We had mentioned to our guide Kinley, that although we weren’t atheists, we were fonder of nature than monasteries. I’ve seen quite a few in the North East, and my parents even more in Sikkim & Northern Kashmir. With this in mind, he drove us out of Thimpu along a road following the river where at one point, me & Chibu even got into the river climbing over some huge stones. To my misfortune, I slipped over a wet stone and the next minute, I was drenched in water close to ice-point right up to my knees. I was lucky to not get hurt or carried away by the river.
We also learnt some Dzongkha on our way; e.g. Phab means pig, chhee means dogs, tta means horse, etc. Surprisingly, the Bhutanese script has no way of joining letters, which results in extremely verbose spellings (not sure if that makes sense). So tta (horse) is spelled as ra-ta-ta-ta: and Prasad as p:-a:-r:-a:-saad-a-saad. Here’s some audio. I wouldn’t be able to spell my own name till 5th standard. The education system of Bhutan is similar to India: after several levels of school, students head to junior college Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 3: Punakha→
After breakfast, we checked out the Centenary Farmer’s market in Thimpu that sells cereals, vegetables, meat & fresh farm items on Sundays. BAFRA, or Bhutan Agriculture & Food Regulatory Authority ensures hygiene in the market; I remember seeing their agents vigilant at the airport for any unwanted living plant/animal brought into Bhutan. We also checked out the black-market on the other side of the river which sells antiques – few of them sealed which can be officially carried out of the country.
On our way to Thimpu-top, the 4th king’s modest motorcade passed by; our car waited for him to pass. Bhutan has had democratic monarchy backed by a constitution since 1907; the 1st king was the son of an eastern king who emerged strong & defeated the other two in the south & centre. The Royal family owns several businesses & the king is salaried; most luxury hotels, spas, trading businesses Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 2: Around Thimpu→
Night stay at Kolkata was decent; we ordered chicken noodles in the middle of the night. The city is still as unclean as it was 10 years back, accompanied by very high entropy. The airport is medieval (note: aviation history starts much after Christ) & even Emirates does not get an aero-bridge. Took an early morning Druk Air flight to Paro; the airline operates a fleet of 2 A319s. I was sitting next to Pema Tshering, a unique scholar who teaches History to MA students & Geography to BA students. He was kind enough to offer me his window seat & introduce me to the Himalayas. The approach to Paro requires a 90 degree turn between the Paro valley to show way to a really small runway; surprisingly there are no taxiways either.
At the airport, everyone from ground-staff to policemen were wearing something very close to knee-length bathing robes; little later we realized this was Gho, the national dress. My parents were telling us the story of a man before them who was about to be sent back for some reason. I think, unless you’re travelling on business, you can’t enter Bhutan without a package tour. Out of immigration & customs, we were welcomed by our tour guide Kinley Tensin (right! Same as the mineral water brand Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 1: Thimpu→
Just finished watching ‘Wake Up Sid’. Aru was right, maybe I should dedicate time for movies in order to better understand them and feel the kick. I’m in a window seat & I can see nothing but the bright fool moon & some dew on the wings. Some aunties (pun intended) served great food on the ‘new Air India’, however, a minified (got this word jQuery) version of the airline’s glorious past. There was no welcome drink, toffee or even cotton wool.
Take-off was delayed by almost an hour and half & we waited the first 45 minutes without any intimation; the next 45 minutes we were locked up in the aircraft. Unlike my horrible SpiceJet experience recently, the cabin was oxygenated. OR guys have a lot to do in aviation –at least operations in India are far from efficient.
Some excited 1st-timers bring to my notice that ambient outside is -49c; that was constantly being updated on the head-rest mounted LCDs of the A319. All that’s left for today is to get into a ambassador cab, drive to the hotel & hopefully pay by the meter. Kolkata here I come…
Ferries (catamarans) are operated by a couple of companies from Gateway of India (Bhau-cha Dhakka) Mumbai to Mandwa jetty near Alibag. The fare is usually inclusive of the bus ride from Mandwa to Alibag city-centre/bus stand. This is perhaps the fastest way to reach Alibag, and then Murud – especially if you are in South Mumbai. Got a picture of PNP’s schedule – thought it could be of use! Continue reading Gateway-Mandwa-Alibag Ferry Schedule→
Just uploaded the photos taken during the Maghi Ganesh Utsav 2010 at Nandgaon, Murud-Janjira. This festival is celebrated each year around January-end for which the entire Gupte-Chitnis family comes together at their family temple.
This is my favorite video, taken at Sella Pass (15000 ft) on our way to Tawang. We got this close to ice for the first time and in our excitement jumped into the ice. Features my bro Pratik a.k.a. Chibu who quite bravely jumped & sunk into the ice; and inconsiderately left his shoes behind while being pulled through. Continue reading Chibu in Ice→