Sunday, December 20, 2015

Seven Day Bhutan Trip - A Travelogue

Seven Days Trip to Bhutan – A Report

Day I – 21 Nov 15 – Mumbai – Kolkata – Bagdogra – Phuntsholing

At Mumbai Airport

This day was essentially a day of non stop travel. We left home in Mumbai about 0400 and reached airport terminal T2, the most beautiful airport terminal in India, in time to board 0610 AI flight to Kolkata. There was a big chaos on the airport at Ai check in counters. We had done web check in and had boarding passes but we had to sill give baggage at Baggage drop off point.
First airline staffer that we asked told us to join normal queue. One other person gave us a vague answer but finally one other staff of AI guided us correctly. After all the formalities we boarded the flight and reached Kolkata by 0920.

At  Kolkata Airport

New terminal at Kolkata was modern (reminds me that their old terminal was a contrast) building with lots of Aero bridges and counters for check in. As for infrastructure it is at par with any other airport. When we came to departure area for our spice jet flight which was post 1300 hrs we were greeted by a triangular display of masks of Bengal.This colourful display was attraction to all the people reaching Departure (at least from arrival hall where this display was right on the route).

Masks of Bengal - Photo I

Mask of Bengal - Photo II

Masks of Bengal - Photo III

We are a Company - In Company of Masks
Baul Singers - Cut Out
Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport now boasts of modern infrastructure, wide area, large no of baggage Belts and check in bays. Few things stuck me. Firstly, there are no (at least I did not see) rest rooms between aero-bridge and baggage belt though one has to cover great distance to reach baggage belt.

Secondly while the building was modern, the Kolkata work culture of being laid back remained intact among airport staff. Luggage from AI flight took long time to come the belt. The airport still does not have inline x ray facility (understand it is still Work in Progresses). The staff speed is relaxed one unlike other airport.
New Terminal - Baggage Belt Area

New Terminal - Check In Area
Since we had nothing much to do, we waited for two of our relatives to join (they came to Kolkata by train). Once they came it was just freshening up, eating something and thereafter a wait for our outbound flight.

We boarded the fight on time. Our flight took off on time but had to circle around Bagdogra airport for some reason. Finally we got out of Airport by 1500. Got into waiting Innova and left for Phuntsholing. The move was quick. With a small break for tea, we made it to Phuntsholing in just 4 hrs and 30 min at 1930.

On the Road to Phuntsholing

The road from Bagdogra till crossing Siliguri town was busy and took maximum time. Few kilometers from Siliguri road widening work was progressing for about 30 km. That stretch was full of dust. During this journey  the road generally has the tea gardens through out the journey.  Also beyond about 50 km from Bagdogra it has forests on both sides with wild elephants who roam around the country freely and are dangerous.

In our trip too, after it became dark (at 1700 hrs) we saw rear and tail of an elephant, the last one from the herd which had just crossed the road and our driver stopped. Soon we heard trumpeting sound of angry elephant. Our driver said it they return or some more elephants cross; it may become very dangerous to be caught on the road. He just turned back and drove half a km to create space. After a few minutes wait and probing for sounds of elephant, when he felt safe, he resumed the journey. It was first encounter with the elephants in the wild and it looked scary.

Reaching Phuntsholing

We reached Phuntsholing at 1930 IST. The permit office for Bhutan permit (which recognizes only two documents for identification proof of  Indian citizens ie either Passport or Voter Id Card) closes at 1930 hrs (IST). Our permits thus would have to be made tomorrow.
First Glimpse of Phuntsholing
We checked in into Hotel Park.
room of Park Hotel

 It is a small but good hotel not far from Bhutan gate and the Buddhist Temple in the market. The room was comfortable. Here we got first taste of hassle free and comfortable life style of Bhutan. All the staff working in Phuntsholing  hotels mostly stays at Jaigaon, the Indian side town which is 500 odd meters from this hotel (understand cost of living at jaigaon is cheaper than Phuntsholing). The hotel staff has to go to Jaigaon in stipulated time hence the restaurant closes at 2130 IST (2200 Bhutan Time).
Dinning Hall - Park Hotel
We placed dinner order and went out for a stroll towards Bhutan gate. The roads were well laid out and very clean.  Very few people were on the road.  We did cross to Jaigaon and the contrast was instantly known. Jaigaon was full of people and usual Indian small town signs were all there, dirt, litter, dust, crowd etc.
Bhutan Gate from Phuntsholing Side

Artwork on Bhutan Gate
King of Bhutan's Photo on Bhutan Gate

Soon we returned to hotel had our dinner including a Bhutanese dry chicken dish called “Bja Sha Paa” and Ema Datsey (Chilies and Cheese) . Post dinner we  slept after about 45 minutes (a precaution against stomach upset particularly in hills though Phuntsholing is just 300 m above MSL) post dinner. After all, our day had started at 0400 at Mumbai and we had covered miles through two flights and one road journey. 


  1. Arrival of EMA datsey! Bhutanese food is here! Waiting for day 2 write up!

  2. I can't wait to finish your entire travelogue! However, it's a relief that you guys found the ridiculous decoration at the airport interesting. :|