Day 4: Into the heart of the thunder dragon, Thimpu

Day 4: Into the heart of the thunder dragon, Thimpu

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

It rained very heavily in the night but the sky was quite clear in the morning. I woke up early as we needed to get the permits done. Since the immigration office opens only at 9am, we decided to take a stroll around Phuentsholing. We walked around and had some snacks and coffee. As we walked further, we could see some buddhist prayer flags at a distance. Curious to know what it was, we went near it. We could see a ‘protected area’ signboard but could hardly read the message, though it was written in English. All we could manage to read was, ‘fine 100Nu per instance’. That made us bold enough to investigate. As we climbed the embankment, we saw a beautiful stream flowing below. We clicked pictures and started walking along the stream to the point were it met a river. The place looked brilliant, with the mountains at the backdrop. We again took photographs and came to get the permits issued. We gave our identification paper which we got from the consulate and they said that it would take around half an hour to process. However, it was getting delayed as the authorised signatory was in a meeting. But thanks to constant pestering by a lady who was also waiting to get the permit issued, we got it in an hour. We then got to the Phoentsholing bus stand were we get buses to Thimpu. I found that there were buses from here to Paro, Thimpu, Punakha till 4pm. So I knew that my plan to get to Thimpu yesterday was fundamentally flawed. We got to know that the next bus was only at 1pm. So this is what I learnt. A good plan should be to get to Phuentsholing in the morning, get the permits issued, tickets booked and then move on to Thimpu by the first bus at 9am.
We moved on. It was ghat roads right from the start. The route was exceptionally beautiful with all the greenery around. Roads were perfect. I was just sitting by the window and clicking photographs. I observed that the terrain in which the road is cut out was made of loose rock and mud, an ideal recipe for mud slips and landslides. And as we moved a little forward, I saw fresh mud slides on the road. Though we were not stuck up for long, this road seemed to me as unpredictable. But the scenery around was too good, weather cooler and the mist making it picture perfect. As we travelled around 40km, the roads became worse. To add to that, the road was very narrow with huge drops to the side. Being in the window seat, my heart was pounding hard and may have even skipped a beat as the bus moved closer to the edge. It should be a safe height to do a base jump, I thought. One wrong turn and we should plunge atleast a full minute before coming to a stop! Anyways, soon the roads got better again and we moved on.
The temperature kept on going down. We passed through the highest point in the Phuentsholing – Thimpu road at 8,350ft. We stopped at a restaurant for a tea break. The feeling that we had while tasting the steaming hot momos and tea in the cool climate cannot be explained by words. Its an experience.
After passing through three immigration check points, at 6:30pm, we entered the capital of the ‘land of the thunder dragon’, Thimpu. The city, though not crowded by buildings, was quite vast and well planned. It felt as if I just entered the popular computer game, ‘Age of Empires’ Chinese Civilization! All the buildings had the special Chinese type of architecture. It was amazing! I hardly found any traffic signals as the traffic was routed in a special way similar to what I have seen in Chandigarh.
We got down at the bus stand and took a taxi and asked him to drop us at a place near some inexpensive hotel. The taxi driver showed us a hotel where the rooms were available for 600Nu. Now, though it wasn’t unaffordable, that was not the kind of accomodation I needed. After enquiring at 7-8 hotels nearby, I finally found a room for just 350Nu. So we checked in and Ravi immediately cuddled under the blanket. After having a heavy dinner and enquiring about my travel plans for tomorrow, I settled for a sound sleep.

Location: Thimpu, Bhutan
Date: 16.06.2010

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Day 3: A ‘walk’ out of the country into Bhutan

"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck...