Continuation from my previous post regarding Entering Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon.
2nd February : Day 2 : Phuentsholing to Thimphu :
My mom, dad and aunt woke up very early at around 5 AM, it’s their habit and they do it every day. We kept sleeping till 7:00 AM. While planning for Bhutan, we came across various informations which suggested Tea in Bhutan is not that common. So we carried our own Electric Kettle, Tea Bags and Sugar Cubes. As like other Bengali’s, Tea is something which is mandatory for us for at least 2 times a day. When at home we generally have it 4-5 times a day. So we used our own arrangements rather than ordering Tea from Hotel Restaurant and thus saving some cost 😛
As provided by Raj, we were ready by 9:00 AM. Strictly punctual. But when we went down downstairs for checkout, Raj was not there. And I remembered that, while noticing the details, I forgot to ask for his number. So I called BK for his whereabouts. He informed us to wait and informed us that he’ll call us back immediately after checking with him. Within 2 minutes I got a call back from BK saying Raj mentioned 9:00 AM IST. Ahhh…a small miscommunication. As Bhutan Time is 30 minutes ahead to that of IST, it’s still 8:30 AM in India. I changed time on all our mobiles yesterday to avoid any miscommunications. Our luggage has been brought down by the hotel staff and kept in reception lobby. So sitting in reception for 30 minutes didn’t seemed viable to us. So we decided to check out a foot bridge nearby.
Not bad, a little stream flowing by, a picturesque road, we enjoyed the morning breeze. We clicked some pics and in the mean time Raj arrived. With a smile he said that “aap log jaldi ready ho gaye, BK dat raha tha phone pe” (You guys got ready early, BK was scolding me over phone). We explained the miscommunication happened due to difference in Timezone and we decided that from now on we’ll move on as per Bhutan Timezone only as we have configured the same on our mobile. My mom and aunt turned off their mobile, as there’d no need for it from now on and my wifey and cousin put it in airplane mode. As they have smartphone, they kept it on for clicking selfie and surfing WiFi at hotels.
Please note that from now on, all the times mentioned here is on par with Bhutan Timezone (BTT).
Anyway, at around 9:30 BTT we started from Phuentsholing for our first sightseeing destination Crocodile Park. Entry fee was Nu. 20/- per head. But at the counter, the guy didn’t had any change as it was off season by the way. So he asked us to pay Nu. 100/- (instead of 20 x 6 = 120) and allowed us to enter.
After Crocodile Park, Raj drove us to Kharbandi Monastry.
After Kharbandi Monastry we started for Thimphu. In between we stopped at Chukha Hydel for having lunch at Dam View Restaurant. This time we thought of trying Rice and Kewa Datshi. Kewa means Potato and Datshi means Curry. So it was Potato Curry cooked in cheese with chilly. The food was awesome, I must say. After having our lunch we again started moving on.
At around 3:30, we stopped at Dam Chu. Chu means river in Dzonkha and clicked some shots before moving on.
While going to Thimphu, you’ll come across two check posts where you need to show the entry permits in order to move further.
Finally we reached Thimphu at 5 o’clock. Our hotel in Thimphu was Zey Zang, just near the Clock Tower on Norzim Lam. We got a very warm welcome from Mr. Kin Gyeltshen, the owner, on our arrival. The hotel ladies helped carrying our luggage. Yes, ladies, don’t get shocked. This is something we noticed in Bhutan. All the way from reception to other works, except kitchen, we noticed that ladies are in charge of it. Our hotel at Phuentsholing was way better than this one. But Mr. Gyeltshen made us feel at home. This is something you’ll notice anywhere in Bhutan. Always smiling, always helpful and everyone will make you feel at home. Raj left for the day informing us to be ready by 9 AM BTT. No more confusion.
After getting freshen up, we decided to go out and roam around Clock Tower and walk through Norzim Lam and check out the shops and market. Clock Tower is just 2 minutes walking distance from the hotel on the road going downwards. There was no one at Clock Tower, we thought might be due to off season.
We moved on further to the road and came across Bhutan Kitchen. While leaving for the day, Raj informed us that, if we like to try Bhutanese Cuisine, we can come here. But it was closed. Moving on further to the road beside stadium we came across Willey’s Fast Food Centre, just opposite the Changlimithana Stadium. The restaurant was well decorated. We thought of paying a visit for some evening snacks. The owner suggested us to try Chicken Jhathup or Chicken Bathup. We ordered both. Chicken Jhathup were more like Thukpa and Chicken Bathup was kinda same but with flat hand made noodles out of flour. We like Chicken Bathup more due to use of lime leaves.
Soon we realised that we made a mistake by ordering both, as we were full for the day and have to skip our Dinner. So we decided to move on to Norzim Lam. As soon as we crossed the road, a traffic police came upto us and instructed us to always cross by Zebra Crossing, otherwise accidents can happen. I realised how educated people like us, don’t follow the rules or should I say we like to break the rules. But the case here is not like in India. Bhutan have strict rules almost everywhere. You’d be amazed that there’s no traffic signals at Bhutan. Cars will automatically stop and will ask you to cross if they see you standing near the Zebra Crossing. Yes, I realised that these rules are there even in India. But who follows? People here just shows hand to stop the car and move on anywhere in the middle of the road.
The first hotel we came upon while walking by Norzin Lam is Choephel Norkyi. The hotel looked much better than ours. Wish I would have booked this one. But both Choephel Norkyi and Zey Zang didn’t had much reviews in TripAdvisor and thus I couldn’t make correct decision.
Moving further I noticed Hotel Ghasel. Ahh..I remember from Ashish Da’s Travelogue that you’ll get best vegetarian food here in Bhutan. And then came the most well known budget hotel, Hotel Tandin. Almost all the travelogues I have read, most of them stayed at Hotel Tandin and it have great reviews in TripAdvisor. But when I called them while at India, their tariff was 1495/- per night which was little bit more than our budget.
Soon we noticed that shops were closing by and then we realised that it was already 9 o’clock by then, so we decided to return. After returning to hotel, I asked Mr. Gyeltshen, if they have WiFi. He nodded and said “Yes, but it’s chargeable”. He told us that we have to pay Nu. 20/- per night per person. We agreed. We asked for room heater as it was getting very cold.We kinda predicted that, as Raj already told us that, Thimphu experienced snowfall just a day before. So it was obvious that it’d be cold here. After connecting to the WiFi, Google showed us that it was 2 Deg C. He said that it’s chargeable and we have to pay Nu. 100/- per room per night. We agreed.
3rd February : Day 3 : Thimphu Sightseeing :
We were ready by sharp 8 o’clock and ordered Tea and Toast and Omlette which is popularly known as English Breakfast from hotel restaurant and I must say it was the best breakfast I ever had anywhere. It reminded me the breakfast at Glenary’s at Darjeeling. Though we got a bit late in the end but that didn’t created any problem as Raj was having breakfast too.
At 9:30 AM sharp we started for our first destination Handicraft Centre which hardly took us 5 minutes to reach. Raj parked the car near Thimphu Immigration Office and asked us for our entry permit. We handed over the permits to him. He asked us to visit Handicraft Centre and National Textile Museum and said in the mean time he’ll arrange Restricted Area Permit for the rest of our trip.
We tried bargaining few items at Handicraft Centre but the prices were like, one would dare to touch. Though we never do any kind of marketing while at tour, so there’s no issue asking for the price.
After Handicraft Centre, we went to National Textile Museum which is just there on the opposite of Thimphu Immigration Office and Handicraft Centre. There’s a small entry fee of Nu. 50/- per head. After paying up the fee, the lady welcomed us to Video Room and played a video which describes the the various art’s and crafts of Bhutan and the history of Royal Family. We then went upstairs, where there was a hierarchical chart of King’s of Bhutan along with various crowns of King’s and other Royal amenities.
The next destination was National Library.
After National Library we payed a visit to Folk Heritage Museum. Here also we had to pay an entry fee of Nu. 30/- per head. One can experience various utensils used by the Royal Family at the period of 80’s and before.
We then visited to Zilukha Nunnery. We here interacted with some nuns who have devoted their life to spirituality and Buddhism.
Our next destination was Takin Preserve. Again, there’s an entry fee of Nu. 30/- per head. Takin is the National Animal of Bhutan. It looks like more of a cross of cow and goat.
The next sightseeing point was Changangkha Lakhang.
Finally Raj drove us to uphills at Buddha Point which is also known as Kuensel Phodrang.
Raj intimidated us that, Trashichhoedzong (Thimphu Dzong) is closed now and we’ll have to come after 4:30. So we’ll visit National Memorial Chorten now and then will drive to hotel for lunch. Post lunch in the afternoon he’ll take us to Trashichhoedzong.
It was already 2:00 AM by then, we were really hungry. We thought of having our lunch at Hotel Ghasel. So we asked Raj to take us to Hotel Ghasel. We asked Raj to join us. We ordered Rice for us and Roti for dad, dal, Mix Veg, Paneer Butter Masala and Alur Dum. While Raj ordered Special Thali in which there was Rice, Butter Nun, Dal, Paneer Butter Masala, Kadai Paneer, Papad and Rasgulla. Yes, Ashish Da was right, what a yummy lunch we had. Only Bengali’s will understand what having a great food means to us. We were literally licking our hand.
Post lunch we walked to our hotel and after taking rest for an hour we went to Trashichhoedzong. The Dzongs are the main secretariat building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan and the Monastry. The districts are called Dzongkhag. There are 20 Dzongkhag in Bhutan. And in each Dzongkhag, there’s a Dzong.
I felt bad that, I missed some awesome night view shots of Trashichhoedzong. Raj dropped us to our hotel and left for the day asking us to be ready by 8:30 AM next day. He also informed us to visit “8 Eleven” stores, if we want to buy anything. We planned to have our dinner at Bhutan Kitchen, but we were out of luck today also. It was closed. We then guessed that, they might have gone to their home as it was off season anyway. We then went to 8 Eleven store which was on the upper road of Norzin Lam. We climbed by the stair beside Hotel Shantideva. We picked up one Red Wine, Takin and one Peach Wine, Zumim and two cans of Druk 11000.
Finally after returning to our hotel, we thought of trying the Peach Wine first. Though this was the first time, we were into Peach Wine and we really liked it. Later in the evening we went to Hotel Ghasel again for our dinner. Though previously I thought of trying out Hotel Tandin, but my mom and dad loved the food at Hotel Ghasel and specially my dad loves Veg. food more than anything else. So they were not much interested to go to Hotel Tandin. I thought of leaving it for now, as we’d be back to Thimphu anyways while going to Paro. This time we ordered Special Thali for dinner.
Before going to sleep, we enjoyed the Beer we got from Eight 11.
The next part of this trip report is continued at Journey To Phobjika via Dochula
Tariff : Rs. 1100/- x 2 (rooms) x 3 (nights) = 6600 + 900 (extra mattress on one room for 3 nights) = 7500/-
Well, to say the truth this was one of the worst stay in our whole trip to Bhutan. Within this budget there are much better hotels available in Thimphu. WiFi is chargable at Nu. 20/- per person per night and room heater is chargeable at Nu. 100/- per room per night. Don’t get me wrong by the worst stay, the hotel itself is good but cleanliness is an issue here about the rooms. The owner Mr. Kin Gyeltshen is a very nice person and goes beyond the limit to fulfill your needs.
Review : The best Veg. Food you’ll get here in Bhutan. Even if you are not vegetarian, I’d suggest you to have one of your meal here and I assure you that you’ll come out licking your fingers.