An out of the world experience – just next door

Bhutan is like that green, lush garden in your neighborhood that is so easily accessible and yet you rarely go there and instead prefer to go to the nearest multiplex or mall to spend your weekends. Then one day you just happen to go the garden and ask yourself why you didn’t go there earlier to sit in the lap of nature, but instead wasted all that time chasing the artificial monuments (at an inflated price that is).

More often than not, when we Indians decide to go on a ‘phoren’ trip, we invariably have either the European or the South East Asian countries as the options to choose from, and almost nobody considers Bhutan as the tourism destination worth going. Yeah, I have been guilty of that too, and now that I have been there I feel I should have gone there much earlier. One of the more often missed countries while planning budget travels, this tiny neighbor of India has everything – From mountains to rivers, from polite and smiling people to tech savvy monks, from momos to parathas, this country has it all to make to make your trip the most memorable one. And of course, the people. The people are always smiling, always polite and soft spoken. No wonder Bhutan is called the happiest country in the world.

With a population barely touching 6 lakhs, Bhutan can be, for all practical purposes, considered as India’s 30th state. With the hilly terrain though, the population density is quite low compared to most Indian states.

Another thing that separates Bhutan from India’s other north eastern tourist destinations (read Gangtok) is that the government of Bhutan has not commercialized the tourism. The way our tourist spots are overflowing with tourists and the related problems they bring with it, are not to be found in Bhutan anywhere. As a result, all the tourist spots in Bhutan are spanking clean, despite the increased tourist influx in the recent years. Of course, the disadvantage is that tourists are dependent on the limited transportation options available (either the mini buses that generally locals use, and the taxis that usually charge higher prices).

We went to Bhutan in March-2017 and spent a lovely 10-11 days in the Tourism triangle – Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. Normally you don’t need more than 7 days to cover all these places, but we wanted to cover a few more places such as the Phobjikha Valley and Chele La Pass/Haa Valley but couldn’t due to weather not permitting. Phobjikha Valley is home to Black Necked Cranes and these migratory birds arrive to the valley from October to Mid Feb every year (yeah, stupid us didn’t time our visit well).

We planned our visit as a backpacking trip, but by the time it ended it had become a hodgepodge of a budget, backpacking and luxury trip all combined. We stayed at decently comfortable hotels, and went for public transport wherever possible (except Paro, where hiring a taxi for the day was the only option), and ate at a variety of places including a few fancy restaurants and a neighbourhood ‘ramukaka ki dukan’ type café (where we had some Maggi lookalike noodles as evening snack, and then upset our stomachs and vomited for next couple of hours).

This is a just a small travelogue to remind ourselves of the great memories we had there and to answer any questions that you might have in planning to visit Bhutan. Being the greatest fan of Murphy’s law, I can also elaborate a few events that had to go wrong only with me, and which you can easily avoid.

Read on to find out how we went to Bhutan, the surprising stuff we encountered, and the places we visited, either from menu items above, or click here.