LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Are you planning a road trip from India to Bhutan? Read the guide which we have prepared after collecting lot of details from world wide web and compiling it at one place. We rode to Bhutan in Nov’14 and added some details from our side in the below compilation along with road update as of Nov-14.

RIDE DETAILS – 20 DAYS | 7500 KMS | CROSS COUNTRY BHUTAN

  1. We had chosen cross country Bhutan as the final plan because mostly people cover only Western Bhutan and return. Remaining part of Bhutan is less explored and it was truly a mesmerizing ride to say the least.
  2. Total ride distance was close to 7500 kms and our itinerary was for maximum of 20 days.
  3. We entered Bhutan through Phuentsholing (Western border) and exiting Bhutan from Samdrup Jonkar (Eastern border)
  4. Watch out for Road widening work going on from Simtokha to Wangdue & beyond. Check the road timings before heading out.
  5. If someone does not have Passport or Voter’s ID, they will need to visit Indian consulate office for obtaining Bhutan entry letter before you proceed with the below steps.

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS TO CARRY

Individual Permit (Phuentsholing to Paro / Thimpu)

  • Any one of the two valid ‘Travel Documents’ are MANDATORY
    • Valid Indian Passport (with 6 months minimum validity).
    • Voter Identity Card.
  • 6 Passport size photos
  • Valid 2 wheeler license (Old booklet license is also fine)
  • Duly filled permit form
  • PAN card (optional)
  • Aadhaar card (optional)

Location: 200 meters after you enter Bhutan gate in Phuentsholing. On your right side as you come from the Indian side after the Fuel pump next to Customs & clearance office. The office is on 1st floor above Customs & clearance office.

Timings: 9 am onwards

Motorcycle Documents:

  • Vehicle’s RC (Registration certificate)
  • Valid motorcycle insurance
  • Valid 2 wheeler license
  • PUC (Pollution under control) certificate
  • Permit from Customs department
  • A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information, addressing Sr. Regional Transport officer, Phuentsholing, Bhutan (There is no prescribed format)

Location: RSTA is situated closeby but not walkable distance. From the permit office take a left from the circle. Ask for Phuentsholing main bus stand, it’s located on the 2nd floor of the bus stand. Ask anyone where is the RSTA office once you reach the main bus stand which comes after you cross a small bridge.

Timings: 9-11 am & 2-4 pm (As of Nov’14)

Extension from Thimpu

Individual Permit (Beyond Thimpu)

  • Document: Need to fill up a form given by them for stay extension and previous permit document.
  • Time: Can take up to half a day or more – Early morning it should take only max 30 minutes to get permit.
  • Location: Immigration office. It’s in the opposite direction to Clock Tower (same road) Norzim Lam. It’s around 10-15 minutes walk from clock tower to this office.

Motorcycle Permit

  • Location: RSTA office
  • Document: A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information same as before. Previous vehicle permit document. Extension & new permit for rest of Bhutan issued from Immigration department Thimpu
  • Note: No one keeps the original or Xerox copy of permits in any check post, so just one copy of all documents is good enough. At check post they will check your permits for person and for vehicle, they will take down the name of driver, owner of vehicle, Vehicle number and driver’s license number for every vehicle once done they will return the document back to you.

IMPORTANT FYI ABOUT BHUTAN

  • Bhutan Currency: Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. You cannot purchase Ngultrum prior to arriving in Bhutan, but you can easily buy Ngultrum at Paro airport, at Bhutan national bank and the bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimpu and Paro, all of which accept traveler’s checks and or various other currencies. When visiting smaller towns, however you should bring Ngultrum for your purchases, as it may not be possible to exchange your currency.
  • Can I use credit card in Bhutan: No, in general credit cards are not accepted in Bhutan. Credit cards are accepted only at a few high end tourist shops.
  • Are there ATMs in Bhutan? There are ATMs in Bhutan but Ngultrums will be available.
  • Food in Bhutan: The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chili’s are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy. Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often.  A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.
  • Best time to visit Bhutan: Every season has its own charm. The most popular times to travel to Bhutan are the spring months of March, April, and May and the fall months of September, October, and November. The weather is warmer and the skies are clearer at this time, and many of the most dramatic festivals take place during these months.
  • Language of Bhutan: The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha, English is the medium of instruction in Bhutan, and it is widely spoken by those who have received education.
  • Time Zone in Bhutan: Bhutan has only one time zone and it is 30 minutes ahead of India.
  • Accommodations in Bhutan: Western Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue, and Punakha) has the best hotels. As you head in to central and eastern Bhutan the quality of the hotels goes down a little bit. Most hotels will have telephones, Wifi Connectivity & food availability.
  • Petrol Pumps update:  Fuel pumps are only available at Thimpu, Paro, On the way to Paro, On the way to Chele La Pass, Wangdue, Jakar, Trongsa, Mongar and Trashigang.

Distance & Travelling Time in Bhutan:

From To Distance (KM) Riding Time
Paro Thimphu 65 kms 01 hour
Paro Haa 65 kms 1.5 – 02 hours
Thimphu Haa 115 kms 03 – 04 hours
Thimphu Phuentsholing 176 kms 07 – 08 hours
Thimphu Wangduephodrang 70 kms 03 hours
Thimphu Punakha 77 kms 03 hours
Thimphu Phobjikha (Gangtey) 135 kms 5.5 – 06 hours
Punakha Wangduephodrang 13 kms 45 minutes
Punakha Gangtey (Phobjikha) 78 kms 03 hours
Punakha Bumthang 212 kms 08 hours
Bumthang Gangtey (Phobjikha) 188 kms 05 – 06 hours
Gangtey (Phobjikha) Trongsa 120 kms 4.1/2 – 05 hours
Gangtey Wangduephodrang 65 kms 2.5 – 03 hours
Trongsa Wangduephodrang 129 kms 4.5 – 05 hours
Trongsa Punakha 142 kms 06 hours
Trongsa Bumthang 68 kms 02 hours
Bumthang Mongar 198 kms 07 – 08 hours
Mongar Lhuentse 76 kms 03 hours
Mongar Trashigang 91 kms 03 – 04 hours
Trashigang Chorten Kora 52 kms 02 hours
Trashigang Samdrup Jongkhar 180 kms 07 hours
Trashigang Trashiyangtse 55 kms 02 hours
Samdrup Jongkhar Guwahati (Assam, India) 110 kms 03 hours
Samdrup Jongkhar Phuentsholing 400 kms 10 hours
Phuentsholing Bagdogra (West Bengal, India) 165 kms 4.1/2 hours
Phuentsholing Siliguri (West Bengal, India) 155 kms 04 hours
Phuentsholing Darjeeling (West Bengal, India) 200 kms 06 hours
Phuentsholing Kalimpong (West Bengal, India) 185 kms 05 hours
Phuentsholing Gangtok (Sikkim, India) 220 kms 07 hours
Phuentsholing Dooars (Chalsa) (West Bengal, India) 110 kms 2.1/2 hours

Sightseeing in Bhutan:

  • PARO:
    • Tiger’s Nest: Taktshang (3100m 4-5 hours walk up & down), the famous cave temple where the legendary Guru, Padmasambhava is said to have arrived on the back of a flying white tigress to meditate on the sheer cliffs. The uphill hike takes about 3 hours through pine forest. The temple clings to a side of a granite cliff about 900m above the Paro Valley.
    • Haa Valley: Start the day early for drive to Haa via Chele-la pass. 4 Km away at Bondey village the road to Haa diverts towards the right hand side and ascends towards the chele-la pass starts. After driving through blue pine and rhododendron forest for 45 km, reach Chele-la pass ( 4200 meters). From this point one can have a superb views of Mt. Chomolhari & Jichu Drakey. This is a very good place to walk around for few minutes enjoying the view. Drive on to Haa, descending all the way for another 22 km (under an hours drive), finally reaching Haa. The Haa Dzong is presently occupied by military, but the view from outside is stunning. After picnic lunch visit to the famous Monastery of Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) followed by visit to Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple). Later in the afternoon drive to Paro same way back. The drive will be under 3 hours.
  • THIMPU:
    • Buddha Point: Buddha Point in Thimphu is the location of the Buddha Dordenma statue. This gigantic bronze statue of Buddha overlooks the Thimphu valley in all its grace. This is a must visit place in Thimphu.
    • Simtokha Dzong: Located near Thimphu was the first of its kind Dzong to be built in Bhutan. Built in 1629 it is a place with huge historic significance. The decorations just outside the monastery is beautiful with its bright colors among the Buddhist paintings.
    • Tashichhodzong: Is monastery that doubles as an administrative block in north Thimphu. It is the seat of the Bhutanese government and tourists have limited access to it(1 hr in the evenings).
    • Thimpu Zoo: Only if you are interested in Takin (Body of a cow and face of a Goat – The national animal of Bhutan)
    • Food Joints: Thimphu is full of lovely tiny eateries that make stopping by for a cup of coffee a lovely experience. Do check out places like Ambient Cafe, Karma’s Coffee & Mojo Park.
  • PUNAKHA:
    • Dochu La Pass: Before Punakha, on the way you shall see Dochu La pass. Very good place to spend time.
    • Punakha Dzong: Is easily one of the most beautiful and scenic Dzong we visited on our stay in Bhutan. Built at the confluence of Pho Chhu (Father) & Mo Chhu(Mother) rivers, the Dzong is must visit for anyone visiting Bhutan.
    • While entering Punakha the river side views are awesome.
  • Phobjikha Valley & Bumthang:
    • Phobjikha is peaceful, quiet and colorful valley with countryside views. Also famous for Black cranes.
    • Bumthang – Lot of ancient temples, monasteries & beautiful riverside locations. Lot of Valley views in and around.

ROAD UPDATE AS OF NOV, 2014 – – Mumbai – Bhutan – Mumbai: 7300 kms. 19 Days.

1412453_384309631736729_137054754556948778_o

Day 1: Mumbai – Nasik – Dhule – Manpur – Ratlam – Neemuch – Chittorgarh

  • Distance: 845 kms.
  • Road Condition: Excellent 4 Lane highway from Mumbai to Manpur. From Manpur to Neemuch, good 2 lane highway. But Last 40 kms to reach Chittorgarh is extremely bad. Road construction work going on and lot of loose gravel, slush at certain places and oncoming traffic makes riding very difficult. Dust is soo much you will look like construction workers after you reach Chittorgarh.

Day 2: Chittorgarh – Kota – Jhansi – Orcha

  • Distance: 532 kms
  • Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway (concrete) from Chittorgarh to Kota. If you start the ride early you can get out of Kota city without much of traffic hassle. Post Kota till Jhansi is excellent roads again. We halted at Orcha for night halt based on HVK sir’s recommendation which is around 18 kms from Jhansi.

Day 3: Orcha – Kanpur – Lucknow – Ayodhya

  • Distance: 471 kms
  • Road Condition: Good 4 lane highway from Jhansi to Kanpur. From Kanpur to Lucknow is Extreme bad roads. Feels like you are riding on Moon land surface & the road is full of potholes. Extreme caution is required in this stretch. Lucknow to Ayodhya is a super fast 4 lane highway.

Day 4: Ayodhya – Gorakhpur BP – Muzaffarpur BP – Purnea BP – Dalkhola – Kishanganj – Islampur – Bagdogra – Siliguri

  • Distance: 852 kms
  • Road Condition: Majority of the roads have excellent 4 lane highway. Very bad roads when u enter Bihar border for 20-30 kms and while exiting bihar border bad roads for 20 kms.

Day 5: Siliguri – Sevoke – Baintgoorie – Binnaguri – Birpara – Jaigaon – Phuentsholing

  • Distance: 152 kms
  • Road Condition: Hill roads and full of twisties. Two lane highway. Odd bad patches at multiple places.

Day 6:  Phuentsholing – Gedu – Chapcha – Chuzhom – Thimpu

  • Distance: 190 kms
  • Road Condition: Complete hilly ride. Occasional potholes throughout the ride. Last 45 kms before Thimpu the good roads start.

Day 7: Thimpu Sightseeing

Day 8:  Thimpu to Paro

  • Distance: 51 kms
  • Road Condition: Fantastic roads and full of twisties. This ride can be completed in 1 hour.

Day 9: Paro – Chele La – Haa Valley – Chuzom – Paro

  • Distance: 171 kms
  • Road Condition: Paro – Chele La – Haa valley has moderately bad roads but manageable. Haa valley – Chuzom – Paro has good roads overall and faster but 30 kms more than Chele La route.

Day 10: Paro – Thimpu BP – Simtoka – Dochu La – Punakha – Wangdue

  • Distance: 135 kms.
  • Road Condtion: Excellent roads as mentioned above from Paro to Thimpu. Do not enter Thimpu and turn towards Simtoka. Check the road open & close timings as road widening work is going on after Thimpu. Decentroads from Simtoka to Dochu La. Extreme bad roads after Dochu la till Punakha.

Day 11: Wangdue – Phobjika Valley – Pele La – Trongsa – Yotong La – Jakar – Bumthang

  • Distance: 220 kms
  • Road conditions: This ride a mix of good roads and bad roads. If travelling in winter expect lot of wind chill and some distance of riding in clouds.

Day 12: Bumthang Sightseeing

Day 13: Bumthang – Thrumsing La – Mongar – Trashigang

  • Distance: 280 kms
  • Road Condition: Overall good roads. Bad roads start around 15 kms before Thrumsing La and lasts till Namaling. Post that fantastic roads all the way till Trashigang.

Day 14: Trashigang – Samdrup Jonkar – Tamulpur – Rangiya – Guwahati

  • Distance: 290 kms
  • Road Condition: Extremely bad roads & no roads at all for long distances for 150 kms once you start the ride from Trashigang and last 40 kms is excellent. The 150 kms of bad roads will easily eat up 7-8 hours of the day. Samdrup Jonkar to Guwahati has good roads.

Day 15: Guwahati – Boko – Goalpara – North Salimara – Ghauripur – Boxirhat – Tufanganj – Cooch Bihar – Falakata – Birpara – Chalsa – Sevoke – Siliguri

  • Distance: 520 kms
  • Road Condition: Overall good roads however from Bongaigaon till u cross WB border be careful of Bodoland as it is a high risk zone as of now. CRPF police everywhere in this area for support, stop wherever you are stopped by CRPF as they will be guiding you in case of any danger expected, Google for Bodoland to learn more. Extremely bad roads in border area till you reach Falakata. From Falakata to Siliguri via Birpara and Chalsa was excellent.

Day 16: Siliguri – Islampur – Purnea – Naugachia – Khagaria – Begusarai – Bihar Sharif – Rajgir

  • Distance: 450 kms
  • Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway till you reach 30 kms before Begusarai. Extremely bad roads 30 kms before Begusarai and 20 kms after that.

Day 17: Rajgir – Bodhgaya – Varanasi – Allahabad

  • Distance: 440 kms; Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway.

Day 18: Allahabad – Kanpur – Jhansi – Lalitpur – Sagar

  • Distance: 660 kms
  • Road Condition: Excellent Roads. 4 Lane highway all the way till Sagar.

Day 19: Sagar – Vidisha – Bhopal – Indore – Dhule – Nashik – Mumbai

  • Distance: 930 kms.
  • Road Condition: Slight bad stretch on outskirts to enter Sagar and then fantastic roads all the way till Mumbai. Keep in mind to bypass Bhopal, Indore and join NH3 some 5 kms before a place called Dewas.

********************

Here’s a shortcut to all the Chapters of the Bhutan ride: 

Chapter 1: How all bad ideas are born?

Chapter 2: Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell?

Chapter 3: When your bike gets stoned.

Chapter 4 – The Twist of Fate.

Chapter 5: From Bihar, With Love.

Chapter 6 – The grand entry into Bhutan.

Chapter 7: The Magic Begins.

Chapter 8: Resting our sore asses in Thimpu

Chapter 9: Thimpu to Paro and the near-death experience

Chapter 10: A visit to Haa valley

Chapter 11: Riddled by Bullets and Zonked by Dzongs

Chapter 12: The ride through heaven, to heaven, through hell!

Chapter 13: A day in Paradise – Bumthang!

Chapter 14: A ride above the clouds

67 Responses

  1. Avinash Ambekar says:

    Lovely intro. Let the rest roll out soon. How stupid I was to miss this epic ride 🙁

  2. Sachin Nair says:

    We wish you were there Avinash to care of photography 🙂

  3. Mihir Naik says:

    Hey Sachin. Awesome 🙂 I am having goose bumps. 🙂 Is it possible to join you in your next ride? 😀

  4. Uday says:

    Yes, the road before Chittorgarh is horrible with lot of dust in the air. When we rode, we could ride following a bus which had tail lights. It took a better of 2.5 hours to cover this behind this. And added to it, my colleague had a misfortune of hitting a rock and having a fall. But the roads till then are heavenly, sparse traffic and well marked roads.

    • lost_rider says:

      Uday – Yes, I agree the roads till Chittorgarh are awesome but the last 40 kms bad roads we were completely unaware of and that caught us by surprise

  5. Bhakti Engineer says:

    Beautifully written guys..

  6. That’s Hell of an DAY! *Touchwood* for the fellow rider’s company you had! 😀

  7. Rajdeep Roy says:

    Epic experience and narration guys! Keep up the good work. Waiting for the next chapter. Ride Safe!

  8. amit says:

    Amazing i use to get goose bumps only during lisnin to music and nw after reading this is like damn .. What twists and turns hehe

    • lost_rider says:

      There’s more twists and turns amit. The trip has just began and wait for further updates to here the complete story!

  9. Ashwin says:

    Bihar part is epic! xD
    The description is just too awesome but thinking of what you guys went through makes me feel horrible.

  10. Sushil Ayarottil says:

    Amazing writeup!!! And more importantly an awesome experience!!! Waiting for the rest of it.. Waiting for Bhutan!!!!

  11. Ashish Gupta says:

    Awesome experience for you Sachin and your folks for a lifetime.

  12. Rishabh says:

    Never got a chance to ride through Bihar, but I’m sure ur experiences gonna help 🙂

  13. drpratik says:

    part5 was one of the most entertaining read i’ve read in years…cheers you guys !

  14. Shishir says:

    Buddy,
    This was an amazing read. For a guy who’s passionate about riding this epic write-up only serves as a kick. I now dream of taking this path, not that I am excited to ride on it but just to see what our roads really like. To experience the flavours. Like you said, when the destination calls, all these stand trivial. More so when you have accomplished what you set out to achieve

  15. Swadhin says:

    Brilliant. You guys are new age Xuanzang 🙂 . One suggestion please take a polarizing filter next time.

  16. Bhakti Engineer says:

    Epic Write up for Day 10

  17. Awesome… DAY 10

    btw did u take KAWASAKI MECHANIC ( in green tees) on the ride 😛

  18. vipinjoseph says:

    “Tool Kit” What a fate you got man….Sherman ur bitching or writing…Well played man
    :0

  19. Shubham says:

    So when is the next part coming? Excited to read it further! 😀

  20. Alinel says:

    Dual sport motorcycles (which seems like a distant dream in India) is the answer to terrible roads

  21. Sanatan says:

    Hey still waiting for the last part….please update the last day in bhutan…and the ride back if possible 😉

  22. Niman Vazirani says:

    Brilliant write up man! Helmets off to you guys! 2 of us are doing a ride to Bhutan next year around the same time as you guys! What would you guys suggest? ride through and through or is it better to train the bikes to Calcutta and then ride on and spend more time in Bhutan? I think we would be spending a max of 20 days on the road!

  23. Kumar Bagchi says:

    Great write-up dude.Read every page.
    Planning to do a Bhutan trip from Kolkata on this October.
    As i am a student the financial thing comes first.So can u please tell me a approx budget to cover the whole ride?

  24. Manish Rawat says:

    the shop national auto accessories shown in background could have helped as he is a regular client of ours and i know he is a resourceful and helpful person

  25. Suprith says:

    Awesome.. (y)

  26. Tautik says:

    Great inspiration indeed. Plan to do the ride 3rd week of April. A quick question – How does ‘Permit from Customs department’ work? Is it pretty straight-forward? Keep inspiring!

    • lost_rider says:

      Hello Tautik,

      There are 2 permits needed – Individual permit and vehicle permit. The process about the same has been mentioned in the first page of this blog.

  27. Ashok Kamath says:

    Hi Sachin, this is Ashok from Goa. Me n 2 friends on 2 bikes ( yes 2 bikes not 3) will be riding thru Bhutan from this coming Sunday. I will be following exactly the same itinerary as yours ( in fact I copied your itinerary and made it ours). Is it possible for you to provide me with details such as Hotel names / contact name / numbers at places where you halted and also any other specific information ( contact persons/ timings of Djongs / petrol pumps / eateries ( what’s Bhutan specific and where) that might be useful to us.

    Could you please email me the information at my email address kamath.ashok@gmail.com.

    Thanks for your amazing travelogue which is now my one most important and relevant single point reference to riding thru Bhutan.

    God Bless.

  1. November 25, 2014

    […] button tires. You can read follow the link below to read the travelogue if anyone is interested LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY! – L.O.S.T. Some pictures from the ride below Fog, dirt tracks are the recipes for a memorable and […]

  2. December 4, 2014

    […] Let’s write something useful and uncontroversial shall we? During my recent 7500 kms long Mumbai-Bhutan-Mumbai ride, I really wanted to use hard luggage, Dirtsack panniers to be precise. Since I really […]

  3. December 17, 2014

    […] day I came back from Bhutan, I resigned from my job. It was NOT a tough decision at all, despite that fact that I’ve […]

  4. January 2, 2015

    […] and that has affected my life profoundly. I’m not a patriotic man, but after returning from Bhutan I was in depression for about a week. I didn’t want to come back to […]

  5. January 5, 2015

    […] was recently on a 7500 km trip from Mumbai to Bhutan and back. On day 2 of the trip (31st October 2014), about 25 kms from Kota, I went over a stone at […]

  6. January 7, 2015

    […] lane. Things are still bearable in metros, but if you are unlucky enough to find your ass in Bihar, prepare it to be dry humped. Where 4 wheelers can just waltz over a puppy without remorse or […]

  7. January 26, 2015

    […] is the same tire that is provided on the Duke 200, and I got to use it by accident, a literal accident. When I blew out my front tire on the way to Kota, I had to get a new rubber. The shops there […]

  8. February 24, 2016

    […] first time I got a mobile charger on my bike was just before the Bhutan trip. Picked up one of these from Redline+, and the thing went kaput within 4 months. What’s […]

  9. April 12, 2016

    […] For information about riding in Bhutan, click here. […]

  10. September 27, 2016

    […] 6 of us rode to Bhutan and back. In many ways this was a stupid thing to do, I ended up almost killing myself on multiple occasions, we rode too much and saw too little, but it was a life-changing trip for me […]

Leave a Reply