Bhutan Series – Chapter 5(All about food)

Here we have collated our food experience, for other experiences in Bhutan please refer other blog posts.
Staying in Bhutan for a week, it isn’t easy to find what suits your tastes. Although the Bhutanese traditional dish, the Datshi spread is quite good and has great balance of flavours, if you are not a rice eater or even a junk-food addict, you may find it tough. We tasted the Bhutanese cuisine for the first time on the way to Thimpu. We were driving from the border at Phuentsholing to Thimpu. I think it is customary of all taxis to take a halt for lunch at Hotel Sonia, that is half way for tourists traveling to Paro or Thimpu from the border. They do have other options like maggi and coffee, tea. While you enjoy a hot sip at Hotel Sonia, this how your view will look outside the window:
hotelsonia

Now back to food, a typical Datshi spread will consist of about 4-5 elements:
A plate of red rice, a bowl of datshi preparation with any vegetable, a bowl of dal (lentil soup) – which is quite bland compared to the indian version-but good, some chilly pickle – really hot and spicy, some buttermilk or seasoned curd.
datshi
Datshi is a curry prepared with cheese and any green vegetable. The most common being Ema Datshi, which uses the 2 most common staple foods used in Bhutan i.e. Chilly and Cheese. Other kinds are –
Beans Datshi – beans and cheese curry
Nakey Datshi – hilly fern leaf and cheese curry, the fern leaf has a slight herbal and acidic taste, quite strong flavour
Shamu Datshi – Mushroom and cheese curry
Saag Datshi – Spinach and cheese curry
Many more exist, but we didn’t get to try all 🙂
Another dish is Thukpa, a big bowl of soup that has many elements in it, but we didn’t try that too, we were always too hungry to order a soup kind of dish.

That said, we always found one favourite place to hangout and get the kind of stuff we craved.
Phuentsholing:
Hands down it has to be one place – Zicom Cafe. Coffee, tea and bakery. We also had Indian style dinner at the restaurant adjacent to it, its the last time you see any indian food in Bhutan 🙂
zicomcafe

Thimpu:
Our Hotel Nemo could best serve a decent chowmein, veg fried rice, and the momos were alright but not great.
Cafe De-lite, down the street serves quite good coffee, frothy and strong. Limited bakery items.
Cafe Relish situated in a quiet corner tucked away at the right end the road was rather a disaster, where they charge about 20% tax on the bill amount. Coffee was cold, and flavourless, normal potato fries and spicy potato fries have no difference in taste at all.
thimpucafe

Paro:
We ate at the Hotel Jigmeling restaurant most of the days, as they really listened to how we need our food and they always tried to get it right. Their chicken curry and vegetable curry were well done, but there is no chance of getting a naan or even a roti, for roti they just serve you a maida made luchi. I somehow liked the chowmein they served, crisp and fresh. Grilled chicken was a disaster, almost burnt and small pieces of chicken with bones. We always had to request them to make a strong tea, adding more tea leaf than usual, they got it right for about 2 out of 5.
jigmelingCafe Europeans down the street serves good coffee, pizzas and reasonable spaghetti, both with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. We went here more often for just coffee.
Cafe Brioche on a parallel street was the only place serving amazing pastries and cakes. We only tried some cheesecake and chocolate brownies..yummies. You could walk in thinking it is only a small counter, but it has a seating area inside.

You can read about other experiences in Thimpu and Paro in our blog posts.

Bhutan Series – Chapter 4 (All about Paro)

Paro is huge, but it retains the charm of a town, infact it comprises of a group of towns, unlike Thimpu which did look like a city. We reached here by noon from Thimpu on the 30th. Paro is home to most of the world famous spots like the Thaksang Tiger’s Nest Monastery and many Dzongs, big and small. Our stay at Paro was pre-booked by us at Hotel Jigmeling, which is centrally located near by Paro Market lanes. We were to stay here for 3 nights, given the number of things to do here it seemed like a good idea to stay that long.

paro mapWe paid a sum of Rs./Nu. 2100/- per night for a room for 3 people at Jigmeling. They are a very helpful and friendly bunch, Chimi the Manager is chirpy and jovial, always accompanied us during our meals with his quirky one liners. They were always keen on serving us food with lots of care and love. However, you always need to order your meals in advance, as they do not run a full-fledged kitchen, they require preparation time. Most eateries in the town close early in the evening, except some bars and pubs in the vicinity. Mornings are often early when you are in Bhutan, your day tends to start by 6 – 7 a.m.. Our room had a beautiful view of the fields in the backyard.
paroroomThe first evening in Paro, we just spent strolling in the market, observing the laid back life. It was a festival day and hence most of the town appeared closed and sleepy. With the quiet river stream Paro flowing around, we only walked around the lanes of the town. Locals are fond of playing carrom board on the sidewalks, may be outside any shop you will find the community bonding over carrom and some tea. We planned to do the Thaksang Monastery Trek the next day, so we needed to get good sleep and rise early for the hectic day. We headed back to Jigmeling, had some dinner and dozed off dreaming about the beautiful Tiger’s Nest monastery.

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Next morning we realised we had not ordered for our breakfast. We could not get anything as breakfast at hotel closes by 9 a.m. We had got ready only by that time. So we had to rush out, as we were already late for the trek. Ideally locals will advise you to begin your trek at 7 a.m. in the morning, so that you descend in time before it begins to pour (it often does rain there). We couldn’t pursue the trek without food, so we decided to hunt for a place that was open at 9 a.m. You’d only get hard luck in that case, its too early for anyone to open their kitchen in Paro. But we did find a place called ‘Europeans Cafe’. Unfortunately it only serves italian items, but it was the only place that had its kitchen ready to serve. We ordered some pizza and Coffee to go with. A good cup of coffee was served. One of us headed into the local market to get some fruits for the day, and she also found a taxi to take us to Tiger’s Nest. We agreed for a Nu.250/- for one way, on the way back he duped us to pay Nu.500/- as he will be bringing the taxi empty to pick us up later in the day. Later we found from one of our local friend, that it only costs about a total of Nu./Rs. 400/- to hire a taxi to go and come from Thaksang Tiger’s Nest.

At Thaksang, you get dropped at the foot of the mountain. You will need to buy sticks to carry on the trek, it is a helpful prop to keep you going. The open shops at the foot offer such sticks for Nu.50/-, expensive, and they don’t return you the money if you return it. You can simply take it with you, lend it someone may be at the hotel. We began our ascend at about 10:10 a.m. As per the standards, we were horribly late to start with. We looked at the monastery that was visible at the top – looked like a long way to go for us non-trekkers, we gulped and moved.

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Tiger’s Nest is approx. at the height of 10,240 ft above sea level. From bottom of Paro valley you need to climb a distance of above 2,300 ft. to reach the monastery. The whole ascend took us about 3 hours of walking, although we took like few breaks to catch our breath. The restaurant is supposed to mark half point to the monastery(it really is, the picture above does not do justice to the effort you need to put in)

tigernest1Above images were taken after we had completed almost 1/4th of the ascend, that’s right – only 1/4th. You will be glad you have a stick to support you. The path has ups and downs, so the monastery might look near and far intermittently, that means you can’t just assume the distance from how it looks.
We did halt at the restaurant, but didn’t eat, as we had a heavy late breakfast of pizza, we weren’t going to feel hungry till 3 p.m.! So our late start did have some perks, we saved on lunch 😛 And also the restaurant lunch is too expensive, 40 ml juice bottles were about Nu.60/- thrice the original price. Well, given the distance they have to carry the stuff up, you can give it to them.

tigernest2

If you see these 2 spots around you, half your battles are over, you’re almost there – wait! Not really, another taxing one hour to go with an additional feature of 2000 steps to climb 🙂 Honest advise – drink up from the little streams and water taps you find on your way up, very refreshing and energising.

tigernest3But if you see this, it means you have reached the monastery. Just a few more steps to climb and 4 more floors to check out at the monastery, only by now you must stop complaining about the pain in your legs – there won’t be mercy. The cameras or even bags won’t be allowed into the monastery. It is a beautiful place, where you must make it a point to sit down and take a while to soak in the beautiful paintings on the walls and the magnificent statues of Buddha, Guru Rimpoche and many other gods being worshipped here. There are approximately 7-8 different temples within the monastery. While you walk each floor and get into different rooms, you are bound to miss the Tiger’s Nest cave itself. We saw many tourists pass it through without even noticing the cave. It is a deep cave, that moves down the spine of the gorge the monastery is placed at, about 15 steps down. It is called the Tiger’s Nest in some relation to a story – This Buddhist enclave was consecrated as the site where Guru Rimpoche, riding a flying tiger, faced, battled, and defeated the demon that lived on the mountain. This pious deed was remembered in the construction of the monastery. It reminded me of the cave that used to be at Vaishno Devi in Jammu, India, till the late 90s, which the disciples would have to cross to get a glimpse of Mata, until someday a bomb was planted in it causing it to be closed down forever. Also called the Sherawali Mata (Goddess riding a Tiger)

tigernest4

Descend took us about another hour and half. But ofcourse it was less painful. On other note, while going up we noticed a lot of old tourists from across the world, who despite their age were walking away without complaining. Its weird how we being younger found it so damn taxing, we are such an unhealthy lot, aren’t we!
As we reached closer to the bottom at about 4 p.m., it began to drizzle. After reaching the foot we had to wait a few mins for the taxi to come pick us. But as soon as he did, we got in, and you wouldn’t believe the pouring that began. It was a heavy heavy rain. We were thanking our timing.
We didn’t have much energy in the evening, and we were hungry as hell. We had an early dinner and dozed off watching TV.

Next morning we lazed around and left for the Paro Dzong more closer to lunch time. There were too less tourists everywhere as we guessed most would be now at Thimpu for the festival. We didn’t mind the quiet, laid back atmosphere. The Paro Dzong or the Rinpung Dzong is an amazing place. You can’t help but sit down and gaze at the breathtaking valley down the hill. I could’ve spent hours sitting there, only if I was carrying enough food 😛 You would be thankful if you are lucky to find the dzong almost empty with very few people around.

paro valley
Please note, they do not allow women to enter the Dzong if they aren’t fully covered on their hands and legs. The Ta Dzong i.e. the National Museum was closed due to renovation so we couldn’t see it.

paro2One of us had not withdrawn enough cash at the border, and we all had just enough cash to support our own self through next days. She had to convince the Hotel owner to lend her cash in return for the money she had transferred online into his account from India. After a day’s struggle and many conversations later, they agreed to help us, and gave us cash. If you transfer online, the banks in Bhutan receive them after a delay of about a week only. Still they trusted and helped us, we provided with all proofs for them to keep. The last day on Friday we checked out of the hotel, said good bye to our lovely hosts and headed back to Phuentsholing in a taxi. You can read about all our commute expenses on this blog post.

Bhutan Series – Chapter 3 (Thimpu)

The season we chose for our visit, has major festivals taking place in Thimpu. It is also true Bhutan has festivals all year round in each of 4 seasons. That means whenever you choose to visit Bhutan, it is always a good time. Apart from many things to do in Thimpu & Paro, there are other places like Punakha valley & Haa Valley, which require permission from the capital city of Thimpu only, nowhere else. We took the border route from Phuentsholing via West Bengal, there is another route option from Assam as well – though I do not have much first hand information on that. Now lets get back on about Thimpu…
In Thimpu, we were lucky to have landed in Hotel Nemo, which was surprisingly a good deal and in a good location on Chang Lam Street. We reached there at about 7:30 p.m. on 28th Sep (Sunday night). We got a room for 3 people at a cost of Nu./Rs. 1200/- per night. The hotel was clean and well maintained. We instantly liked the place, the owner was very cordial and helping. The street was full of hotels and restaurants with neat sidewalks. The good thing about Bhutanese cities is the number of casual bars and pubs in every building or street corner, but most of the street appears closed by 8 p.m. As we were tired from day long drive, we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant itself. Unlike India, the food in the restaurant of the hotel you are staying at is always reasonable, and ambience is made such so that you feel most comfortable there. You wouldn’t really want to venture out for meals. It is like home, you sleep, eat and relax there, watch some TV, chat up with the hotel staff, and go out for sight-seeing, come back and do the same at the hotel. Indian hotels could learn to provide that comfort at reasonable costs, they don’t yet know what a personal touch would mean (without charging a bomb for it)

nemoThough the restaurant cum bar Menu at Nemo boasted of too many cuisines, we stuck to typical items that can be screwed up the least. Drinks were nominally priced ofcourse (probably due to less taxation). The hotel owner can always be found hanging out in the bar with some local whisky to go with, often a pleasant talker and very helpful. All his family members and staff are equally friendly, and the hotel is named after his cute lil’ daughter ‘Nemo’. Other landmarks to this hotel are Hotel Kisa and the football stadium.

We were told by many locals that ‘Thimpu Drubchen’ festival was held starting on 29th (typically 28th Sep – 2nd Oct), with the first day on Monday, the rest of the festival ‘Thimpu Tsechu’ would continue through Friday-Sunday(3rd-5th Oct). We were going to be in Thimpu only for the Monday celebration for ‘Thimpu Drubchen’. We enquired about where it will take place and the timings. Apparently the festival celebrations begin as early as 4 a.m. in the morning. We weren’t going to be that early ofcourse. We got ready by 8 a.m. and got out. Being the festival, everything in Thimpu was closed, usually everything would open by at least 9 a.m. and streets would be more crowded, but not today. We didn’t find any place for breakfast, not even our own hotel restaurant. Without much choice we began walking down the same street, with a faint idea about the direction towards the Dzong, where the celebrations will be taking place. It was not very far, seemed to be about 5-6 kms. We kept asking passers-by for direction, the answer was always ‘straight ahead’. We saw few locals heading towards somewhere, all dressed up in their traditional attire, called as the ‘Gho’ for men and ‘Kira’ for the women. It seemed they were also going to the Dzong, it was the only direction anyone on the street seemed to take. We simply followed them…

thimpudzong

Most people had cars or taxis transporting them to the Dzong. Almost no one except us walked the entire route. Even the local buses appeared somewhere or the other calling out and picking up locals, but they never responded to us tourists as such. After a 30 min walk, following random locals, we finally reached the Dzong. It was crowded, huge mobs were entering the Dzong, a palace like structure. It was packed, and you tend to squeeze and rub and stifle to reach the celebration area. The pushing does not stop until you come out of the place. We all had split right after entering the mobbed area, and enjoyed the event separately from our self-found corners. If you have a good camera lens, you will enjoy a better view of the dance for sure. I did.

thimpudance

After a couple of hours, we came back into the town, walking straight into a restaurant for lunch. It was like a house, that had placed a small board at the door for you to guess its a place to eat. It served only local traditional Bhutanese Datshi dishes (usually Red rice with some kind of vegetable and cheese curry). Few went into the De-lite Cafe on the same street, to have some burgers and coffee instead. You can read about our food experience on this blog post. After lunch, we decided to check out the Buddha Point, a monument of Buddha erected on the hill. We bargained with a taxi to take us there and bring us back in Nu.300/-. The Buddha point was magnificent.
thimpulast

On this ride, some of us turned stupid and pushed the driver to show us the King & Queen’s Residence (which by common sense will not be such an easy tourist sight to visit), as the driver agreed it was infact open for view. The Driver took advantage of our ignorance and instead just showed us the Tashiccho Dzong in a different dimension, but charged us another Nu.150/-. All of us could make out it was the same place we had been in the morning for the festival, this was just a view from the hill. But somehow were yet thinking it could be the King’s Residence (it can’t be that simple!). Later in the evening our hotel owner enlightened us that the King’s residence is somewhere hidden in the hills, not allowed for access to taxis or any traffic. We were ofcourse duped for money, and because of some silliness.

After the hectic day we thought of strolling through the market street to buy some souvenirs. Although our shopping had begun earlier just below our hotel, at a shop for clothing, running a discount at that time. We couldn’t help but barge in to dig out stuff. For Indians its a treat to find good quality stuff at dirt cheap prices. There are many good shops loaded with cheap and good quality stuff on the shopping street parallel to Chang Lam. Another good shop is near by Clock tower on the market street. Evening walks could fetch you some good stylish buys.
In all, the entire stay at Thimpu was comfortable and quite well-spent for 2 nights and 1 day. On Tuesday morning, we found a taxi to Paro, with help of our last taxi driver who had dropped us in Thimpu the day earlier from P’ling. Packed and ready, we said goodbye and thanked Thimpu weather for being so pleasant and the people for being so warm. Our home for next few days was Paro..all about it here.

viewthimpu

Bhutan Series – Chapter 2 (All about Commute)

GETTING THERE:
After all the contemplation and online research, we finally headed towards the destination we had been dreaming about for months now. It was a Saturday morning. We boarded our flight from Bangalore, and after half a day we were in Bagdogra at 3 p.m. We all stepped outside the airport, clueless about where we head next. I mean we had an idea that we need to be reach Jaigaon(the border town) from there, but were still not sure whether taking a train would be better or a local bus. We managed to sneak out of the lure by pre-paid taxi stand that was asking us to pay about a sum of 2600/- for an Indica for 3-4 people.

On asking around, we found that the bus stand in Siliguri (that was about 30 kms from Bagdogra), has regular buses to Jaigaon, but the probability of it taking too many stops and making us reach really really late in night was high. The trains are available from Siliguri to Hasimara (a station 15 kms from Jaigaon), but they are not that regular or on time (thats some half-cooked info we knew of at that point), for now all we knew the next train would be in evening by 6 p.m. In the meantime, one of us had some couchsurfing aquaintances traveling in the same direction who incidentally were in the same flight. They convinced us that we better head for the border ASAP, and we have more than 100% chances of getting a permit tonight itself. They also found a taxi guy who was willing to transport us for a mere Rs. 400/- per head to the border town. Seemed like a good idea, we caved in.
bag jai map

It all turned out to be a good call. The taxi we were taking was a Bhutan vehicle, with a native driver, who wanted to return across the border. Not bad at all, being in Indian territory, we were already riding the Bhutanese air 🙂
The route was serene almost instantly. Infact, there were many instances I wanted to stop the vehicle and just capture the beautiful landscapes. With River Tista crossing our path numerous times, making the landscapes even more delectable, our 4 hour or so journey was a delight.
tista

We did take breaks for tea and snacks a couple times, making our drive about 5 hour long. On the way, we were lucky to pass ‘Laddoo Gopal‘, a famous joint in Siliguri for chaats and ofcourse laddoos..and other Indian sweets. An authentic taste of chaat and bengali sweets is so very rare in Bangalore, and so we all just pounced on all we could order. They also had a speciality called the ‘Palak momos’. Everything was fresh and ofcourse yummy.

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Some snacks and chai later we resumed our drive, and by 8 p.m. on the same day we were standing in Phuentsholing (Bhutan) territory. The driver, directly drove into Phuentsholing, crossing the border gate between Jaigaon and P’ling. Apparantly people are allowed to move freely in any of the regions upto 5 kms, you require permits beyond that. So basically we were allowed to stroll that side without a permit. The difference in both the regions was stark, in the face, even in the dark of the night. While Jaigaon had a typical Indian street, with dirt and garbage lying around everywhere, vehicles driving at their will with no lane or traffic sense, and with lots of people, the town just across from the huge gate was quiet, quaint and laid back. It was definitely clean, well maintained.

We rushed to the border office that looked like had a light on inside, some of us went in and enquired. We were advised by the polite officer to come in the morning, which will be a Sunday, and we were relieved to know that they do work on Sundays. He also handed us over the forms to be filled for the permit. We strolled back to the vehicle, and unloaded our stuff. The group split, while one went in search of a reasonable hotel for night stay, the other went into a cafe to get a grub. Zicom Cafe in Phuentsholing turned out to be our regular hangout while getting in and out of Bhutan. It is one of few good cafes in that region, with a very decent breakfast/snack menu. We could not find a hotel in Phuentsholing ofcourse, as most tourists had already occupied it. One of the owners who also owned a hotel in Jaigoan a few mins walk away suggested us to go there. It was a decent place called Hotel Siddharth, we walked back into India and checked in. By 9:00 p.m. streets in Jaigaon became deserted and almost everything was closed, so we had to head back into P’ling to get some dinner. We dined somewhere close to the border itself, keeping a close watch on the gates (like they might close right on time!). Turns out, even though the locals try to warn you many times that the gates will close exactly at 9:30 p.m., there is always room for leniency, just one of the good traits of the Bhutanese people you will come across through your trip 🙂 By the way, Bhutan runs half an hour early than India. So by Indian time, the gates close at 10 p.m.

bhutan gate

Next morning, early by 7:50 a.m we reported to the Visa Office in P’ling. The Officer was already there and asked us to come in one by one with our forms and documents. You need your Indian passport copies and the duly filled form given by the office – thats all. The Officer asked us few simple questions about our stay and plans in Bhutan. From this office you can only get permits for Thimpu & Paro, rest any other destination in Bhutan requires permits applied in Thimpu only. We were asked to wait 5 mins for the permits to be issued. Somehow, we assumed it to take longer and so we went away to have breakfast at Zicom – stupid if you think.
During the day the differences come out even more obvious. Both the towns have huge mountains in their background. But the ugliness of buildings on Indian side, and the beautiful traditional architecture on Bhutanese side, makes and breaks the look of the grand mountain landscape at the same time.
After breakfast, we returned and surprisingly there was a huge crowd outside the office, unlike early morning when we were the only ones around. We made way to the door and asked the guy inside for our permits. He immediately, came out with our forms and softly complained “Where were you all, we kept looking for you guys”, he handed over respective permits to us. We were stupidly smiling at all this, and walked back to checkout of our hotel in Jaigaon.
Some Important TIPS:
Cash & Currency – This is the last place before entering Bhutan, where you have any access to your money – withdraw all the cash you will need through your trip. No Debit/Credit/ATM card will work in Bhutan for any Indian Bank (check the back side of your cards for confirmation). You can always pay all over Bhutan in Rupees.
Phone connection – If you need phone access, better not use Indian sim, its way too costly for using in Bhutan. Better walk to a Tashicell centre opposite Zicom, and buy off a local sim card. Rs./Nu.200/- and passport copy and you are sorted. But if you want to use 3G, better go for Bmobile connection, they have a very good 3G connectivity as informed by locals.
Internet/Wi-fi – Zicom is the last place that gives you free and excellent Wi-fi connectivity. Anywhere else in Thimpu or Paro, internet was either out of service or too feeble. So you might as well give up on being connected.

Although we hadn’t included Thimpu in our plan, as we didnt expect to get a permit on sunday, we decided to spend next 2 days in Thimpu. We had our bookings in Paro only from the 30th. Suddenly our trip sounded complete with Thimpu & Paro all accounted for.

While we leisurely checked out from the hotel, our acquaintances who joined us unplanned in Bagdogra, were smart enough to go and book seats for Paro in the local bus station at Phuentsholing.

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We only reached there by 12 p.m. to realise that buses are limited to any place in Bhutan, seats are even less (20 per bus). The only seats available to Thimpu were in an evening bus at 5 p.m. We stood outside station confused and making up our minds to spend on a taxi to Thimpu. We were approached by a local to help us, he told us that bus tickets are usually booked off in advance, and it will be better for us to find a good deal on a taxi. He offered to help us find a taxi. Right outside the bus station, you will find many taxi guys for hire. Typically it costs Rs.650/- per head for Thimpu or Paro, as the distance is similar. We found a taxi with a Thimpu native, again, who wanted to return to his hometown soon, agreed to take 3 of us for Rs.600/- per head. Luckily a good deal.
Our Driver Mr.Karma was like most Bhutanese people, very friendly and polite(If his no.hasn’t changed you can contact him at 77675579). We had a peaceful drive of about 6 hours through the hills to reach Thimpu. On the way you will find many picturesque locales, that your taxi driver will be more than willing to halt at. They usually break for lunch on the way at Hotel Sonia, that will serve traditional Bhutanese food, and also some other options like soups, chowmein or even maggi. For tea or coffee, if you don’t like milky stuff, you will need to instruct on making it strong. You can find all about our food experience in Bhutan on this blog post.

plingtothimpuWe reached Thimpu at about 7:30 p.m. Since it was not part of our itinerary, we had no idea where to stay here or what to do. We asked Mr. Karma to help and he dropped us at one of his friend’s hotel, Hotel Nemo (this hotel has no online presence, you can try your luck to get contact of the owner from Mr.Karma who is his friend)It is situated in a very good location, on Chang Lam Street, which is almost the middle of Thimpu, with the shopping street running parallel, and all kinds of pubs restaurants on this same street. You can find all about our stay in Thimpu in this blog post.
2 Days later, with Mr.Karma’s help we got in touch with Mr.Suman for a taxi drive to Paro. Thimpu and Paro are hardly 2 hours away from each other. It should cost you about Rs.200/- per head for this ride. A bus will be cheaper, but again, only 2 buses run in a day, morning 8 a.m. and afternoon 2 p.m. for which you require to book in advance on the bus stand. Mr. Suman agreed to drive us along with an additional passenger as he needs to make Rs.800/- out of each ride. We agreed. We reached Paro by noon, and checked into our pre-booked hotel, Hotel Jigmeling. You can find all about our stay in Paro in this blog post.

RETURN:
While returning from Paro, we again could not manage to get bus tickets to Phuentsholing, only 2 buses ran during the day, morning and afternoon. Being a tourist season, getting in will be easier than getting out. Taxis in Paro were not ready to bargain on the cash. After extensive search around the town, we had to agree for a Rs.1000/- per head deal.
We reached Phuentsholing in about 6 hours, taking the exact same route. On drop, we sipped some coffee at Zicom, bidding final adieu to Phuentsholing, we headed back to Mother India. Right outside the gateway in Jaigaon, at the auto stand we got a ride to Hasimara Railway station for Rs.50/- per head. At the station, we went and bought tickets to Siliguri Junction on Kanchan Kanya Express for Rs.60/- each. The train was at 4:40 p.m. right on time, and we reached Siliguri at about 8 p.m. Trains between Hasimara and Siliguri are quite regular and can be relied upon if you have 5-6 hours to spare. Since our flight was the next day from Bagdogra, we had to night stay in Siliguri. Finding Hotel was the toughest here, that too at night, but we did somehow find it online, a certain Hotel Manila right across the Railway station. It costed about Rs.1900/- for a AC room for 3, costly but thats the price for a decent hotel for women. The taxi to Bagdogra costed us Rs.600/- (not per head, the vehicle)
Siliguri was hot as hell, and coming back from the hills it wasn’t inviting enough to be home, but then you always have to come back.