Crossing Borders-From India to the Land of Flying Tigresses and Thunder Dragons

I must confess that like most people I did not know much about Bhutan except that it has a monarchy, GNH(Gross National Happiness)as the index of its progress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose it as his first foreign destination and one of my favourite actors Tony Leung had got married there. Also, the Tiger Nest which is the first image that comes to mind when I think of this land. I don’t like to read up a lot before going to a  place as it minimises the joy of exploring and this time I did pay for my casual attitude.

My UK  friend who was to come with me had to cancel her ticket at the last minute  because we did not realise that a person having OCI (overseas citizen of India) card  would have to pay 250$ per day. Confusing? Bhutan strictly regulates its tourism. People having Indian, Maldivian or Bangladeshi passports do not require a visa to  enter the country and the rest would have to get a visa and book through a registered tour operator. We had booked through a Bhutanese travel agency. Then came another shocker. The immigration office at the border town would not be open on Saturdays and Sundays and I was reaching on a Friday evening. They also restrict the entry for solo travellers(no gender bias here ) There was no way to change the dates or get someone to go with me. Being an easy- going unstructured traveller I thought I should just take a chance.

The flight from New  Delhi took 2 hours and I reached Bagdogra at 12 30 and rushed into the waiting taxi. The distance from Bagdogra to the border town Phuentsholing is 284  km and it would take 4-5 hours;  immigration office is open from 9  to 4 pm and I had to keep in my mind that Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of India Standard Time. So it was a race against time. My driver took up the challenge and zipped through the well- maintained roads. It was a beautiful drive and I let the sights of green paddy fields, tea estates, army units, Teesta river and many more nameless rivers to steady my nerves.

index

Tea estate

index

index

Teesta River

It was 4 30pm  when we crossed the imposing Bhutan gate and  I could not imagine that border crossing would be like this. Jaigaon is the border town on the Indian side and Phuentshoing  its  Bhutan counterpart. I have made it this far and now the time has come for the final formalities. If the office is closed I would have to wait till Monday and I just did not want to lose two precious days at the border.

IMG_9921

Bhutan Gate-Jaigaon side(India)

Bhutan April 2016 038

Bhutan Gate-Phuentsholing(Bhutan)

 

The immigration office is just about 50 metres from the gate and Singey-the travel agent was waiting there. I rushed into the building with my passport,2 photographs and the duly filled permit form and met a  gracious lady official.   Documents were examined,  fingerprints taken, and I was granted the entry permit. I could not thank her enough. The permit is valid for 7 days and only up to Thimpu the capital city.

IMG_0017

Immigration Office

At last  I was officially in the Druk Yul and thus began my dragon tales.

index

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Crossing Borders-From India to the Land of Flying Tigresses and Thunder Dragons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.