The Gateway to Bhutan: Phuentsholing, Bhutan
Phuentsholing is a thriving cross border trade town in Bhutan. It is the gateway to Bhutan via India. The border town of Jaigaon in West Bengal is the link between the two. Phuentsholing is situated at an altitude of 971 feet above sea-level (293 metres) and is a must-stop for all those seeking a permit to enter.
To reach the town of Phuentsholing, travellers have two options – one is to take a private vehicle directly from the airport at Bagdogra which is a lot more convenient and comfortable as compared to taking a Royal Bhutan Government bus which leaves from Siliguri three times a day. The first bus is at 5:00 HRS and the last at 14:00 HRS. The bus takes around eight hours to reach while a taxi takes five hours to cover the same distance.
The drive to Phuentsholing is very beautiful with plenty of grasslands along the way and the road condition is great so this makes the entire journey across the two countries extremely enjoyable.
Once you cross into the Bhutan gate and enter Phuentsholing, it’s a whole different vibe as compared to back home in India. The first thing you’ll notice is the drastic reduction in sound, human population and much cleaner streets.
Phuentsholing, being the entry point to Bhutan is also the place where the permits to go beyond this town is needed. The immigration office in Bhutan is open from Monday to Friday between 9:00 HRS – 17:00 HRS Bhutan Standard Time. Bhutan time is half an hour behind Indian Standard Time.
While in Phuentsholing, a must-visit is the Karbandi Monastery which is well known among couples seeking to have a child. Local legend has it, that an Indian woman became pregnant after praying at this monastery for a baby.
The monastery is located at a short distance from the town and has a great view of the plains in Bengal and is worth a visit.
Phuentsholing also has a great vibe to the place specifically around the town centre where there are a couple of really good cafes which serve excellent food coupled with great music to go with it and a view of the main junction.
Eating options are in plenty from small Dhaba like restaurants serving basic dal -rice and momos to proper fine dine restaurants serving international cuisine. So one thing is for sure that you’ll never go hungry in Phuentsholing.
Accommodation options are in excess with Phuentsholing being a trade town and a free entry for Indian citizens. The rooms in this town are extremely spacious and very well maintained nearly all the rooms come with free WiFi.
Phuentsholing is also the place where you get your SIM card for Bhutan. Tashi SIM is the preferred options as it has 3G network all over the country. Even 80% along the hike to Tiger Nest one has good connectivity.
The best time to visit Phuentsholing is during the winter months from October to March when the weather is good and the chances of rain are minimal.
Phuentsholing is the gateway to Bhutan and is a must-stop along the way mainly for the permit and it’s a good place to stop over for the night, if you reach after the permit office has shut.
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