A couple of weeks back, in mid of April, I was in Ooty, a hill station in the Nilgiri Mountains in southern India. On April 17, I went for a day trip to the neighboring town of Coonoor, known for its greenery and scenic beauty.
I enjoyed every bit of this road trip as we drove past beautiful bungalows, orchards, canopied roads and sprawling tea gardens along the slopes.
And it was during the Ooty trip, I realized the usefulness of smartphone cameras. They are very handy when it comes to clicking pictures from a moving bus or car. Thanks to my Lumia540. 🙂
If I start talking (read ‘writing’) about Paro I won’t be able to include everything in one post. Paro is so beautiful and that beauty has so many facets to it that it is impossible for me to sum it up here. So it’s better to share the picturesque beauty in picture instead of words. 🙂
Finally the day came. We had to leave Thimphu for Paro. Our journey to Paro started at 10:30 am (IST) and we reached there at 12:30 pm (IST).
Paro, a fertile valley on the banks of the river Paro, surrounded by the sublime Himalayan Mountains, beckons travelers with its greenery, scenic beauty, and ample scope to explore the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.
I had heard a lot about this spectacular valley, which is dotted with monasteries, sacred edifices and landmarks,
and a small but lively township, which we were to explore next.
The river Paro meanders through the vale dividing it in two halves.
Although there were occasional rain clouds hovering over the valley, the weather in Paro was warmer during the day than that was in Thimphu. But the nights were pleasant in summer months (May-June).
Initially, it was mountains on both sides of the road.
As we entered Paro District the roads turned wider. The glimpses of the river running in parallel with the road made the journey even more exciting and visually appealing.
Finally we reached the point where we could meet Paro, the river. This is the place where you can touch, feel, and walk into the cool waters and enjoy a cable car ride across the river. 🙂
After an exciting rendezvous with Paro Chhu (‘chhu’ is river in vernacular) we were back on the road again, heading towards our hotel. We drove past the small cottages,
lush green paddy fields,
and the small but spectacular Paro Airport.
It seemed Paro greeted us with waving white flags on the roadside
and the rustling branches of peaches blooming with white flowers, everywhere. 🙂
Our car finally stopped at the gate of the hotel Mandala Resort Garden, a hotel with excellent views, I must say.
Whichever side your room is, you are entitled to get a clear view of the valley from the room as long as you are in Mandala Resort Garden. However, it is located in the hills outside the town of Paro, within 10 minutes’ drive from Paro Market.
I’ll soon share the story of my sightseeing in Paro. But before that, enjoy some more colorful panorama of this beautiful valley through my lens. 🙂
Hope you enjoyed Paro tour with me. 🙂 Stay tuned for more.
P.S: This is Part V of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay Series. You can also check out the first four posts of this series for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.
Life in Thimphu has a unique charm. It is a peaceful place with very low crime rate, high discipline, cleanliness and a nice coexistence of modernism and urban culture with Bhutanese tradition and a laid-back lifestyle. And most importantly, people here are nice and gentle towards you as long as you are also nice to them.
The roads in Thimphu are so inviting that you would enjoy drive anytime. Wide roads, less traffic, and idyllic weather – what more do you need? I haven’t seen any traffic police or traffic signaling on the roads, yet no one breaks the rule. Disciplined driving was evident everywhere.
The sight of traditional architecture and religious edifices are quite common in Thimphu. You’ll see several traditional style gateways on the roads to usher you to different parts of the country from the capital city. Needless to mention, these structures beautifully adorn the cityscape.
The Shopping Districts
Thimphu is a perfect blend of modernity and tradition – an interesting combination of simplicity and urbanity. It is reflected in the marketplaces. The city has sophisticated shopping plazas and departmental stores.
On the other hand, the handicrafts market in Thimphu is the place you can discover the richness of Bhutanese traditional art and textiles.
The streets come alive in the afternoon with young boys playing carrom at the shopping arcades, girls having chitchat at the open-air cafeterias and women go shopping with their little kids accompanying them.
The Vegetable Markets
Vegetable markets in Thimphu, mostly makeshift ones, are vibrant, colorful places where you’ll find a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, the sellers and buyers in these roadside vegetable markets are mostly women, in colorful western or traditional clothing.
Bhutanese women are beautiful and in particular, they have excellent dressing sense. Be it their traditional costume Kira or western clothing, women in Thimphu dress up and accessorize quite fashionably. Women here are very active. They work hard both at home and outside. But what is worthy of mention is that they are quite comfortable taking their kids to their workplace.
Look at this woman at a vegetable market in Thimphu.
Women usually carry their babies on their back while walking on the roads, at the shops, in the markets… everywhere. Hats off to motherhood!
You’ll see men in Thimphu mostly in their traditional robes, called Gho. Our driver Sangay, a cheerful little young fellow, told me that it is a legal mandate in Bhutan for taxi drivers to drive in their national costume during duty hours. This is also applicable to men and women working in government offices.
Thimphu is a booming city. I saw a lot of multi-story houses all around in the neighborhood we stayed and a lot many were under construction. Residential buildings in Thimphu have similar structure and symmetry with the traditionally decorated exterior. What I loved the most is the happy colors they use to paint their houses. Well… quite natural for a city in the “happiest country in the world” – isn’t it? 🙂
Dogs seem to be an important part of every household in Thimphu. The people here love dogs. During the day, you’ll see them quietly slugging around in the sun. It is in the night when they are most active, barking all the night to ensure you enjoy “good night sleep”. 😀
Hotel Nirmal, where we stayed in Thimphu, is a family run hotel. The family has a cute little pet dog, Kotah, who was afraid of this distant brother of German Shepherd although I found him very gentle but watchful always. 🙂
We stayed in a peaceful but lively neighborhood approx 15-minute walk from the main road and the buzzing shopping district of Thimphu. A walk along the winding roads in the morning and afternoon will let you look deeper into the city life.
P.S: This is Part IV of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay Series. You can also check out the first three parts of this series for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.
“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.”
~ John Muir
What other than Nature can be the inspiration to live, laugh and create? Any moment spent amidst nature makes me happy, and the feeling of connectedness inspires me to get going. And I think this is true for many of us. Love nature, live more. Happy Weekend! 🙂
It was a pleasant, warm morning we started our journey to Punakha from the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. Bright sunshine flooded the mountains and the valley, scenic beauty all around to behold we kept driving along the road running in parallel with the meandering river. The joy was unfathomable and that was one of the best days in my life. The photos of Punakha are so vivid that simply looking at them can make my day better… 🙂 So, I dedicate this post to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Today Was a Good Day.
We completed the local sightseeing in Thimphu on our first day inBhutan. Next day was scheduled for Punakha Monastery (or Punakha Dzong) which is 3 to 4-hour drive from Thimphu. The drive was as usual beautiful through the Himalayan mountains. I tried to capture the scenic beauty on the way as much as possible.
We drove to Punakha via Dochula Pass, one of the highest points in Bhutan (10,000 ft). It’s about one hour drive from Thimphutowards Punakha and a favorite stopover for tourists. The uniqueness of Dochula Pass lies in the wonderful combination of natural and man-made architectures. The place offers 360 degree view of the Himalayan mountain ranges. Bonus is this beautiful architecture – the 108 chortens in circular construction – add to the charm of the place. Unfortunately, we missed the mountain views as it was all covered in cloud in the end of May. Our driver said you can get the best view in winter. 😦 Well, never mind…the view I got is no less lovely. What do you think?
Now take a look at the other side of Dochula Pass. The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang is a beautiful temple built in the memory of the king, Druk Gyalpo.
As the time passed more and more cars arrived at the spot and I could see spontaneous touristy activities all around.
I think there was a feel-good factor in the air which was quite infectious. I felt so happy and grateful to be alive under the sun and enjoy the view.
By the way, if you have time you can enjoy a leisurely break at the beautiful Druk Wangyel Cafe at Dochula Pass. But the place is a little expensive. Here a one-liter mineral water bottle of Rs 20 cost us Rs 36.
There was this curious visitor at the gate of the cafe. But no one seemed to welcome him. Poor doggie! 😦
Carry enough drinking water during the long drive from Thimphu to Punakha. We didn’t see a proper shop or restaurant from where we could buy drinking water on the way.
Situated on the meeting point of Bhutan’s two important rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu,Punakha Dzong is a place of scenic and spiritual charm. The air, the water, the green plantation looked so clean and pure that you’ll instantly feel in harmony with the place. The monastery is built over a huge area including well-manicured gardens and ponds.
You enter the monastery through this beautiful gateway and cross a traditionally designed wooden bridge that takes you on the other side of Pho Chhu (“Chhu” means “river” in vernacular).
The traditional Tibetan style architecture of the monastery is a treat to the eye. And it perfectly blended with the beautiful surrounding.
Entering the monastery can be a bit difficult with these steep ladder like stair case. Remember, that you must not wear baring clothes, else you may be denied access into the main temple in the images below.
Well, the Punakha Monastery is not only a place for monks and pilgrims. There are other habitats too and they are rapidly growing in numbers. 🙂
It was wonderful to roam around in the monastery premises, full of beautiful orchards and the ponds which they use for pisciculture.
However, Punakha is not just the monastery. It’s much more than that. The clear blue sky, the wide open riverbeds, and the trees and flowers all around make this place divinely beautiful. Take a look at the following images and you’ll agree with me.
After spending some hours in the monastery we went to a riverside restaurant where we were served lunch. After lunch we were on the road again – the road to Wangdue. I’ll share that story soon.
I hope you like this tour of Punakha and Dochula Pass with me. 🙂
You can also take a look at the first part of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay – Thimphu through my lenses for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.
“Iss hi doobte hue suraj ne hum mein pehli baar milaya tha … dekh lena, yahi doobta hua suraj hum mein ek din hamesha ke liye mila dega”
The dialogue from a popular Bollywood movie of the 80s, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, was resonating in my ear as our bus was approaching to the hills of Mount Abu. It was the place where some scenes of QSQT, including my favourite number “Gazab ka hai din...” was picturized. While our bus was running up the hills I was expecting a “gazab ka din” (meaning “an extraordinary day” in Hindi) in Mount Abu. As the height increased the air got cooler and the plantations along the slopes of the hills thickened. Ah…finally, I am in Mount Abu!
We stayed at Hotel Abhishek Palace, a budget hotel with standard accommodation (room rate was Rs 800/-) It was an okay type of hotel which is about 10 minutes walk from Mount Abu’s bustling heart, Nakki Lake.
Mount Abu, being the sole hill station in this region, is a popular tourist destination. Vacationers and affluent local businessmen swarm in on weekends; hence it is an expensive place for shopping. Anyway, let’s come back to where we were. We reached Mt Abu just before sunset. After dumping our luggage at the hotel when we reached by the Nakki Lake it was already dark. I wish I had a boat ride in the lake. But boating is not allowed after sunset. 😦
Nakki Lake is a natural rainwater lake. The myth about the creation of this lake goes like this. Lord Bramha (of Hindu mythology) dug this lake with his nails. Nail is “nakhun” in Hindi and “nakki” in local dialect, hence the name. 🙂 With food stalls, eateries, cafes and clothing and handicrafts shops all around the decorated garden and entrance to the boat pier this is place to feel the pulses of Rajasthan’s lively hill station, Mt Abu. From dining to shopping to magic tricks performed by young boys – you’ll have many things to do and enjoy at Nakki Lake.
Next morning started our Mount Abu Sightseeing.
Our first stopover was Om Shanti Bhawan which has a huge assembly hall called the Universal Peace Hall. The institution providing meditation facility was established in 1983 with an objective of educating and enlightening people about peace, spirituality and Paramatma (meaning ‘the Almighty’ in Sanskrit).
Adhar Devi Temple – The temple is situated on top of a hill and you need to climb 365 steps to reach there. It was a hard but rewarding task as the view from top is very nice. The temple is built along a natural cave has unique structural feature inside.
Dilwara Temple – This is the brightest jewel on the crown of Mount Abu. This Jain temple is famous for its stunning and exquisite marble carvings all over the interior walls, columns and ceilings. Unfortunately, the temple authority does not allow camera inside. Charges for camera and mobile deposit was Rs 50/- per person.
Achalgarh Fort – The ancient fort town of Achalgarh was not originally had the present name. It was initially built by the Paramara Dynasty in the early medieval period. Later it was renovated by Rana Kumbha but most of the structures are in dilapidated condition. There is a temple of Lord Shiva known as Achaleshwar Mahadeva temple where devotees still offer worship regularly. The taxis (jeeps) to Achalgarh are available from the stand near Dilwara Temple. Each taxi carries 6-8 passengers and fare is Rs 800.
The same taxi will also take you to Guru Shikhar, the highest point of Aravalli Range. The peak is about 5600 ft from the sea level. The journey to Achalgarh and Guru Shikhar was remarkable and so was the view from Guru Shikhar.
After a daylong sightseeing in Mt Abu we returned to our hotel for lunch. Post lunch session was most memorable because of sunset viewing from the Mt Abu Sunset Point. We reached early, before 5 pm, as our tour guide warned us that crowd will start gathering after 5:30 and you may not find a convenient position if you don’t go early. He was correct. When we reached at around 4:45 I merely saw a few couples here and there. I was so absorbed in enjoying the view down the hill I didn’t notice when the place was filled with so many people. To my surprise, the place was jam-packed with sunset viewers after 5:30 pm.
When the sunset was over we went to Nakki Lake before returning to hotel and thus ended my “gazab ka din” at Mount Abu. J In late November, the nights were cold in Mt Abu even though the days were hot just like any other places in Rajasthan. As the night grew older the wind became chillier and I went to bed with my socks and scarf on under the blanket. 🙂
By the way, before I stop here is the song for you.
Disclaimer: Dilwara Temple and Nakki Lake (day) images are taken from the internet.
Hum jo chalne lage chalne lage hain yeh raaste/ aa ha… manjil se behtar lagne lage hai yeh raaste/ Aao kho jaaye hum Ho jaaye hum yun lapata /Aao milon chale jaana kahan na ho pata…
(Meaning: The road also keeps going as we continue our journey/It feels the journey is better than the destination/ Let’s get lost /Let’s travel with the road not knowing where to go)
The song from my favorite Hindi movie Jab We Met was buzzing in my ears. With winding hilly road as far as eyes can see, pines and cedars lining the road and sunshine on my shoulder (especially after two days of incessant rain) what else I could think of! It was a pleasant, sunny morning. We were headed for Almora after spending the last night in Choukori. Luckily, I could manage the front seat right in the driver’s cabin to enjoy the journey to the fullest.
Earlier that morning… we got up at 6:30 and rushed to the balcony of the hotel to get a glimpse of sunrise. It is something you must experience in Choukori, a secluded hill station in Almora District of Uttarakhand. But ‘thanks’ to the ‘Weather God’ we were again deprived of this natural phenomenon, just as we were in Kausani and Ranikhet. When the sun finally peeped out from behind the thick cover of clouds it was already 7:30. 😦
Nevertheless, Angan Resort in Choukori was a beautiful place to stay. There were groves and bushes all around. The garden was in full bloom with cosmos, marigolds and dahlias. The green slopes dotted with cottages created wonderful vista in the soft sunlight.
But the ultimate joy was yet to come. As the morning grew older the mist dissolved and the sky became clearer. The Himalayan peaks – Nandakot, Panchulli, Trishul – all were shining bright in the daylight. It seemed that the pastures, the hills and the resort – the entire place was surrounded by an array of snow-capped peaks. It was AMAZING!
Just one day ago it was really difficult to imagine a sunny day like this. Weather changes so fast!
The previous day, Kausani to Choukori has been a long journey via Gandhi Ashram, Baijnath Temple and Bageshwar where the rivers Gomati and Sarayu meet.
Gandhi Ashram also called Anasakti Ashram (‘Anasakti’ refers to the spiritual state of selflessness and non-attachment from materialistic pleasure) where Mahatma Gandhi wrote ‘Anasakti Yoga’ (The Gospel of Selfless Action). The ashram has a museum displaying some of the rare photographs of the Mahatma in various stages of his personal and political life.
Baijnath Temple is a millennia old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Vaidyanath, hence the name Baijnath). It is now an archeological site. Built in 1204 A.D. this temple is one of the oldest continuously worshipped temples in the country.
Still standing strong the temple is a silent witness of the River Gomati’s journey for over thousands of years.
Coming back to where we started … we left Choukori for Almora at 9:30 in the morning.
I think the best thing about the journey from Choukori to Almora (Town) is that you can enjoy the view of snow-white Himalayas all along the way. Our route included Patal Bhubaneswar in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Patal Bhubaneswar is a natural wonder – an ancient limestone cave with numerous mythological stories hidden in its womb. Descending into the grotto through a narrow opening in the rocks is a thrilling experience which will soon turn into a pleasant surprise as you reach the chamber at the bottom. Camera isn’t allowed inside. And I am in no mood to describe what is inside the cavern. This is for you to discover because some things are better to be discovered than found. 🙂
Hotel Shikhar was our immediate destination in Almora. Our stay in this moderate budget hotel was really enjoyable. Its strategic location allows easy access to the bustling town center and market. You can also spend hours sitting on the terrace watching at the Himalayas and soak in the scenic beauty of Kumaon hills.
The next morning was scheduled for Almora sightseeing.
Our first stop was Ramkrishna Kutir, a small monastery operated by the Belur Math. The monastery, nestled in the lap of the mountain, offers a peaceful resort for prayer and meditation for everyone in search of peace and salvation.
The star attraction of Almora Zoo is definitely leopards. These leopards are found in the jungles of Kumaon Himalayas and they are the protagonist of the book Man-Eaters of Kumaon by the famous naturalist-hunter Edward James Corbett, popularly known as Jim Corbett in Northern India.
Our next destination was Golu Devata ka Mandir – the temple of Lord Golu, a deity seen as an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is widely worshipped in the villages of Kumaon. It was a small but beautiful temple boasting hundreds of thousands of wishing bells. They say if you write down your wishes on a paper and tie it with a bell in this temple your wish will come true. The existence of uncountable bells and letters is perhaps the proof if it! 🙂
However, here are a few more glimpses of Almora’s scenic beauty for your eyes only 😉
After completing our sightseeing in Almora we returned to the hotel. We had to pack our bags for the next leg of our trip which was from Almora to Lucknow by 13020 Bagh Express which departs from Kathgodam at 9:55 at night.