Every person in this world plans something unique for his birthday and tries hard to make the day memorable. For me, nothing could have been better than traveling to celebrate my day. So, I planned a trip to Bhutan with my college friends to celebrate my 24th birthday. Also, it was my first international trip so the excitement level was at its top. 😀
We planned to travel in August end and booked the flights in July to get a bit cheaper tickets. We also booked a few hotels in advance so that we could get the permits with ease because hotel booking vouchers are required to get the permits.
Now, as our departure date started coming closer, we started packing and arranging other important stuff.
- Day 1: Fly from Delhi to Bagdogra. Travel to Alipurdwar
- Day 2: Jeep Safari at Buxa Tiger reserve. Travel to Jaigaon.
- Day 3: Enter Phuentsholing in Bhutan. Get permits and travel to Thimphu
- Day 4: Sightseeing in Thimphu. Travel to Punakha
- Day 5: Travel to Phobjikha Valley, back to Punakha and Travel to Paro
- Day 6: Trek to Tigers Nest
- Day 7: Travel to Chele La pass and back to Paro
- Day 8: Travel from Paro to Phuentsholing and then to Siliguri
- Day 9: Fly from Bagdogra to Delhi
Day 1: Fly from Delhi to Bagdogra. Travel to Alipurdwar
We were a group of five, out of which two were coming from Hyderabad and Pune and the rest three (including me)
It took us 2 hours and we reached Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. Though we couldn’t get a view of Everest
Finally, Rahul arrived at the airport, and we rushed out to catch a taxi to the New Jalpaiguri railway station. After bargaining with some taxi
At 7:45 pm, the train arrived at the station and we boarded it. Now, we were to spend the next 3 hours on the train as we had no other option, we started playing UNO and playing cards. We also did the recce of the complete train and did some pranks too. We reached Alipurdwar at 10:30 pm and after searching for a few minutes, found a decent hotel, had dinner and slept.
Day 2: Jeep Safari at Buxa Tiger reserve. Travel to Jaigaon.
We woke up and got ready for the Jeep Safari at Buxa tiger reserve. The weather was humid and there had been no electricity since midnight. So we also had a small fight with the hotel owner because he didn’t turn on the generator and we just wanted to leave that place. Then, we inquired from taxi
We crossed the gate and entered the dense forest having tall trees on both sides of the track. Our guide told us that the forest was home to various animals such as leopard, tiger, deer, and
After finishing the safari, we boarded the taxi and it dropped us at the outer gate. Now we had to reach Jaigaon and the day was about to be set. There were no autos/taxis available directly to Jaigaon. So, without further delay, we hired an auto up to Kalchini and decided to take another auto to our destination, Jaigaon.
Then began our autorickshaw journey and after 5 minutes of the drive, the driver suddenly asked us to focus on the road and the surroundings. We asked him “why?” to which he replied that as we were traveling through the dense forest, there was a much higher possibility that we would come across an animal. We further asked him, “what will happen if a leopard or an elephant
The driver also told us a few forest stories also and we thoroughly enjoyed the journey. After reaching Kalchini, we took another auto rickshaw and continued our drive towards Jaigaon (the town nearest to Bhutan border). It was an
Jaigaon is a small town situated at the bottom of a hill and is known as the border town for Bhutan. From there, one can cross the Indo-Bhutan border on his feet. There is a gate called Bhutan gate through which one can reach Phuentsholing, a town in Bhutan. We roamed around for a while and after having dinner, we relaxed in our rooms.
Day 3: Enter Phuentsholing in Bhutan. Get permits and travel to Thimphu
After 2 days of travel in India, now we were going to enter Bhutan. We got ready by 8 am, checked out of the hotel, and started walking towards the Bhutan gate, hardly 500 meters from there. We went through the frisking center and finally, we were standing on the land of Thunder Dragon. We then walked for a few meters and proceeded towards the immigration office to get the permits.
At the gate, we met some people asking if we needed a taxi. We negotiated with them and booked a taxi for 6 days for ₹20k. The package included the sightseeing of Phobjikha Valley and Chele La and we considered it a fair deal.
Our driver took all our passports and we went inside the office for the ID and fingerprint verification. Finally, our passports got stamped and being the first stamps on our passports, we were excited as hell. It took us around an hour to complete the formalities and then we started our drive towards the capital of Bhutan.
Thimphu is around 160 km from Phuentsholing and mountains accompanied us throughout the drive. It was not only scenic like any other mountain drive but was also comfortable unlike many of them. We took a halt at a village called Gedu to have our lunch and after that, we continued our drive and reached Thimphu by 6 in the evening. The city looked lively and beautiful at the time and the weather was also quite pleasant.
We kept our luggage in the rooms and got out to roam on the streets and have dinner. The receptionist of the hotel informed us beforehand that in Bhutan, most of the shops and restaurants get closed by 9 pm, except for a few clubs. So, he advised us against getting late and we followed his suggestions. As the following two days were going to be longer because they included more travel, we slept a
Day 4: Sightseeing in Thimphu. Travel to Punakha
We got ready and went down for breakfast. We started our day with sightseeing in Thimphu. As every country’s capital comes with a list of places to visit, we shortlisted the best ones as per our interests. First, we went to the immigration office and applied for the permit of Phobjikha Valley and Punakha. Then, we visited the Buddha point which is a Buddhist temple situated on a hill on the outskirts of Thimphu. As the temple was situated atop a hill, we had to climb around 100 stairs to reach the main temple premises.
There was a colossal statue of Lord Buddha resting on the roof of the temple. The temple was alluring from inside as well due to the colorful textures and paintings. The view of the surroundings was also mesmerizing and the entire town of Thimphu was visible.
After spending some time there, we proceeded towards another Buddhist temple and then had lunch. Now, we had previously planned to visit the National Zoo but we changed our plan at the last moment because we were informed that there were no red pandas. So,
We then began our journey towards Punakha. Amidst the way, we crossed one of the high passes of Bhutan, viz, Dochu la. We halted at the pass for some photos and had hot chocolate at the only cafe situated there. Then, we continued our journey and reached Punakha by 8 pm. The place was cold as compared to Thimphu. We had our dinner and then went out for a night walk.
The complete trip was planned by me including the flights, travel, hotels, itinerary, etc. It was not a big task for me as I am already from the travel field. But it can be a big thing for other people. In case you do not have the time or want to go through the hassle of planning every detail of your tour to Bhutan, you can have a Bhutanese travel agency like BookMyTour do it for you. They seem to offer package tours to Bhutan that includes tour vehicles, a tour guide, all food, accommodations, and also the permits
Read Part 2 : Trip to Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon