So here I am with my first meaningful(???) post that justifies the name of the blog. I am going to reminisce about our trip to Bhutan six months back. Here we meaning me, my husband and my 10 yrs old daughter. We have not been able to go on a vacation after that so the taste of Bhutan is still fresh on my mind.
I am not going in details as to how we planned and where to get the cheapest tickets and the likes. I will just mention that there isn’t any international airport at Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The neighboring town Paro, around 50 km from Thimphu has the only international airport of Bhutan. But the tickets are usually very expensive and we were travelling from India. So we decided to go by air till Jalpaiguri. Jalpaiguri is the nearest airport to the Bhutan border, in the Indian side. This town happens to be in the Indian state of West Bengal, that shares border with Bhutan. The rest of the journey was to happen by rail or road.The plan was to travel till Jaigaon, the border town, rest the night there and next morning enter Bhutan and go to Thimphu by road. Our journey till Jalpaiguri was uneventful, as one travelling with family would wish it to be. From there we had the option of going till Jaigaon by taxi or train. We choose the latter without knowing that we were in for some adventure that evening!!!
It was noon and our train was to reach at 2 pm at the Jalpaiguri station. So we left our luggage at the cloakroom of the station. Earlier it had rained a little and the weather was very nice, so we just ventured into the town looking for a good place to eat. I could not imagine my luck when we found a restaurant serving “dosa”, a south Indian delicacy. Imagine finding southern food in one of the eastern most corner of the country!!!
We were back at the station well before time and waited for the train..and waited…and waited…and waited. There was no sign of the train. Jalpaiguri is kind of a gateway to the northeastern states. So the crowd at the station was of mixed kind…people from the northeast with their distinct Mongoloid features…people with dark brown skin like us…and also a few westerners. Each kind having their own distinct way of dressing and mannerism. So though we had to wait for long we were not bored. It was like standing in the middle of some Discovery channel travel program!!! But as it got darker and darker, me and my husband got more and more worried as we did not want to reach an unknown place at night. But there was little we could do, other than waiting.
Finally the train arrived at 7 pm, a good five hours after its scheduled time. We lost no time in boarding. It was supposed to be a short two hr journey. So we could not get any sleeping berths and we had to travel in a “General coach” that did not have any air conditioning and hence most of the windows were left opened. Our coach was empty except for the trash left by the previous boarders. Most of the lights were also not working and it was a cold night. October nights can be a little chilly when spent on a moving train. The sorry state of the train was attributed to the long journey it had already undertaken( it was coming from Delhi!!). This part was the fag-end of the train’s journey.
I was a bit nervous to be alone in the coach. But when another passenger entered the coach it made me even more jumpy. But I kept my thoughts to myself, lest I frighten my daughter as well. She dozed off quickly…we had a long day!! And in few minutes the guy at the other end of the coach also started snoring which made me relaxed. Poor thing!! He was also a weary commuter like us. But me and my husband could not even close our eyes for a second. The train was zipping through pitch black darkness. I guessed we were passing through a forest and suddenly it stopped. My heart skipped!!! I am not a stranger to trains stopping midway on the tracks for reasons best known to the train driver only.(It happens a lot in India). But that day i was at my “jumpy best”!! We closed the doors of the coach but could not close all the windows as some of them were broken. My husband wanted to get down and see what was the matter. But I couldn’t let him go. So we sat down. And my imagination ran amok. I imagined all sorts of wild animals materializing from the dark..and even a zombie or two. Thankfully before I could scream the train resumed it’s journey as abruptly as it had stopped.
By the time we reached our destination ” Hasimara”, it was already midnight. From Hasimara we were to take a taxi to Jaigaon, the border town. But not a single taxi was to be found outside the station, the reason being ” Durga Puja”, the biggest religious festival of this part of India. And ” Dial-a-cab” taxi companies operate in big cities only…. We were not alone though. A few other fellow passengers of the same train were also there. And we all had to go to Jaigaon. So when finally a taxi arrived we all decided to share the fare and got into it. The driver seemed to be a shrewd fellow. He promised to drop all of us at the main market area of Jaigaon.