5th February : Day 5 : Phobjika to Bumthang via Trongsa :
This part of Trip Report is being continued from Journey To Phobjika via Dochula
After taking a small 15 minutes break at Palela at around 9:10 AM we started again for our today’s destination, Bumthang via Trongsa. Raj informed us that, the road condition here is not that good and he won’t stop again before Trongsa, as road widening project was going on Bumthang – Ura highway, there is some timing he had to maintain. Otherwise we’d get stuck for 2 hours. He said “jaldi chalke hotel me rest kijiye, raste pe khade rehke kya fayda” (Let’s reach early and take rest at Hotel instead of getting stuck for 2 hours). He sounded meaningful, so we nodded. Throughout the route, he kept dancing to the rhythm of music, after all he was going to his hometown, Bumthang, and we had a lot of fun. He told us about his girlfriend studying in Australia and after this trip of ours he’ll also move there.
While picking us up from Hasimara, he told us that he was not sure as BK has not confirmed him anything, was because he had a ticket to Bangalore on that day which was still on waiting list. But finally when he took us to BK, he went to check the PNR, but to his bad luck it was not confirmed and thus he came up to this trip. He further told us that his brother is doing a job at call center in Bangalore, so he’ll first go there and from there he’ll arrange a visa and move to Australia. He asked us not to mention these things to his father when we’ll meet him at Bumthang. Otherwise his father will lock him inside and won’t allow him to go anywhere. He told us stories about how naughty he was on his childhood, and how his father used to beat him when he used to get caught. We couldn’t realize that, how we drove continuously for 3 hours while chatting with him. Suddenly at around 12:15 PM, he told us that we reached Trongsa. First he took us to Trongsa Dzong and told us that we’ll have lunch after visiting the Dzong.
After visiting the Dzong, we had our lunch at Hotel Norling. Trongsa is a very small town, infact one can cover it end to end by walking for 5 minutes. Throughout whole Bhutan, you won’t get ready made foods. First you’ll have to order it and then they will prepare the meal. Though I have seen them preparing things real quick. While the lady at restaurant and his daughter was busy preparing our order, We along with Raj had a beer. After having our lunch we started for our next stop Tongla Pass at around 1:10 PM.
While driving to our next stop Tongla, Raj told us that he don’t like this place much and wants to go abroad for job. I believe this is obvious, as an educated person like him is wasting his talent by driving tourists. He said that, “bahut kam log aap jaisa behaviour karta hai driver ke saath” (very few people behaves like you with a driver). Yeah he was right, many people don’t even like to seat with driver. But we, inspite of his TA/DA, always invite him whenever we had lunch or dinner outside. Somewhere within our inside we felt great that he liked us and that is why he opened himself up to us and got much closer and became like a family member. But he said us that, his father won’t allow him to go, as his brother was already out of country. He told us about his dreams, to be a great man one day and leave this tourism industry. He said that “income to bahut hai yahan, par hisaab nahi rehta” (There’s a great income here, but I can’t track my expenses) because in tourism industry, he gets paid per trip.
At around 2:30 PM, we reached Tongla. It was a full chilling weather experience. Raj told us that it’d take around another hour to reach Bumthang. We played with ice for sometime before moving on.
Finally at around 3:30 PM we reached Bumthang. The shelter for next two night was Samyae Resort at Bumthang. The lawn near the Samyae Resort is beautifully designed. Upon reaching the resort, we got a very warm and smiling welcome from Mr. Karma, the manager of the hotel and other hotel staffs. As usual the ladies staff took our luggage to our room while Mr. Karma came himself to guide us to our rooms. Though the hotel at Phobjika was still the best one, still I’d say Samyae was not much behind. Who doesn’t love 3* experience!! Bumthang and Phobjika being the remote place and with almost no existence of any budget hotels, this is the first time we were staying in 3* hotels. So ofcourse the experience was great for us.
The view of Bumthang Valley, from the room was mind blowing. I remember, one of my friend and colleague Soumik, told me that I’ll experience a different sky in Bhutan and I must say that he was so true. One don’t get to see this kind of sky in India. Atleast in Kolkata, I have never seen such.
As usual, my dad and mom got busy in making tea with that of our Electric Kettle that we bought whereas I went downstairs to ask for WiFi as we’ll be here for 2 nights. Mr. Karma switched it on but something was wrong, as I was not getting any signal. I asked for his permission whether I can take a look and might be I’m able to diagnose the problem as I’m a computer engineer, he was more than happy to allow me to take a look. I noticed that, the wires were not connected. With his duly permission, I fixed it up. He then told me about his daughters who were studying in Shillong and one of them has just passed B.C.A (Bachelor of Computer Application). He was glad to hear that, I’m also a B.C.A. graduate and now doing job in Cognizant. He requested me to let him know if there are any openings for his daughter as presently she’s doing a job of receptionist at some private firm there in Shillong only. I nodded and told him that I’ll surely let him know.
Raj told us to be ready by 10 AM tomorrow for the sightseeing. We gave him a suspicious look as this is the first day he’s asking us to be ready so late. He assured that, this is his hometown, and he knows the in and out of the place very well. I asked him to join us for a drink, he assured that he’ll be here within 7:30 PM.
My cousin and my wife joined me soon and rest of the evening we spend walking by the lawn. The hotel premises itself had one small monastery and some other buildings probably for staffs. We were astonished when the lights were turned on at dusk. What a splendid view it was with the whispering sound of a small stream flowing nearby. But it was too cold to enjoy the evening outside. While we were going towards the hotel building, Raj came with his friend, this time on a different car. He introduced us to his friend and said this is another car of his father. He handed over some fruits which he brought from his shop and said that he’s friends are calling by as he’s back after a long time. He assured us that, he’ll be back by 7:30 – 8:00 for the drink.
We went inside after he left. We had a chit chat for sometime and got busy surfing Facebook and Whatsapp. Though I had internet on my mobile as I had a SIM, but my cousin and wife got access to internet after long four days. Suddenly we noticed that it was already 8 o’clock and Raj is still not here. I was about to call him, but my dad interrupted me and said not to disturb him as after driving for such long hours, he might have fallen asleep or enjoying with his friends as he’s back to his hometown after such a long period. Not all tourists comes upto Bumthang, thus it’s unlikely that he gets time to come to his hometown much often.
So we thought of enjoying the drinks ourselves. After some time, Mr. Karma came in to call us for dinner. As predicted, the weather was chilled outside. Mr. Karma guided us to Bukhari in the restaurant complex. Within few moments our dinner was served. The hotel staff kept waiting by our table if we need anything else. Though this is very normal to those who are used to 3* treatment, but to us it kinda felt odd 😛
6th February : Day 6 : Bumthang Sightseeings :
Ahhh….after a long time, I slept till 9 o’clock. Almost everyone was ready except me and my cousin. I knew I’d be late today, but we both tried out best to get ready as fast as possible and went downstairs for our breakfast. I must say, that while on this tour, I had breakfast everyday, whereas it’s not a habit of mine and I skip it everyday back at home. But the so called English Breakfast made me lure for it.
It was 10:30 AM already and Raj was still not here. This is the first time when he’s late. We all were waiting for him as we kept an eye on the route. We tried calling him continuously but his mobile was switched off. Mr. Karma asked whether there’s any problem, by noticing us waiting at the lawn. I described him the issue that our driver is still not here. He murmured that “Real Buddhist’s people never does this, they never fails to keep their words”. I explained, that’s not the case, he’s very punctual, but somehow he missed it today. My dad and aunt said he might have drunk too much yesterday and have fallen asleep. We smiled as we were thinking the same thing.
We waited till 11 o’clock but Raj still didn’t come. Now I started worrying a bit, as we came up all this way and I don’t want to miss the sightseeing. Now I thought of calling BK, as I had no other way left. I informed BK that I’m unable to contact him as his mobile is switched off. BK supported me and said, people should not keep their phone switched off otherwise the caller always get suspicious. Even if you have any problem, you should inform them to avoid such issues. He assured me that he’ll get back to me. After around 5 minutes, BK called me back and said even he’s also unable to contact him and asked me to give the phone to hotel manager.
After talking with BK, Mr. Karma asked us not to worry as Bumthang is very small town and he’s sending one of his stuff to look for him. Even if he couldn’t find him he himself will drive us in one of his car or will find a taxi for us which he’ll settle with BK later on. We were overwhelmed with such behavior of him. You’ll hardly come across such people, where they go beyond any limit just to please you.
As he was about to send one of this staff, suddenly one person drove in, out of nowhere. He introduced himself to us and said he’s Raj’s maternal cousin. He further informed us that Raj has developed some sort of food poisoning and is admitted in hospital. This time we got suspicious that he might be cooking up some stories. We were with Raj till this point and even yesterday when he came to hand over the fruits he was perfectly okay. And within a night he has developed food poisoning. Frankly speaking, we couldn’t gulp up the story. He said that, he’ll take us today for the sightseeing trip and Raj’ll be back by tomorrow for our further itenary.
Mr. Karma had a word with him and assured us not to worry. While driving us to our first sightseeing point for the day, Jampey Lakhang, he explained that his name is Ajit and his maternal uncle called him today morning and asked us to take us for the sightseeing trip today as Raj is in hospital. Now we were almost sure that, this is not the actual story. Raj has developed food poisoning and admitted in hospital and inspite of all these things he informed his dad about us, our itenary and our hotel. Really hard to believe. He further said that, he was in Tourism Industry for 12 years as a guide, but recently from last 5 years, he left the same and put a shop beside his uncle’s shop and now he sits there only.
He apologized that uncle himself was about to come, but due to the rush at his shop, he couldn’t come himself and sent him instead. He also said that, though there’s rush at his shop too, but his wife is there to manage for the day. We told him that Raj was about to take us to his home and introduce us to his father and family today. So we requested him if he could do that. He assured us that he’ll take us to Raj’s home when we’ll go to bazaar for lunch. We further requested him, if we can go to hospital and check out Raj. But he denied and said hospital rules here are very strict and hospital staff won’t allow us to let in without proper identity proofs of being a family member.
We had no way other than to believe him. Within few minutes we reached Jampey Lakhang. But unlike Raj, he came inside with us and explained the history of the same along with it’s essence.
Next to Jampey Lakhang, he drove us to Kurjey Lakhang. While driving us to Kurjey Lakhang he explained the importance of the place and it’s history of Kurjey Lakhang. After reaching Kurjey Lakhang, he showed us a long tree and explained that it’s believed to be the terma of Padmasambhava, one of the disciple of Guru Rimpoche. He again came up with us and explained the details and history of the temple.
Next to Kurje Lakhang he drove us to Bumthang Dzong. He asked us to go to the Dzong ourselves as he won’t be allowed inside without national dress. He informed us that, though tourists are allowed in proper dress but local peoples, guides and drivers must wear the national dress Gho, which in Bumthang is called as Bakhu.
After coming out from Dzong, he explained things by referencing to what we saw inside. Then he asked us where we’ll like to have our lunch. We asked him to take anywhere he like and feels we’ll get good food, as he knew the place much better than us. He told us that, he’ll take us to a restaurant by one of his friend. After reaching there, I noticed that I left the lens cap there at Dzong. He asked my family to roam around the bazaar and immediately drove me again to the Dzong. Finally I found the lens cap without which it’d get damaged easily. I was so thankful to him that he took such step to drove me all the way again upto Dzong for me. He smiled and said it’s his duty and he’s glad that I got it back.
After coming back again to the restaurant, we ordered our lunch. He said to follow him, till the lunch gets prepared. First he took us to his shop and introduced to his wife. After spending some time there he took us to Raj’s shop and introduced us to his Father. By noticing us his father came forward and welcomed us warmly. He was more than happy to meet us and told us that Raj was talking about us last night. We told him that Raj is a very nice person and how much he loves him and the stories he kept telling us about his childhood. His father was glad to hear the same. We tried our best to know about what exactly had happened but his father and cousin Mr. Ajit, both of them kept their mouth shut and kept telling the same hospital story.
After that Mr. Ajit guided us to Bumthang Chu and asked us to go to the restaurant after some time and informed us that he’ll join us at lunch.
My dad said, he might have got to know about Raj’s plan of moving to Australia and thus they might have locked him up somewhere in store room or home. But we had no way to check out what exactly might have happened. So we gradually started believing the story and assured our hearts that Raj would be back tomorrow anyway.
Post lunch, Mr. Ajit drove us to Tamshing Lakhang and as usual while driving he explained the history of the same and essence of Guru Pemalingpa.
Next to that he drove us past Airport, to Gonkhar Goempa.
After Gonkhar Goempa, he took us to our hotel and said that he’ll come in the evening and let us know by what time we’ll need to be ready after discussing the same with Raj and will bring local Ara which we had asked to Raj yesterday. We then believed that Raj might have been really fallen sick, otherwise how would they know all the plans and discussion between us. Anyway we stopped thinking about the matter with the assurance that he’d be back by next day.
We really liked Mr. Ajit, and one can be sure that he really was into Tourism by his knowledge. Raj never explained things in such detail which Mr. Ajit did. He knew the history and geography of all the points very all. At sharp 7 o’clock Mr. Ajit and Raj’s Dad came in. Mr. Karma the manager of the resort was also there. we welcomed them in but Mr. Karma obliged us and left informing that he have to look after our dinner.
Raj’s Dad gave us the local Ara which we asked to Raj. After a minute of silence Raj’s Dad told that, Raj won’t be able to do the rest of the trip and he’s very sick and it’ll take around a week to get discharged. He immediately asked us not to worry, as he himself will complete the rest of the itenary with us. After some basic chit chat they left and asked us to be ready by 8:30 AM tomorrow.
Well, we felt like that our trip was end that very day. It’s not that we were worrying about our itenary. After all the hospitality we got in Bhutan till now, we were sure it’s in safe hands. Even if not, BK will arrange things up. But the fact that we’ll miss the fun we used to had. Travelling with a young 25 year old fun loving guy is a different story altogether. But we had no away other than to pray to god.
The fun for the night was ruined already. So we were least interested to have the Whisky that we brought from Thimphu or Beer for the night. All of us simply just had our dinner and slept.
The next part of the trip is continued at The Old Capital – Punakha
Samyae Resort :
Tariff : Rs. 1900 x 2 (rooms) x 2 (nights) = 7600 + 1400 (one extra mattress for 2 nights) = 9000/-
The manager Mr. Karma is the most helpful person I have ever came across yet. All the hotel staff were very gentle and helpful. The rooms are well decorated with colored lights which created an awesome ambiance on wooden architecture. The hotel premises is very big and the lawn is awesomely decorated. The view from room was splendid and pleasant for the eye. We had all our meals here during our stay and each and every dish was great. I can assure you, they will go out of the box to fulfill your needs. I’d say that of all the places we visited, we liked Bumthang more and it was specially due to the hospitality we received here.