“People don’t take trips, trips take people.“John Steinbeck
This was exactly the case with us … Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan happened against all odds. Yes, “the entire universe was conspiring” to take me to this happy place… Bhutan!
It was 5th January morning 9 am. We were still in bed cosily under the blanket. It was a perfect cold winter morning with a slight drizzle. I had my sisters and nephews visiting for my son’s first birthday and was planning to take a day trip with them somewhere nearby. But we couldn’t finalise any destination until the previous night because of differences of opinion. Moreover I had an upset stomach with no hope of making a day trip possible. But I just couldn’t let go this beautiful opportunity and was desperately working on a plan to make everything possible.
I summoned everyone to my bed and after a short discussion we decided to go to Samdrup Jongkhar. By then it was 9.30 am already. The beds were made in a hurry, the house was cleaned, the 2 washrooms were queued for shower by 6 people, a quick meal was fixed for us, a cab was booked with call time set at 10.30 am, I prepared my son’s lunch and snacks. Literally the house was on fire! But one problem still remained… my upset stomach! My sister found a Norflox in her medicine kit and I gulped it down. I have to travel no matter what! The day being extra chilly, I packed a few essentials for my one year young baby and we were good to go.
At sharply 11 am we started our journey from our home at Kahilipara, Guwahati in a Toyota Innova. It took us around 3 hours to reach our destination Samdrup Jongkhar, a small border town on the Assam-Bhutan border. We had decided to travel comfortably with no hurry because we had a baby on board for which the travel time was a little more compared to the actual time taken.
Samdrup Jongkhar : Bhutan-Assam border
Samdrup Jongkhar is a small town in Bhutan with very easy access from Guwahati, Assam. This town is located at the south-eastern part of Bhutan and borders with Darranga in Assam. One can enter this town in Bhutan without any passport or Visa. At the border gate we just need to register our entry with an identity proof of a single person in a group. Various Car rentals are available from Guwahati and the range can vary slightly depending on the size of the cab.
As we enter the town after crossing the first security gate, towards the right falls the main market place and the front after crossing the bridge leads to the administrative district and Monastery as well. At some distance from the main gate there’s another check post which gives entry to main Bhutan provided you have your passport and other documents related to immigration.
On arriving the town we could think of nothing but food as we were so very hungry. There are a few good restaurants which we found out later as we were touring the market area. The one that we ate in was a mediocre one with very less food options. We ordered Chicken momo, Chicken Thukpa and Chicken fried rice along with peach wine which was a local product. Considering the fact that my stomach was not in a very good condition, I decided to play safe with the food. I had watched a few vlogs on YouTube and the information I gathered was that their food tends to be a little spicy.
Chilly and cheese is a very popular dish in Bhutan and judging by the name I bet I made I good decision skipping Bhutanese cuisine for that day. I decided to explore their food the next time I visit.
The first glimpse of the town, painted in bright yellow and a unique architecture, gave me a very welcoming vibe. The charm of these small towns lies in the warmth that they effuse… cheerful local people, clean environment, a certain calm and serenity. I was reminded of Shimla mall road upon entering the market area, though the latter is much smaller. The traffic management in Samdrup Jongkhar is very organised. It has one-way traffic and right side parking only because of which the daily influx of tourists doesn’t create much of a problem.
At the centre of the market is a Buddhist temple with a large prayer bell. There’s a surrounding wall with prayer bells rolling which is considered auspicious in Buddhism. These bells have prayers engraved and are mostly rolled clockwise. The market area also has a vegetable market with local produce which attracts tourists a lot because of the availability of different variety of fruits and vegetables.
The one thing, I was told, that is relatively cheaper there was alcohol. I am a novice when it comes to alcohol so I have totally no idea about price also. But lured by the look of these liquor I too bought a few like peach wine ( local product) for Rs 140/ 375 ml and red wine ( local product) for Rs 70/ 375 ml. I just hope I got a good deal!
Samdrup Jongkhar is a miniature version of the grandeur and charm of Bhutan, it’s like a doorway to this beautiful country. This was just a day trip I enjoyed in the company of my close ones. It definitely was a happy place to be. But my thirsty soul crave for more and I wonder when would I visit the rest of this majestic country called Bhutan!