7th February : Day 7 : Bumthang to Punakha via Trongsa :
Due to the tragic incident at The Most Historic Dzongkhag – Bumthang we woke up with no excitement in our hearts. It mostly affected Me, my Wife and my Cousin as we were of same age and used to have a lot of fun. We started calling him Achu (means elder brother in Dzonkha), but our achu was no longer there to entertain us. Our plan for the day was to go to Punakha and proceeding to Thimphu next day after sightseeing at Punakha.
Sharp at 8:30 AM in the morning we completed our breakfast and checked out. Raj’s father came up with another person aged in his late 30’s. He handed us over, a lots of fruits inspite of denying a lot. He said it’s for our journey. He then introduced us to the person he brought along, Mr. Bhadra Man Subba. He further told us that, there’s a lot of rush at his shop, so he can’t go with us leaving his shop for so many days. We still had left another 5 days in Bhutan. He said that, Mr. Subba is a friend of Raj and works as a driver with one of the agent approved by TCB. As it’s off season, he was holidaying here in his home, but on his request, he came up.
We sighed a relief, though Raj can’t be replaced, but with this person we can atleast have some fun. It’s hard to have fun and do loose talks with a person like your father. Mr. Karma came up and Raj’s father explained him the things. While shaking his hand with us, Mr. Karma asked us not to worry and told us that Tourism sector in Bhutan is very strict and one complain of us can ruin the agent’s or driver’s or guide’s licence to operate further. While taking his leave he came forward and told us that “I never saw such flexible tourists that also a Bengali. I have experienced a lot of Bengali peoples before and they keep shouting always for small things”. We felt proud but in the mean time I thought what image we have left here. Yes I know tourists are paying up a lot of amount for a successful trip, but sometimes everyone needs to co-operate based on situation.
Anyway, we started for Punakha at around 9:20 AM. While driving to our first halt Trongsa, I tried interacting with Mr. Subba, and as we guessed he proved to be witty. I thought that, if we had travelled with him from the beginning of our trip, we’d have developed the same bond that we had developed for Raj. It might be like we’ll feel the same for him when we’ll leave Bhutan after travelling with him for 5 days. As we were about to reach Trongsa, a phone call came on Mr. Subba’s phone. After talking over phone for few minutes, he handed over the phone to me. I thought it to be Raj, but it was his father. His father told me that Raj was discharged from hospital and he wants to take us forward and asked us whether we’ll be able to wait for 2-3 hours at Trongsa. Ohh my god, I couldn’t believe my ears. Overwhelmed with joy I literally shouted “Yes, please send him. We will wait for 5 hours if needed. Please send him quickly.”.
We reached Trongsa at around 12:30 PM. Mr. Subba asked us where we’d like to have our lunch, but we said he can take us anywhere he feels good or at Hotel Norling where Raj took us while going to Bumthang. Mr. Subba obliged and took us to Hotel Norling only. Ahhh…finally Raj was coming back and I can see the smile came back in everyone’s face. Me and my cousin thought of having a beer before ordering lunch as we have to wait for around 3 hours anyway. While going to Bumthang, we missed Ta Dzong, as it was closed due to some reason. So we asked Mr. Subba to take us to Ta Dzong if possible, but he said it’d be closed today also, due to birth of 6th King, His Majesty Druk Gyalpo, yesterday.
Finally Raj appeared at 2 o’clock. He didn’t look much well and healthy. Though we had a very short journey with Mr. Subba, he was also a very good companion to have. We already had our lunch. We asked Raj to have lunch, but he bought some fruits and choose not to have lunch. We bid goodbye to Mr. Subba and started from Trongsa at around 2:30 PM. The first thing he told us is “Aaplogo ko chodke rehe nahi paya. bhag aya” (Couldn’t stay without you guys, I ran away). Then he briefed, how his friends forced him to go with them as he went there after a long time and how he drunk too much and that also local ara which was the cause of his food poisoning. I told him that, we thought his father might have got to know his plan for Australia and might have locked him up. But he said, that was not the case. In the middle of night, he developed huge stomach pain and his dad wasted no time to take him to hospital and they immediately admitted him. He further briefed us about how the nurses tortured him putting injections in his hips while he was busy flirting with them!! LOL!!
He told me “Bhaiya aj rokne ke liye nahi boliyega, aj bahut late ho gaya hai. Shyam ho jayega pauchte pauchte” (Bro, don’t ask to me stop now and then for clicking photos today. We are already very late and it’d be evening till we reach Punakha). He drove nonstop till we reached Punakha with his as usual fun filled entertainment. He told us that, it was his father who was by his side when he needed someone, not his girlfriend. So he thought of not leaving Bhutan as of now without letting him know. He’ll try to make him understand his dreams and until and unless he permits he’ll not go anywhere leaving him. Even I felt proud with such decisions of his. He kept making fun of promising not to have drinks ever specially local ara or even Pan or Doma. We knew it’d break within a day or two 😛
At around 7:30 PM we reached our destination, Kingaling Hotel. Again a 3* hotel, but we felt that hotels at Phobjika and Bumthang were much better than this one. The planned town of Wangdue looked awesome at night.
The altitude of Punakha is much lower than that of Thimphu and thus no room heater were needed though they still had provided one. Well, I will not lie, but the manager Miss Sonam looks like a barbie doll and any guy would fall for her at first sight. I inquired about the WiFi, but she said it’s chargeable at Nu. 50/- per person per day. I nodded and handed over our phone. She configured the WiFi and told us we might not get the signal at our room so we have to use it at Reception Desk only.
Well, to tell you the truth, all the hotels I have been in Bhutan, says the same thing, but fortunately we noticed we do get signals at our rooms. We ordered our lunch for the day and asked for two beers in our room. Soon the beer was served and Raj joined us, though we didn’t allowed him to have beer for the day. He didn’t even insisted. We spend the rest of the evening with Druk 11000 and chit chatting with each other. After sometime, Sonam came to call us for dinner.
After having our dinner, Raj told us we’ll start late tomorrow as the plan for tomorrow is Punakha Sightseeing and going back to Thimphu.
8th February : Day 8 : Punakha Sightseeing and back to Thimphu via Dochula :
We checked out at around 9:30 AM after having our breakfast. Raj looked much better today. The first destination for today was Chimi Lakhang. Though one had to walk to reach upto Chimi Lakhang which is considered holy but as we had elder persons with us, Raj drove us till the point. From this point one have to walk for around 15 minutes to reach the Monastry.
After Chimi Lakhang, next destination was Punakha Dzong. Raj already intimidated us that, it’s the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan and Punakha being the old capital of Bhutan, Punakha Dzong is the most magnificient and important Dzong. He asked us to keep the permits with us as security guards may check them. We reached at Punakha Dzong at around 10:50 AM. Raj told us not to hurry as the Dzong is very big and it generally takes around an hour to check in and out of it.
It was indeed the most beautiful Dzong. After we came back Raj explained the Mo Chu (Male) and Po Chu (Female) river.
We started for our next destination, the good old Yak Restaurant, at 12 o’clock in the noon. Raj wanted to have beer, but this time we couldn’t stop him. When we asked him about his promise he kept smiling 😛 After having our lunch, we started for Thimphu at around 1:25 PM. Though we didn’t had any plans to stop at Dochula, but when we were about to reach Dochula, sudden snowfall out of nowhere made us halt there. Raj told us that we were very lucky to experience the same. All of us were overwhelmed with joy. After my trip to Kedarnath, this is the second time, I’m experiencing snowfall. But for my cousin and my wife it was first time. It was a splendid experience.
We took shelter at the Restaurant near Dochula (Sorry, I forgot to note down the name, but there’s only one single restaurant near Dochula). Due to sudden drop of temperature we had to take shelter near the Bukhari at the Restaurant. The Restaurant premises is awesomely designed.
We started for Thimphu again, after the snowfall stopped. Raj told us that this snowfall is not a good sign. If it happens like this tonight and tomorrow too, the road to Chalela will get closed. But we had faith in our god, he won’t deprive us after such a long journey. We reached Thimphu at around 4:30 and checked into the same old Zey Zang. Raj had his friends here and a house on rent so he left. Before leaving, he told us that tomorrow we’ll start around 10:00.
After spending some time at the Hotel, we went out to check whether the Bhutan Kitchen is open. But again our bad luck, it was closed. This time we were sure that, they have gone back home closing the restaurant. Now we had two options, Hotel Tandin and Rice Bowl. I remembered, when I asked Raj about other options, Bhutan Kitchen being closed, he asked us to try Rice Bowl, famous for Chinese cuisine within a authentic Chinese environment. But we all had experienced Mainland China, famous for same reason.
But while in Thimphu, I had a strong urge to check out Hotel Tandin, specially due to the attachment with Ashish Da and other IndiaMike members. When I told my parents that Hotel Tandin is famous for it’s Tea and Indian Cuisine, they looked no where.
We called Raj while we were in Clock Tower to join us. He assured that he’ll be here shortly as he had nothing to do because his room mate had moved to Paro with his tourist that day. We took our parents to Eight 11 stores, as they had to buy Tea Bags and Sugar Cubes which was about to finish. We still had 3 more days left in Bhutan. We all are high Tea consumers and this is the primary need of ours specially at Morning and Evening. Raj joined us soon and we all went to Hotel Tandin. Before making a move to Hotel Tandin, we thought of checking out Rice Bowl. I won’t say it a bad luck because I wanted to try Hotel Tandin only, but Rice Bowl was closed too!! Ahh…I regathered the memories from Ashish Da’s Trip Report as soon as I stepped inside Hotel Tandin. I was thinking about in which Room he might have stayed. By noticing us, the lady welcomed us with a smile on her face. We got used to this as this is very common thing in Bhutan.
I thought in my mind that, “hasi toh phasi” phrase will never be applicable here 😛 Anyway, the first thing we ordered was Tea. Ohh my god, we really felt like we were in Bengal. This is the best Tea we had in Bhutan. If you are a Bengali and thriving for a cup of Tea, I’d say just try Hotel Tandin and you’ll look nowhere else. We then ordered our dinner and as tomorrow is a relax day and not much journey is involved we thought of taking it heavy. Generally while travelling at hill stations we take our Lunch and Dinner as light as possible. But today was something special. I don’t know what, but it was. May be Raj was back and we were enjoying to our fullest again.
Post Dinner, we choose to walk back to the hotel while Raj helped me hire a taxi for my parents. After reaching our Hotel, Raj was about to leave but we stopped him, as it was too late and we were enjoying a lot. I told him “Achu chaliye aj ek beer pite hai” (Bro, let’s have a beer together). He agreed, as he had nothing to do anyway back at home and he’d get a free driver’s room anyway. Almost every other shops were closed today, as Govt. has declared 3 long holiday due to birth of His Majesty, 6th King and Losar (Bhutanese New Year). Clubbed with Saturday and Sunday it became a long 5 days holiday. So we sat together with Raj and had beer till the clock stroke 12.
Kingaling Hotel :
Tariff : Rs. 1500 x 2 (rooms) x 1 (night) = 3000 + 500 (extra mattress on one room) = 3500/-
The rooms were nice, but view was blocked mostly due to bad exterior design on 1st floor. Though above floor level will have unblocked view of Mo Chu and Po Chu. The service and food was okayish. Being a 3* hotel, I expected much more after experiencing Gakiling Guest House, Phobjika and Samyae Resort, Bumthang. Still considering the price, I’d say it’s a VFM option.
Well, we didn’t stayed here, but while we inquired, the room rate was Nu. 1495/- for double bed rooms. We went there to try their restaurant section and I must say they serve the best Tea in Bhutan. Food quality was also good and have variety of options to choose from. One must plan a meal here if you are in Thimphu.