When we entered the Bhutan Gate (that borders SJ with Indian state of Assam), one of the men from our taxi had white hair which was actually black when we started our journey in Phuntsholing. It was in the last week of February and that was how dusty the place used to be. Gradually the dusty roads were replaced by black-topped and paved road and the place looked much better as time passed by.
Today, three months later I’ve developed a sense of belonging to this place. Although a small town and deprived of any sort of entertainment, this town has got its own charm. People here are not really workaholic like that of Thimphu but they are more human. If you visit the town you will see men in boxers and vests leisurely walking around, hands rubbing their potbellies as if this little act can do away with the heat. Women suit-up with printed cotton kiras with matching tegos and flat sandals, and absolutely no makeup.
If you observe you won’t see many people in town, can’t blame the people, the shops around here only sell groceries and vegetables? Fancy clothes are luxuries the town shops simply couldn’t afford. However, most people walk to/from office. The buzz comes only in the evening side when people go for walk to the S/jongkhar – Dewathang highway. Old and young alike, wake up as early as 4.30 am to walk or to jog, sheer freaking behavior (or so I thought).
Taxis are the thing that is seen only in the taxi parking lot. People hardly take taxis locally, nor do the drivers entertain local. All taxis go to Phuntsholing, Trashigang or Gelephu. Still few cars owned by the residents are mostly branded foreign cars.
Inflation rate is totally outrageous. The price of the commodities dwindles all the time. A broom stick that cost Nu. 30 in Thimphu, is sold at Nu. 80 in Samdrupjongkhar. A pack of maggi costing Nu. 10 is sold at Nu. 15 here and the list is endless. Shops on the outskirts of town must be buying things from the town and selling at a high rate and so explains the fluctuation in the price of commodities.
Despite all the flaws there are good stuffs too. Men here entertain themselves with archery, football, jogging and bars. Women indulge in walk and sports. Rumors have it that there is rampant gambling too; however, I haven’t seen it happening yet.
Few famous hotels like Friends, Mountain and Shambala are always crowded irrespective of occasions. Either people are overjoyed or bored to death in a small town like this, to be able to hang out every night to celebrate.
When you first arrive in the town you feel like you are some kind of sensation, with your mobile phone buzzing with calls from strangers but you soon will soon learn that the same happens with every new comer in the town, beginner’s excitement I guess.
Above all, the town’s total attraction (according to me) is having the Indian city of Guwahati nearby. If you’re willing to spend around 10,000 bucks, Drukair will drop you in Paro in less than an hour. Also there are recreation centers like parks and others on the way to Guwahati. I have had the pleasure to take a peek at those parks on my way to Guwahati and they are awesome.
Well, Samdrup jongkhar is one of Bhutan’s class A thromde where you need to cross 2 giant Indian states viz. West Bengal and Assam (if you happen to come via Pling), in the extreme South-East corner of Bhutan. You need SSB escort to come or go but once you reached it’s a beautiful town and a small community.