West Bhutan in a Scorpio 4WD
The main idea behind our extensive trip to Bhutan last year was that we would visit every nook and corner at one go. But the number of days that we could manage was not enough. So we did Eastern Bhutan extensively and left Western Bhutan for future visits as it is easier to do Western Bhutan frequently from Kolkata within less number of days. The next opportunity came just after an year and there was another incentive as well. My college friend and dormant bhpian Rajarshi had recently bought a Scorpio S4 4WD. I do not usually like to drive others vehicles, but he is an exception. I have driven all his vehicles for many kilometers and I treat them like my own. There is no inhibition when I drive his vehicles, I do not have to think what the other person might feel if do something incorrect. In one word, I am very relaxed when driving his vehicles and I had always wanted to drive a Scorpio in the hills for a substantial amount of kilometers. So the planning was done in a jiffy, 3 days in Paro and 2 days in Thimpu and back.Day 1: Kolkata - Paro
Team-bhp moderator Gannu_1 was in town and in the morning of our day of travel I gave a quick visit to him and his immaculately maintained Polo GT TDI.
We started at 5 o clock in the evening and bhpian debarshim's new Endeavour also joined us, they were travelling to Kaluk. The first halt was after palsit for some evening snacks that Debarshi Da and Chandrima Di had packed for all of us.
A customary selfie
Next halt was at Malda for refueling. The Scorpio was a delight to drive, the engine was smooth, acceleration was better than my Thar and most importantly it was very peaceful inside, unlike the Thar. This really helps in a more relaxed drive and keeps tiredness levels low even after driving for quite some distance. We took the Botolbari route after Raigunj and I started gunning the Scorpio as I love the twists and turns on that road. The civic police on the Botolbari route is a nuisance at night. They shove the barricades to the front of the vehicle in order to stop them. But thankfully in our case it was not much of a problem. They did not do that seeing a Scorpio hurtling down followed by the behemoth Endeavour
Botolbari to Sevoke (approx 160 kms) was a fast drive and took me 2 hours 10 minutes. It was substantially faster than what I do in the Thar. The two cars were together till Coronation Bridge and parted ways after that. We took the right towards Mal Bazar. At dawn I handed over the car to Rajarshi and went off to sleep at the back.
We reached Phuentsholing at 7:30 in the morning. The rule for vehicle entry has changed a bit from last year. One is not allowed to enter through the main gate anymore. The immigration office opens at 9 am and we had to wait outside. After it opened, we came to know a few more rules have changed. One has to carry a hotel confirmation voucher and the printed itinerary for each day in Bhutan. We did not have either, so called up Sherub of Dharma Lodge and she sent us the vouchers through WhatsApp and Rajsri emailed them to each of our mailboxes. Nowadays we are so used to login to mailboxes through our phones that all three of us had forgotten the passwords. But we needed to login in a cybercafe in order to take printouts of the vouchers. It was total chaos. Finally Rajsri answered the secret questions and was able to gain access to the mailbox and print
The ordeal did not end there. We realised that the behaviour of the Bhutanese people at immigration office has definitely changed in recent times. Last year it was a breeze to get entry, but this time they asked so many questions! In fact one lady told Rajarshi that he would not be allowed entry into Bhutan next time if he does not bring his family. As a bachelor, that Rajarshi is, it is a difficult proposition to get married just for getting entry in Bhutan! I was quite pissed off at one point and even thought of cancelling the Bhutan plan and go to Shillong. Anyways, finally we got the permits and then went to get the vehicle permit at RSTA Bus stand. It was not difficult to get the vehicle permit and we were famished by this time. Went straight to Zen Family restaurant.
Amidst all the chaos, forgot to mention that I saw a person smiling at me when I was standing in the queue in front of immigration office. The person asked me if I was from team-bhp who had posted a big travelogue on Bhutan. Though he is not a bhpian he had read the travelogue before starting for Bhutan from Bangalore with wife and kid in their Duster. It was a pleasant surprise! His name is Anil and we met again later in Paro, but unfortunately I don't have any picture.
By the time lunch was finished, it was already 1 o clock in the afternoon. We had spent close to six hours in Phuensholing! After getting a Tashi Cell sim card we started towards Paro. Rajarshi was driving the Scorpio and I was sleeping. But after about half an hour I started feeling nauseated. This has never happened to me before. It was strange but I realised that it must be due to the body roll in the Scorpio that people talk about. I started driving after that and felt much better, cannot say the same about the passengers though. We halted a few times en route to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and flowing rivers in Bhutan, finally reaching Paro at around 5:30 in the evening. That was more than 24 hours after starting from home. We already knew the location of Dharma Lodge in Paro and headed straight for it.
Nothing like a hot cup of tea after a long journey
Tendin, the caretaker of the lodge, had prepared dinner. I was feeling cold and had it on the bed, others had it in the dining room. I had toasts and chips, while others had Ema Datshe, rice and vegetables.
Ema Datshe getting prepared
After dinner we called it a day, it was a very long one!