Charisma of Paro (Bhutan)

Learning and experiencing butanese culture was of my major interest. I booked myself in a Homestay- Ama’s village lodge, a bit away from the Paro main town. A traditional bhutanese farmstay, with two dogs in the back yard, barn and wooden planks stacked at one end and agriculture field with new crops on the rear end of the house made it the perfect choice.

The room I stayed in, had traditional paintings on the wall, an interconnecting room (which obviously I din’t need). Also our room had a prayer room, which we sneaked in when grandma came to worship. It looked like a mini monastery with the statues of lord “Buddha” and ‘Padmasambhava’ and the chanting instruments.

None of the rural bhutanese houses have bathrooms attached to the rooms. They are usually constructed away from the sleeping rooms, somewhere in the corridors.

What’s in Paro??

The Tigers nest

It has always been an Instagram destination. But dint know that the complete hike can be so much more than an insta perfect pic.

The base is about 9km from city center. The ticket costs Rs 500. You could take up the support sticks or pony’s to take you up but then what’s the fun. Some eatables, sport shoes, warm jacket and a fit body is all you need to complete the hike in 3hrs.

It’s a steep route but I chose shortcuts, they pump the adrelin, hell out of me. The shortcuts through the narrow paths amongst the pine with ravine on one side and trees on other is exhilarating.

Quick altitude accent might make the head heavy.

There are storage rooms for bags & cameras. You can not take your belongings inside the temple premises. And there are no shops/cafe. Keep enough edibles.

Taktsang cafe is mid way, so if you are not on budget, definitely experience the dining amidst the jungle and fog while admiring the tigers nest.

The monastery is enlightening if you go with belief . A guide will accompany you inside(included in the ticket). They would walk you through the history and importance of each temple.

Post the trek I was so hungry that I could eat like a whale. So our driver took us to a low cost restaurant that served buffet lunch.

Shopping

Explore the symmetrically aligned shops for souvenir, traditional wear, incense sticks or local produce.

National museum of Paro

The museum showcases the culture of the country. It shuts by 3:30pm.

Read

Grab a seat in one of the cafe on the street of Paro market, order a pot of lemon tea with a piece of delicious carrot cake. Pick out the book you want to read from the book shelf and that’s my ideal holiday.

Paro is a panoramic town with snowclad mountains forming a fencing around. It has people living simple lives , witnessing the real emotions of joy, love and peace. “We” the city dwellers are just existing to earn, real emotions are far away from our knowledge. Hence I travel to keep me sane and maintain my balance.

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Bhutan-Punakha & Dochula pass

I might not travel to Bhutan again so had to explore the maximum I could. Punakha was next on my itinerary. One needs to take a permit extension to visit Punakha. Not that there is strict border policing but you still dont want to see the violent side of the peaceful country 🤔

The permit can be obtained from the Thimphu immigration/visa office. Punakha is a day trip from Thimphu about 2hrs. A must site stopover is Dochula pass which is 19 km from the capital. It was constructed by the Queen in the memory of the soldiers of war.

You will experience extreme climates enroute Punakha. You would have to layer up at Dochula, but will be left with the last layer of your clothing at Punakha.

The attraction points in Punakha are:

The 370 years old, Punakha Palace

Life connector, the suspension bridge

We took a taxi from Thimphu at 8am, which was arranged by Gakyil hotel. It took us around Punakha and then dropped us to Paro. The driver also stopped at the Paro airport viewpoint. And all this for 4000rs.

Thimphu is midway Punakha and Paro

To know about my Paro adventures keep following….

Visiting Thimpu check this out https://voyagetrails.com/2018/08/11/things-to-do-in-thimphu/

 

Things to do in Thimphu

Located in a valley, ‘Thimphu’ is the capital of the peace loving country of Bhutan. It is the most developed city as well. Thimphu is a smooth drive of 4.5 hrs from Phuntsholing by cab.

The weather in April is cool at night and pleasant during the day. So carry some light woolens.

gakyil

Stay

The hotel we stayed in was ‘Gakyil’ is located at the city center (hence the choice). The market, cafes, banks and clubs are a short walk. Its a 3 star property with clean and well maintained rooms, equipped with bathtub as well. They also have a restaurant serving breakfast buffet and the rest is ala-carte. We booked it a an excellent rate using makemytrip.com

Luxury options are Le Meridien and Taj

Party

Everything shuts at 9 pm except the clubs that opens only at 9😉. Yes you read it correct Thimphu has a couple of clubs- Vivacity, Space 34 and Mojo park. All of them have an entry fee but we ladies have some perks and get free entry on Wednesdays. So girls plan your trip accordingly.

Tuedays are dry days

Eat

International cuisine

The Ambient cafe– the cafe carries a casual vibe with view of the busy streets of Thimphu. Collection of books to read while sipping coffee. My favorite dish was ‘whole wheat waffles with banana and homemade ice cream’

The Zone cafe– go in the eve, it is the hangout place for all the youngsters.

The Maggie point- in case looking for a quick and eco meal, go to this kiosk which serves pasta, Maggie and sandwiches. Its located near the theater.

Most of the restaurants don’t have a giant welcome gates, the way to them is usually from back of the complexes, through dingy stairs. So one needs to really look hard to find a way

Local cuisine

They don’t have much vegetation but Bhutan has chilies (Datshi) in abundance It is used in majority of the dishes. “Ema” means cheese and Ema datshi is there specialty. Its a must try.

The locals savor “Butter tea” that’s their everyday tea. Slightly pink in color and tastes more like soup and less like normal tea.

Pork is used for main course, because of its lower price and long shelf-life. Chicken is more of an exotic main course.

Don’t be fooled by the pepper in the cruet set, because it ain’t the normal one, every bottle contains the ‘wild sichuan pepper’, which isn’t spicy but numbs your tongue and lips for sometime 😁

I enjoyed eating the local cuisine and still crave for the cheese preparation.

Shopping

market

Handicraft market is the place for souvenir finders located opposite to the Thimphu visa office. Shops are in the shape of small huts, lined up straight adjacent to each other. The goods sold are ethnic and attractive, ranging from a fridge magnet to costumes.

Bargain well

Then is the main market with complexes and standalone shops. Bhutan doesn’t have a mall yet and is far from the status bragging branded stores. They have shops selling multi items like clothes, jewelry, cosmetics. Most of them are either imported from India or China.

 

Also not so far from the city center is a local bazaar, near the vegetable market. An apt place to buy cheap crockery ,basic footwear, traditional attire(cheap ones), household stuff etc.

Bhutanese people love chewing supari (betalnut), mostly all shops sell this and it smells awful.

Tourist Spots

The Buddha point- 12 km away from the city center, has the Thimphu view.

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Tashichodzong- ‘The King’s palace & office’. Open for public in the eve.

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Changankha Lakhang- Temple of fertility.

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Best way to cover these is to hire a taxi Rs 1500-2000 for all these places

This is Thimphu experience from my eyes and ears. Stay tuned to know more about Punakha and Paro.