Drive from Phuentsoling to Thimpu in Bhutan has probably been one of our most beautiful drives in recent times. Our guide, Sonam, who we met the previous evening for the Entry Permit/Pass formalities, had told us that we should start early from Phuentsoling in order to make it to Thimpu in good time for some sight-seeing there. We nodded our heads in complete school-child-like agreement. No point wasting time at Phuentsoling where there was nothing to do, see!
A quick breakfast at our hotel (Hotel Druk Phuentsoling), where we stayed overnight, found us in our van dot at 8.30am. Norbu Travels, with whom we are touring Bhutan, had sent us an 8-seater van with Karma to drive us through our Bhutan Odyssey. During the next 10 days, we’d find Karma to be extremely good-natured, driving hundreds of kilometers without a tinge of irritation, always smiling and stopping/slowing for photographs. Sonam, our guide, was the ever helpful, ever thoughtful, knowledgeable guy who understood our curiosity levels and showed us Bhutan like a local.
Kharbandi Gompa in Phuentsoling: 10 minutes into our drive, and Karma drove us past a rustic driveway that opened to Kharbandi Gompa. One of the many monasteries that we will see in our tour, explained Sonam. At that early hour, the monastery had still not opened. Sonam, nonetheless, ran us through the basics of visiting a monastery – Always start going round in the clock-wise direction. The monastery bells too need to be whirled clock-wise. Another crash course followed on Buddha’s sitting positions, Guru Rimponche, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Stupa shapes, lamps room etc. And then he allowed us to take photos against the Indian plains and the Phuentsoling city not so far away.
Drive from Phuentsoling to Thimpu in Bhutan: 180 kms away, Sonam told us that Thimpu drive would take us 6 hours. Which meant that we’d reach the capital city just after lunch. Water, cakes, fruits in place, we started off. Karma drove in a way that Ridi (our 6-yr old) didn’t get any motion sickness. One mountain range after the other, past extremely well-laid out roads, past little villages and charming Bhutanese houses, we breezed through. Village after village, valley after valley, as Sonam acquainted us with Bhutan’s history and present-day life and governance, we metamorphosed into school students, making mental notes of names, years, et all. And since we are travel bloggers, we take down notes in our phone books too 🙂
Almost halfway through the journey and around lunch hour, we stopped by at one of the most charming little restaurants in the middle of a sparse valley, nestled between willow trees. This was the Bunakha Cafeteria. Since there were 3 other vans with tourists, a buffet table had been laid out that had mostly the Indian fare. We weren’t keen to eat Chicken Curry and Rice!! And so ordered steamed Pork Momo, Sekam Pa (Pork dish), Ima Datshi (the national dish of Bhutan) with Red Rice. Slurped it all up, took photos inside and outside, went too moo with the cows grazing nearby and then got into the van to resume our journey.
Stopping every now and then for photos of the colourful Bhutanese flags and roadside stupas, the ever-smiling people and kids, the lofty ranges, the valleys and streams, at Chuzom (confluence of the Thimpu river, Wang Chhu, and the Paro river, Pa Chhu), and thus reached Thimpu around 4pm. A quick check-in and wash at Hotel Druk in Thimpu, and we were ready to loiter around in the city until dark. Thimpu city sight-seeing was slotted for the next day!
Tips for Phuentsoling to Thimpu Drive:
- You pass through valleys and mountain ranges, and so the roads have their good share of turns. If with a child, ensure that you have given him/her a motion sickness tablet (as prescribed by the doctor) before the start of the journey.
- Better to carry your own snacks, fruits and water for the journey since the villages you cross may not have what you want. It is easy to buy bananas though.