Train across India
The outline plan was to fly to Delhi, then on to Bhutan and drive eastwards in the country. The question was how far east? The eastern parts of this mountain kingdom are as yet little visited by tourists so was attractive to us (although we knew accommodation might be 'interesting'). Bhutan is small but driving is slow and in the end we decided to drive, or rather be driven, from Paro in the west to Tashigang in the east and then on into Assam to return to Delhi. There is only one road so there were few decisions as to where we went, it was more about how long we wanted to stay in each place. In our bolt-on to Rajasthan we identified a number of things we wanted to see. And so we went to Audley who we had used several times before to plan an itinerary. The first produced was wrong as it gave us too long in Rajasthan and not long enough in Bhutan. This was our fault as we had rather gone into overload and suggested too many places in Rajasthan. We firmed up our expectations of the trip and decided the priority was to see Bhutan (three weeks) and have a quick look at India (about ten days). And so it was.
Getting there and back
Foreign visitors to Bhutan must fly at least one way. Air Druk, the national airline and only commercial operator available, operates a very small fleet of A319s. We paid the small amount extra for their Business Class which was well worth it. Service was very good and the flight past Mt Everest was spectacular.
It is worth commenting that at Delhi International Airport the Business Lounges are before, not after, Security. Also all loose items such as bags or umbrellas that you take on the plane must have a label from Security. Eleanor's stick caused problems because we didn't know this!
In Bhutan you have no real choice about getting around. You either have a guide and driver (which we did), or you join a coach group or you trek. Whatever you choose you are charged a set rate per day which is inclusive of all accommodation, food (but not drink) and transport. Bhutan has a very limited road network which is only 50 years old and whilst surfaces are quite good the roads are narrow and incredibly bendy so progress is very slow.
We decided to take the train from Assam to Delhi - a 30 hour trip. The logic was it would be more fun than flying and give us a chance to see a little more of India. We travelled AC1 class and had a coupe to ourselves. (Accommodation in AC1 is in two or four berth compartments - you won't know which until shortly before departure). Food came round at regular intervals, as this was a Rajdhani Express it was included in the fare. Western style toilets were bearable. We also took an overnight train from Delhi to Abu Road, again a Rajdhani service and also in a coupe. This was a bit of a period piece with rather old fashioned service with an adequate toilet. Our third train was overnight from Udaipur to Delhi on the Mewar Express. This was in a four berth compartment shared with two other passengers who maintained strict silence all the way. Toilet was not good.
Asia 2009 Index
MAIN SITE MAP