I know, it took me awhile to get around to writing my second phase of the trip. But, here I am!
After my adventurous four days in Thimphu, it was time to move over to another beautiful city – Paro. Now mind you, I did not just use ‘beautiful’ to throw in some adjective. Paro, is an epitome of beauty.
I’d say the crown jewel of Bhutan.
How to get there?
There are 2 ways to reach, either head to Paro from Pheuntsholing directly (3.5 hours) or you could go from Thimphu (took this route). The fastest way would be to go via cab (2 hours), however I used the local bus and reached Paro in a meagre INR 130. Needless to say, the views on the way were jaw-drop worthy.
Interesting anecdote: we headed to Paro with no accommodation arrangements. Thought we will figure it out on our way in the bus. Well we did, and it turned out to be a not so pleasant experience (the owner was trying to dupe us, knowing we’re 2 lone girls backpacking).
But then every dark story has a silver lining eh? We called up our friend from Thimphu (the hotel we stayed at), and he immediately hooked us up with another accommodation in Paro.
It was a blessing in disguise. We lived in a home-stay sort of an arrangement, a little far from the main town but it was a masterpiece. Our caretaker (I still remember his name), Kinley was the kindest man on planet earth.
He pacified us, comforted us with some warm tea and made arrangements for us to go and explore the city.
PS: I could directly jump and tell you the places to see in Paro. But I believe experiences like these are what make a trip worth remembering. This man Kinley, reinstated my belief in Bhutanese people and the kindness they are known for.
Moving on, my main aim to travel to Paro was to witness the legendary Taktsang (Tiger’s hill) Monastery. It’s been on the top of my bucket list.
Day 1: taking into consideration of the way my stint in Paro began, my friend and I directly headed to the city centre to grab some Datshi (the traditional sabzi I spoke about?).
The city centre is pretty small, concise and cute. I would advice to cover it on foot, and for those who love shopping local artefacts, this is a paradise.
Rinpung Dzong: a visit to any city in Bhutan is incomplete without a peek-a-boo in the dzongs. Kinley dropped us at its entrance.
Yet again, we were enchanted by its beauty.
Although, what followed after that was a treat to my sore eyes. The dzong is a little far away from the main city, over a hill. This was right outside the entrance. All I had to do was, look around, and, Viola!
Post the Dzong visit, we decided to walk back to the city centre. It was a good 30 mins walk, but damn son. It was mind-boggling! Seeing two tourists walk on a lonely street, we were offered to be dropped to our location. But we declined the invitations. Wanted the feel of the streets, on foot.
PS: we were used to such generosity/random help showered on us by now. It seemed normal.
Café hopping: there’s a series of cafes one after another. They all shut by 8PM (at the max). Make sure you chill in one of these cafes. They’re quite adorable. Mountaineers café serves some enticing vegetarian options, and don’t forget to try the ‘butter tea’.
Day 2: it was Show Time! The most anticipated day of the trip had arrived. We had breakfast in a jiffy, and immediately left to reach the base of Tiger’s Nest. It’s far from the main city and tourists are advised to start their trek early in the morning, as it’s a long one.
Adult: entry fee of INR 600
College students: entry fee of INR 300. Since we passed off as college students, well I paid 300 INR :).
PS: you could either start the climb with a guide or you can go on your own too. We started the ascend on our own. It’s quite easy, the directions are given and the sign boards are hard to miss out (also saved some money that ways).
We met a lot of travellers on our way, but 2 groups left a serious impact on me.
A 60+ American couple: for someone to have crossed 60, their fitness levels were bewildering. Total couple goals I’d say.
An Indian family: the family consisted of the mother, her daughter, her nani and the son. They had undertaken a road-trip and drove all the way to Bhutan from North East India (Sikkim) till Paro. Their satisfaction with life and the camaraderie was endearing to watch.
And just like that, we reached Tiger’s Nest after a 2.5 hour ascend. I was rendered speechless, when I caught the first glance of the monastery. You’ll realise, that the body-breaking trek was worth it.
There’s a cafe tucked away in the middle of the mountains, in case need to rest or eat before climbing again. The drawback? It’s super expensive, hence, advisable to carry your own water and some munchies.
One needs to deposit all the belongings (esp phones) before entering the monastery. It’s one of the largest and the most beautiful temples I’ve seen in Bhutan. However, it does not beat the sheer joy of spotting the Tiger’s nest from afar, while climbing.
Completing the trek was one of the proudest moments of my life. Soon, we started the descend and as soon as I reached my hotel. I ravished the datshi as if I have never seen food before. My most fulfilling meal. In the evening, we ventured out to one of the cafes again followed by dinner with some Bhutanese locals.
PS: people in Paro know how to party (on selected days). Wednesday is a ladies night and every Friday & Saturday the karaoke bars are open and in full swing. So, maybe you could pick your days to visit this city, according to your mood.
I left for Phuentsholing the next day by local bus. It was time to go back to Mother India.
Whenever I’ve travelled to a new country and my trip is about to end, I feel a sense of foreboding. But leaving Bhutan tore me apart. I literally did not want to go back to India. And I know, within the next 10 years, I will be back in Bhutan.
Till then, let’s keep travelling.
PS: One can also visit the Chehe La Pass which is located at 3810m (13,000ft), between the valley of Paro and Haa, the highest road pass in the country. It’s almost 2.5 hours away from Paro, and a very popular passage. You could either drive down there or hike your way through.
I couldn’t cover it, due to lack of time and money. Saving it for my next visit to Bhutan though.
Ciao for now!