The trip to the land of Happiness!!! (6th -18th March’16)

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”

—-Lawrence Block

The customary trip of March: Buzzword in our campus in the month of January. Budgets, plans, destinations, trip advisors and moreover seniors. These are the few components of a trip. As of then, I had no plans of any trip with friends. With end terms scheduled in 1st week of March, It was destined that I won’t be able to make it to one of my close friend’s marriage, something for which I was waiting since the day I got to know about it. Thus tickets were booked to her reception at Jamshedpur. But then suddenly as it turned out my wishes became reality. The end terms were scheduled in the last week of February, and over and above that I was invited by a group of friends to join them on Bhutan trip. My heart knew no bounds when I could figure out that I will have to attend that much – awaited marriage to go to Bhutan. Thus began my journey. Filled with excitement, the packing for the trip began.Discussions about the essential components to be taken, the climatic conditions there, the awaiting adventure etc… And finally, the day arrived..6th March 2016… XUB to Khurda Station to Howrah.There I got to know about Kolkata Station. I was still under the impression that Howrah and Kolkata Railway Stations are synonymous. We boarded the train and reached New Jalpaiguri.Then started the bargaining with the taxiwaalas. The usual habit of churning out money from visitors became so obvious that we decided to take the public transport. The journey from New Jalpaiguri to Oodlabari was actually a trailer for the real picture awaiting us. The dense tea estates, roads carved out of hills, rivers flowing down the mountains.

Almost 2 hours of travel and we got down at Oodlabari and from there on Dadju ( our assigned driver for the trip) took the charge of showing us Bhutan. Another 3 hours of journey and we reached Phunshilling( Border Town) where we had to get permits to enter Bhutan. It was a  crowded place and there we had the first glimpse of the King and Queen of Bhutan.( A big portrait hung on the wall). With the crowd over there we were hardly optimistic of getting the permit that day and had made up our mind to stay there for the day.The deep bonding that defense forces share for their colleagues came into the picture. A little bit of request and effort from their side cleared our way to access the capital of the heavenly land. Thus started our journey to Bhutan in the evening at around 5 o clock.

Amid the lush green forests, mesmerizing mountains, agile rivers and abundant pristine beauty, we traveled.Little did we know that numerous pleasant surprises are waiting in the far off land. As we proceeded to Thimpu, the temperature started dropping drastically. In between, we stopped to have dinner at a restaurant. We were surprised to see every functionality is managed by the fairer sex viz. taking orders, cooking and serving. The cheerful and happy faces there lifted our moods.Right next to the restaurant, the view point of Chukha Project is situated. In the dark, we could not make out a lot but got to know it is made in collaboration with India (336 MW).

Another 3 hours and we reached Thimpu. At around 11 p.m, we arrived at the capital city. It was icy cold outside and with no warm clothes on we completely froze in the cold wind. Here another surprise: the hotel staff consisted of ladies, they lifted our bags and we proceeded to our rooms. A good night’s sleep was the need of the hour. 8th of March, the sight seeing began. The monastery (1st monastery), then the Buddha Point (the strategically located point which is visible from every corner of Thimpu)…The oxygen layer gets thinner during the accent to the Buddha Point but it is worth facing the scarcity. The beautiful statues, distant view of snow covered mountains are a real treat to eyes.

That day evening was spent in the marketplace of Thimpu. We savored the beautiful souvenirs and the handicrafts at their National Emporium. Next day we visited the Cherry Monastery. A heavenly feeling gripped me there. With the clear water flowing in the rivers, the pristine beauty had engulfed the surrounding environment. The visit to the Thimpu Jong reflected the beautiful culture: A place where administrative building and the religious structure co-exist. It absolutely reflects “ Work is Worship”. The most interesting thing was the image of the king of Bhutan placed just below the statue of Padmasambhava who is treated as one of the great preachers of Buddhism.The people there love their king and it shows a respect for the coexistence of monarchy and democracy.The Thimpu Museum is a storehouse of tribal art and culture. Starting from the weapons used for hunting to the utensils used for cooking, it is a microcosm of the lifestyle of tribals.

One thing for sure I can say. It is the nation where happiness is the anthem, aesthetics is the culture and symmetry is an art. Every structure( be it the homes, official buildings, shops, small bridges over rivers, pavements) has beautifully inscribed art. Then it was time to dress up in the traditional Bhutanese costumes and get ourselves clicked. It was one of the most enjoyable moments when we were draped in their official costume.

The warm service at Thimpu hotel( Tashi Gatsel) touched our hearts. The courteous and caring behavior by the hotel staff made us feel at home. Day 3, we had to leave Thimpu to start for Punakha. Thus the botanical garden was the last place on our itinerary.  Then we began our journey to Punakha. Throughout the way, we saw the roads being constructed. The efforts put by the Bhutanese citizens to connect the different parts of the hilly nation is commendable. The next day we started our journey to visit Phobchika Valley: the place famous for the preservation of blacked horned cranes. These birds migrate from China and are considered as messengers of goodness.Their arrival marks the onset of good times.

On our way back we had lunch cooked in Indian style. We were impressed by the way the Bhutanese women tried to replicate the Indian dishes for us.

The next day we started to our final destination of Bhutan Trip i.e. Paro. Everyone was excited to reach there because it hosts one of the most awaited trekking routes. As we proceeded towards Paro, the temperature started dropping further. The road from Thimpu to Paro is very well maintained and resembles the highways of our nation. On our way, we also viewed the Paro Airbase( the only air base of Bhutan). Next day we went to Chelela Pass, the point from where the China border is visible. Continuously running mountains with snow on the top resembled the beautiful icing on a cake.

The last day was scheduled for the trekking to Tiger’s Nest. Morning 9:30 the trek began. Slowly we climbed the mountain. Throughout the way, we saw tourists from different nations. In between, there were drinking water points. The cool water from the mountains was a respite for us. At around 12:30, we reached the view point of Tiger’s Nest. We were just marveling the view from there when one of the tourists informed us to rush Tiger’s Nest as it gets closed at 1 p.m. We ran through the numerous steps and finally reached the registration center and entered the sacred place.Throughout this path, tourists encouraged us to reach.One couple offered us “Chana Prasad” saying “ Young lady why are you so tired?” Thus we reached the sacred pilgrimage of Tiger’s Nest and visited the various monasteries there. They say a tiger with wings once stayed in the caves and we saw that point as well, thus the name Tiger’s Nest. And then began the descent. We reached our starting point at 3:45 p.m. We had carried aloo parathas to satiate the extreme hunger which followed afterward. And then waited for the rest of our friends to join us. After an hour they reached and we went back to the hotel. The next day we checked out and started our journey back to India. Carrying memories of the trip of a lifetime, we were returning back to the nation where we belong to. 6 hours of travel and we reached Falakata. Stayed in the army camp for that night and the next day boarded the train to Howrah and then Bhubaneswar.

Thus the trip to a nation which scores the highest in Gross National Happiness concluded and the reason what I deciphered is contentment with the available resources.

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