Travelling to Bhutan from Assam is an easy process for its citizens as the Govt. of Bhutan and India allow a free flow of visitors and vehicles across the International border at Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan. People from Assam can travel to Bhutan by showing their valid ID proof details (Voter ID, Passport) at the Immigration gate and upon validation are allowed to pass through the border to go to the local market at Samdrup Jongkhar, a little further up atop a mountain to the Tashi Gasel lodge cum restaurant but however are not allowed to pass the second immigration check gate without other valid entry permits into Bhutan. This allows the visitors from Assam to explore Bhutan and understand the rich culture and heritage of the people here as well.
My Uncle (Mother’s younger brother) had been discussing on a plan to visit Samdrup Jongkhar since the month of August 2018 on a day outing and had asked me to accompany him along with his family to Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan as I had been there a couple of times earlier and knew about the place. But due to our different schedules of work we were not being able to execute this plan. Then finally on January 22nd, 2019 we were successful in making a plan to visit Samdrup Jongkhar from Guwahati on the next day viz. Jan 23rd. We planned on leaving Guwahati at 10 AM in the morning, travel to Samdrup Jongkhar, explore the local marker and then after lunch return back to Guwahati. My Uncle was very excited to visit Bhutan and so we finalized on our plan to visit Bhutan the next day.
We started from Guwahati at 10 AM. My Uncle took his car and he picked me up from Lokhra Chariali area in Guwahati and we were off to Samdrup Jongkhar. We crossed the new Saraighat bridge and reached North Guwahati shortly. Next up we crossed Amingaon, Changsari and them Baihata Chariali. At around 11.30 AM we reached Rangia town. From Rangia town we had to take a right diversion from the National Highway to cross Rangia town and then continue to Samdrup Jongkhar. It was another 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Rangia. We did not make any halts and continued to drive to Samdrup Jongkhar crossing Tamulpur, Kumarikata, Baksa, Daranga Mela and finally arrived at the Ind0-Bhutan Gate near Samdrup Jongkhar at 12.45 PM. Here we first had to stop the car before crossing the gate and then proceed top the immigration office where we have to validate our ID proofs and then pass through a metal detector and upon clearance we are allowed to enter Bhutan. We finished our formalities and started on our drive to Samdrup Jongkhar market area.
The market is very close to the border gate and just after about 200 meter you have to take a right diversion and then take a left where there is a huge parking area and a taxi stand at Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan. We parked our car and then headed out to explore the Samdrup Jongkhar market. It is a normal modern day market that has various traders and their shops selling goods. Interestingly most of the trades are from the Marwari and Bihari communities of India. The restaurants cum bars are however run by the locals of Bhutan along with the vegetable market here. We were very hungry after the long drive so we made a halt at a local restaurant to have tea and snacks. We entered the Tamang kitchen at the Samdrup Jongkhar market where we ordered for chicken momos and tea for the four of us. The food was served hot to us and the momos were very tasty and so was the tea. After our snack time we took time exploring the market area. At first we visited a Buddhist religious shrine here at the Samdrup Jongkhar market. We spun the religious wheel her and also the many smaller ones too as well. The place was very calm and peaceful as well. It is interesting to see the cleanliness of Bhutan. Being so close to our country the people here are so different and ensure to adopt all measures to keep the place clean and tidy.
Next up we explored some other shops in the market area of Samdrup Jongkhar. We had biscuits and ice cream in another shop. It is interesting to note that there are many bars and restaurants here in Bhutan. Most of the visitors from Assam come here during weekends to have a nice time and stay over in one of the many lodges and then return back to Guwahati. We were there on a weekday and still we could find many visitors form Guwahati here in Bhutan. Next we visited the local vegetable market here. A very well organized and clean market right about opposite to the ones you get to see in India that are dirty as anything. The whole market area was clean and the vendors had aligned their produce in a neat and clean manner. No non biodegradable plastics are allowed in Bhutan so that things we had bought had to be carried along in jute bags that were available for purchase here. We explored the market and got to see local ladies preparing fresh cottage cheese with fresh milk. The fragrance around the cottage cheese was simply great and so we decided to try some before we bought it. We tasted the cheese but it turned out to be sour unlike the normal cottage cheese (paneer) we find it in India and so we decided to skip it.
Next we left the Samdrup Jongkhar market to make our final halt in Bhutan at the Tashi Gasel Lodge and restaurant for lunch before we headed back to Guwahati on our drive. The drive to the Tashi Gasel restaurant is on an uphill and slowly we could feel the chill of the weather as there was a cool breeze blowing as well. We came across an open area filled with trees so we made a quick stop here to click few pictures. We arrived at the Tashi Gasel restaurant at 2.20 PM. We took our seats and there were a few other groups from Guwahati and some local people of Bhutan as well having their lunch here. This is the most popular restaurant for food near Samdrup Jongkhar among the tourists. We ordered our food that had chicken fried rice, pork dry fry, chilli chicken and a local favorite Pork Dashi (pork baked with cheese). The food arrived after about 20 minutes time and we continued to have our lunch. The food was delicious especially the pork dashi. My cousin loved the food and she even wanted to pack some for home. We didn’t however pack any food and went ahead to clear our bill after lunch. To our surprise the bill amounted to only INR 700 for all the food. Food and wine in Bhutan is very cheap at Samdrup Jongkhar compared to some places in Guwahati. After our lunch we explored the area around the Tashi Gasel restaurant and then started on our drive back to Guwahati. By the time we arrived back at our home it was around 6 PM. A day well spent in a foreign country we decided to next plan a visit to Samdrup Jongkhar on a family get together sometime very soon.