to Thimphu again but after cancelling our trip to towns beyond Bumthang and the fact that we still had unfinished business to take care of in Thimphu required us to come back to town.
Following were the two main items that needed to be taken care of in Thimphu.

  1. We realized that our original permit extensions did not cover Haa Valley. We needed another permit extension for that.
  2. During our earlier stay, we could not get personalized postal stamps done. We had always thought that we will do.
4:30 AM We were out of the compounds of the hotel and on our way.

5:20 AM We crossed the first construction zone at Nobding. 

6:30 AM Encountered the first instance of what one could call the road rage in Bhutan. One can see in the video below, why Bhutan is happiest country. The truck driver rear-ended the car. See the conversation, how civil it is.
The only problem was, when I asked them to move their vehicles to side, I was told that we have to wait till police shows up for evidence. Somehow I squeezed my vehicle through the mess.
8:00 AM Just in time, before the construction work started, we were out of construction zone. In that sense the plan of starting early worked. We stopped at the cafe at Dochu La again for breakfast and may be some more photographs.

9:25 AM We were at Hungtsho checkpost. They will take back the stamped original permit extension. So if you want to save it for souvenir, then it is better to take a picture before this.
We drove into thimphu town and straight went to GPO. We thought we can do the personalized stamp business out of our way and then we can check in to our hotel. We has reached Thimphu earlier than the check-in time.

There are many countries that do personalized stamp, even India does it. But in India, you can choose an existing stamp and have your photo affixed to the next to it. Compared to that the Bhutan personalized stamps are just your picture. These are also valid postage.
See on the right, the postage in a letter that we posted to our own address. it was delivered by the time we reached back home and it is duly postmarked.
With that taken care of, we drove to the immigration office. I reconfirmed whether I need permit for Haa valley and I was told yes. So I again went through the process, applied for it and then I was told to come back in hour.
At this time we decided to go back and check in to hotel and freshen up. We stayed in Le Meridien. Here is my review of the hotel.
The rest of the evening was spent in collecting the permit extension, getting RSTA endorsement for new permit extension and leisurely walk across the Thimphu town. I found Thimphu to be a extremely walking friendly town and I enjoyed walking there.
Finally we came back to the hotel for dinner and called it a night.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 8 - Thimphu, Punakha enroute to Trongsa

This was designed to be a long day. We had planned on visiting Punakha and then reach Trongsa before night fall. We decided to start early.
Hotel Norbuling and our car ready to go

6:00 AM Checked out and left the hotel and started driving towards Dochu La. At this time we realized that we probably had our itinerary wrong. We should have merged Dochu La and Punakha. Nevertheless, no point pondering over mistakes.
Crossed Dochu La, for a moment thought about stopping there for breakfast but then continued and decided to look for a breakfast place further down the road.
7:35 AM Reached Royal Botanical Park. Looked like a good place for stopping, bio-breaks and may be some breakfast. It is really a good place. Finally we ended up spending upwards of an hour there.

Information center of the park as seen from Cafeteria

Visitor information center

Park has a large variety of Orchids

Rhododendron Garden

Landscape of Park from top

Lake in the middle of park, you can do boaring

Me, thinking, really!

Strange formations of tree

Information board at the entrance

Main gate of the park

We continued from the park after breakfast and a walk across the park. We continued our drive towards Punakha. The roads are typical Bhutan roads, a combination of single and two laned roads, decent in most places but bad in some places due to landslides etc.
10:02 AM We encountered a random police check. They were stopping vehicles and checking the documents. We were also waved for stop. The officer checked all the permits and also asked for license, checked it and then let us go.
10:30 AM We reached Punakha Dzong. It is kind of hidden in the valley. You have to be really close to it before you see it.
Punakha Dzong is really magnificent. Once we reached, we were told that at that time it is closed and we had to wait for 15 minutes before it opened.

Punakha Dzong from parking

Cantilever bridge

Large flag


Tree in courtyard


Most of the rooms along the corridors seem to have offices


View from the top

Decorative roof

Decorative walls

From parking

Another angle from further down the road

Much further down the road

Gate to parking, seems to be replica of gate from kings wedding
Finally we were done with the dzong. It is a pretty big structure and take sometime to go through. There are multiple levels and you have to climb using wooden narrow stairs.
12:00 PM We started back from the Dzong. We remembered seeing a resort while coming to Dzong. We decided to have lunch before continuing further to Trongsa. The resort is Damchen resort and could be a good option if one decides to stay night in Punakha.

1:20 PM We started our journey after lunch. As soon as we reached back on highway, we realized our misfortune. We did not know that there are road blockades with a timetable. The police officer on duty told us that we can go down the road on the other hill via Wangdue Phodrang town and byepass that blockade.
We go back towards Punakha, near the petrol station cross the bridge and continue on the narrow road towards Wangdue town. After crossing the town, we continue towards Trongsa.
2:04 PM We reach the second road blockade and there is no option for us except to wait. I asked many local drivers, they were all unanimous that there is no other option but to wait. So we wait.

4:00 PM The blockade opens and we start but before we could reach the point of next blockade, the road is closed again. We have to again wait.
We also see the timetable for blockade properly here.
Blockade timings
Now we know that we have to wait till 6PM here.
Hill cutting work

6:00 PM We start from the blockade but soon it is turning dark. Because of the road work, the roads have become much narrow and there is lots of traffic. The progress is very slow.

6:50 PM As we make very slow progress towards our destination, it turns dark and it starts raining. The rain coupled with clouds coming on the road alongwith other obstructions means we were making really slow progress.

More rain, more bad roads.
A time comes where we are so confused that we start to stop for each signage to confirm whether we are on right path or not.
Finally we reach the checkpost just before Trongsa. There is a sigh of relief that we will reach our hotel. We call our hotel and he tells us that the hotel is 6 Kms away from the checkpost.
We register ourselves at the checkpost. Unlike other checkposts, this place doesn't stamp your permit. They just note down your details and let you go.
9:30 PM We finally reach the resort. It was probably most difficult and mentally draining drive that I had done in a long time even though the distance we covered was very small.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 7 - Thimphu Local Sightseeing and Dochu La

10:00 AM We got ready after breakfast and started our journey towards the local destinations in Thimphu. The first destination was Buddha Dordenma. 
10:35 AM After a short drive, we were in Buddha Dordenma. The roads are good and drive is pleasant. 
Buddha Dordenma is a impressive monument. It is visible from the whole of Thimphu. This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue, 100,000 8 inch tall and 25,000 12 inch tall statues respectively. Each of these thousands of Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The place is still under construction and we were not allowed inside.

From the front

A seal on gates

Thimphu town from Buddha Dordenma
Side view

11:00 AM We leave the place and start our drive back to the Thimphu town.
11:20 AM We are back at the town and we stop at National Memorial Chorten.

The Memorial Chorten, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is a chorten in Thimphu, Bhutan, located on Doeboom Lam in the southern-central part of the city near the main roundabout and Indian military hospital. The chorten, built in 1974 to honour the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–1972), is a prominent landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells. In 2008, it underwent extensive renovation.
It is probably most popular monument in the town as it was most crowded specifically with non-tourist kind of crowd.
11:40 AM We leave the chorten and start our journey towards Dochu La.
Normally you would visit Dochu La on the way to Central and East Bhutan. We decided to visit this place from Thimphu and come back to Thimphu which probably is not the brightest idea. Nevertheless, when you go to Dochu La, you have to pass through Hungtsho check-post.
The Dochu La is not very far from the check-post, I think it is less than 10 kilometers from check-post.
1:00 PM I reached Dochu La pass.
Dochu La is at a height of 3116m and it does get little chilly there. So be prepared with a jacket or something like that. There are a hundred and nine chortens (stupas) in three tiers of forty five, thirty six and twenty seven circumscribing a single larger chorten at the top. This chortens are called Druk Wangyal Chortens or ‘Stupas of Victory’. The building of these chortens was initiated by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck when her husband the fourth King, travelled to the South-East of the country in December 2003 leading his army against the insurgents from India.
View of Chortens from Careteria

View from the side

Another perspective of Dochu La

Birds eye view of Dochu La

Birds eye view of Dochu La with cafeteria in frame

There is a very good cafe, Druk Wangyal Cafeteria, just opposite the Dochu La and you can ask them to prepare your lunch or snack. They give decent Indian, Bhutanese and Continental dishes.
Cafeteria interiors

Hot tea at cold Dochu La
2:40 PM We start back towards Thimphu. 
2:50 PM We reach check-post again. People who are travelling back to Thimphu but intend to travel to central and east should remember to take the permit back from the immigration checkpost. By default they would assume that you have visited the central and east and coming back and they would keep the permit extension with themselves. Atleast that's what happened to us. But on telling them that I will again travel on the same road tomorrow, they stamped and returned it back.
3:40 PM We reached the Thimphu town. We decided to fill up the car since the next day was a long drive. We only spotted one petrol station near where we were staying. It is on one end of Norzin Lam. I am sure there would be others, but we did not see them.

4:00 PM We were back in hotel. We decided to rest for an hour and then just walk around the market place. Thimphu is a very comfortable town to just walk around. We also bought couple of paper maps for Thimphu, Paro and whole of Bhutan since google maps were turning out to very inaccurate.
There are couple of book stores on the road connecting Chang Lam and Norzin Lam and one could get maps there.

Night life on Norzin Lam

Night life on Norzin Lam

Night life on Norzin Lam

As the night fell, we decided to try some other hotel for food. As we were travelling to smaller cities and not sure of food of our liking, we decided to visit Taj Tashi for dinner. It is just off Norzin Lam.
Here is my review of the food in the hotel.
Finally we walked back to hotel.
9:30 PM We were back in hotel. We slept because tomorrow was going to be an long drive and an exciting day.