Driving is an elicit way of knowing the capabilities of a vehicle, going to different terrains, the best way to understand how good a product is. Honda has been conducting the Drive to Discover series for long now. Entering its eighth edition, the theme was ‘3 lakh i-DTEC Journeys’, to celebrate the sales milestone of three lakh i-DTEC diesel engine models in India. And this year the drive witnessed crossing borders from Bagdogra, West Bengal to Bhutan.
Bhutan, a small country that does not think much about GDP, their success is measured more with Gross National Happiness (GNH). Bhutan is referred to as the last Shangri-la, due to its largely unaffected natural environment and cultural heritage. It’s not just the nature that surrounds the country, but people living there too are well connected to the nature and culture around.
The route for Honda Drive To Discover 8 rather gave a feel of nascence, driving through some of the most luring and picturesque views. Though, you might think that it isn’t much of driving, but once you enter Bhutan, it starts to get more interesting in the hilly sections. Driving is more easy and comfortable, not tiring and rather one of a kind experience in drive history where you get to pass borders with a whole convoy of vehicles. Here's the approximate distance of our trip every day.
Day 1 – Bagdogra to Phuentsholing - 166 km
Day 2 – Phuentsholing to Paro - 160 km
Day 3 – Drive around the town Paro – 30 km
Day 4 – Drive to Thimphu – 51 km
Drive to Phuentsholing in WR-V
We landed in Bagdogra, and you can never start a journey empty stomach so we fuelled up ourselves at City Dhaba and further we got the keys of Honda WR-V for the start. Luggage all dumped in the spacious boot of the car, we were all set to be flagged off. We had to drive through Siliguri and witnessed many tea estates on the way to Phuentsholing which is a border town in Bhutan. While on the way the WR-V zoomed through plains as well as some rough patches too.
WR-V we drove was powered by a 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine with the same 100PS of power output. Car soaked all the bumps with ease without any hesitation. Inside, the seats have enough comfort and legroom is what passenger in the rear seat will appreciate. By the time we reached Indian border town, Jaigaon, it was dark.
The border side of India, traffic was topsy-turvy, now I’m used to all this messy traffic in Delhi, but just after the border a sense of orderliness is what we touched. Ever thought of a country without any traffic signal? Yes, Bhutan is the one. A country full of warm gestures around to welcome you.
Heading towards Paro in Honda Jazz
Starting from the Phuentsholing, we had to wait for our driving permits. Just after we received our driving permit we got to wallow through steep, curvy tarmac swaddled in the lush green nature of Bhutan. Driving the Honda Jazz i-DTEC, which is powered by a 1.5-litre diesel engine and belts out the same power. This hatchback amazes me every time I take a drive. While on the way we were offered with some rough patches as well, but the Jazz managed to go through very calmly. Returning a mileage of 16kmpl is pretty impressive too, driving uphill. The torquey motor helped take a wild ride through the route. Just after few kilometres we stopped for a lunch break at Lhamu Restaurant, where this restaurant is famous for its pork curry and beef momo (undoubtedly finger licking). This route has twisties and very few rough patches on the way and is a single lane. It got late as we reached our hotel in Paro. But driving in the night on a single lane was no different than daytime driving, where you don’t have to honk, all you have to do is give two clicks of the high beam and a loader would slow down indicating to the left and let you pass.
Exploring Paro in Honda BR-V
Don’t think of it as a small town as you won’t find scarcity of things to do here. You can trek to Taktsang (also known as Tiger's Nest Monastery) – a Bhuddist sacred site that was built in 1692, located at the cliffside of the upper Paro valley. The trek is quite steep with its way of about 10 kms in total. Don’t forget to wear trekking shoes, waterproof jacket and backpack. While having a conversation with locals I asked, “How much time does it take to cover this trek?” and he said, “For locals, it is not more than 3 hrs, but for tourists, it would take at least 5 to 6 hrs”. There is something majestic about this monastery, silence inside, but can hear the voice of wind and nature around, not making it difficult for you to meditate for hours also.
Coming down, we thought of going through some local delicacies. Shopping is what next you can think of here, you buy jewellery, divination dice, prayer flags, incense, tea, masks, cane boxes, handwoven kira (woman’s traditional dress in Bhutan), interesting selection of local handicrafts, and is particularly strong on weaving. I entered a local weaving shop, where they sold wool and silk products starting from Rs 1000 to more than Rs 1 lakh. When I asked what’s so special about this expensive shawl, the owner said that these shawls are made of pure silk, but it is not the cost material that we are charging for, but the cost of workmanship as it takes at least an year to make this product.
Another Day with Honda BR-V to Thimphu
Running short on time as we had to make our return to Phuntsholing, we still opted for the BR-V another day. This car has a good roomy cabin and houses huge luggage once the third row folds over. Comfortable ride, spacious cabin and good luggage space is what makes it a good option to drive in the hills. But to get desirable drive you need to push it a little to get the required torque to climb up hills. When we entered the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu, we thought of visiting Great Buddha Dordenma, which is a gigantic Buddha statue, where hundreds of monks were chanting all together. Not only this, buzzing city gets lots of local delicacies and places to shop.
Honda Amaze i-DTEC
In between we also got our hands on Honda Amaze i-DTEC that comes with same powertrain and output figures, where we checked the ride quality and other parameters. Needless to say, 100 PS power is one of the best power output in this segment and well in terms of the claimed 25+kmpl mileage figure too, but we managed to get 17-18kmpl on highway run. Here constant pushing of the car could be a reason for the drop in mileage.
Around 500 km of drive in the hills, crossing borders and get to know a culture that evolved from an Indian monk Lord Buddha. Here people are well connected to their tradition and culture, where the GDP is calculated with happiness. This time the Honda Drive To Discover 8 was not just knowing about the diesel power and torque, ride quality and other parameters in our country but also diversity of our neighbouring country.