Sleepless in Khuruthang

Bhutan travelogue: Chapter 17 | Read other chaptersSee photo gallery

Finding a place to sleep while backpacking

One of the fun aspects of a spontaneous trip is the unpredictability part of it. I usually plan an overall theme and let the small details emerge as and when required. After visiting the beautiful Punakha Monastery, it was almost sunset. Being situated in a valley, it gets dark within no time. We decided to stay in Punakha.

We (there are two of us in this story) walked the 4 km distance between Punakha and Khuruthang, a little ‘new’ town where most of old Punakha town was resettled. Khuruthang is a grid of streets that intersect each other at 90 degrees, how charming! I asked a couple of taxi drivers on the corner and they informed me that that there were two budget sleeping options and two overpriced ones.

↑ Road from Khuruthang to Punakha

Most stores were already closed by 19:00 as we knocked the door of our first hotel. Three girls greeted us. My ‘khuzuzangbo la’ (Bhutanese greeting) evoked smiles but failed to yield any discounts. We told them that our budget was Rs. 400 (~$8) for a room with 2 beds and a heater. Their initial price of Rs. 800 jumped to Rs. 600 but no less than that. There was no heater, and the room stank of cigarette smoke.
(PS: Selling tobaco is illegal in Bhutan.)

So we went to the next hotel. The guy agreed at Rs. 400 for his Rs. 500 room. It had a nice wooden closet (which was useless to us since we had no luggage on us) and a nice TV with about fifty (mostly awful) Indian channels. We took the room. ‘No room heater in Punakha’ the young receptionist quipped. Oh whatever! I thought.

As soon as the problem of shelter was solved, our stomachs began to grumble. It had been a while since that painful lunch at tourist restaurant. Unfortunately this hotel didn’t serve food. So we walked around the town hoping to find something since we didn’t want to face the cheerful girls at the first hotel again.

We ended up requesting the cheerful girls to make some daal (lentil soup) and rice since everything else in the town was closed. It was very basic meal but my stomach burped with satisfaction and we walked back to our hotel for a peaceful sleep, or so we thought.

Most of the night was either cold or noisy (dogs) or both. It was cold, not cool. We had vapours coming out of our mouth even when we were inside the room. I generally have a problem sleeping with clothes on, and I tried hard to sleep in my jeans and sweater. I got sweaty. Then cold. Then there was some loud thud. Crows cawing, dogs barking… Phew, the night was long!

↑ Early morning in Khuruthang town

Finally the night ended. I got out of the bed as soon as I could. The dawn was so beautiful. There were noisy pigeons on the street eating grains that some shopkeeper had strewn on the street. The air was fresh. Everything I touched was mostly wet due to fine drops of dew, and the fog was still thick. Somewhere at a distance I could hear the sound of a vehicle and people unloading something. Milk and groceries perhaps. I guess they had a sleepless night too…!

↑ Checking out the town temple first thing this morning