Showing posts with label Purnea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Purnea. 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.

Druk Diaries: Day 17 - Return journey, Purnea to Kanpur

26-April-2015
We continued our return journey. Since it is just a return journey, the only stoppage were for food and bio-breaks.

4:45 AM Started from Purnea, got out of the town and was on highway in less than 10 minutes. Early mornings are the best time to drive in India. Very few people to bother you on the road.
5:43 AM Crossed forbesganj.
9:08 AM Byepassed Muzaffarpur
10:20 AM Sometime after this, we got stuck in a road block. It seems some of the locals wanted LPG because there is no supply of LPG and they decided that the best way to get it is to block NH.
11:20 AM Finally police arrives, they negotiate with protesters, and they let us go. Don't know if they got the LPG or not.
11:50 AM Crossed Gopalganj.
12:25 PM Crossed the border and into Kushinagar.
12:42 PM Just when I thought only people of Bihar can block national highway, this time politicians of UP. The highway is this time properly blocked by the police.
1:03 PM Finally police relents and lets us go.
1:28 PM Get on to Gorakhpur outer ring road
1:51 PM Exit Gorakphur ORR
2:22 PM Found a restaurant called Anand Resort on the highway. Had lunch there. The place is really terrible. Don't bother eating there.

5:20 PM Stopped at another road side restaurant for Tea. Regular bus stop kind of place. Nothing to write home about.

6:30 PM Crossed Barabanki
7:10 PM Got on to Lucknow Outer Ring Road. Great road
7:30 PM Got on to Kanpur Road
8:26 PM Crossed Unnao
8:40 PM Entered outskirts of Kanpur

9:20 PM Reached CHD arranged hotel. The hotel did not have any dinner service at least on that day. I am not sure if they ever have or not. There is a restaurant just next door, but unfortunately for us, there was a wedding going on so they told us that there would be 45 mins wait time. We were not keen on waiting for that long. So we had to take out our car again and go in search for food. Finally we ended up at Cawnpore 1857. Here is my review of the place.

Druk Diaries: Day 16 - Return journey, Paro to Purnea

25-April-2015
Sadly, the fun times were over, we had to start back on our journey to Bengaluru. It was going to be a long drive.
4:30 AM Started from the hotel, as usual, we had settled bills in the night, we asked them if they can get us some breakfast, they were not very positive about that. So we just left.

5:15 AM We were at Chuzom and started on the highway towards Phuentsholling.
6:40 AM Crossed Chhukha
7:30 AM We reached Dantak Canteen. We were worried that they may not be open but fortunately they were open with the full menu.

8:20 AM Crossed Gedu
9:20 AM We were in outskirts of Phuentsholling. We got through the checkpost, returned the route permit, technically we were now almost out of Bhutan.

9:45 AM We reached the phuentsholling market area. We realized that we had few of the Bhutan Currency left with us, so we decide to spend it there.
Kizom Cafe
As we are walking around, we see this cafe called Kizom Cafe near the Tashi building. They serve good coffee. we spent some time there. Spent all our money. Here is my review of the cafe.
Phuentsholling streets, last view
11:20 AM Finally we leave Bhutan. As soon as you are out of the gate, you get a shock. Pretty much same set of people, how can they turn so disorganised suddenly.
11:55 AM We cross Hasimara
1:30 PM We cross Jalpaiguri. 

2:00 PM We find a hotel called "Motorists Inn Motel" and decide to have lunch there. This is just average hotel, average cleanliness, decent food. But it is on highway.
3:00 PM We start our journey back.
3:20 PM We crossed Siliguri. We turn into Siliguri Byepass. It is one horrible road.
4:39 PM Crossed Islamnagar. Since this was the day of local body elections in West Bengal, we were anxious to get out of West Bengal as soon as possible.
5:05 PM Crossed Kishanganj
5:30 PM Crossed Dalkhola. There was some congestion on the road near border but not too bad.


6:35 PM We reach outskirts of Purnea. We get stuck in a traffic jam of trucks which is further compounded by some political leader who somehow wants to fly.
We were not sure what will be our destination at the end of the day. It was a toss-up between Darbhanga and Purnea. Finally we ended up spending too much time in Phuentsholling so we could only progress till Purnea.
7:00 PM We reach at the hotel arranged by great people at HVK Central Hotel Desk. The hotel is phenomenal and we order room service and sleep early. The next day is another long drive.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 4 of the drive, Asansol to Siliguri

13-April-2015
The excitement was building as we were nearing the Bhutan border. We found out that one of the Jyotirling, Vaidyanath is in Deoghar. So we decided to take a small detour and visit the temple enroute to Siliguri.
4:50 AM Started from the hotel at Asansol. The road towards Dumka and Deoghar is narrow but the surface was good for most part.

6:33 AM Crossed Dumka town. The town entry and exit seems messy. We were there early in the morning so did not face any hassle but I can see how in day time it could be crowded.
7:30 AM Reached Deoghar. Found parking near temple, hassled with pandas. Unfortunately temple took too long. It was extremely crowded.
Deoghar, also known as Baidyanath Dham, is an important Hindu pilgrimage site. It is one of the twelve jyotirlingam and also one of the 51 shaktipeeths. It is, along with Shrisailam, one of the few places in India where the jyotirlinga and the shaktipeeth are together, lying sided beside each other. Baidyanatham chithabhoomau (वैद्यनाथम् चिताभूमि) [शिवमहापुराण कोटिरुद्रा संहिता 1/21-24] is the ancient verse that identifies location of vaidyanth jyotirlinga. According to which Baidyantham is in 'chidabhoomi', which is the ancient name of Deoghar. While, the same part of text has variation by which, verse is paralyam vaidyanatham (परल्यम् वैद्यनाथम्) , i.e., Vaidyanatham is in Parli, Maharashtra. Thus the three temples of, Baiydanath temple at Deoghar, Jharkhand, Vaijnath temple at Parli, Maharashtra and Baijnath temple at Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh are claiming their shrines as 'real' jyotirlinga of Vaidyanath.
In Dwadasa jyothirlinga sthothram(द्वादश ज्योतिर्लिंग स्त्रोत्रम), Adi Sankaracharya has praised Vaidyanath jyothirlinga in following verses,
पूर्वोत्तरे प्रज्वलिका निधाने
सदा वसंतम गिरिजा समेतम्
सुरासुराधिता पदपद्मम्
श्रीवैद्यनाथम् त्वमहम् नमामि
Poorvothare prajwalika nidhane
sada vasantham girija sametham
surasuraradhitha padapadmam
srivaidyanatham thamaham namami
This states that Vaidyanath jyotirlinga is located at Prajwalika nidhanam (meaning funeral place i.e., chithabhoomi) in the North-Eastern part of the country. This explaination suits more to Deoghar compared to Parali-Baijnath which is in Maharashtra.
11:00 AM Finally managed to come out of temple after darshan etc. Everybody was hungry because we did not even have breakfast till that time. So we decided to pay a visit to Hotel Amrapali Clarks Inn and have something to eat there.
By the time we reached there, the breakfast service was over and lunch service had not started. They told us that they can provide us with some sandwiches. After some negotiations, they agreed us to make some parathas for us and that was almost godsend. Here is my review of the place.
Now that we were done with immediate issues, we started back on our drive towards Siliguri. One of the locals suggested that we go through Banka. Although I don't know the alternate route, it seems the other route is better. We really did not face any problem through this route either.
12:15 PM Left the hotel towards Banka
1:30 PM Crossed Banka
2:25 PM Reached outskirts of Bhagalpur town. We continued on SH-25 to finally join the road that connects to the bridge. SH-25, just before it connects to SH-19 has been dug up and we were stuck there. Finally we retraced our steps back and got into the thick of the city that goes near the railway station. After this mess, we were stuck near a railway crossing. The gates took more than 15 minutes to open.
It was an hour long ordeal and we finally were out of the other side of the town.

3:40 PM Crossed Bhagalpur town and crossed the bridge over the Ganga.
Soon after the bridge, we saw a hotel and decided to halt for some tea and food. The name of the place is Hotel Vaibhav Highway Inn. Here is my review of the hotel.

4:50 PM Crossed Naugachia
6:00 PM Crossed Purnea
7:15 PM Crossed Kishanganj.
7:45 PM Crossed Islampur
9:00 PM Reached Siliguri. Checked into the hotel provided by CHD.