9th February : Day 9 : Thimphu to Paro and Paro Sightseeings :
First of all let me wish you Losar Tashi Delek. Losar is Bhutanese / Tibetian New Year and Tashi Delek means Welcome in Dzhongkha. After exploring the The Old Capital – Punakha, our plan for the day was to go to Paro, as well as to do the sightseeing at Paro, the last leg of our trip. So we started a bit late at around 10:00 AM today, as travelling to Paro hardly takes one to one and a half hours.
While moving to Paro, we came across a river, Paro Chu, where Raj asked us whether we’d like to have a stop. We nodded, as we were tempted by the greenish color of the same.
After spending few minutes there, we started again for Paro and soon we crossed the Paro Airport. We couldn’t even realize how we spend one and a half hours while having fun. Raj told us to go to hotel first, freshen up and then we’ll go for sightseeing post lunch. Almost all the shops were closed due to Losar, looked like a strike in West Bengal. So we directly moved to our hotel, Hotel Phunsum.
We didn’t able to trace anyone in the reception bay as we entered the hotel. But I noticed a source of light on a room nearby. Upon peeping at the room, I noticed that two ladies were watching TV. Upon knocking on the door, one of them came up to us and introduced herself as Tshering. She said that, her mother is actually the owner of the hotel, but she’s in Thimphu right now, so presently she’s taking care of all the things here. She further informed us, due to off season, there’s no guest and we’d be the only one.
To tell you the truth, this was the case everywhere we stayed throughout our stay in Bhutan and we kinda enjoyed the isolated stay everywhere. I smiled and asked her not to worry, and informed her that, we are travelling in bhutan since 10 days and eveywhere we stayed, we were the only one. She told the other lady to show us the rooms and carry the luggage. We had booking of one double and one triple bed room here at Hotel Phunsum. Except this one, all our stays had two double bed room with one extra mattress in one of the room. So I requested her to provide the double room such that I can get the night view of the Dzong and as there were no other bookings, she agreed.
After putting the luggage in our rooms, we came down and inquired about the options available for lunch. But she informed us that, due to Losar, the cook is not available today, so she requested us to arrange it outside for the day. And then I remembered the name of Hotel Sonam Trophel, from various trip reports from India Mike Forums. We asked Raj about Sonam Trophel, he smiled and said, “chaliye, bahut accha khana milega” (Let’s go, you’ll have a finger licking food there) and further continued that the cook, Mr. Sondesh, is his friend and a hindu by religion and he prepares awesome food.
It was a 2 minute driving distance from Phunsum. We ordered various items, as we noticed various Bengali Dishes were listed there. And when the Dishes were served, we couldn’t utter a word. First time in Bhutan, we noticed they have prepared Bengali Dishes exactly as it’d be prepared by a Bengali cook. Only Bengali’s can imagine how a Fish Curry would taste if prepared with tomatoes and Coriander leaves. Yes Raj was absolutely right, we kept licking our fingers and decided to have our dinner for the remaining days in Paro, here only.
Finally after having our lunch, we started for our first sightseeing destination Kichu Lakhang at around 1:30 PM and it took us around 10 minutes to reach.
After Kichu Lakhang, we we went to Paro Dzong. Raj told us that he’d drive us to uphills and will come back and wait at the entrance of Dzong till we visit the Dzong. Because, otherwise we’d have to climb up if we go through the main Entrance and my mom may not be able to make it that way. We agreed.
It took us more than an hour to check in and out of the Dzong. And finally Raj drove us back to hotel at 4 o’clock. As soon as we entered in the room, my dad got busy with his task of making tea for all of us 😛
After having Tea, we thought of checking out Paro. We could see the whole Paro town from our room. The whole town looked within one’s vicinity. The whole town is based on two parallel roads which would hardly be one KM. Though most of the shops were closed but we came across the shop we were searching for 😛 Dorji Elements Enterprise seemed to be a small version of Eight 11, we experienced at Thimphu. We collected the drinks we’d require for tonight.
While coming back to our hotel, just at the opposite of our hotel, we came across few kids who were playing. But by noticing my DSLR, one of them asked “Uncle ek photo khichiye na” (Uncle, please take a photo of us). I obliged and took few photos of them in various pose and with us too. Later they invited us to play kabadi with them. We agreed. They were four of them and after introducing with all of them, they said they all are cousins. They showed us their homes and shops. We had a lovely evening with them.
As the dusk was hitting the town, the weather kept getting colder. Our room being facing the Dzong didn’t had much issues, but the room my parents were staying in, were on the side of the valley and soon we could notice the dews in window panes. I asked Tshering for room heaters, but she replied that they only provide room blowers which is much better than room heaters, but it’s chargable at Nu. 300/- per room per night. After a small bargaining she allowed it for Nu. 200/- and said she can’t lessen it more as it incurs high electricity charges. We agreed and asked for WiFi, but she replied she’s not aware about the connections here, as it’s completely taken care by her mother. So we have to wait till her mother arrives tomorrow.
Later at night, we again went to Hotel Sonam Trophel for our dinner.
10th February : Day 10 : Day Trip to Haa via Chelela :
Today we needed luck as our plan for the day was to make a day trip to Haa via Chelela. As we went downstairs for our breakfast, Teshering asked us about our plan for today. After briefing her the same, she replied that her sister is also going to Haa, but she’ll go via another route as due to snowfall the route via Chelela is closed. The distance via Chelela is much lesser than the another route she was talking about. We informed the same to Raj, and he replied “Dekhte hain” (Let’s see). He informed us that the road gets dangerous and very sliperry due to snowfall, so he asked us not to force him if he can’t make it up there. We agreed, considering it’d be our luck. We never force drivers specially on hills. Pressuring them only creates nuisance and being travelling since I was kid in hill stations, I knew that they generally are very good persons and don’t cheats like city people.
We started for Haa at around 9:15 AM, praying for the success of our trip. After driving through blue pine and rhododendron forests for around an hour, we came upon the roads covered with snow. Raj tried his best passing through them. At some points our innova was skiting, but Raj managed it tactfully.
Finally at around 10:40 AM we reached Chelela Pass, the highest motorable road in Bhutan.
After clicking few pictures and spending few minutes, we started descending all the way towards Haa. We reached Haa at around 12 o’clock in the noon. Haa is a very small town, mostly occupied by military. Indian Army have a base camp there and trains Bhutanese Army. Haa is a very small town and when we reached we hardly saw people in the market. Luclily we got two ladies who were selling Ema and Chillies near Haa Dzong.
After visiting Haa Dzong, we skipped Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and proceeded towards Paro via Chelela again at 12:30 PM.
At first, my plan was to stay at Haa, and I had even booked Ugyen’s Homestay at Haa Valley Homestay to experience a homestay. But later the reviews at TripAdvisor, specially about the flies and some stinky smell made me cancel my decission. But the review said, Ugyen’s wife prepares great food. So we asked Raj to take us there for lunch, but he warned us that the food is great, but due to the flies, we may not like it and won’t feel hygienic enough to have our lunch there. Well, we didn’t want to take any risks, as tomorrow we had a big plan of Hiking to Tiger’s Nest. So we asked Raj to take us back to Paro, we’ll have our lunch there only.
We reached Paro within 3 o’clock. We were very hungry, so we asked Raj to take us to Sonam Trophel first. But my aunt interrupted and said, let’s try something else today. I agreed and asked Raj about Hotel Dragon, he replied positive. While searching for hotels in Paro, I fixed my stay at Dragon, but later changed my mind and shifted to Hotel Phunsum as BK was offering better rates here. The food at Hotel Dragon was not that bad, but certainly can’t match with that of Sonam Trophel.
After having our lunch, we returned to our hotel and took rest for an hour. At around 5 o’clock we thought of having a walk to buy cadbury’s for the kids whom we promised to meet today again and make necessary arrangements for tonight 😛 We walked over to Dorji Elements Enterprise again and this time we picked up other variations of Druk Beer instead of same old Druk 11000. Rest of the evening we spent with the kids hearing stories about their school and family. They tried us to take at one of their school which was nearby. But we failed miserably, as they we literally running over the valley’s which we couldn’t. And I was more afraid, due to my incident at Phobjika valley.
Later at night, the temperature dropped way too much for us to go out to Sonam Trophel. So my dad suggested to try hotel restaurant for the night. The food at Hotel Phunsum was better than we expected. After having our dinner, we went upstairs and joined Raj as usual for a drink. As we had to wake up early tomorrow Raj suggested us to go to bed quickly tonight.
The trip report is continued at Hike to Tiger’s Nest – Paro Taktsang.
Tariff : Rs. 1100/- x 2 (rooms) x 3 (nights) = 6600 + 900 (one extra mattress on one room for 3 nights) = 7500/-
Clean, Elegant & VFM are the three words comes to my mind when thinking about Hotel Phunsum. We had stayed here for 3 night’s and had a very good experience. You’d get a nice view of the Paro Valley if you opt for rooms in backside of the hotel otherwise you’ll enjoy the night view of Paro Dzong if you opt for the front view rooms. Either way you’ll gain something.
We didn’t stayed here though but, we had our best meal here, throughout our trip to Bhutan. It was finger licking good. We didn’t asked for room tariff’s so you might want to check out yourself.
We visited Hotel Dragon for lunch while returning from Haa. The food was kinda okayish. I’d prefer Sonam Trophel any day over the others for food.