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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Quick guide to ‘Bhutan by land’

It was the right weather and the time to set sail to another voyage. This time it was in seek of peace and what better place could I think of but Bhutan. As I had some extra days in hand, decided to club some cities of Sikkim for my 10 days itinerary.

A sneak peek of my travel

Bagdogra airport>> Darjeeling>>Ravangla>>Gangtok>>Silliguri>>Phuntsholing>> Thimphu>>Punakha>>Paro>>Phuntsholing>>Bagdogra

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Tip: The economical way to reach Bhutan for Indians is via land -Phuntsholing border. To reduce the travel time, take a flight to Bagdogra.

Tip: Cheap, quick and easy way to travel within Sikkim and Bhutan is the shared taxis.

Delhi>>Bagdogra>>Phuntsholing>>Thimphu

Reach Bagdogra before noon and directly head towards Jaigaon(Indian side of border). There are numerous taxi that charge Rs 2500 to Rs 4000 one way to the border (3-4 hrs journey). Indians are allowed free entry and exit in Phuntsholing (Bhutan side of border). You don’t need a permit to roam around/stay there. So enjoy the charm & simplicity of Bhutan. But don’t forget to use the Zebra crossing while crossing the road specially near the immigration office. That’s the first thing that would make you feel the difference.

Delhi>>Bagdogra>>Silliguri>>Thimphu

If you arrive late in Bagdogra, stay overnight at Silliguri (30 min away from airport). An auto to Silliguri costs around Rs’300 and a cab Rs’500 to Rs 800. Don’t expect a lot from the town but to kill time, ‘the Hong Kong market’ can be an attraction to buy cheap China goods. The buses are not readily available to Phuntsholing from Silliguri. The fastest and cheapest mode of transport is a train to “Hasimara”. All trains going to kolkata will definitely stop at Hasimara. From here if you are lucky, will immediately get a shared auto (20 min ride to the Border)

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Shot from moving train to Hasimara

Immigration process

It is important that the traveler carries hard copy of hotel confirmations and voter Id/ passport. Though they have 2 photocopy shops right opposite to the immigration office. The easiest way to skip the que is to get hold of an agent and ask him to file on your behalf  and for that they charge a small fee of approx Rs 250-500. Then your name would be called and you “enter the dragon”😉 that’s where your finger prints are taken.

Currency

Bhutanese currency is ngultrum. Not even once did we get a currency exchange done at a forex shop because Indian currency is widely accepted and as change we received ngultrum.

 

Sri Lanka with GG in Rs32000/ $500 (Colombo)

It was october and I got a new job while the joining date was in December, I had to take out some days to plan a voyage between the switch. I asked multiple friends to accompany me but who knew a girl from school will become my travel partner. I immediately booked Jet airways flight to Sri Lanka which costed me Rs18000 two way. E-visa is available for Indian citizens which is trouble-free to apply and costs $20. Itenerary-Colombo>>Kandy>>Ella>>Yala>>Mirrisa>>Hikkaduwa>>Bentota>>Colombo Early morning we landed at the Colombo airport with no local currency, funny that the forex exchange counters denied accepting Indian currency( we were the victims of demonetisation) And my ATM card was not internationally enabled, luckily my freind’s card was a saviour. As per my usual budget trip rules, we took an auto to the nearest bus stand which is 2km from the airport. Secured a seat in a local bus that took 45 min to reach Colombo (30km from airport) Note:Auto’s are pretty expensive and charge like 200 S.Rs for 2km. Ohh did I forget to mention that we were not having iternational internet activated, so finding our accommodation was another story. We were finding it all around when it was right under our nose. We booked “Backpack Lanka hostel”, they were accommodating to our ,way too early checkin and let us crash in their lobby and cater to all our requests for food, charger, bathroom, toilet etc😆 We both were done with our morning chores ready to explore the city on foot. Took the feel of wide roads, cleanliness and the way people cross streets. Colombo doesn’t have much of attraction points so one day is good enough. In this one day, we booked the train tickets to Kandy and to Ella, also visited the Kelaniya temple. Local bus was our mode of transport to and from the temple which we boarded from, near the railway station. In the evening after taking a nap, we took a stroll at the “Galle face”. Family spent time here enjoying the local snacks and the breeze from the sea. It was a exhausting day and we had to catch the train the next day , hence we bid gudnight to our 1st day in Sri Lanka.

Udaipur- long weekend getaway

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People call it city of lakes, talks about the culture , true it is.  But udaipur is much more than this, in one word it is a “DREAM”. It has the oldest mountain range- the arravalis, the water bodies, forts, hippie yet ethnic style,  temples, roof top lounges, lake side restaurants and If there are tourists who are still looking for a city feel, udaipur has decent multiplex and malls as well.

COMMUTING

The airport  is 30 km away from the city where in the railway station is located within the city. Most convenient is a train from H.Nizamudin Station to udaipur at 1900hrs and the same train can be boarded from udaipur at 1830hrs

The best thing about the city is that it is not spread out,  each and everything is approachable by a tuk tuk or on foot.
*Unusual but they do  not have manual rickshaws.

LODGING

Luxury- the three big brands stand at the Pichola lake. The world famous Taj Lake Palace, Udaivillas by the Oberoi group and then the Leela. Romance hovers Taj lake palace. (If one wants to propose and doest not want to be disappointed by the answer, this is the place for the grand proposal)

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Upscale- the royal family has converted there palace into two hotels. Laxmi villas by the lalit, radisson blue and the Chunda palace are other options.

Budget- there are multiple options to choose from , personal havelis turned into lodges between the price range of INR 500 – 4000 per night.

DINING

EXPENSIVE:Jagmandir- the food is excellent and gives you a royal and unique  experience of dining in the midde of the lake.  The cover charge per couple is around INR 4000 which also includes the ferry charges.

MODERATE:Ambrai- breathtaking location,  panoramic view of the palaces and the Pichola lake with traditional Indian food, what else can someone ask for, being in a city of royalty.

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ECONOMY:Little prince- is a seasonal ‘little restaurant ‘ on the banks of the cannal connecting the two lakes. Serving majorly international cuisine with all sorts of liquor.

The city has a wide variety of cafes and rooftop restaurant serving breakfast starting from a Gujrati dish to a cappuccino with Danish pastry.

SHOPPING (ethnic)

City palace market or the old city market- this is a place for tourists. One can find rajasthani traditional artifacts here.

Haathi pol (haathi means elephant and pol in rajasthani is gate, strage but true)- this is the market area for all the localities. Majorly for apparels.

SIGHTSEEING

The City palace- the main fort which is still the residence of the royal family.  Part of the palace has been converted into a museum and hotels.

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Jagdish Temple- beautiful carvings on the walls will make one awstruck.

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Monsoon palace- A palace once built to keep a track of weather conditions. Is known for its two sided view, the Aging Arravalis and Udaipur city’s arial view.

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Fateh sagar lake- is another lake within the city which is a picnic spot for all the locals. Also the shacks along the lake are called Bombay market as you will get, local delicacies of Mumbai here. Do not forget to try “khullar coffee”.

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Very rightly quoted Udaipur is the ‘Venice of India’. Boating in the Pichola during the sunset, view from the  Tripolia bridge, watching locals on the ghats during ‘Gangaur’, walking through the narrow lanes, exotic breakfast at the cafes and the enriched history will spellbound you in the mystic world. It happened with me, its time for you to explore the beauty…