When we bumped into him at Phuentsholing, the border town in Bhutan, little did we know that we would end up becoming friends.
We were hiring a taxi that would take us to Thimpu, the Capital of Bhutan from Phuentsholing, the town that borders India at Jaigaon. Our shuttle cab dropped us off at the bus stand in Phuentsholing where we met John and decided to take his cab to Thimpu. The six hour journey was quite eventful thanks to his ability to talk to us virtually non-stop!
Over the next few days as we scaled some of the country’s best known places with John, his sense of humour and the amazing collection of songs he plays on his car stereo kept us entertained, despite the sometimes bad roads, the traffic snarls and the never-ending distances.
Apart from sharing about our lives, we also learned a lot about Bhutan – its culture, its people, its society etc. We got the “insider’s” perspective on the Bhutanese way of life, marriages, divorces, relationships, education, monarchy and a lot more.
He introduced us to the local Bhutanese brew ‘Ara’ (made from rice) and ‘Bangchang’ (made from millet). We drank Ara and Bangchang at his aunt’s restaurant (located in Paro) and experimented with the local cuisine especially ‘Ema Tashi’ or Cheese-Chilli, Yak meat and the like.
John’s forefathers were immigrants from India who settled in Bhutan. He speaks Bhutanese, Nepali, Hindi and English with relative ease. And he drives exceedingly well! He is not a guide per se, but driving through this breathtaking country with him was an experience in itself.