03-Jun-2006

Bhutan Day 7 - Punakha - Paro

The schedule for the day was to reach Paro. Punakha to Paro was a not a long drive. With no reason to hurry, P and I made perfect use of the excellent balcony, eating breakfast and reading three-day-old newspapers while occasionally staring at the spectacular view. I had not read a newspaper in days and was desperate for any kind of information in newsprint. W and S had gotten ready early as usual and went to the buffet in the restaurant. As expected the food was terribly expensive forcing both of them to consume well over their average limits in order to recover costs. Both had shown a lot of reticence till then, picking at their foods like dainty eighteenth century girls not wanting to scare away any potential suitors. I was eating normal portions. P was really living it up, finishing whatever the rest of us could not consume. This was a rather unexpected role reversal of the sexes and P bore it womanfully.


We were back on the road by ten thirty. The day was hot and after a brief photo stop at the Punakha Dzong we were on our way. After sometime we reached the Dochu La café around lunchtime. W and S were too stuffed to consume more food. Given their gastronomic history I figured out they would probably be able to eat their next meal only after a couple of days. P and self told the waitress to give us the yummy looking food the people at the next table were having. Unfortunately it turned out most of it was pork or beef and we stuck to our old favourite, chowmein.

We reached Paro fairly early and after a brief rest went to the main market. W wanted to buy ‘I Love Bhutan’ T-Shirts as gifts. Since P and I were Ok with any kind of shopping, we just tagged along to browse. Paro was fast turning out to be my favourite city. For one, unlike Bhumthang, it was not completely rural and unlike Thimphu was not too commercialized either. Additional perquisites like houses by the river just went to enhance the beauty of the place. After a quick round of shopping, W emerged with a large carpet, adding to the already unwieldy number of items of our collective luggage. Still it was too late to start worrying about logistics and the rest of us added other smaller items to the never-ending shopping list.

Finally, exhausted, we trooped back to the old favourite, Sonam Trophel restaurant. There was nice music and the place was not too crowded. By the time we emerged, full and happy, the market was beginning to look empty. We had decided to check out Club K, which the airport security officer Jimmy, had recommended eagerly on our first day. Walking down the road, we finally spotted a half constructed building with flashy lights. We had arrived. It was just 9 p.m. and the crowds would not be in before 10.30 p.m. We were wondering what to do when one of the guys at the reception started chatting with W. It turned out to be Jimmy. Jimmy was an airport security officer by day but at night turned into a cool DJ. Pretty impressed, we promised to come back. Eventually for various reasons all of us decided to just chill out in the room.

It was the last night and W, S and P had made up their minds to drink for as long as possible. Settling down comfortably we started chatting. I think every trip has to have that one moment that you can look back on. Ours came at 2.30 a.m. that night. The three were reasonably high and we had discussed all topics from Indira Gandhi to Singleton status. The conversation turned to the trip and before we knew it all of us were laughing hysterically at how our driver Rajesh had managed to treat us like school kids. I had mentioned before that Rajesh was a fairly popular chap and a bit independent. Actually he was pretty independent. While W, sitting next to him, was the official DJ during the road trip, it was Rajesh who decided which tape to play next. The one time I protested about the choice of music, not only did S and W overrule me but also enthusiastically applauded Rajesh’s choice. Even better were the entry points at various towns. Rajesh would unlock the dashboard, take out an envelope and presumably show the permit at each point. None of us dared to ask if everything was ok and just let him do his own thing. After graduating from top notch B Schools and working in various positions of responsibility, it was amusing to note that all of us meekly considered Rajesh as the leader of the pack in some situations.

We were still laughing when the phone rang. Curious, I picked up the phone to be ticked off by an irate Bengali gentleman in the next room trying to get some sleep. It was rather late and we called it a day.

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