September 28th, 2009 – by: aquaholicme2
The bus to Phuentsholing, border town in Bhutan took around 4 hours from Siliguri and we stopped at a small place for lunch. Reached Phuentsholing around 11:30am and started looking for the next bus to Thimpu
. There are lots of options for travel from Phunentsholing to inner Bhutan. The last time I was here, there was only 1 or 2 buses daily, and going only to Thimpu and Paro. But now there is a proper bus station, with daily bus service to quite a few places. For Indians, we need to get a permit first before taking the bus, if not then the tourists are turned back from the first check point. I had heard that on weekends/holidays, the permits can be taken at the first checkpoint.
But decided not to try it out and rushed to the main gate where the immigration office is located to get my permit. My new Bhutanese friends helped me in getting the permit faster. There was chaoas at the immigration window with mostly Indian tousirts crowding the place trying to jump the queues, attempting to get there permits faster. My Bhutanese friends knew a few Immigration fellows and called them up, who helped in filling my form and submitting it to the office. I got my permit in 10 min, but if everyone going in a queue, thats the time you can get your permit easily. Since BHutan is a small place, seems everyone knows everyone else. And I was glad that I made a few Bhutanese friends in the bus, who gave me all the latest information on traveling in Bhutan and helping me with permits and bus tickets.
After getting the permit we reached bus stand and got the ticket for the 2pm bus. It was hot in this town, sat in the bus stand looking at people around. There was TV in there which was broadcasting the Thimpu festival celebrations live. My Bhutanese friend was meeting all his friends there, everyone knew every other person as they either stayed at the same place, or studied in the same school/college, or worked at the same place or just hanged out at the same location. Even the bus driver turned out to be his old school mate and we had a nice chat before it was time for the bus to leave. The general atmosphere is extremely friendly with people exchanging pleasentries and ready to help. The bus reached the first check point and after
checking the permits I asked the officer there if they issue the permits there.
He mentoined that not always, but in case of long holidays when the Phuentsholing office is closed and the Indian travellers should have there passports. Bus started climbing up the mountains and slowly it started getting cooler. By the time we reached halfway it was really cold up there and everyone started to get there jackets out. We reached Thimpu around 8pm and after bidding goodbyes to my new friends, i started towards the main street looking for hotels. Last time I had stayed at this place named Tashi Delek hotel, but this time it was full since its festival time and the locals from all over Bhutan had come to Thimpu to
participate in the festivals. After I mentioned i had stayed there last time, they offered me a room for the next day, so now I need to find another hotel for 1 night. I checked out some 4-5 of them, but all were full. Finally got one hotel with single room which was really cramped, small bathroom with hot water, a bit expensive at rupees 450. But had no choice as everything else seemed to be full. Food was good in the hotel restaurant and after dinner immediately felt asleep as it was really cold outside. It was a welcome cold after 3 days of continuous journey by train and bus.