This section is a small report on Bhutan, when I visited Bhutan last I was very unprepared, even I cannot take photographs. I have visited few important cities of Bhutan. So, the complete Bhutan information site will be available soon. But this brief section provides ample information of Bhutan. Contributions to Bhutan are welcome, and any one can E- Mail me or send data by post of Bhutan. After editing of the data the name of the data provider would be published in Bhutan section.
| HOME | PARO | THIMPU |
Once forbidden territory to the outside world, Bhutan now welcomes visitors from beyond its borders. Suvankar Sanyal believes that this unspoilt Himalayan kingdom will be able to resist becoming just another tourist trap.
The Himalayas, believed by those living in its shadow to be the adobe of the gods, are nature's gift to an exclusive handful of countries. Bhutan is among the exceptional few. It is also among the countries that, for years, denied access to foreigners. Which explains why it is referred to as "the last Shangri-La." In recent times, however, Bhutan has opened its doors to the outside world. Although Indian nationals are exempt from the formality of having to apply for visas to this tiny kingdom, mandatory for foreigners, they must obtain a permit issued by the Liaison Officer of the Indian Embassy at Phuntsholing by submitting an acceptable form of identification.
From ancient times, there were 12 approach routes to Bhutan. Phuntsholing, situated on the bank of the River Torsa, at the foot of the Kharbandi Hills, is the gateway to the key part of the country - western Bhutan. The convenient approach to Thimpu, the capital, begins here, though the road was constructed later. A majestic gateway frames the entrance to the Himalayan Kingdom. From Phuntosholing daily buses ply to Thimpu and Paro. A Toyota car service is also available twice daily. The journey to either place takes six- seven hours. Bhutan Standard Time (BST) is half-an-hoour ahead of IST and visitors would do well to adjust their watches to void confusion during their stay in Bhutan.
Phuntsholing has a number of good hotels to suit different pockets. Tourists will require a day's halt here to arrange for the required permit. And they can make the most of their short stay by taking a stroll along the strand bordering the River Torsa. Conveniently located for those keen on exploring the Dalsingpara tea estate nearby or the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal, Phuntosholing is also a curio shopper's dream, offering a wide range of handicrafts. For the adventurous, the local liquor, available at competitive prices, might be worth a try. Indian currency is accepted everywhere.
The road to Thimpu climbs up from Phuntosholiong and is marked by a checkpost five kilometers away, where permits are examined. Here, at an altitude of 1500 feet, stands a monastery overlooking the town of Phuntosholing, with the riverbed as its backdrop.
Eighty-five kilometers ahead, en route to Thimpu, is Chukha, the site of a hydroelectric power project. Then, as the road spirals up, becoming enveloped in the tendrils of fog, one passes, in succession, Chimakothi, Chhapehha and Chuzom.
At less than 8000 feet above sea level lies Thimpu, Bhutan's capital and the seat of royal power. Located on the banks of Thimpu Chu, this exquisite little town is now the coveted destination of visitors from afar. Hotels abound, with tarrifs to suit every budget and the tourist with sightseeing ambitions will be far from disappointed.
Three kilometers off the bus stand, at one end of the town is the Tashichhodzong, now the Royal Secretariat of Bhutan. The same road leads to the current Royal residence. Overlooking the bus stand is the town's famous chorten with its beautifully worked frescos and murals. A car ride away are the Thangu Chery Buddhist Temples, the Semetokha Dzong and Paro, the ancient capital of the kingdom.
An expanse of the rolling meadows enclosed by hills, Paro is the city-dweller's dream gateway. Lying 57 km from Thimpu and 172 km from Phuntosholing, it is equipped with the country's only airfield and a number of hotels for tourists. Atop a hillock perches the National Museum, with a view of the palace below and the Paro Valley, where the rivers, Dhupu Chu and Paro Chu, meet. Standing close by, is the chorten, with its exquisite frescoed interiors.
Apart from the Taksang Monastery and the Drugyel Dzong, both easily accessible from Paro, is a place that will delight the wildlife enthusiast - the Manas Game Reserve, on the Indo-Bhutan border, which stretches over into both countries and is the natural habitat of the tiger, the rhino, the elephant, the panther, the bear, the wild boar and the antelope. The Manas River, flowing through the Himalayan foothills, acts as the natural line of demarcation between the two countries.
With so many treasures packed into this tiny kingdom, it won't be long before the trickle of visitors develops into an invasion by marauding hordes of tourists who have marked it out as yet another territory to be "conquered." Given the expense, though, that foreigners have to incur (about $ 200/day) for a stay in this country and the considerable paperwork involved for Indians who wish to visit, one feels reassured (and yet, a little wistful), that the last Shangri-La has found ways of resisting the fate of once-unspoiled destinations that have ended up, inevitably, as tourist traps.
Getting there: Bhutan Government Transport Service (BGTS) buses connect Phuntosholing with Siliguri. The BGTS bus stand at Siliguri is opposite the Mahananda Bridge. The North Bengal State Transport buses and private buses ply to Joygaon, Phuntosholing's twin city on Indian soil. The BGTS also operates a daily service between Kolkata and Phuntosholing.
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