Exploring Bhutan With Tata Nexon

sujoy76

New Member
It’s very easy to drive along the road than sitting and writing a travelogue. Still trying my best to jot down the memories created throughout the road trip to Bhutan from kolkata. It had been quite a long time since I made any road trips. This trip was overdue since I drove down to Kolkata from Gwalior in 2015. With Durga Puja approaching this year the road trip itch returned with vigor. Initially the plan was for Himachal but considering many reasons settled down for the trip to Bhutan. Once the plan was made and finalized, it was time to make the itinerary and after some research work through internet and with the help from many threads in this group, the same was also finalized within couple of days.

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My silence is my attitude

The route map of the whole trip.

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Few photos to start with.


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Beautiful termac on NH-19.

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At Dochula Pass.


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The bridge at the entrance of Paro Dzong.


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View that soaks all the fatigue of driving.


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Wangdu Podrang Dzong at Punakha.

The travel itinerary

Day 1 (12.10.2019): Kolkata to Malda (Stay at WBTDC Tourist lodge, Malda)
Day 2 (13.10.2019): Malda to Siliguri (Stay at WBTDC Tourist Lodge, Siliguri)
Day3 (14.10.2019): Siliguri to Phuentsholing (Stay at Park Hotel, Phuentsholing)
Day4 (15.10.2019): Phuentsholing to Thimphu (Stay at Hotel Bhutan, Thimphu)
Day6 (17.10.2019): Thimphu to Phobjikha (Stay at Kichu Resorts, Phobjikha)
Day7 (18.10.2019): Phobjhika to Punakha (Stay at Hotel Vara, Punakha)
Day8 (19.10.2019): Punakha to Paro (Stay at Golden Roots Resort and Spa, Paro)
Day11 (22.10.2019): Paro to Jaldapara (Stay at Jaldapara Eco Stay)
Day13 (24.10.2019): Jaldapara to Malda (Stay at friends place)
Day14 (25.10.2019): Malda to Kolkata (Home sweet home)

Day 1: Kolkata to Malda

Initially the plan was to cover the entire stretch from kolkata to Siliguri in one go but as I was travelling with my five years old daughter and considering this trip to be her first major one, decided to make a night halt at Malda instead and then proceed to Siliguri on the next day. My plan was to reach Phuentsholing on 14th October (Monday), so keeping that in mind we started from Kolkata on 12th October so that we can reach Phuentsholing on 14th Morning from Siliguri. Booking was already done in advance at WBTDC tourist lodges in Malda and Siliguri in advance. Left kolkata at 7.30 A.M and after brief stopover at Shaktigarh took the Bardhman – Moregram stretch. Crossed the beautiful ROB at Bardhman on our way .The road is in good condition barring few stretches. Around 1.45 P.M reached COCO BP Moregram and had lunch there.

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At COCO BPCL Moregram.

Further journey till Malda was smooth. Roads are good leaving few sections before Farakka. Crossing Farakka was very smooth as did not encounter any traffic congestion but had tough time negotiating traffic at the outskirts of Malda, especially at Kaliachak. Had to tailgate long queue of trucks. Reached Malda tourist lodge around 5 P.M

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Crossing Farakka Barrage

Day 2: Malda to Siliguri


Next morning we left Malda tourist lodge at 8.30. The day being Sunday, had to negotiate less city traffic along the Malda roads and soon we were on the highway. The road condition was not very bad with occasional potholes which were very difficult to anticipate and then negotiate. On couple of occasions had no other option but to drive through them and doing so, once I heard a loud thud from the front left wheel side. My initial reaction was OMG the shocker must have been damaged badly but after driving for some time and then a visual inspection did not reveal anything. The build quality of TATA stood apart. Finished our breakfast at a roadside dhaba with some puri, subji and then hot cup of chai. There I met couple of bikers from Kerala who were also riding to Bhutan.

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Life is not a race. It’s a long drive.

After crossing Raiganj, took the Botolbari route and soon I was driving through some very good country side roads. The road condition is very good for most of the stretch and manageable for the rest. Thoroughly enjoyed my drive through the Botolbari stretch. Just before joining NH 27 roughly there is no road for almost 400 mtrs. Instead of following Google at this point I just took a left turn and followed couple of other cars through a narrow lane and joined NH 27. The point of left turn seemed to have a Auto stand and thus can be easily identified. I have marked the spots on the map below.

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Had lunch at Islampur and proceeded towards Bagdogra. The drive till the Bagdogra was beautiful. We spotted some beautiful tea estates on our way and couldn’t resist the temptation to explore one of them. Below are some pictures of us enjoying at the tea estate.

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My daughter, Aditri enjoying the moments.

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It's a game of hide and seek.

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We reached WBTDC tourist lodge at Siliguri at 4 PM. I must say that the lodge is very good. I never expected a state owned property can be so beautifully maintained. During evening we went to explore the famous Bidhan market at Siliguri but the day being Sunday and also Laxmi Puja most of the shops were closed.

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Few snaps of the WBTDC Mainak Tourist Lodge, Siliguri.

Day 3: Siliguri to Phuentsholing


The D day has arrived. I got up very early as I was super exited. Till that day I had watched many YouTube videos of people crossing the iconic Sevoke Bridge and driving through Dooars and entering Bhutan through Phuentsholing. We left the guest house at 6.30 and the guest house staffs were generous enough to pack our breakfast. The drive through the Sevoke forest area was really awesome which can’t be described in words. Crossed the Sevoke Bridge within no time.

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The road is very good and thoroughly enjoyed driving on the surface, had to negotiate little bit of traffic near the Hasimara railway station. My excitement was growing gradually as we were getting closer to Bhutan. Entered Phuentsholing through the entry gate at around 11 A.M (Indian time) and drove straight to Park Hotel.

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Entry point to Bhutan.

I had done the reservation in advance through MMT and also had contacted an agent in advance to help us through the Immigration process. The day being Monday and the time being post Durga Puja, I was expecting heavy rush at the immigration office at Phuentsholing. By the time we reached the Immigration office, it was already lunch time so we decided to finish lunch as we all were feeling damn hungry. We went to Zmorky Restaurant, just opposite to the immigration office and ordered some Bhutanese Red Rice and Ema Datsi and Kewa Datsi. Aditri, my daughter and the youngest member of the group was in no mood to taste the Bhutanese Cuisine, so ordered some noodles for her. The food was awesome. By now we were already feeling the difference. The Jaigaon side being so noisy but just a few meters away we were standing at a place which was so calm and quiet, people were all crossing the roads through the designated ZEBRA crossings, which we find very difficult to include in our daily habit. I just spotted the rate of petrol at the adjacent petrol pump and was shocked to see that Bhutan which is a dependent economy, offering Petrol at 63 Rs. In spite of the fact that they import Petrol from us.

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Immigration Office at Phuentsholing.

Ooops I need to take the vehicle permit before that, but by the time RST Phuentsholing was already closed for business so I planned to obtain the vehicle permit next day at the earliest and proceed towards Thimphu.

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RST Office, Phuentsholing.

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Some useful info.


So the next main job was to obtain Bhutanese SIM card and without further delay I got myself the Tashi SIM with added Data from the Tashi centre, which was just at the back side of our hotel. I was eager to visit the nearby Karbandi Monastery during the sunset time but the plan ultimately did not come through and instead we explored Phuentsholing town in the evening.

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It's a different world.

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The Bhutan Gate.


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Phuentsholing streets at evening. No traffic light, yet no violation of traffic rules.

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The iconic Kizom Cafe. A must visit place at Phuentsholing.


Day 4: Phuentsholing to Thimphu


I was at the RST Office by 9 A.M and got the vehicle permit within 15 minutes. Now we are officially permitted to explore Bhutan. We started off for Thimphu by 11 A.M and as the journey was progressing, my excitement level was rising as this was my first hill drive, Got our documents stamped at the first check post which is roughly 5 Kms from Phuentsholing. The road was becoming scenic as we were gaining heights. The roads are very good. In between tanked up my Nexon at Gedu. Second document verification at Chukha was also completed without any hassle and soon after that we had a brief stopover at Dantek canteen for lunch. This place offers some beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.

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View from the Dantek canteen.

Our further journey till Thimphu was very comfortable and smooth.

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Somewhere on the road.

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It was getting dark while we reached Chuzom and by the time we reached our hotel, the whole Thimphu city was lit up and looking awesome.

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At Chuzom.

Throughout the journey from Phuentsholing, I relied upon Andriod Auto which was working flawless and it didn’t disappoint me this time too. Google nicely guided me through the lams or lanes of Thimphu city to my Hotel. I had made reservation at Hotel Bhutan through MMT. The hotel is located very close to the Immigration Office at Thimphu.

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Our hotel at Thimphu.

Check-in process was very smooth which is kind of unexpected in India. We wanted to explore the Iconic Clock Tower Square so without wasting any time just kept our luggage at room and drove down to the Clock Tower Square. It was getting late and cold and the shops were bringing the shutters down. We found a nice restaurant named “The Rice Bowl” and finished our dinner with some sumptuous Bhutanese cuisine. The Samu Datsi was out of the world.

Day 5: Thimphu Local Tour

Next morning I woke up with some stunning view from the window. Just after breakfast proceeded towards the Immigration office to get our stay extended and get the entry permit for Punakha and Phobjikha. It was just 5 minutes away from the hotel by walk. All the required formalities were completed within 1 and half hour and now the next job was to obtain the vehicle permit from RST office and got it done by afternoon. The rest of the day was spent by exploring Thimphu city.

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Morning view from the room.

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Must visit place at clock tower square


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@ Clock Tower Square


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Early morning view

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Thimphu Chu


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Buddha Dordenma





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View from Buddha Point


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Road towards BBS Tower.

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Horizon from BBS Tower view point.





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Tashichho Dzong at night

Day 6: Thimphu to Phobjikha valley


Considering the distance from Thimphu to Phobjikha valley, I decided to start a bit late from Thimphu. Got up early in the morning as usual and went for a walk to explore the neighborhood. Throughout the walk, experienced some awesome morning views and clicked some photos. We started for Phobjikha at 11 A.M and soon after crossing the Thimphu city joined the highway. The road I must say is well maintained and smooth. It’s a sin if I don’t mention about the beautiful Dochula Pass. Often a violent history and dark times encourage people to create something inspiring and beautiful, and this is exactly what the people of Bhutan did. They created Dochula Pass, Bhutan in honor of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who died in a 2003 military operation.

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Chortens at Dochula Pass.



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Icons don't blend in when they are born to stand out.

to be continued....
 

sujoy76

New Member
continued from previous thread......

On a clear sunny day the pass offers panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges but I was not so lucky to witness the beauty as it was cloudy.

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Horizon from Dochula

After spending almost an hour we proceeded further towards Punakha and crossed Punakha on our way to Phobjikha valley. In between witnessed some rain and full-fledged rainbow thereafter.

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Beautiful roads towards Punakha.

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Wangdue Podrang Dzong and Puna Tsang Chu enroute Phobjikha after crossing Punakha.

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Rain and rainbow enroute Phobjikha.


One must take a sharp U turn from the Bumthang – Ura highway to proceed towards Phobjikha valley. This road is comparatively narrow and the climb is steep. Two vehicles crossing each other on this stretch can be tricky at times. Gradually the Gangtey valley became visible as I drove further. My plan was to visit the Gangtey Monastery first and then Phobjikha. It was twilight when we reached Gangtey Monastery and all of us were spellbound after seeing the beautiful landscape. It seemed like someone must have painted them nicely on a canvas.

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Gangtey Goempa.

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Beautiful gangtey valley.

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After exploring the monastery, we proceeded towards our hotel in Phobjikha. It was already dark by the time we left Gangtey monastery. The road to Phobjikha is not very good and it being dark, at times it was getting difficult to negotiate. Our reservation for the day was done at Kichu Resorts and while following Google maps I missed a right turn and instead landed at the Black Necked Crane Visitor centre. Rectified the mistake in no time and checked in to our hotel 6 in the evening. Kichu Resorts is a new property and nicely maintained. As it was already dark and the outside the temp. Was hovering around 1 -2 Degree C, we chose not to venture out and settled for the day in our rooms after having some delicious snacks and dinner thereafter. Next morning our plan was to do a nature trail and visit the Black necked Crane visitor centre on our way to Punakha.


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Kichu resorts, Phobjikha.


Day 7: Phobjikha valley to Punakha


The morning greeted us with some mesmerizing view from the resort balcony. For one moment I thought “God wish I could stay here permanently.” One just can’t take his eyes off the beautiful landscape. The hamlet was gradually waking up. The experience of the nature walk was out of the world.

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Beautiful view of the valley in the morning.

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It's school time.


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Now it was time to bid adieu to Phobjikha and after completing all the formalities for the morning we checked out from Kichu Resorts with a promise of coming back again, I made to myself. Visited the Black Necked Crane Visitor Centre and proceeded towards Punakha.

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It was the same road which I had taken the previous day.
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Snow capped peaks

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Enroute Punakha






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Reservation was done through Bhutan Bookings. The hotel is located a bit away from the Punakha City but it offered stunning view of the valley and the river. After keeping our luggage we left for the Punakha Dzong but couldn’t enter it for the day as the ticket issuing time was already passed.



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Hotel Vara, Lobesa.

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Punakha Dzong at Sundown.


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So explored the nearby places and waited for the lights to come up. Once it was dark and the lights were on the Dzong offered altogether a different look. Returned back to the hotel after spending some quality time at the Dzong.

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Day 8: Punakha to Paro


As usual the urge of viewing the early rays of the sun on the mountains didn’t let me sleep for long and I woke up very early and looked through the window and I must say the view didn’t disappoint me. The novice photographer within me was very eager to capture each and everything through the lenses.

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Punakha valley from the hotel.



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Lord Buddha temple inside Punakha Dzong

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The Bodhi tree; Grey & Green

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The Nag Yul Bum Temple adjascent to the Dzong. It houses the original volume of the Kanjur, which is the golden holy book of the Drupka School of Thought.


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Famous suspension bridge at Punakha.


We decided to skip the plan for Chimi Lakhang and proceeded straight to Paro.

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Creating memories.

From Chuzom the beautiful Paro Chu accompanied us almost throughout our drive till our hotel. I had booked out stay at the Golden Resorts and Spa through MMT. This resort is around 6 Kms away from the Paro city and very near to the famous Taktsang Monastery aka Tigers Nest. The monastery was visible from the balcony of my room. Next day our plan was to visit the monastery.

Day 9: Taktsang Monastery trek

Early part of the morning was spent in experiencing the sunrise and capturing it through lense.

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Our plan was to reach the starting point of the trek as early as possible and likewise we stuffed our tummies with aloo parathas and proceeded for the trek. We carried some snacks and dry fruits along us for the trek. As my five years old daughter was also going to trek the whole stretch with us, I was bit nervous about her and planned to hire a pony but the kid insisted upon trekking all the way up on her own.

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Starting point of the trek.

There trekking path is tricky and it demands you to be fit, if not the fittest. Saw may people grasping for breath in between but the fact that everyone who was trekking was determined to complete it and visit the sacred monastery. Really admiring. I even saw a couple who might be in their 70s were trekking along with us.

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After trekking for almost 2 hrs, we reached the cafeteria and that means we might have already covered 65-70% of the trek. My daughter didn’t show any sign of fatigue till now and she was all busy running around. We spent 30 mins at the cafeteria, refueled ourselves, completed the bio breaks and resumed the trek.

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At the cafeteria

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No sign of fatigue


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View of the monastery from cafeteria



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Some energy.

The route after the cafeteria is more steep compared to the route till the café and one needs real stamina to trek the remaining part. Now I understood why many people at the café were talking about returning back but we were all for completing the whole trek and finally we reached the point from where the stairs start and one can get the prominent view of Tigers Nest.

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Final push towards the monastery



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We entered the monastery at around 1 P.M. here one need to submit cameras, mobile phones, and other valuables. After doing the formalities we were greeted by a lady guide who explained everything about the monastery to us. All the fatigue of the trek vanished instantly once we entered the sacred monastery. After spending some quality time at the monastery, we started our journey back to the base point.

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sujoy76

New Member
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Blue poppy, national flower of Bhutan

I must say the return trek is not so easy and it also demands strength and stamina. Although it takes lesser time but one can’t take things easy. It took all of us 6 hrs to complete the whole trek and my daughter successfully completed this. She deserved a treat on that day. Now we all were feeling a hungry and planned to venture into the city instead of getting back to our hotel. As decided drove to Paro City and started looking for a good restaurant to fill out empty stomach. We checked into Sonam Toppel Hotel and Restaurant and ordered some momo’s. Man I must say those were the best momo’s I have ever had. You can’t keep the ladies away from shopping and in spite of being damn tired the female gang (my wife Sharmila and my friend’s better half Moni) was ready to explore the market and drill holes in our pockets. The evening was spent nicely and we went to bed with satisfaction of completing the trek to Tigers Nest. Next days my plan was to drive to Chele la. This trip being my first hill drive, driving up to Chele la was kind of an achievement for me which I wanted to do at any cost.

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Paro during evening hours.

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Day 10: Chele La and exploring Paro.

Got up early in the morning but the day was cloudy. I saw clouds covering the hills. After some time even the Tigers Nest was also not visible. After searching through lot of you tube videos, I knew that on a clear sunny day one can see the snowcapped peaks of the mountains from Chele la. Started for Chele la around 10 A.M. I was feeling bit nervous as many you tube videos have termed Chele la drive to be tricky and the road to be dangerous. Soon after leaving the Bondey – Haa highway for Chele la, the road became narrow but the surface was good. The road offers stunning view of the lush valleys, pine and rhododendron forest. The route is almost entirely covered in the forest. The more proceeded through the road, the nervousness gradually converted into confidence and finally the sight of the prayer flags of Chele la greeted me. Soon I was atop the Land of Thunder Dragon. Sense of accomplishment can’t be expressed in words.

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Prayer flags indicating the arrival at Chele la.



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It was very windy on top of the pass. The weather god was not kind to me and the mountain peaks remained covered under the cloud. Can’t help. Soon it was time to say good bye to Chele la and drive down to Paro City. En route to the city spent some time at the Paro View point and later visited the Paro Dzong and adjoining museum. This was the last day of our trip so every one of us were feeling bit sad. The good time really passed off so quickly. It was time to pack our stuffs again and get ready for the return journey.

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Horizon from Paro view point.



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Paro Chu

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Paro Dzong at night

Day 11: Time to return back.


Today our plan was to halt at Jaldapara for the night. So finished our breakfast and checked out of the hotel by 9.30.

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One last time.

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Parting shot.



The day was going to be a hectic one as driving from Paro to Phuentsholing was going to take almost 6 hrs and then I had to negotiate the Jaigaon traffic en route Jaldapara. The drive as usual was beautiful but the joy was missing as it was time to come back and get back to our real life. After crossing Gedu the weather suddenly deteriorated and all of a sudden the whole road was covered with cloud. The visibility was reduced drastically and it was really getting tough driving in that condition. It was altogether a great experience driving through the clouds.

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We reached Phuentsholing by 4.30 P.M and allowed 1 hr time to the lady gang for their shopping. We crossed Bhutan gate around 6 P.M and entered the busy Jaigaon area with unruly traffic. Reached Jaldapara Eco Stay by 8 P.M. This property was booked through OYO Rooms and it is very close to Jaldapara Reserve Forest.

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We spent the next two days at Jaldapara Eco Resort. This property is well maintained and in the lap of nature. Our plan of doing a safari at Jaldapara reserve Forest could not materialize. We just spent the time there and Proceeded towards Kolkata on 24th October. Reached Kolkata on 26th October after spending 25th at Malda at a friend’s place.

Few Observations:

Hyundai and Kia Motors seem to be the most favoured brands of the Bhutanese people. Most of the cars I noticed in Bhutan were either Hyundai Creta or Kia Sportage. TATA motors don’t seem to have any foothold in Bhutan. I don’t know why. Presences of Maruti cars are negligible.
People are very punctual, friendly and helpful.

The most important observation is about the coverage of Tashi Cell. It’s 4G coverage is superb without a single drop in signal. Throughout my journey in Bhutan I relied upon the Android Auto through the Tashi Cell and it didn’t let me down, not for a single moment. Turn by turn the navigation through the mountains was accurate. So people visiting Bhutan with car should not worry about the navigation and need not download offline maps.
 

AR Ardent Rambler

Well-Known Member
Thank you Sujoy76 for this wonderful travelogue of road trip across Bhutan. Interesting narration with nice captures. I have not done the same. How much did this road trip cost?
 

sujoy76

New Member
Thank you Sujoy76 for this wonderful travelogue of road trip across Bhutan. Interesting narration with nice captures. I have not done the same. How much did this road trip cost?
Thank you for the comment. To be frank i've forgotten the total cost of the roadtrip but i guess it was roughly around 60K for my family which includes two adult and one kid, may be more or less by 5K. As we were two families to the fuel cost was shared equally.
 

skysat2005

Super User
Beautifully presented log, Sujoy.
The pictures are very beautiful and are speaking for themselves.
Going Bhutan would be different now that they have imposed minimum per day charge on Indian tourist as well.
 

Irfan Ahmad

New Member
Good travelogue with scenic elaborations and for sure will motivate other members to plan a Bhutan trip. Really a mesmerizing travelogue.
 

jeetcp

Mediocre me
Nexon is among the Top of my favorite cars. Probably the top most.
I liked the log.

Have seen a travelogues after months. Felt refreshing.
 
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