Bhutan

Bhutan - Dru Ü - Land of Drukpa (the dragon people).

Bhutan

A tiny kingdom sandwiched between two giants projects itself not by the wealth but by how happy it is.

It is perhaps the rugged and unpredictable Himalaya that brings a sense of mysticism to the lives of people. Or may be it is ever-turning and never-ending roads amid the daunting mountains and rivers that invoke the search for path to Moksha . As a result Bhutanese is the society that is embedded in ritualistic religion and takes pride in its rich culture and traditions.

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Travelogue

This was our itinerary from Pune to Pune. Bhutanese cities are in blue.

Pune - Mumbai - Bagdogra - Jaigaon
- Phuentsholing
- Paro - Tiger's Nest
- Punakha
- Thimphu - Tango - Phajoding
- Phuentsholing

- Hasimara - Kolkata - Mumbai - Pune

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Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing is the gate-way to Bhutan from Jaigaon, India. Moment you cross through a characteristic gate, you literally land up in a very different country. You realize that streets are clean, shops are highly organized and people follow traffic rules. (Cars actually wait for you to cross the street!)

It is mandatory for all (Indians) to get a permit to enter Bhutan. Phuentsholing is the place to get it. Typically the queue for the permit starts as early as 8 O'Clock and may take 2 to 6 hour, depending upon your luck.

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Paro

Oh, how beautiful can a city be! Situated in a splendid Himalayan valley Paro is a colorful and cozy town. It hosts Bhutan's only international airport. River PaChhu (Pa-Chhu) flows over smooth white pebbles as it cuddles the town. River, grasslands and mighty Himalaya makes the city beyond picturesque.

City has a 15th century temple - Dungtse Lhakhang and about ten kilometers from the city is famous Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) temple.

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Tiger's Nest (Taktshang)

Legend has it that in the 8th century Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to a remote location in Himalaya on a tigress' back from Tibet to meditate. Later in 1692 a temple was built on the location which became the Taktshang or Tiger's nest.

Situated on a face of the cliff at an altitude of 3,120 metres (10,240 ft) this magnificent architecture awes the visitors. The hike to temple can be long and may take 2 to 3 hours. Although tiring, the hike takes you through the dense pine woods and never fails to be scenic.

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Dochula Pass

At the elavation of 3,100 m (10,171 ft) this mountain pass is often covered in clouds and fog. When it is not under the cover one can see beautiful snow clad Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Masanggang at 7,158 metres (23,484 ft) - tallest in Bhutan.

At the pass there are 108 memorial stupas called "Druk Wangyal Chortens" built in honor of soldiers killed in battle against Assamese insurgents in 2003.

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Punakha

This ancient capital hosts what is considered to be the most beautiful castle (Dzong) in Bhutan. Situated on the banks of Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers the Dzong is an example of classic Bhutanese arts and architecture.

Built in 1637 by Ngawang Namgyal, the dzong still serves as the administrative centre for Punakha district. Affection towards the dzong was further enhanced when the royal wedding took place here in 2011.

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Thimphu

Like other capitals Thimphu is bustling and happening place. Situated in valley at about 7,656 ft (2,320 m) height Thimphu is a political and economical heart of Bhutan. Thimphu hosts parliament as well as King's Palace.

Norzin Lam (road) has several administrative buildings. Tourists wishing to travel off the popular cities required to get separate permit here. As result Thimphu is crowded place and is not as clean and organized as Paro.

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Tango monastery

Situated about 15 km from Thimphu is this small Buddhist monastery. A relatively simple hike of about one and half hours is required to reach the height of about 3000m (9840 ft) where the monastery is located. Like other monasteries Tango is also a home to several monks and pupils of varying ages.

Hike to the monastery is through thick pine woodlands on a well paved path. It offers glimpses of beautiful mountains and equally beautiful birds.

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Phajoding monastery

By far the best hike we had in Bhutan was this! At the height of 3600m (11800 ft) Phajoding requires good 3 hours of demanding hike. It is however worth every efforts. The beautiful path through the pines accompanied by birds like Blackbirds and Laughingthrushes means the hike is never dull.

Monastery is on open plateau that offers splendid view of Thimphu valley. Founded in 13th century the monastery is considered to be one of the most holy places in Bhutan.

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Epilogue

Bhutan is wonderful blend of nature and culture. Bhutanese people cherish their religion, tradition, nature and their King. Bhutanese landscape is mountainous and therefore rugged. The Himalayan peaks are daunting and rivers are swift. Bhutan has so many things to offer: the landscape is splendid, culture is rich and people are highly welcoming.

We spent 7 days in Bhutan traveling in and around Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. Our main interest was hiking in Himalaya to witness the nature and wildlife. So most of our itinerary involved hikes on remote mountains. Itinerary was designed party by us partly by an authorized travel agent.

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