Showing posts with label Kolkata. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kolkata. 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, 4 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 3 of the drive, Kolkata to Asansol

12-April-2015
My family was arriving to join me on the drive by 2 PM flight. The plan was to pick them up and continue towards Phuentsholling. After discussion with H V Kumar, we finalized to end the day at Asansol.
I spent morning just resting and then walked around the hotel. It was too hot. Fellow HVKian Sandipan Mallick dropped in to say hi and it was a great gesture which further underlines the value of a community like HVK Forum.
Spent the lunch with a college friend Debashish Roychowdhury. Nice time with friends and nice food to go along with it. I was ready to continue with my journey. By the time I finished up with lunch, it was the arrival time for Delhi flight and I was off to Airport.

 2:50 PM Started from Kolkata Airport towards Asansol.
3:30 PM Crossed Singur
4:15 PM Crossed Burdwan
5:20 PM Crossed Durgapur

5:10 PM Reached Asansol. Again the hotel was arranged by CHD and it was very close to the highway making entry and exit super easy.
We finished the day early with good dinner served by the hotel retired early in the light of another early departure the next day.

Druk Diaries: Day 2 of the drive, Rajahmundry to Kolkata

11-April-2015
The plan was to get up as early as possible and continue with the drive towards Kolkata. I was sure that I will reach Bhubaneswar and unsure whether Kolkata is possible. So decided to start early and see how much progress I can make.
Local friends at H V Kumar forum seem to be of the opinion that it is not advisable to drive around Odisha/West Bengal border late at night. So, with that in mind, I decided, if I can cross the border at a decent hour then I will continue to Kolkata, otherwise I will stay at a place earlier than that.
5:20 AM I was on the road and quickly got on to NH-5 and continued towards Odisha.
6:45 AM Crossed Tuni
7:35 AM Crossed Anakpalle
Took SH-38 to byepass the Vishakhapatanam city
8:30 AM Cleared the Visakhapatanam City. Found a petrol station just when I joined the NH-5. The petrol station accepted credit cards. I also saw a hording saying that on purchase of 250 litres of diesel, one gets a lungi free. Alas, my car tank capacity is much below that and I could not be a proud owner of a Lungi.

10:05 AM Crossed Srikakulam
11:20 AM Crossed Icchapuram town. The Odisha and Andhra Pradesh border crossing is a royal mess. You can get stuck there for unlimited amount of time. The attendents there waved me to go on the wrong side of the road. Even the wrong side was blocked. After almost 20-30 minutes I was free of the traffic jam and continued further.

11:50 AM Crossed Brahmapur
1:58 PM Crossed Bhubaneswar town. I was seriously looking for a restaurant at this point in time but did not find anything on highway, so decided to continue further.
2:40 PM Crossed Cuttack town and continued towards Balasore.
4:25 PM Crossed Bhadrak
5:18 PM Crossed Balasore town. The road takes a turn for the worse from here on. The road surface is very good but there are culverts and bridges that are still not complete and for some bizarre reason you have to keep alternating between left and right carriageways.
The road from here till Kharagpur is drivable but extremely painful. There are random diversions, speedbreakers that have been put up by locals and at times you get the feeling that they have decided to live their lives on the road itself.

7:10 PM Crossed Kharagpur and joined NH-6
8:00 PM Got stuck in a traffic jam on a diversion on NH-6 near the place marked in Google as Chak Kamala. Was stuck there till 8:40 PM.
9:15 PM Got off the NH-6. My destination for the night was some hotel near Airport. HVK Central Hotel Desk had booked a hotel for me and set the course for the place.
10:45 PM Reached the hotel, ordered room service and retired for the night.
This was the longest I had driven in a day, was very tired. The lure of not having to get-up the next day early to reach Kolkata made me stretch and drive up to Kolkata. In hindsight, it was a very good idea because I could get the rest that I needed for the drives ahead.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 1 of 9

05-April-2014
We flew into Kolkata and then took a connecting flight to Bagdogra. We had arranged our travels through Yak and Yeti Travels and they had sent us vehicles at Bagdogra Airport to pick us up.
10:10AM We landed in Kolkata Airport. The new improved terminal is much better compared to earlier terminal that I visited few years back. Here is a photosphere that I did in the terminal.


12:30PM Landed at the Bagdogra Airport. Yak and Yeti Travels had sent their vehicles to pick us up and we were on our way to Gangtok.
Bagdogra Airport Parking

We stopped for lunch at a small road side eatery called Tirupati Citi Dhaba. Not very hygienic and great but the food was good enough. The place is approximately 10 minutes away from the airport.
2:35 PM Crossed Sevoke.
3:45 PM Crossed Kalimpong
4:25 PM Crossed Rongpo, crossed check post at around 5 PM. Stopped there for a while because the passengers in cars were feeling dizzy. Had a cup of coffee and discovered a new brand of coffee.

7:00 PM Reached Hotel Suhim Portico and checked in. My review of the hotel is here. It was pretty cold when we reached, the best idea seemed to have dinner and call it a day.