The Enchanting Roads to Bhutan with Mahindra Adventure’s Authentic Bhutan Road Trip.
Mahindra Authentic Bhutan – Wake up early in the morning. Get ready with your boot and ties. Start your vehicle up and jump right into the mess of chaotic roads, horns banging in your ears and enough pollution to make it hard to breathe. Whether you travel by road or the metro or public transport the hassle remains the same.
You’ve done hill stations around India and although it is much better over there it’s still the same people honking around, traffic rules taking a back seat. Lack of discipline in own one sense.
You decide to go out on a trip to cleanse your mind and connect with yourself better. Not just a trip, a Road trip. Because that’s the best way to connect with the place you’re visiting. Rather than flying over cities and countries and landing right into your destination. As it’s always more about the journey, the transition in the culture as you put down some miles.
But there’s a lot of planning and prep required of the road trip. Registrations, permissions, fear of the vehicle breaking down and a lot of things. You don’t want this trouble and just want to focus on the journey. What’s the best way?
Mahindra’s got you covered with Mahindra Adventure. The best package to enjoy road trips without worrying about any formalities, everything is taken care by them all you have to do it just enjoy the trip. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to go on one such Mahindra adventure expedition. This time it was going to take place in the land of thunder dragon i.e Bhutan.
Bhutan – The land of thunder dragon, impelled by the philosophy of GNH(Gross National Happiness), A kingdom enclosed by the guard of the Himalayas. You don’t hear about it much in the news, the small Kingdom is usually exposure hesitant.
We got the newest Mahindra offering, a top-spec Mahindra Marazzo M8. Loaded with all the features to make our trip a joy. Which made our drive much easier with the ample of space in it.
This travelogue will take you through the 7 days journey full of adventure, good company and mesmerizing landscapes. We’ll try to uncover some of the aspects of mysterious Bhutan and its culture.
- DAY 1 Bagdogra – Chalsa
The day started off with our flight to Bagdogra airport which is a custom airport located in West Bengal. Small in size but pretty crowded. Mahindra team accompanied us to Chalsa which was our stop for the day. The drive to Chalsa was amazing with lots and lots of tea gardens and fresh air. We stopped in between to take in the beauty of the mountains and also take some shots of the mighty Scorpio S11.
Our stay for the day was Sinclairs retreat doors, a great resort with loads of gardens and recreational activities. The evening was spent in formalities and briefing about the whole idea of Mahindra adventure. A small meet and greet session with other participants and media people were held. Mahindra is accompanied with team XSO (Xtreme Sports Organization). They provided great support in planning and support throughout the whole event.
- DAY 2 Chalsa-Thimpu
Our day started with a briefing from the team XSO about the do’s and don’ts of convoy driving. As this was the first time for many of us to drive like this in a convoy with people constantly in touch through a walkie-talkie. Yes, every car was fitted with their own radio system and connected through the walkie-talkie, a great way to handle the convoy and keep track of each other. Our destination for the day was Thimpu while passing through Phuntsholing. Phuntsholing is the border which connects India and Bhutan. It took us upwards of 3 hours to complete the immigration formalities and documentation for the vehicles.
While Mahindra guys were handling the RTO formalities for our car we had spare time for exploring the place. Traffic rules are actually followed very strictly in Bhutan. Pedestrians always have right of way and vehicles are expected to stop for them to cross at all times, no honking no sudden overtaking. Also, the reception of India sims is not good and call rates are insanely high so better get a local Bhutanese sim.
A heads up, Google Maps navigation doesn’t work in Bhutan. A preview of the route is shown but no navigation.
Sun comes down very early in Bhutan. Around 5.30 pm it starts to turn dark also the fact that Bhutan time is half an hour ahead of India. We couldn’t enjoy any views as it was dark although the roads were full of twists and turns. After 3 Check Posts, which were all handled by Team Mahindra beforehand (As I told you, you just had to enjoy the Journey) we reached Thimpu. Checked in at hotel Taj Tashi Thimpu. And dozed straight off after the dinner.
- DAY 3 & 4 Thimpu-Punakha
Mahindra is trying to do things differently with their adventure expeditions. They’ve planned the drives in such a balanced way that you get enough time to satisfy the driver in you as well as the traveler side of you. After a long drive to Thimpu, we had this day reserved to explore the capital.
Some early birds from our group woke up at 6 and went for a walk around the city. And to our surprise, they got to meet Sachin Tendulkar who was staying in our hotel only and was just about to leave. So with all the people up and ready, our first stop was the gigantic great Buddha Dordenam statue. A magnificent 42m tall sitting Buddha overlooking the Thimpu city, symbolizing peace and happiness.
A special traditional Bhutanese lunch was planned for us by Mahindra. Experiencing the different flavours and dishes was a whole different experience in itself. While we continued exploring Thimpu with the guide who took us to a vantage point. From there it was a clear sight of the king’s palace and Tashchho Dzong. Though it was far down from the hill the scenery looked great. Later explored the local market for some famous Bhutanese handicraft shopping.
Mahindra had planned a traditional program for the night which allowed us to indulge more in the Bhutanese culture. Everybody dressed up in Gho & Kira which are the national dress for men and women in Bhutan. Followed by a cultural dance with Bhutanese ladies singing the song was a serene experience.
The Marazzo performed quite while even when jam packed with 7 people. The roads of Thimpu are pretty nice, but what pleased us the most was the road sense of people around here. They’re so patient and will always let you pass first with a smile.
As we knew them from the previous day the earlier you get up the better. Our team woke up early this time and went for a morning drive in Thimpu. And it was amazing, fresh air, locals doing their daily routine work and lots of cute kids going to the school.
Punakha was our next stop. Which is around a 2.5 hours’ drive. A descend from Thimpu as Punakha is located downhill. The best highlight of the whole drive was the Dochula pass. You have these 108 stupas with Buddha statue inside them and trust me it feels peaceful and looks mesmerizing. Opposite to this, there’s a beautiful temple called Druk Wangyal Lhakhang. The whole vibe of the place is very serene with Buddhist chant songs playing around, the view, the weather, everything is perfect.
Took us few more hours to reach Punakha to Khuru resort. Which was just by a beautiful river known as mo chu river. The night ended with some great conversations.
- DAY 5-6 Punakha – Paro
Now was the time to visit the coldest city of our trip and home to the famous tiger’s nest, Paro. But before we go we had one place to visit in Punakha. The Punakha Dzong the second largest and second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Bhutanese traditional architecture is very pleasing to the eyes. And people here keep retouching and maintaining these dzongs so well while keeping their vintage look.
The hilly roads to Paro are a mixed bag. Sometimes the highway is big enough to carry some speed around corners, sometimes there are rough and patchy roads. It was late while we reached but that made us appreciate how lit up and beautiful Paro looks in the night. Our stay for the night was Kichu resort beside the gorgeous Paro Chu River to take some rest and build up energy for tomorrow’s trek.
We woke up at 5 with all the anticipation and excitement to trek up the hill to the tiger’s nest. We started the trek around 7 am and it was harder than I expected. Just when the body started giving up the trek was only completed by 30%. The place where few of end their hike. The number of people on the trail ahead reduces. Just when you start climbing you can see the tiger’s nest up the hill. Far up away, this encourages you to take a few more steps. And just when you almost reach the top there are around 300 stairs, those were definitely the hardest part. Took us good 3+ hours to climb up.
Paro Taktsang or commonly known as Tiger’s Nest is situated 300 feet above the Paro valley. It’s known as the meditation place of Guru Padmasambhava and various other monks.
You’re not allowed to take any camera mobile phones inside the monastery. The monastery though had the same feeling as the Dzong, calm and peaceful. It was evening time till we returned back from the monastery. We took a quick spin around the Paro city. Some shopping around the town and food. And dozed back off in our hotel.
- DAY 7 Paro – Chalsa
The end of this amazing journey. Left Paro straight to Phuntsholing and then Chalsa. Leaving back the amazing people, heritage and people who actually follow traffic rules. It was the end of our journey. It was an amazing 7 days trip with a great team from Mahindra and people who joined this expedition.
These people along with team XSO managed the whole journey so well. The permits, convoy driving keeping all of us together managing hotels and everything. The headache of managing permits, formalities and everything you can think of was taken off by Mahindra, so we could only enjoy the beautiful country. A family like feeling and a trip to remember. Mahindra keeps hosting these Adventure rides now & then. If you want trouble free travel and meet a lot of like-minded people it’s a good choice.
Talking about the fleet of cars we had. Most of them were Scorpio S11 and S10 4wd. Four Mahindra XUV 500 and Thar to provide support.
We were given charge of the new kid on the block Mahindra Marazzo. The car performed extremely well on the trip. Taking in all of our luggage and camera equipment, still with enough space left for our shopping bags. Plush ride quality, nimble handling proved to be a boon throughout our journey.
The 1.5-litre mill provides good enough torque and power to surge this MPV forward. A 6th gear helped improved drivability on the highways. It also returned us a decent fuel efficiency of around 12kmpl with a full load and hilly roads. The captain seats on 1st and 2nd row were very comfortable.
Braking was sure-footed with all-wheel disc and ABS. As we had the m8 variant it had all the bells and whistles. A rear window sunshade was very handy, adjustable lumbar support and eco mode. In eco mode, I couldn’t feel the turbo kick in and the pace was very linear. Best to be used within the city. Fast overtakes still do require you to be in the turbo zone or drop a cog. All in all, Marazzo was the perfect companion for our journey.
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