Updated: May 31, 2020
Hello everyone, again it is vacation time. So what would be the first thing that will strike our mind hearing that? Hitting the sofas and turning the TV on yet not even glancing at it as we are busy with our phones. So initially I thought of the same thing, then the end of teenage crisis hit me so hard that, till how many youthful energetic days that I have more to explore and enjoy the world. And so I was particular about doing something interesting, but I didn't sort it out for a while. And all of the sudden during my semester examinations my dad forwarded me a Facebook post of a bike package at Bhutan and asked whether I like to go for it. That's it I sealed the deal and booked everything before even doing any of the groundwork. It was arranged by Deyor Camps, a Delhi tourist company with similar much more adventurous packages. All the thing I knew when I booked the ticket was Bhutan is a small nation where Indians could get on arrival visa and it is the happiest country in the world and I am going to ride a Royal Enfield Classic 350 over there.
I booked my flights from Chennai to Bagdogra via Calcutta. There were some terms and conditions from the Deyor that we are supposed to bring only one bag with us, so I bought a 75ltr rucksack from AmazonBasics and fit all the required outfits for a couple of weeks. I took a bus from my hometown Sivakasi to Chennai and stayed at my sister's. Where during the night I could not even bear the coldness of her room's air conditioner. The next day we checked the weather over Bhutan for the next 10 days, and I started to shiver just by seeing the result. Everything was below 10-degree Celcius. Then I called a friend from there and went to the mall to shop some thermal wears and some other health and care products. After buying those things, my friend just told about an accident his friend met while he went on a similar trip to Ladakh. And that's the moment I decided to invest some on my safety. The next day we went to Spartan Pro Gear outlet and after several hours and iterations of trying out all the accessories over there, I bought a jacket, gloves, knee guard and a face mask. And after shopping all these things, my 75ltr bag was not enough to hold all these things. I and my sister saw some videos on youtube to get an idea of how to fit everything in it. And finally, with the most possible compression ratio, we did it. And boarded my early flight the next day.
Travelling in flight, I realized that the government town bus has a better legroom space to occupy my humungous legs. After landing at Bagdogra airport, took an auto-rickshaw to go to the hotel that I booked. No matter how many times I travel by air, I always have some trust issues with the airlines about baggage transfer. Amazed by the auto fare, I checked in the room. I met the guide the same day, who will be accompanying us the whole trip. And the next day all other trip mates arrived at the hotel. Yes, I was the only one who doesn't know Hindi. Which made me a typical "Madrasi". Yet my room-mate translated as many things that they were talking about to me. We gelled up pretty well by the first day itself. There were three doctors, one married couple, a couple and a father-son duo. And I was the youngest. And fortunately, I was not the only one who doesn't smoke and drink. We all had a trial ride with the bikes and finalized. We were about to roll, the next day. I got up earlier that day, had a very nice breakfast, and was putting all the armours. Uff, it was a nice feel to suit up for the first time. After dressing up as a perfect rider, I stepped out to the parking and got on the bike, an hour before the departure.
East of the Border
With all those over excitements, I just remembered seeing the weather of Bhutan on the whole, not about Phuentsholing, which is the city located in the border of the two-nation. I wore all the clothing thing. Inners, thermal wear, the hardest shirt, and the riding jacket with both thermal and waterproof lining in it. And I realised with so much pain while riding under the scorching Sun. Literally my body was boiling under all those fabrics. But the ride was worth it. Even before crossing Siliguri, I noticed that my tyres were not that grippy. So if I hit the back brake harder, the heavy motorcycle started skit sidely. I was so afraid that, how would I manage with this bike the whole trip. And I was the only one riding a 350cc engine. Everybody else rode Himalayan which has about 430cc and 500cc Thunderbird. And the roads were amazingly wider and smoother. All were maxing their throttle and flying more than 100kmph and I was struggling to cross 85kmph. And moreover, Royal Enfield and vibrations are like a better love story than The Twilight. So at higher RPMs, holding the handlebar, felt l like holding a vibrator. After several pit stops, we reached Jaigoun, the town of India near the border. Crossing the border was a different feel. We straight away crashed at the hotel, while our guide went to get all the immigration forms. Then we all went to the immigration office and finished all the procedures and got all the clearance paper for the bikes. After we went to walk around the city. Actually it didn't feel like another country, it just felt like we were in another North-Eastern state, as they accept Indian currency and everybody knows Hindi. But the only thing is, it was like India which we wish to see.
The very next day, again I did a mistake with my costume. This time I didn't wear enough dress. We started soon after having our breakfast. Our Bike Captain joined us from there and instructed us about the way of signalling over their country. Then we started from there. And there started the mountains, steep roads and hairpin bend. The things which thrill the rider. In the moment of time suddenly it got cold and the roads were completely misty. The biggest problem was with my helmet, which was getting fog with the visors on. We reached the capital city, Thimpu by 10 pm. We had dinner at that amazing hotel. I didn't really expect the quality of the stay and food would be this good. The next day the bike didn't start in the first few tries. In these days all the bikes come with only with the self-start, not even with the kicker or choke. All the Himalayan turned on the very first try itself. Then we went to Buddha Dordenma, which is a big Budhha statue on a mountain. Then we went to Simply Bhutan, where the people over there represent the culture of Bhutan. It was so nice and kind. Then we had lunch in their style. Where ever we go there was this dish called "Ema-datshi". We went to some temples and went to a national park where we saw the national animal of Bhutan - Takin. Then by the time of dusk, we went to the Thimpu City view. It was so scenic. After the long day, we went back to the hotel. And that was the first time I ever used heater in the room. It felt so cosy. And at the bed, I was wondering what are all the things I would be experiencing the next day.
The Ride of my Life
As usual the next day we started after breakfast, to Punakha. That place is just 85 km far yet it took around 2:30 hrs to reach over there. And yes I have to admit that, it was the best motorcycle ride of life till now. All of us were riding with the rhythm. As I was the tail I could see everyone bending towards the ground at the turns and the synchronized blinkers. It was like a snake crawling through the mountain. Everything was perfect in that ride, even the weather it was cold, yet the sun was shining. And after that amazing ride, we reached the Punakha Dzong. Then we went to the nearby Suspension bridge over the Mho and Chu river, which is the longest suspension bridge at Bhutan. And it was the longest I ever have seen. That night we were about to reach Paro, and we have to go ride through the same route that we rode in the morning. By evening it started to get cold. Our hands almost froze that we were not even able to pull the clutch properly. At the time of dusk, we were at Dorchula pass. It was a heavenly feel over there. Seriously you could not see anything as beautiful as nature, at it's best. We stopped over there and had some butter tea and hot chocolates to keep us warm. Then we reached Paro by 10 pm. And I have never seen the sky, that clear. I could see constellations and the Milky Way belt. Then only I came to know that Bhutan is a negative carbon nation. That it produces more oxygen than producing carbon dioxide, which resulted in zero pollution and the clean sky. My roommate tried to make a night timelapse of the stars moving, with the GoPro.
And we woke up earlier that day and our guide warned us that it is going to be the longest day of the whole trip, as we were about to hike to the Taktsang Monastery. We went to the base of that place. Where they were renting hiking sticks to assist us. I got exhausted soon after we started, and the crew just broked into pieces according to their pace. Being the youngest man in the crew, I paired up with the oldest guy in the crew, so I could get some extra breath at each step. And it had multiple paths. At a point, I took a separate path and I almost lost myself. For the moment I thought of retreating to the base and then I saw a very very old man, coming towards me. He gave me some water and said something in his native tongue and went forward. And that gave me the motivation to complete the rest of the track. After 4.30 hrs of hiking, we reached the Tiger's Nest. After looking around that sacred place, we marched down the mountains, which is always an easy task. And we went as a crew, singing some well known English songs. And I was playing and singing some of A.R. Rahman's song in Tamil, while the rest were singing the same song in the Hindi version. At that eve we had delicious pizza over the city and I went for a hot stone tub bath. It was so relaxing after that long tiring day. And it was our final day over Bhutan. So we went to the city to buy something back for our kith and kin.
The next day was the coldest in the whole trip. After having breakfast, we went to our bikes and surprised to see some layer of ice covering the seat. We started after scraping them for some minutes. We knew that it would be the longest ride. Our crew captain bid us farewell at Phuentsholing, where we stopped to have lunch. The moment we crossed the border and entered India, suddenly I could feel the change. I really mean it. I suddenly felt the smokes, noise, garbages littered everywhere. It was a bit depressing to leave the world's happiest nation after making several happy moments over there for a week. Then, after all, we reached Bagdogra by 10 pm. All of us were so tired, I couldn't even open my eyes, yet we all hang out at the married couple's room for the one last time. Actually to be honest I got emotional by that time. Our whole crew, all the riders, truck driver, mechanic and the guide were inside the room, we all hardly know others for a couple of weeks but we were more like a family. And with warm hugs and hardest goodbyes, I went to sleep. When I woke up the next day already half of the crew left. And I had my flight around 2 pm. And went back to my college at Coimbatore. Even now when I feel stressed with my college works, I just take some moment, sit back and think about the "Land of Thunder Dragon" and it never failed to leave me a smile. THANK YOU!