Road Trip to Bhutan in Tata Nexon

sujoy76

New Member
It’s very easy to drive along the road than sitting and writing a travelogue. Still, I will try my best to jot down the memories created throughout my Kolkata to Bhutan road trip.

It had been quite a long time since I made any road trips. This trip was overdue since I drove down to Kolkata from Gwalior in 2015. With Durga Puja approaching this year, the road trip itch returned with vigor. Initially, the plan was for Himachal but considering many reasons, we settled down for a road trip to Bhutan.

Once the plan was made and finalized, it was time to make the itinerary. After some research work through the internet and with help from many threads in this group, the same was also finalized within a couple of days.

My silence is my attitude

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The route map of the whole trip.

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Few photos to start with.


Beautiful tarmac on NH-19.

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At Dochula Pass.

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The bridge at the entrance of Paro Dzong.

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The view that soaks all the fatigue of driving.

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Wangdu Podrang Dzong at Punakha.

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sujoy76

New Member
The travel itinerary

Day 1 (12.10.2019): Kolkata to Malda (Stay at WBTDC Tourist lodge, Malda)
Day 2 (13.10.2019): Malda to Siliguri (Stay at WBTDC Tourist Lodge, Siliguri)
Day3 (14.10.2019): Siliguri to Phuentsholing (Stay at Park Hotel, Phuentsholing)
Day4 (15.10.2019): Phuentsholing to Thimphu (Stay at Hotel Bhutan, Thimphu)
Day6 (17.10.2019): Thimphu to Phobjikha (Stay at Kichu Resorts, Phobjikha)
Day7 (18.10.2019): Phobjhika to Punakha (Stay at Hotel Vara, Punakha)
Day8 (19.10.2019): Punakha to Paro (Stay at Golden Roots Resort and Spa, Paro)
Day11 (22.10.2019): Paro to Jaldapara (Stay at Jaldapara Eco Stay)
Day13 (24.10.2019): Jaldapara to Malda (Stay at friends place)
Day14 (25.10.2019): Malda to Kolkata (Home sweet home)
 

sujoy76

New Member
Day 1: Kolkata to Malda

Initially, the plan was to cover the entire stretch from Kolkata to Siliguri in one go. But as I was traveling with my five years old daughter and considering this trip was to be her first major one, I decided to make a night halt at Malda instead and then proceed to Siliguri on the next day.

My plan was to reach Phuentsholing on 14th October (Monday). So keeping that in mind, we started from Kolkata on 12th October so that we can reach Phuentsholing on 14th Morning from Siliguri. Booking was already done in advance at WBTDC tourist lodges in Malda and Siliguri in advance.

We left Kolkata at 7.30 A.M and after a brief stopover at Shaktigarh, turned on the Bardhman – Moregram stretch. We also crossed the beautiful ROB at Bardhman on our way. The road is in good condition barring few stretches. Around 1.45 pm, we reached COCO BP Moregram and had lunch there.

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At COCO BPCL Moregram.

Further journey till Malda was smooth. Roads are good leaving few sections before Farakka. Crossing Farakka was very smooth as we did not encounter any traffic. But we had a tough time negotiating traffic on the outskirts of Malda, especially at Kaliachak. I had to tailgate a long queue of trucks. We finally reached Malda tourist lodge around 5 pm.


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Crossing Farakka Barrage
 

sujoy76

New Member
Day 2: Malda to Siliguri

The next morning we left Malda tourist lodge at 8.30. The day being Sunday, we had to negotiate less city traffic along the Malda roads and soon we were on the highway.

The road condition was not very bad with occasional potholes which were very difficult to anticipate and then negotiate. On a couple of occasions, I had no other option but to drive through them and doing so, once I heard a loud thud from the front left wheel side. My initial reaction was 'OMG the shocker must have been damaged badly'. But after driving for some time and then a visual inspection did not reveal anything. The build quality of TATA stood apart.

Finished our breakfast at a roadside dhaba with some puri, sabzi, and then a hot cup of chai. There I met a couple of bikers from Kerala who were also riding to Bhutan.

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Life is not a race. It’s a long drive.

After crossing Raiganj, we took the Botolbari route, and soon I was driving through some very good countryside roads. The road condition is very good for most of the stretch and manageable for the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed my drive through the Botolbari stretch.

Just before joining NH 27, there is no road for almost 400 meters. Instead of following Google at this point I just took a left turn and followed a couple of other cars through a narrow lane and joined NH 27. The point of left turn seemed to have an Auto stand and thus can be easily identified. I have marked the spots on the map below.

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We had lunch at Islampur and proceeded towards Bagdogra. The drive till the Bagdogra was beautiful. We spotted some beautiful tea estates on our way and couldn’t resist the temptation to explore one of them. Below are some pictures of us enjoying at a tea estate.

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My daughter, Aditri enjoying the moments.

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It's a game of hide and seek.


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We reached the WBTDC tourist lodge at Siliguri at 4 PM. I must say that the lodge is very good. I never expected a state-owned property to be so beautifully maintained.

During the evening, we went to explore the famous Bidhan market at Siliguri. But the day being Sunday and also because of Laxmi Puja, most of the shops were closed.

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Few snaps of the WBTDC Mainak Tourist Lodge, Siliguri.
 
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sujoy76

New Member
Day 3: Siliguri to Phuentsholing

The D day has arrived. I got up very early as I was super excited. Till that day I had only watched many YouTube videos of people crossing the iconic Sevoke Bridge and driving through Dooars and entering Bhutan through Phuentsholing. But now I was going to do it myself.

We left the guest house at 6.30 am. The guest house staff were generous enough to pack our breakfast. The drive through the Sevoke forest area was really awesome which can’t be described in words. We crossed the Sevoke Bridge within no time.

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The road is very good and I thoroughly enjoyed driving on the surface. We had to negotiate a little bit of traffic near the Hasimara railway station. My excitement was growing gradually as we were getting closer to Bhutan. Finally, we entered Phuentsholing through the entry gate at around 11 am (Indian time) and drove straight to Park Hotel.


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The entry point to Bhutan.


I had done the reservation in advance through MMT and also had contacted an agent in advance to help us through the Immigration process.

The day being Monday and the time being post Durga Puja, I was expecting heavy rush at the immigration office at Phuentsholing. By the time we reached the Immigration office, it was already lunchtime. So we decided to finish lunch as we all were feeling very hungry.

We went to Zmorky Restaurant, just opposite the immigration office, and ordered some Bhutanese Red Rice, Ema Datsi, and Kewa Datsi. Aditri, my daughter and the youngest member of the group, was in no mood to taste the Bhutanese Cuisine, so we ordered some noodles for her.

The food was awesome. By now we were already feeling the difference. The Jaigaon side being so noisy but just a few meters away we were standing at a place which was so calm and quiet. People were all crossing the roads through the designated ZEBRA crossings, which we find very difficult to include in our daily habits.

I just spotted the rate of petrol at the adjacent petrol pump and was shocked to see that Bhutan which is a dependent economy, offering Petrol at 63 Rs. Even though they import Petrol from us.

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Immigration Office at Phuentsholing.


Ooops I need to take the vehicle permit before that. But by that time RST Phuentsholing was already closed for business. So I planned to obtain the vehicle permit the next day at the earliest and proceed towards Thimphu.


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RST Office, Phuentsholing.

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Some useful info.


So the next main job was to obtain Bhutanese SIM card and without further delay, I got myself the Tashi SIM with added Data from the Tashi center, which was just at the backside of our hotel.

I was eager to visit the nearby Karbandi Monastery during the sunset time but the plan ultimately did not come through and instead, we explored Phuentsholing town in the evening.


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It's a different world.

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The Bhutan Gate.

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Phuentsholing streets in the evening. No traffic light, yet no violation of traffic rules.


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The iconic Kizom Cafe. A must visit place at Phuentsholing.
 
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sujoy76

New Member
Day 4: Phuentsholing to Thimphu

I was at the RST Office by 9 am and got the vehicle permit within 15 minutes. Now we were officially permitted to explore Bhutan. We started for Thimphu at 11 am. As the journey was progressing, my excitement level was rising as this was my first hill drive.

We got our documents stamped at the first check post which is roughly 5 km from Phuentsholing. The roads were very good and were becoming scenic as we were gaining heights.

In between, we tanked up my Nexon at Gedu. The second document verification at Chukha was also completed without any hassle. Soon after that, we had a brief stopover at the Dantek canteen for lunch. This place offers some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

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View from the Dantek canteen.


Our further journey until Thimphu was very comfortable and smooth.


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Somewhere on the road.


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It was getting dark while we reached Chuzom and by the time we reached our hotel, the whole Thimphu city was lit up and looking awesome.


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At Chuzom.


Throughout the journey from Phuentsholing, I relied upon Andriod Auto which was working flawless and it didn’t disappoint me this time too. Google nicely guided me through the lams or lanes of Thimphu city to my Hotel. I had made a reservation at Hotel Bhutan through MMT. The hotel is located very close to the Immigration Office at Thimphu.

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Our hotel at Thimphu.


The Check-in process was very smooth which is kind of unexpected in India. We wanted to explore the Iconic Clock Tower Square so without wasting any time just kept our luggage at room and drove down to the Clock Tower Square.

It was getting late and cold and the shops were bringing the shutters down. We found a nice restaurant named “The Rice Bowl” and finished our dinner with some sumptuous Bhutanese cuisine. The Samu Datsi was out of the world.
 
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sujoy76

New Member
Day 5: Thimphu Local Tour

The next morning I woke up to some stunning views from the window. Just after breakfast, we proceeded towards the Immigration office to get our stay extended and get the entry permit for Punakha and Phobjikha. It was just 5 minutes away from the hotel by walk. All the required formalities were completed within 1 and a half hours. Now the next job was to obtain the vehicle permit from the RST office and got it done by the afternoon. The rest of the day was spent by exploring Thimphu city.


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Must-visit place at clock tower square

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@ Clock Tower Square


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Early morning view

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Thimphu Chu

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Buddha Dordenma

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View from Buddha Point

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The road towards BBS Tower.

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Horizon from BBS Tower viewpoint.

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Tashichho Dzong at night
 
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sujoy76

New Member
Day 6: Thimphu to Phobjikha valley

Considering the distance from Thimphu to Phobjikha valley, I decided to start a bit late from Thimphu. We got up early in the morning as usual and went for a walk to explore the neighborhood. Throughout the walk, we experienced some awesome morning views and clicked a lot of photos.


We started for Phobjikha at 11 am and soon after crossing the Thimphu city joined the highway. The road I must say is well maintained and smooth. It’s a sin if I don’t mention the beautiful Dochula Pass.


Often a violent history and dark times encourage people to create something inspiring and beautiful, and this is exactly what the people of Bhutan did. They created Dochula Pass, Bhutan in honor of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who died in a 2003 military operation.


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Chortens at Dochula Pass.


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Icons don't blend in when they are born to stand out.


On a clear sunny day, the pass offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges but I was not so lucky to witness the beauty as it was cloudy.


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Horizon from Dochula


After spending almost an hour we proceeded further towards Punakha and crossed Punakha on our way to Phobjikha valley. In between witnessed some rain and full-fledged rainbow thereafter.


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Beautiful roads towards Punakha.


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Wangdue Podrang Dzong and Puna Tsang Chu enroute Phobjikha after crossing Punakha.


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Rain and rainbow enroute Phobjikha.


One must take a sharp U-turn from the Bumthang – Ura highway to proceed towards Phobjikha valley. This road is comparatively narrow and the climb is steep. Two vehicles crossing each other on this stretch can be tricky at times. Gradually the Gangtey valley became visible as I drove further. My plan was to visit the Gangtey Monastery first and then Phobjikha. It was twilight when we reached Gangtey Monastery and all of us were spellbound after seeing the beautiful landscape. It seemed like someone must have painted them nicely on a canvas.



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Gangtey Goempa.
 
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sujoy76

New Member
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Beautiful gangtey valley.


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After exploring the monastery, we proceeded towards our hotel in Phobjikha. It was already dark by the time we left the Gangtey monastery.

The road to Phobjikha is not very good and it being dark, at times it was getting difficult to negotiate. Our reservation for the day was done at Kichu Resorts and while following Google maps I missed a right turn and instead landed at the Black Necked Crane Visitor center.

We rectified the mistake in no time and checked in to our hotel 6 in the evening. Kichu Resorts is a new property and nicely maintained. As it was already dark and the outside the temperature was hovering around 1 -2 Degree C, we chose not to venture out and settled for the day in our rooms after having some delicious snacks and dinner thereafter.

The next morning our plan was to do a nature trail and visit the Black-necked Crane visitor center on our way to Punakha.


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Kichu resorts, Phobjikha.
 

sujoy76

New Member
Day 7: Phobjikha Valley to Punakha


The morning greeted us with some mesmerizing view from the resort balcony. For one moment I thought “God, I wish I could stay here permanently.” One just can’t take his eyes off the beautiful landscape. The hamlet was gradually waking up. The experience of the nature walk was out of the world.


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Beautiful view of the valley in the morning.


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It's school time.



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Now it was time to bid adieu to Phobjikha and after completing all the formalities for the morning we checked out from Kichu Resorts with a promise of coming back again, I made to myself. We visited the Black Necked Crane Visitor Centre and proceeded towards Punakha.


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It was the same road which I had taken the previous day.

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Snow-capped peaks

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Enroute Punakha



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The reservation was done through Bhutan Bookings. The hotel is located a bit away from Punakha City but it offered a stunning view of the valley and the river. After keeping our luggage we left for the Punakha Dzong but couldn’t enter it for the day as the ticket issuing time was already passed.


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Hotel Vara, Lobesa.
 
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