Showing posts with label Trongsa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trongsa. 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

20-April-2015
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.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 9 - Trongsa Local

18-April-2015
After the really long drive of previous night, we realized that probably we have bitten more than what we can chew. Last night we took more than 10 hours to drive to reach from Thimphu to Trongsa.
As per our original plan we were to drive till Trashigang as part of next segment. We realized that it would not be possible to do that segment in one day. The other problem we faced that between Trongsa and Mongar we could not find any reasonable place to stay. Also we only had two more days to complete the drive before we head back to Paro. We realized it doesn't make sense to drive up to Trashigang if we were not exiting Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar. An editing of the original program was in order so we decided that we stay in Trongsa and then drive up to Bumthang and then we will head back to Paro.
This day was just for sightseeing in Trongsa and rest. Since there is not really much to see in Trongsa apart from nature in its full glory.
Trongsa Dzong

Trongsa Szong

Palace

Trongsa Dzong
Me
The Dzong is 10 minutes drive away from the Yangkhil Resort where we were staying. It was raining and cold. We paid a quick visit to the Dzong.
Painting in Dzong

Entrance

Entrance

Courtyard

Prayer wheel


Decorative roof

Main gate as you enter from parking

View to parking
Once night falls, the dzong is flood lit and the resort had great view of flood lit dzong.
Flood-lit Dzong

Flood Lit Dzong
Flood-lit Dzong covered with clouds
It was nice relaxing day, as per our modified plan, we were driving to Bumthang tomorrow and then we would start our journey back to Paro. Since we had saved one extra day because of curtailing our trip to Trashigang, we decided to do another stop-over in Thimphu. It was really a wise decision as we would realize later.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

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

17-April-2015
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


Courtyard

Tree in courtyard

Roof

Most of the rooms along the corridors seem to have offices

Paintings


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.