It’s serene, clean and impossibly green. Welcome to the Land of the Thunder Dragon. But when you’re following in the Dragon’s footsteps, you’d better have steed to match. Which is why it took us all of two seconds to get ready to roll with Mahindra Adventure’s Authentic Bhutan convoy. Six days of blazing a trail from India, across Bhutan and back. Six days of driving torquey SUVs nearly 900km across winding Himalayan highways, high-altitude dirt tracks and quiet city streets. Six days packed with radio chatter, local delicacies, towering monasteries, quaint cafes and majestic palaces. Six days in heaven, that’s what… (Excerpts reproduced from the December 2016 issue of Stuff India. You can also read my article on the Stuff website)
Thimpu & Dochu La
First stop, Thimpu. Enough time to check out the impressive statue of Lord Buddha towering over the Bhutanese capital. The next day, we find ourselves enjoying the panoramic views at Dochu La, a mountain pass that’s famous for the 108 chortens that pay homage to soldiers fallen in battle.
Fortified by our leisurely pitstop at Dochu La, we head off to Bhutan’s former capital, Punakha, which is famous for a dzhong (palace) dating back to the 17th century. Then it’s back to our XUV, and we’re soon rumbling over twisty back country roads on our way to the Chime Lhakhang temple complex.
Paro & Tiger’s Nest
Our final stop, Paro, is Bhutan’s second-largest city (and home to its only airport). But we’re not here just to gorge on coffee and cakes at the numerous small cafes, or to pick up souvenirs. We’re here to hike up to Paro Taktsang, the 17th century monastery and sacred site, better known as Tiger’s Nest.
Don’t worry, be happy
Back in the 1970s, when the world was ‘grooving’ to disco (presumably while wearing shiny trousers), Bhutan realised something us city slickers still can’t wrap our heads around – money might get you a smartphone, but it won’t buy you happiness. Which is why the government doesn’t measure progress solely by GDP, but also by tracking its citizens’ well-being, ergo, the revolutionary concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’.
Car 54, where are you?
Convoy driving is as much fun as a barrel of extroverted monkeys out on a pub crawl, but it calls for loads of discipline. Keep up the pace, resist the urge to overtake, slot into your assigned position when asked, and give way to local traffic. Apart from this, do everyone a favour and don’t sing over the two-way radio!
This division is known for its motorsport, off-road and luxury travel expertise: The Great Escape is a fav of 4×4 junkies, their Super-XUV is a star of the rally circuit, and they’ve organised several expeditions to destinations straight out of the bucket list of any travel enthusiast – Mount Everest Base Camp, Ladakh, Spiti, the North East, and of course, Bhutan.
Excerpt taken from the December 2016 issue of Stuff India