Highlight pictures from this Tour:
Bhutan West - Phuntsoling & Thimpu
Hotel TT where we stayed
Wall Painting at the GPO
Highlight Details of this Tour:
15th April 2009: Today, we have to first get our permits at Phuntsoling and then drive to Thimpu, Bhutan. Anybody can enter Phuntsoling, without a Visa or Permit (and even stay in a hotel) as it is, a sort of 'free border' town. But to go further into Bhutan there are check posts, that will ask for your permits. HVK and I walked into P/soling at 6:30am today to make reconnaissance survey and understand the town layout and see the buildings and working hours, where have to apply for permits.
We need to first get people-permits for the five of us, Indians, at the Immigration office opens 8:30am IST and then since we plan to drive in Bhutan with our own vehicle we will also need a "vehicle" permit at the RSTA office above the bus-stand in P/soling. So we were the first in the Q, at 8:30am IST (9:00am BST) when the Immigration office opened.
We got our permits in hand, by 10:00am and with those went to RSTA for the Scorpio permit that took another 1.5 hrs and we were 'all set' by 11:00am. The permit process was a bit time consuming, but otherwise hassle-free and easy; if you have all requisite documents in order. HVK was well prepared for all this! Keep in mind, though, this was just the permit to Thimpu & Paro we have to do all this, all over again in Thimpu, for going to central and east Bhutan.
Finally, we were headed to Thimpu at 11am. The roads were good and the traffic light and orderly. The route was scenic all the way and the weather was pretty cool at 18-20°C. We stopped at Dantak canteen for lunch at 1:30pm and reached Thimpu Market around 5:00pm.
After checking out a few hotels, we settled on Hotel TT on the main street, opposite the clock-tower square. A basic DBL room here was Rs 500/- per night. It had a parking space free, in the back street. We stayed 3 nights.
The rest of today and the whole of next day (16th April) we went up and down Thimpu 's few streets, admiring all the buildings and street scenes. Also visited all the local tourist sites.
Thimpu town was an eye-opener for me! A clean city, orderly traffic, no blaring horns, cars parked neatly, building all painted and decorated in typical traditional styles, signboards uniform. People dressed in traditional uniforms, talking softly. No noisy streets, no noisy people. Though every hotel and restaurant is also Bar, no drunks on the street. How come? we Indians have a lot to learn from this small, neighbour, country! We don't have to go West, to learn the civic sense. Read in some tourist literature that Bhutan takes pride in a high Gross National Happiness (GNH) visa-vis high GDP. People everywhere (not only Thimpu) seemed happier and at peace with their lives and their environment!
Buddhist Monk in Thimpu street - - - I tried to take a picture of him walking by, but he suddenly stopped and faced me! ... I was thinking he is unhappy with me for trying to snap his picture without permission? Instead, he stopped walking, turned to face me, smiled and posed for my camera! ... and after I had clicked walked away with a parting wave of his hand!! With the monk was his lady assistant, who too smiled, seeing him spare a minute for me. Behind the monk HVK is coming out of the Immigration Office, with our Permits for East Bhutan which he managed to get, with his usual efficiency.
PS (2012): At the time I took this picture in 2009, I had simply thought "what a kind old monk" he was! ... to stop, smile and pose for me! But since then I have visited this page several times and have looked at this picture many times! Each time I learnt some new lesson from his old act! Over the years, I realized it was much more than a kind human smile, that he was teaching me!
In the afternoon, we visited the Simtokha Dzong, 5 kms outside Thimpu, when the monks there were holding their "Q&A sessions" that is done in such traditional style; with a loud clap of hands and huge stomping down of the right foot - as in pictures here:
Tomorrow, 17th April, we make a day-trip to Paro and the Drukgyel Dzong in Paro valley. Details of that trip is in the subpages.
33 GHiRT-1 NE >
Bhutan-1 > Phuntsoling and Thimpu
We entered Bhutan from Phuntsoling and after obtaining Visas and Driving permits we drove to the capital and did all sights in and around Thimpu over next 2 days.