Monday, March 21, 2011

Travelling to Eastern Bhutan

The number of tourists visiting Eastern Bhutan is expected to increase as Samdrup Jongkhar – the bordering town to the north east Indian state of Assam becomes a tourist hub if everything goes according to plans.
The government is planning to make Samdrup Jongkhar an exit and entry point for tourists to Bhutan since Guwahati is the nearest airport to where Druk Air flies.
The upcoming Dewathang domestic airport will also be an added advantage for the plans to make the dzongkhag a tourist destination.
During the Mid-Term Review (MTR) Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley said the new Asian Highway will help to bring in tourist and help the town grow.
The Asian Highway which is going to connect major highways in the region passes along Samdrup Jongkhar.
The new plans bring development hope for Samdrup Jongkhar, a dzongkhag that has faced security threats from Indian extremists.
The Lyonchen said he has already spoken to the Assam government regarding the safety of tourist coming to Bhutan and the government has assured safety.
But Lyonchen also said the place cannot become like Paro or Bumthang which are rich in cultural heritage and religion to which most of the tourist are attracted.
As of now Paro, which has the only international airport, receives the maximum number of tourists. At this only airline exit and entry point, tourists have to spend two nights.
Samdrup Jongkhar can attract tourist with its rich flora and fauna, sightseeing, bird watching and there are plans for home stays and cultural programs.
There are already few local residents who are gearing up for the tourism plans with the construction of tourist standard hotels.
“We are definitely planning for the tourism,” said the new mayor of the town, Karma Sherab Thobgyal.
One of his major priorities will be to encourage and develop dzongkhags specific plans to boost tourism.
However, lyonchen warned local residents not to let foreign direct investments for hotels there. He was of the view that if that happens then owners will be non-Bhutanese which will not benefit the local people.
Construction of smaller hotels was recommended which could be run as family businesses.
He said that the town will boom with business once all the tourism activities are in place and also added that extremist problem in the neighboring Indian state is solved then business will thrive in Samdrup Jongkhar.

© Kieron Nelson 2011 "Vanishing Cultures Photography"

No comments: