31st March 2013
Bagdogra airport wore a deserted look in the morning. It
sometimes feels good to only hear our own footsteps and nothing else. Druk Air
to Paro was the only flight scheduled at that time from Bagdogra, a military
airport also shared by civilian flights. Check-in was a cool affair with only
surprise being handwritten boarding pass instead of computer generated!!
Apart from our family, there were few foreigners who were
boarding that flight. Little surprised at low volume of passengers but then
realized that the flight was just making a stop on the way from Bangkok to
Reaching Bagdogra was a task by itself. We first landed in
Kolkata on the previous day, waited for four hours before taking our flight to
Bagdogra. The new and renovated airport of Kolkata was much better than the
previous dingy building. We had to spend a night in Bagdogra as the flight to
Paro was scheduled early in the morning.
|New Kolkata airport|
The flight arrived on time but there were no signs of
boarding even after 30 minutes. We were told that weather at Paro was bad thus
delaying take off from Bagdogra. Soon, another Druk Air flight also landed in
Bagdogra. It was not a scheduled stop but they had land at the nearest airport
thanks to the bad weather at Paro.
Paro airport is surrounded by high altitude peaks making it
one of the most difficult airports to land. Only eight pilots are certified to
land at the airport!! Hence bad weather makes it extremely risky to land which
no airways would like to take.
The wait ended when the ground staff gets clearance for
boarding. But a surprise awaited us in
the aircraft. One of our seats was already occupied by a lady from Bangkok. She
shows her ticket which had the same seat number!! Air hostess calls one of the
ground staff who then realizes that she had written a wrong seat number in our
boarding pass. The issue was sorted quickly and we were offered a different
There are two ways to enter Bhutan. One is the land route
through the border towns of Phuntsholing near West Bengal, Galepu and Samdrup
Jongkhar from Assam. Other way is to take a flight to Paro, the only
international Airport in Bhutan. At present only Druk Air flies flights from
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati, Bangkok and Singapore. There
are no border crossings on Chinese side.
The flight duration between Bagdogra and Paro is just 25
minutes. As soon as the seat beat signs were switched off, air hostesses
hurried to serve juice and nuts to the passengers. They had only few minutes to
finish serving which they did in a jiffy. The flight had already started its
descent when serving was completed!!
The scenes got better as the flight descended. The snow clad
mountains started appearing which provided a good photographing opportunity. My
daughter was at window seat (obviously!!) and we quickly took turns to get view
The flight descends into the valley at a very fast rate.
Also the flight angle seams to go haywire with series of left and right turns
which is not usually the case while landing. But here it has to wade through
the narrow hills before landing on the airstrip.
Immigration was a simple affair. Indians do not need visa to enter Bhutan.
Having a passport or voter ID is sufficient enough. The process is complicated
and expensive for foreigners. They need to pay at least 250 USD per person/day.
In addition, they need to be in a group and accompanied by guide. This makes
Bhutan one of the costliest tourist destinations. Bhutan has very good relation
with India and hence we do not have such restrictions.
When we walked from aircraft to immigration area, my
daughter commented that the airport was looking like a Temple. Indeed it was!!
And that was the reason for our trip to Bhutan!!!! To experience the place that
is still virgin and original where traditions are well preserved and
The journey to Bhutan had just begun!!
Labels: Bhutan, Himalayas, travel