Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bhutan | Arrival and Departure Formalities for Indian Citizens


Paro airport
I visited Bhutan recently flying into Paro airport from Kolkata and I have been asked a lot of questions regarding entry formalities into Bhutan for Indians and whether any visa or permits are required.  Firstly no visa is required for Indians.

I am giving the current procedures below.

There is an arrival form which is usually given to you on the flight which you should fill up and keep with your passport.
On arrival in Paro airport you walk from the aircraft to the arrival building greeted by this photograph of the Royal Family


On entering the arrival hall there is separate line for SAARC passports - please join this line.



Present the arrival form and your passport at the counter. You may be asked where you are staying so have the hotel information ready. It was earlier reported that the hotel confirmation voucher was required at immigration but I did not find  the Immigration Officer asking for this.

After completing immigration which takes only a few minutes, if there is no long line, proceed to collect your baggage which is just behind the immigration area. Paro is a small airport so everything is easy and close by. You will see a sign prohibiting the use of Rs 500 Indian currency and above



After collecting your bags proceed through the green channel if you have nothing to declare and your departure form will be collected by customs at the exit. There is also an x-ray at the exit for baggage but all bags are not x-rayed only some of them at the discretion of the officials.

You are then out of the airport in the beautiful Paro valley! Enjoy your stay!

On leaving Paro, you will need to x-ray your bags at the entrance of the airport and then proceed with your ticket and passport to the check in counter. You need to fill up a departure form below:



Present this departure form and your passport to the immigration - it takes only a minute to get the passport stamped and you are through the the boarding lounge which has free wifi for you to browse while you wait for your flight.

Enjoy Bhutan - it's a beautiful country!

For information on some of the hotels where we stayed in Bhutan do visit
http://sujoyrdas.blogspot.in/2017/10/bhutan-hotels-some-recommendations.html
For photographs of Bhutan do visit
http://www.sujoydas.com/Bhutan-Himalaya

Monday, October 23, 2017

Annapurna Foothills Trek December 23-30 2017


The Annapurna foothills provide tremendous trekking with delightful trails connecting villages and ridge tops. This picturesque trek winds through enchanting villages with ochre thatched houses, terraced rice fields and rhododendron forests, which are spectacular in the spring when whole hillsides are cloaked in colourful flowers. The ridge top village of Ghandrung provides one of the finest viewpoints of the Annapurna Mountains with magnificent views of the four Annapurnas, and Machapuchare with its fishtail summit. It is a  good walk to the top of Poon Hill 3150 metres with a dress circle view over the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri as well. 
Who should do this trek?

  • Suitability: A good choice for most  walkers, reasonable level of fitness required.
  • Walking times: average 5 to 7 hours walking per day 
  • Altitude: up to 3150m
  • Terrain: for most of time following well-travelled trails, there will be daily ascent and descent on steps which are part of any Nepal trek.
  •  Remoteness: usually not too remote and often there is a reasonable level of infrastructure such as lodge accommodation and cell/ mobile phone reception and wifi reception every day at the lodges.

Trek Leader: Sujoy Das




ITINERARY
Day 01   Kathmandu to Pokhara  by early morning flight and the drive to Kande and trek to Tolka  
We fly into to Pokhara 30 min and then drive for 75 min to Kande.   From Kande we climb to Austrian camp in around two hours and then walk to Pothana in half an hour for lunchh. . From Pothana the trail climbs uphill to Deorali from where it makes a steep descent to Bichok. From Bichok it is a level walk to Tolka where we stop for the night.  
Day 02 Trek to Ghandrung  (1950 metres) 5-6 hours walking 
The large village of Ghandrung can be seen directly across the valley from Landrung.  It is a n hours walk in the morning from Tolka to Landrung. This is a short walking day allowing time to explore Landrung and Ghandrung. From Landrung we descend to the Modi Khola River and cross on a large suspension bridge. The ascent through terraced fields to the picturesque town takes around 2 hours. Ghandrung is largely a Gurung town and is the headquarters of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). Many of the lodges here have the more environmentally friendly features that ACAP encourages such as back boilers, solar panels, etc.  The views of the Annapurna Mountains and Machapuchare from here are stunning.
Day 03 Trek to Tadapani (2595 metres) 4 hours walking 
From Ghandrung the trail climbs gently to the village of Baisi Kharka where we stop for a cup of tea and then make the final ascent to Tadapani. Overnight at a lodge in Tadapani. The views of the Annapurna Mountains and Machapuchare from here are stunningly close.  
Day 04 Trek to Ghorepani  (2750 metres) 6-7 hours walking 
The trek from Tadapani to Ghorepani involves a number of ups and downs! We pass through the villages of Banthanti and Deorali before reaching Ghorepani. Overnight at a lodge at Ghorepani.  
Day 05  Ghorepani to Tirekedhunga/Hille  (1515m) -5 to 6  hours walking We visit Poon Hill at sunrise to watch the views over Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. After breakfast we begin our walk down to Ulleri (1960m)  We stop for lunch at Ulleri and then start descending the 3000 steps to Tirkedhunga ( take it easy!). Night at Tirkedhunga or the neighbouring village Hille.






Day 06   Tirekedhunga/Hille to Birethanti to Pokhara to Kathmandu (885 metres)  2.5 hours  walking 
We leave early for Birethanti around 7 am. We gte there by 9 am and then cross the river to Nayapul. We drive from Nayapul to Pokhara 90 min and are in Pokhara for lunch. After an early lunch we go to the airport and board the afternoon 3 pm flight to Kathmandu. Night at a hotel in Kathmandu. 
Day 07   Kathmandu to home destination by flight 



COSTS

 The cost of this trek is  USD 900 for foreign passports and INR Rs 46,500  for Indian  citizens. Meals not included. Please budget an additional US $ 200-250 for meals, battery charging in lodges, wifi charges, hot water in flasks etc.  Exclusions apply. 
  • Costs include:
  • Two internal flights Kathmandu to Pokhara return. 
  • Micro bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara
  • ACAP national park permit and TIMS permit for trekking in the Annapurna region
  • Travel from Pokhara to start of trek and back
  • One  night accomodation at Pokhara (Hotel Gurkha Haven) and   two nights  accomodation in Kathmandu on the way in and out  on twin sharing basis
  • All accommodation on the trek on twin sharing basis
  • Cost of porters/guides for the trek. Please note that porters will carry one duffel bag or backpack not exceeding 10 kgs in weight for each trekker comprising of personal items, clothing, sleeping bag etc.
  • Please budget an extra USD 25 per day for meals not included in the cost above
Costs not included:
  • Meals in Kathmandu and Pokhara and fooding on the trek is not included
  • Airport taxes at Kathmandu and Pokhara airports in case of flights
  • Desserts, drinks, and exotic items listed in the lodge menus are not included.
  • Alcohol, cold drinks (coca cola, sprite, beer), juices, ice cream etc on the trek and in Pokhara.
  • Client travel and medical insurance of any kind.
  • Emergency evacuation costs if needed.
  • Video camera fees in National Parks (where applicable).
  • Bottled drinks; boiled, filtered or bottled water; alcohol; snacks; tea/coffee;
  • Hot showers (Rs 200-300 per shower);
  • Personal clothing and equipment; sleeping bag; douvet/down/goretek jacket, medicines for personal use etc.
  • Air fare from home country to Nepal and back
  • Tips to porters/guides at the end of trek estimate at US $ 50 per person
For more details email sujoyrdas@gmail.com or call +919831054569.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bhutan | Hotels - Some Recommendations

Tenzinling Resort at dusk
On a recent visit to Bhutan I stayed at some very nice boutique properties in Paro, Thimpu and Punakha. I am reviewing these hotels below as this would be useful for visitors to Bhutan.

Tenzinling Resort, Paro
Located about six km away from Paro town up on a hill the Tenzinling is a stylish resort with large spotless rooms, wooden flooring and modern bathrooms. Most of the rooms have a small balcony as a sit-out with views overlooking the valley. Breakfast is usually included in the tariff and is a fairly extensive buffet. There is a bar as well. During our visit the wifi was working only in the reception and lobby areas but not in the rooms. However, this is likely to be resolved soon. Recommended.
Tariff - Nu 4000 with breakfast plus taxes  for a double room Tel: +975 8 272503 www.tenzinling.com
Tenzinling Resort
Kisa Villa Thimpu
This is one of the finest small boutique hotels that I have stayed in. Having only fifteen rooms in two small buildings, it has a lovely small garden overlooking the Thimpu Dzong which when lit up at night presents a fairly tale view. The double rooms are large some with a small kitchen unit with refrigerator and microwave, toaster, and electric kettle. The bathrooms are large and perfectly well equipped. Wifi works perfectly both in the lobby area and in the rooms. The small restaurant has a surprisingly well equipped menu with excellent Chinese food. Highly recommended.
Tariff - Nu 5,500 including breakfast for a double room plus taxes. +975 2 338811/22 and +975 17115580. kisavilla01@gmail.com

Lobby Kisa Villa


View of Thimpu Dzong from Kisa Villa garden
Meri Puensum  Punakha
This hotel set up in 1999 is one of the oldest establishments in Punakha. Situated above the river about 6 km from the Punakha Dzong it has rooms in cottages located on the hillside. Punakha has a semi tropical climate with an altitude of only 1275 metres so the garden has tropical bougainvillea, hibiscus, poinsettia and other tropical plants. The rooms have fans and the bathrooms though small are equipped with bathtubs.
Nu 4,000 plus taxes without breakfast; www.meripuensum.com.bt ; Tel: +975 2 584195.

The main building of Meri Puensum 

The rooms are in separate units around the main building 

Terraced paddy fields near Punakha
 Hotel Olathang, Paro
This is one of the oldest hotels in Paro built in 1974 to accommodate guests at the time of the coronation of the 4th King. It is built in a grand dzong style with corridors and rooms around a central courtyard. There are also separate cottages on the expansive grounds for families and couples. The rooms are well appointed and have definitely been refurbished - the downside is that the rooms in the main hotel tend to be a little dark which is accentuated by the dark colours used on the walls and the ceilings.
Tariff: Nu 4,500  to 6,000 per night depending on the rooms/cottages plus taxes; hotelolathang@gmail.com; Tel: +975 8 271304/271305 www.bhutanhotels.com.bt
Olathang garden 
For more photographs from Bhutan please do visit
http://sujoyrdas.blogspot.in/2017/10/bhutan-photographs-from-land-of.html

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bhutan | Photographs from the Land of Happiness

Prayer wheels at Chimi Lakhang near Punakha
I was recently in Bhutan for a week doing some planning and reconnaisance for a South Col trek in the spring of 2018. I travelled in the valleys of Paro, Thimpu and Punakha. Here are some photographs from this beautiful country.

Taktshang  Tigers Nest Monastery

Prayer wheels made out of bottles Tigers Nest in the background

Close up of a prayer wheel

Students working on wood carving at the Zoric Chisum Institute Thimpu

Punakha Dzong in the late afternoon

Doorway at Punakha Dzong

Chortens at the Dochu La pass

A woman leaves the butter lamp room at the Changangkha Lakhang in Thimpu

Dechen Phodrang interior Thimpu

Entrance to a restaurant Paro

Paro valley in the autumn with paddy ready for harvesting

Drying red chillies in a Paro street

Paro Dzong and the National Museum (on top) at night

Bonde Lakhang outside Paro

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