Monday, July 03, 2006

Fifteen minutes in Bhutan

You may have heard that travel to the tiny monarchy of Bhutan is strictly controlled. It's done in a painful way for cheap bastards like me - it costs $200 per day to visit, whether you're climbing a mountain or watching CNN in your hotel. You can imagine how excited Jennifer and I were when we read in our guidebook that you could get a day pass to the Bhutanese town of Phuntsholing, just over the Indian border. So the same day our 21-hour train arrived in the Darjeeling area, we took a 3-1/2 hour bus ride to the grimy Indian border town of Jaigon. It's next to Bhutan! And after that hot bus ride, you could imagine our disappointment when we found out that the one-day free-permit scheme ended two years ago. So we pleaded our case to the very kind border guard inside, get this, the border of Bhutan! I thought we were doing well, until he said, "If I came to your country, I would need a visa, yes?" Oh, that was a brutal shot across the bow. And an effective one - we slunk away, trying to make the best of our grimy Indian border town, clearly not in Bhutan.


There are eight photos below:

A young monk in a monastery.

The security guard at a bank.

I'm afraid a photo doesn't capture this delightful kid's personality. He was a charmer.

Some of the gates in this town literally opened into the Bhutanese town on the other side of the international border. Locals were free to cross back and forth.

Beautiful eyes.

Shy and retiring, Jennifer tries her best to blend in with the locals from the slum. She led the group in a spirited letter-by-letter recitation of the alphabet, which seemed to suit everyone, including the adults in the background.

A self-portrait, but the little rodents insisted on being in MY picture! Jennifer and I had SO much fun with these kids! In spite of moments like these, Jennifer's five months in India had to come to an end and she's back home in the States now.

A lovely young girl at the border town.

(The End)