Why do we travel? 🙂

I didn’t have to try and wake up that morning, because I hadn’t slept the previous night. Yeah. I’d put myself in a Passport fiasco I would love to narrate, but choose to pass. I’ll only say so much: there was a carpenter, a much-treasured Godrej wardrobe and a broken lock involved. Well.

There are multiple ways to enter Bhutan from India. You could
a. fly to Bagdogra, West Bengal and take a bus or car to Jaigaon, (the Indian side of the border with Bhutan), and cross over to Phuentsholing (the Bhutan side of the border).

b. fly directly to Paro International Airport, Bhutan

c. fly to Kolkata airport, take a train to Hasimara and further, a cab to Jaigaon

You could also enter via Assam but the above three were the most recommended routes we’d arrived at from our online research.

Since I’m a fan of maps and prefer a visual,

We’d chosen the first route. Our flight was from Chennai to Bagdogra, with a layover of around 2.5 hours at the Kolkata airport.

Flying to Kolkata from Chennai

Flying directly to Paro is the easiest thing to do, but we figured it was also the costliest for us. There are two airlines servicing Paro: DrukAir and Bhutan Airlines. You could check out their websites for flights operated by them.(Random info: We came across a number of institutions/organizations named Druk in Bhutan: Druk Airlines, Druk Green Power Corporation, Druk School etc., Druk means ‘Thunder Dragon’, and in Dzongkha (the Bhutanese language), Bhutan is also called ‘Druk Yul’ or the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’).

So. We’d started from Chennai around 10:25 in the morning and reached Kolkata at 12:40. This was my first time in Kolkata, a city I’ve wanted to visit for a long time now. I know the airport is just one building in the city, but four walls of the airport, you can’t constraint us!

We had a chance encounter with Ms. Lakshmi Pratury, Founder and CEO of INK. (Madhuri was kind enough to introduce us mere mortals to her but dayum, we didn’t click a pic together!). After feasting on the aloo paratha Geetha aunty (Madso & Meghs’ mom) had packed for (them) us, we roamed around the airport, looking for Bengali sweets and look what we found!
That’s Madhuri with Rasmadhuri, Lord Cham Cham and Mango Sandesh. At 15:15, we boarded our flight to Bagdogra. This was a cute, compact aircraft, a Bombardier Q400 NextGen.

We reached Bagdogra at around 17:00. The second you walk down the stairs, you know your vacation has begun. The mild but chilling cold, the unfamiliarity everywhere: these had me excited right then. We walked out of the airport to find a horde of taxi drivers asking us where we wanted to go and quoting their prices to us. If you’ve walked out of the Chennai Railway Station at a time before the Olas and the Ubers came into existence, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. Our auto annas were no different from the taxi bhaiyas here. We couldn’t decide who to pick, so we walked to the prepaid taxi booth and booked a WagonR.

It was a long drive to Jaigaon. Dark already, we drove away from the city through miles and miles of well-built, smooth roads flanked by trees on both sides. Our friendly and chatty driver kept us occupied throughout the trip. We turned down the music when we drove through a forest (cuz who likes unnecessary attention from wild animals?!). We made a couple of stops: at the tea shop, for batteries, at a railway crossing and finally, got dropped at Jaigaon around 22:00.

We crossed over to Phuentsholing through the majestic Bhutan gate. First impression: Wow! Clean, sloping roads. Most of the shops were closed and there weren’t many people on the streets. After meeting us at the gate, BK took us to Hotel Shelgoen where we were to bunk the night. The room was just fine. Remember ours was a budget trip? We managed to open the door only after about 8–10 kicks but mastered the art in no time.

           Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of India’s (GMT +6:00 hrs). At that hour of the day, it was closing time at most of the hotels and we were having trouble finding something to eat. If not for BK and his influence, the boss at Hotel Centenniel (right opposite to Hotel Shelgoen) wouldn’t have agreed to feed us.

             Post 10 rotis, sabzi and 2 doughnuts, we bid goodnight and went to bed with BK’s note: “Meet me at 8 am tomorrow”.

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