My Bhutan diary
Kuzo Zang Pola
Last May, 8 awesome people came together to join The Blueberry Trails, on our trip to the land of happiness! Bagdogra dhabas and long road trips playing mafia, were just the beginning of this epic road journey, that spanned over 9 days.
Our first stop was the border town of Phoentsholling, chaos prevailed consistently at Jalgaon, the Indian counterpart of this border town, but the moment you crossed the Bhutan Gate, you were in Bhutan, and the scenery changed. Wider roads, 300% lesser traffic, 100% lesser number of shops and commercial establishment, and believe it or not, even the weather changed.
A 4 hour drive to Thimpu, over winding roads. Dhaba stops along the way, goat cheese and local beer were experimented with. We also ate our first round of Ema Datshi, the national food of Bhutan. Chilli cooked in a cheesy gravy , served with red rice.
The Thimpu Dzong was magnificent and awe-inspiring. Larger than life, the complex now houses the administrative department of the state, a monastery and quarters where monks live in.
On a rainy evening, we set off to find an authentic Bhutanese eatery. It was Munir’s birthday this day, and we wanted to go someplace nice to eat. Bhutan Kitchen was discovered and relished. Great local food and Kiran’s friendly banter with other travelers “hello brother. Which country?” made the evening wonderful. Happy Birthday to Munir!
The drive to Trongsa was long, across the Pelela Pass, as the weather was hell bent to play spoil sport. But Mafia and good conversations were loyal companions, and we stopped to marvel at the folk lore that most monuments inspired. Of dragons and demons and simple village folk who fell pray to great evils. And a hero comes along , to save mankind. Most of the stories revolve around eternal hope and love. But it makes even a skeptic like me go awww! There is some magic in the simplicity with which its told, that it just takes your heart away.
The sun was a welcome companion Trongsa onwards, we set off to explore the Dzong at Trongsa with smiles.
On the way back to Punakha, we stopped by a small school in Chandebji. Chandebji Primary school. A small village tucked away in the mountains, we walked through the landscape to reach the school. Children played in this simple park, a see saw made by a raw plank of wood, a tyre for a swing, but the teachers were happy, the students were happy. We then figured, its all in the air and the landscape that surrounds you, there is no complaint, no “shikayat” , but a warm feeling of gratitude for what they have, and striving to be better. I had quite a fangirl moment with the teacher there.
A hike to the temple of fertility, and the beauty of the Punakha Dzong were the highlights of our stay there. Did I tell you how we went rice farming? While some of us took it easy after the hike to the temple of fertility, we saw a local farmers at work at the fields nearby. Some of us wore kho’s and set off for a day at the farm. And boy! It's isn’t as easy at it looks. Knee deep in muck, we planted long stems, taught by a local, who initially laughed at our efforts. But by the end of the endeavour I could have bet , that we almost had a job offer.
Paro is beautiful. The drive through mountains and passes, finally takes you past one of the most dangerous runways of the world at the Paro airport. You pass by that and then we moved on to our stay at the Gantey Palace. An old residence of the then governor, this palace converted into an old rustic hotel has plenty of character. An old world charm, lovely sit out areas, a stupa right in the middle of the grounds are some of the highlights. The rooms are beautifully preserved and the stay is an experience in itself.
But ofcourse Paro is so much more than that. A trek to the Tiger’s nest is a must do here and we also visited a local’s home for a cooking session, some local brews and a local spa (believe it or not, a spa experience in Paro. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up in warmth and comfort.
Bhutan is meant for the dreamer, the lover of simplicity, the storyteller, the history buff or a lover of architecture. It is a treat for someone who swears by the ancient. It is all for the old school charm, those who believe in the happily ever after. Simple happy lives surround you and you will have no other option but to sink into your seat and enjoy it.
The Blueberry Trails hosts their next journey to Bhutan this April. The details of the event are:
bit.ly/HelloBhutan1 Join in! It will be an experience to hold on to.
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