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A land with no borders..

March 3, 2009

While at home this time,I arranged the photo albums and came across a very old black and white picture,frayed at the edges. Behind it my father had scribbled in  officialese  “Bhutanese crossing the Manas River  on the way to the local market”. Its a picture I have come across before and every time I looked at it I would wonder about this land,which is so near to my home,yet seems so magically different.After all Bhutan shares its borders with Assam,and is an hour’s drive from my father’s native village.

That picture and a very old book on Tibet that we had, made me dream of faraway places that I would love to visit some day.Its funny how some dreams just come true, just when we least expect it.

When the BF had flown down to Guwahati,I decided to take him to Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.Partly because its closer than Kaziranga and partly because I have not been there myself.Once used as a  hideout for the Bodo militants, Manas was shut to tourists for years and even now, a part of it is still not accessible.Once we reached Borpeta,we had to check into the Project Tiger office to confirm our accommodation ,get permitsand arrange for a Sumo.Travelling in North east can be very expensive if you are travelling alone. Since public transport is scare and unreliable the norm is to  rent a Sumo ,the preferred mode because of the hilly terrain and bad roads.Thanks to theField Director of Project Tiger Manas,we got accommodation in the Inspection Bungalow, which is located on a cliff overlooking the Manas River.

dscf3246A room with a view.

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Other than the IB ,the only other places to stay are the Tourist Lodge outside the sanctuary and the horrendously expensive privately run Bansbari Lodge which is way away from the Sanctuary.Still my suggestion is to try for the Inspection Bungalow mainly because of its location.

We went for early morning safaris,evening safaris and even late night safaris and of course nary a tiger to be spotted.Elephants galore,including a mad one named Laden by the park rangers and an entire herd..err.. blowing their own trumpet.Hogs and barking deer and Sambars and Golden Langoors we saw it all barring the majestic feline that eluded us.The closest we came to was a fresh pug mark and tiger shit.Thank you very much.I anyway suspect its just a ploy to get us tourists all excited.The only place you will ever get to see any exotic animal is in the boardings just before you enter any Sanctuary.I believe the animals,if there are any to begin with, make a foray only for the likes of Nat Geo and Bill Clinton.

Me, I was happy enough with the scenery.

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The BF asks the guard “So when exactly is the tiger coming out”? .Umm, sharp at 5.30 pm ,right by this corner,he will be waiting for tourists to come and take his picture.You can also pet him if you want.Jeez ,these city slickers, I tell you.

I had an idea that the Bhutan border is pretty close to where we were staying and in the course of the conversation the guard told me that there is a hanging bridge some 13 kms from Bungalow.Would I want to go there and spend some time in a village in Bhutan.Would I ? To hell with the tigers.

The actual border was just a 5 minute walk.The check post was unmanned.Our guard walks by and opens the gates and we let ourselves in.Try doing that in the Wagah border.

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After an hour’s ride through the hills and by the Manas river, we finally reached the Pangbang village in Bhutan.Finally we see a couple of Bhutanese guards.Our driver walks up and they start discussing something.Oh oh.Trouble.Forget permits , we were not even carrying our passports.Some bozo starts spraying our car with some chemical.Its only when the driver comes back with all smiles,I heaved a sigh of relief.Apparently,the Bhutanese are more concerned about not letting in bird flu from Assam (there was a recent outbreak of it in some villages in Assam, so our car was sprayed and we had to dip our feet in some red chemical).Tsk,Tsk,these Romans.

The guard told me not to take pictures as it was not legal.Couldn’t be more illegal than our entry right? And I went trigger happy.

kuzo zangpo la….

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The traditional Bhutanese dress- Kiro for women and Gho for men

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A typical Bhutanese house with ornate wooden frames

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Finally we reach this.The hanging bridge.

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And the Manas River flowing under it.dscf3435

And as I reached the middle of the bridge,  a group of Bhutanese with their wares on donkeys came from the other side . Just as the picture back home..

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. quirkymon permalink
    March 3, 2009 10:32 pm

    Bhutan had been a dream destination for me for quite some time. Travel stories told by my father and cousin who had visited Bhutan a few years earlier had always intrigued me. You know what, in bongaigaon (my father works there), small purchases are made with Bhutanese currency!! I’ve a small fortune now of bhutanese currency by now from the odd notes that my father gave me when he came home. No use in guwahati! but will utilise it if I get a chance to visit Bhutan soon! 🙂

  2. March 3, 2009 10:50 pm

    Beautiful pictures. And your best post till date. 🙂

  3. March 4, 2009 1:16 am

    and who says you cant be a travel writer?

  4. March 4, 2009 3:52 am

    Looks absolutely fascinating.. I want to go now!!

  5. rasha permalink
    March 4, 2009 4:19 am

    I second (3rd, 4th, 5th , whatever) all of the above 🙂
    Never miss ur posts, dont let the stinginess of my comments mislead you 😛

  6. March 4, 2009 11:16 am

    Wow…me wanna go too 🙂

    Anyway we had recently gone to Jim Corbett – not tigers to be seen. Saw tiger poop and pug marks though 😛

  7. March 4, 2009 5:05 pm

    Such a wonderful post! You seem to be having so much fun. First Turkey, then those caves, then this. Stop before I turn an ugly purple with envy! 🙂

    You’ve been blogrolled, btw.

  8. kakoli permalink
    March 5, 2009 8:21 am

    I stayed in the same IB, more than a decade ago, when I was in school and when the militants had not yet occupied it. And I can still remember the sound of the water gushing over the rocks from the room in the IB. The sight and the sounds of the morning can’t be forgotten – sound of wind that is very particular to river banks and the sound of the river making its way through the rocks only become clearer in the morning.

    I do remember very vividly seeing a deer running across as we were busy warming our hands over the crackling fire in the evening.(It used to be very very cold back then, and I had several layers of warm clothing!!)And I had seen a majestic tiger from the closest distance ever in my life as we were doing the safari. There were many deer …the spotted ones, wild boars, elephants, horn bills, elephants…. its sad to know they have all disappeared!

    I also remember buying “Bhutani” oranges – they are cheaper if you buy them from teh Bhutanese side of the river:) I will always remember Bhutan is the first foreign shore I had visited:)

    Nice memories which your blog post just triggered. Nicely written post. Write more about the other trips – Majuli, Cherrapunji. Go on girl!!

  9. lostonthestreet permalink
    March 5, 2009 3:44 pm

    @ quirkymon:if you are in assam right now,make the trip asap 🙂
    @galadriel- thanks!
    @preethi- infact march/april IS a good time to go
    @rasha- u are who I think you are?
    @SMM- just proves my point
    @blink- thanks
    @kakoli – we should do a trip together sometime,what say?

  10. March 6, 2009 4:11 pm

    Great Post…

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!Would love to go there!

    Keep Blogging!

  11. sid permalink
    March 6, 2009 4:47 pm

    well it was a little disappointing not to have spot a tiger but hv to agree it was a fascinating trip with the safaris, stay at IB, and Panbagh, Bhutan…not to forget my stay in Kharghuli..:-)…and i hv to say that even though i was part of the trip, reading this makes the place sound even more majestic..and dont mind going there again after a few years in search of the tiger!!awesome post 🙂
    waiting eagerly now for the post on majuli..

  12. Shahana permalink
    March 9, 2009 1:41 pm

    Awesome ‘Room with a view’ pic!

  13. Anu permalink
    March 16, 2009 7:55 pm

    Nice pic room with view, and ofcourse the bhutanese house and the people, am just adding these places to my already big and hard to manage list !

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