Paro (Day 3)
We took the 9 a.m bus from Thimpu to Paro. Due to the early morning bus (Well,,fairly early morning), there was no time for breakfast. The Thimpu bus stop has tea stalls selling snacks, chips, tea, momos etc. So it was some quick tea and chips before boarding the bus. I recommend trying the local roasted ground nuts available in small packets. I found them to be especially tasty. The bus from Thimpu to Paro takes about 1.5 hours and the route is quite scenic.
Paro is other major city in Bhutan (The first one being Thimpu). It is also the only city in bhutan with an airport ; however we found it to be much less developed than Thimpu which is relatively more ‘modern’. After reaching Paro and inquiring around for hotels, we settled on the “Jigmeling Hotel”.
This hotel is quite close to the bus stop. We were initially quoted a high price but managed to bargain and bring it down to 1500 INR(Including Taxes). The rooms are neat and were as per our expectation; so not a bad offer overall. After off-loading the luggage and with the stomach urging the brain to get some breakfast, a quick search on the internet revealed the “Roots restaurant” which had a good rating. The fact that it is located right next to our hotel only aided the decision to select that as our breakfast joint.
The restaurant is located on the first floor. Most of the tables were infact booked as told to us by the owner. But he did manage to find us a table nonetheless. We ordered the Golden fried veggies, kewa dashi, Mushroom Dashi, Jeera rice and rotis.
Overall the bill amount was around 45o INR/- (for two people) ; the food was good and so overall we were satisfied. The ambiance is also decent enough. So this restaurant is “Recommend”.
Just before exploring the town, we decided to list Jigmeling Hotel on Google maps.
Overall Paro is a small town. It will take about 15 mins to walk from one end to the other.
We had a few hours in hand and wanted to cover the two main tourist spots in Paro i.e
1. National Museum
2. Rinpung Monastery
The National Museum is situated on top of small hill and requires climbing up or taking a vehicle up the hill ; we decided to climb up. While exploring paro town, we found a way to the National Museum after crossing the bridge and along the track built adjacent to the river.
Turn right from the bridge to take the “alternate path” to the national museum.
As you tread along the path, the Rinpung Dzong comes into view as well. Closer you get, better the view. I decided to capture the dzong from this viewpoint in the evening.
As you reach the end of path, spot the hillock and start climbing up. The view while trekking up was great.Now as such there are multiple routes up the hillock, we just went exploring to find the shortest one and ran into a pack of dogs on our way up. Thankfully some local folks saved us. :). We finally reached the national museum after half hour of hike (post a couple of wrong detours),
There was no one at the ticket collection counter; so we just walked right in.
The doorway of the National Museum though, the security guard collected an entry fee (25/- INR) and requested us to deposit all items into the locker.
No electronic items are allowed inside the museum (No Photography allowed). There are multiple rooms inside ; each room describing Bhutan in various aspects including History, Natural habitats, Dances, Art, Religion etc. The first room had hundreds of Masks used in the traditional Bhutanese dances. There is a television set displaying recorded videos of said dances as well. The second room had some really old tapestries dating back many centuries along with the description. The third room had intricate sculptures and statues of various Bhutanese deities. And finally the fourth room was on the natural habitat , plant and animal life found in Bhutan. Overall quite informative. So that concluded the National Museum. Overall we spent about an hour here. Next up the Rinpung Monastery.
The Rinpung Monastery is only a 10 mins trek down.
About Rinpung Dzong
Founded in the 15th century, the Rinpung Dzong is the other important dzong in Paro (The first one being the Tiger’s Nest). It is the largest dzong within Paro town and houses district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro.
DRESS CODE to enter the Dzong
Collared Upper wear (Shirt/Tshirt) and/or full sleeved Upper wear. Without these, you will not be allowed inside. Ideally cover yourself fully as a mark of respect.
The dzong is huge and houses many shrines. There is a view point within the dzong from where you get a good view of Paro town. Note that photography is not allowed inside.
Behind the dzong, a staircase leads you down to a cantilever bridge.
It was almost evening by the time we finished the dzong sightseeing and wanted to capture the dzong in the evening time frame. It was time to go back to the path next to river to capture the beautiful monastery during sunset. We were already getting some beautiful colors as we took the road through paro back to river crossing.
On the side of the road, there are beautiful fields and meadows with the hills in the background
We managed to reach the intended spot in 20 mins and stayed there for more than 2 hours, waiting for perfect time and enjoying the cool evening wind. Unfortunately during sunset, the sun was behind the clouds and there was decent amount of fog as well. So scenery was not as per expectations but still good enough.
After sunset, it was time to get some supplies for trek to Tiger’s Nest next day. Just some Tiger biscuits and bottles of water. That should be enough for anyone.
After the long day, we were quite hungry and had to end the day on a high note. While roaming the streets of Paro, we had come across a restaurant called “Authentic Pizza” ; well , it was time to put their pizza’s authenticity to the test. Located on the first floor right next the Brioche cafe, overall the joint is decent enough.
The pizzas themselves are not that expensive given that Paro is a tourist destination. We ordered the Large Garden Pizza ; it was thin crust pizza but it had..well..beans on the pizza. Never really had a beans pizza before. Ah well, overall it tasted fairly ok though. The complimentary bottle of pepsi negated the effect of beans topping , partially….
Right next to Authentic Pizza restaurant are two of most famous cafes in Paro (and by extension whole of Bhutan 🙂 ) ; the brioche cafe and the champaca cafe.
These two cafes are also listed highly in any travel advisory guides. However note that both the cafes are fairly expensive (Brioche cafe being the more expensive) ; pastries range from 80/- INR to 200/- INR at the time of the blog. Regardless we ordered the apple cake and the walnut cake from Champaca cafe and Chocolate DuPont from the Brioche cafe. A fitting end and all set for the trek to Tiger’s Nest the next day ! !