Phuentsholing is the Gateway of Bhutan. The Himalayan Kingdom of queens and kings! The lands of simplicity and serenity!The place where time flows in slow motion!
Phuentsholing is the border city of Southern Bhutan and adjoins Jaigaon West Bengal which is the border city of India. Infact there is only one very ornate gate separating these two border cities and adjoining two countries India and Bhutan. This post is loaded with latest informations as I just visited it a few days back and here is the top 10 things to do in Phuentsholing Bhutan.
Well, the difference of Indian culture and Bhutani culture is huge. The chaotic life at Indian city Jaigaon take a back step once you take just one step inside the Bhutan gate into Bhutan. Suddenly things stop moving in slow motion. Smiling faces and alert cops would replace everything messy and chaotic at the other side of the gate towards Jaigaon, India. There is a huge petrol pump with a huge poster of the royal couple and their newly born child just near the gates where you can easily refill the tanks and yes honking is a punishable offense in Bhutan. So all the vehicles crawl at fixed pace and without honking.
There are not much of touristy things to do at Bhutan gates except the must have clicks. So don’t forget to click two three quick pictures there until you are gestured by the Bhutanese police not to do so. 😉
Bhutan Commercial Hub
Bhutan commercial hub is the area where most of the commercial and touristy activities are centered. But it is so unlike Indian cities markets ! Somehow it reminded me of Chandigarh. Very organised and there is even one huge garden where people do come sit and kids play around at the middle of the markets. But this commercial hub provides the city with everything it requires. There are electronics shop,shoe shops,beauty parlours,hotel,cafe and many thing more. You can take a break here if you wish before heading ahead with your journey.
Staying in Phuentsholing hotels
The Bhutanese are farming based people and so the food,liquor and bakery goods are amazingly nice. The hotels and restaurants are quite cheap and nice too. It is one of a kind experience to stay in one of these hotels and exploring the city daily life which is everything but noisy. It is surely going to refresh you to the core. You can stay there and come out for food to any of the restaurants or coffee shops around. Especially Kizom Coffee Shop is hugely popular. It is a bit expensive to other restaurants in the nearby area but worth every penny. Sipping over their aromatic coffee and nibbling over their exotic bakes while looking down at the beautiful city surrounded by mountains is a must.
Visiting Zangto Pelri Lhakhang
You can head straight to the Bhutan Monasteries or take a break,sip some coffee before heading to the sightseeing in Bhutan. Most people prefer taking a break at commercial hub before Phuentsholing sightseeing. Especially those coming from India by road from Bagdogra or Jaigaon or West bengal area. The Bhutanese people follow Buddhism and offer prayer to Guru Rinpoche among others. It has exact replica of Guru Rinpoche and eight life size different manifestation of the revered Guru.
Exploring Crocodile Breeding park
Frankly I was tad disappointed once I went there. There ticket costs Rs 20 for people from Saarc countries but it is an extremely small compact crocodile park. It is basically two three ponds where you can see a few crocodiles sleeping without any movements for hours. It is very stinky, But yes if you have kids it is the must visit.
Visiting Karbandi Monastery
It is winter residence of ROyal grandmother and one of the best places in Phuentsholing to visit. Situated at a height of 400mt. it provides a panoramic view of the entire city. The gardens and lawns are exquisite and there is even one small cafe. There are eight Tibetan buddha stups aid to the aesthetic appeal of the ambience and the temple consist of large impressive statues of Guru Rinpoche and other Gods. The prayers are regularly offered where many Tibetans can be seen attending it and offering their prayer. It is also popular among childless couples based on the legends.
Phuentsholing is called as commercial hub of Bhutan or trade centre of Bhutan. But if you are coming from any big city of India or world then you would be disappointed to see the stuffs here in the Phuentsholing markets. Most of the grocery things are usual Indian things only more expensive. Most of the things are imported from India,Korea,China etc.The Shopping Haul is still the fun if you stick to buy traditional Bhutanese things like the shoes and sneakers are extremely durable and cheap. Then the Bhutanese traditional clothes Kira for women is a must buy. The other things to be picked up from here are beautiful bone china crockeries with oriental carvings, oriental carpets, rugs and decorative items.
Wandering around the Phuentsholing is absolutely not a bad idea. You can park your vehicle around the commercial hub area and roam around in the city on foot. The kings of Bhutan are very popular among Bhutanese People and they are called as ‘people’s king’ I could see the king and queen pictures everywhere,even at the small sweet and vegetable shops. There were huge poster size cut outs at petrol pumps and big shopping complexes. The natural beauty and greenery is scattered here and there.
Tasting the Bhutanese cuisines
One of the things to do in the city would be to eat and taste everything that it has to offer. It is a paradise for non vegetarians and Bengali and thai cuisines are quite popular. But I could easily find two pure vegetarian restaurants offering good food too. Then there are one or two coffee shops offering a very rich variety of bakery items and coffee. Kizom Cafe is specially mentionable.
Bhutanese people are very fond of drinking so among all the expensive things here liquor is generously available and cheap too. The drinks,cold drinks and juices are also available in many flavours and Druk juices are especially mentionable. You can buy these beer,whisky or other varieties quite easily for your friends,family or even for yourself.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is exactly the kind of country you anticipate out of the history books and Phuentsholing offers you the glimpse of the laid back tranquil life of a country in Himalayan lap. The kings, queens and fairies all seem real just out of those fictions you have read in your childhood….. Don’t wait explore!
And yes don’t forget to take this wonderful beautiful book Soldier’s Girl : Love story of a para commando which is the story of warriors and their women to the royal kingdom of Bhutan. The first prints are all sold and it is being loved all across the nation. Here is the link if you wanna buy.