There was ‘Meghduta’ and there is ‘Meghduta’! The first one is a Sanskrit verse by the noted n revered, ancient Indian poet, Kalidasa, in which the Yak, who is living an exiled life, convinces a passing cloud to take a message to his wife who resides in the Himalayan Mountains awaiting his return while the second one is a physical character in this story! This Meghduta (the cloud messenger) whom I met during my Bhutan visit, had a strong, very strong message to convey. Tucked between the ridges of the Himalayan peaks and playfully following me in the various valleys that we visited, this tiny but precious gem, reminded how beautiful our earth would be if all the components of the nature including the human beings, existed without overpowering any other element of the nature. This Meghduta chooses to reside in a country where every turn on the mountain road opens up a new vista, the exuberant river seems to be all eager to give company through one’s journey, where the apple trees, plum trees, walnuts, pear and other fruit bearing trees stand with a nonchalance in complete harmony with the tall, fragrant pine, cedar n willow trees. The varieties of rhododendrons remind one that life is not only about rushing and pursuing goals, it’s also about stopping to smell a flower, to appreciate and be with nature and your loved ones.
Perhaps- no I am sure; this harmonious existence is the reason of the highest gross happiness of the Bhutanese people. No wonder, this ‘Meghaduta ‘ too, chose to reside in this country, after all this is the only country in the world which has negative carbon footprints. Still one of the least traveled destinations (perhaps for the good), this country has so much to offer, especially if one is looking at peace, nature and spirituality or should I say, in this forever connected and fast-moving world, this country provides a perfect niche to connect with the self, to find one’s soul. Just do not be in a rush when you visit this country. While you travel from one place to another, its resplendent and alluring natural bounty is sure to make you wonder, if that is the destination!
When to visit?
Ideally one should visit that place either in the months of March, April, May or Oct-Nov but sometimes, not following the ideal has its own perks. We travelled there in the monsoon, and the experience had been surreal, to say the least. Mist covered peaks, green paddy fields, cooing rivers and the shining water droplets dripping off the pine needles- we got much more than we had expected.
Now, how do you reach there from the Indian side?
One can reach this mystical heaven or the ‘last Shangri-La’, either by air or by road. I flew to Bagdogra and from there by road to Phuentsholing, one of the big commercial cities of Bhutan, and then to Thimphu.
You can also;
1.Fly to Kolkata or Guwahati and take the connecting flight to Paro (only airport of Bhutan)
2.Travel by train, reach to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and from there reach to Phuentsholing by road. You would be required to get ‘visitors’ entry permit’ at Phuentsholing itself if traveling by road.
Explore the country and its kaleidoscopic natural beauty at your own pace. Do not forget though, to visit the following places.
Rinpung Dzong, Paro
Chele La Pass, Paro (enroute Haa valley)- I bet you shall enjoy the route perhaps much more than the destination.
Punakha Dzong (Monastery) -Situated at the confluence of two rivers, it’s a sight to behold.
Buddha Dordenma Statue (The giant Buddha) Thimphu – The experience of standing close to this statue, cannot be described anything less than overwhelming.
Dochula Pass- when you travel to Punakha from Thimphu, this is one place which takes away your breath with its beauty all around. Just ensure that the weather is clear the day you travel else you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sight of the majestic Himalayan peaks from that point!
Tigers Nest, Paro– This is the most famous attraction of Bhutan perhaps. And not for nothing. This does not only provide a great trek but also an indelible experience …of tranquility, of being one with the nature!
Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu– Right in the heart of the capital, this is a magnificent Monastery with striking architecture. You shall marvel at its beauty in the day time and at night when the lights adorn to make it look like a piece of jewel.
Norzin Lam Street, Thimphu– Take a stroll down this road and indulge in shopping, eating and just being you!
For the food connoisseurs too, Bhutan has much to offer. So, do not forget to give a treat to your taste buds while you are there. Try their local cuisines to savour a slice of their legacy, culture and traditions.
My pick shall be;
Ema Datshi- Large, green chilies in cheesy sauce-apparently this can be called their national dish for the sheer pride that Bhutanese have for it.
Zow shungo – the rice dish
Jasha tshoem – Bhutanese chicken curry….Ahhh can I ever finish the list!
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