Bhutan Series – Chapter 1 (Gearing up)

We are heading for Bhutan, from Bangalore at the end of this month, to spend time in first week of October. Yes, you guessed it..we have chosen the busiest time of the year to be there. It could be attributed to a long weekend in that week, all over India! Just hope we don’t have too many Indian tourists there too…Cause, we just throng at every place in tourist season..we do! Anyway, over to prep for Bhutan.

We were going to be a group of 4 girls traveling to Bhutan, and our planning began with availability of cheap flights to Bagdogra in the month of May. But one of had to drop out due to unplanned events.

We have done a few mistakes in planning in this trip, we are reaching Bagdogra on a Saturday – very bad decision! Because reaching Border town, Phuentsholing, on saturday itself has no meaning, the Immigration office that will let you cross the border will be closed by evening, and remain so on the Sunday. So we will be spending 2 days out of our trip in India itself. 1 whole day is required to get your immigration done, and then travel to Paro/Thimpu whichever is in your plan. Thus, as per this plan we touch Paro, Bhutan only on Monday evening 😦

My list of essentials for the trip :
prep list

Additional things you’d like to carry –
1. Nuts for snacks, and other non-perishable snacks. You never know how hungry you get with no sellers in sight!
2. And it goes without stressing – you must carry 2-3 paris of T-shirts, and extra pair of pants.
3. Warm socks if you are heading for colder regions, in other cases too – you need an extra pair of socks!
4. and ofcourse I don’t need to mention suitable undergarments for the cold weather
5. Tissues, plastic bags to carry used if you didn’t find a place to dispose them
6. Camera is a personal choice, I know many people who don’t care about photos much
7. A good light book (in weight – not necessarily content 😉 ), again a personal choice

About the route, surprisingly, people actually go to Bhutan from India, by spending a lot lot more on flights directly to Paro or Thimpu. Its funny, because most of us choose to miss out the incredible route that is from Bagdogra to Paro (via Phuentsholing). I have been to Bagdogra earlier, on way to Gangtok once, so I was kind of familiar with being there. It ofcourse did sound more convincing, when one of us had much information on how we would reach there. The Girls booked their tickets in advance. However, until a week back, we all were just too tied up to do more research on stuff-to-do there. And as a shock, we realised we might not get a reasonable hotel to stay at given the busiest time of the year. It took me almost a day and half of frivolous browsing and cross-checking rates, and finding out emails and phone numbers of various hotels in the town of Paro, emailing them and waiting for responses. Most places were fully booked as their emails said. In event of no response, I just went ahead and called some of them. After many such interactions, we did land a reasonably priced hotel – Hotel Jigmeling. It seems decent so far and rated well on TripAdvisor. So we are set (well partially so, but okay).

Some initial tips to cross border by road were referred from this post –

Our tentative itinerary for now is as follows:

1. Reach Bagdogra, stay for the evening, since the next day is Sunday and the immigration office won’t be open till monday
2. Next day we head for Jaigaon – 4-5 hours ride from Bagdogra, the last town at the Indian Border. We will stay here for the evening on Sunday, to get clearance early on Monday
3. If we are lucky to get all this done by afternoon, we will take a ride to Paro from here, another 6-7 hours of travel
4. We check-in to the hotel at Paro on Monday evening
5. Next day we will take a chill pill, and wear off the tire from last 2 days..may be wander in Paro, check out its haunts
6. On Wednesday, we will gear up and conquer Thaksang Tiger’s Nest Monastery – good luck for that – coz we are not much of trekkers 😛 takes up entire day
7. On Thursday again we will require to relax and enjoy more of Paro, check out local markets, shop
8. Friday we need to head back for Bagdogra, as a whole day is required to finish that journey
9. Saturday morning, we have our flights from Bagdogra.

Good luck to us! hopefully this turns out well.

Read all about how are trip went at Paro, Thimpu and Commute & Food.