Created: 15 November 2012
Far from the airport in Paro and the seat of government in Thimphu, Eastern Bhutan sees far less tourists than the western part of the country, and yet has rich cultural heritage of its own. For many years, I have wanted to visit the semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the eastern villages of Merak and Sakteng in the area around Trashigang, and finally set off this fall to do so. We were a group of four - three women and two men - three of us in our 60s and one in her 70s.
The trip began with a flight from Delhi to Guwahati, the capital of Assam. Here we were met by Kinley, our guide, and Sangay, our "Buddha" driver. From Guwahati, we headed out on a chaotic drive to the Bhutanese border town of Samdrup Jonkhar. The road was under repair and a blend of elephants, busses and trucks belching diesel fuel, bikers, cars, and other assorted vehicles that defy definition. It took slightly over four hours to arrive at the border, check out of the insanity of India and into the relative quiet of Bhutan.
Lodging in the east is rather basic, to say the least, and we overnighted at the basic TLC Hotel. Rumor hath it that with new hotel competition coming in, TLC is going to do some renovation, but "nothing is real 'til its real!" For now, rooms are basic, hot water is sporadic and food is heavy in carbohydrates and light in spices.
The town is simple, perched with a market near the border that picks up on weekends. There is a simple temple or gomba, and our visit connected with the chanting of the monks. There is also a cement plant and some small industry, but overall, this is not a place for great sightseeing.