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About Phuntsholing

Phuentsholing is a border town in southern Bhutan, and is the administrative seat (dzongkhag thromde) of Chukha District. The town occupies parts of both Phuentsholing Gewog and Sampheling Gewog. Phuentsholing lies opposite the Indian town of Jaigaon, and cross-border trade has resulted in a booming local economy. For example, the town serves as headquarters for the Bank of Bhutan.In 2005, Phuentsholing had a population of 20,537.

Phuntsholing is located at the foothills of Himalayas, it serves as a convenient entry/exit points and the main trading zone for Bhutanese with other neighboring countries of South Asia. Visitors can reach Phuntsholing by road from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Bagdora airport in West Bengal. Phuntsholing is a boundary and commercial centre on the northern edge of the Indian plains and south of Thimphu. It takes about six hours by drive to reach Phuntsholing from Paro and Thimphu.

History of Phuentsholing

On April 5, 1964, reformist Prime Minister Jigme Dorji was assassinated in Phuntsholing by monarchist cadres as the king lay ill in Switzerland. The Dorji family was subsequently put under close watch.

Tourist Attractions in Phuntsholing

Zangdo Pelri - Zangdo Pelri is situated in the centre of Phuntsholing town, it represents the abode of Guru Rimpoche. On the ground level there are statues of Guru and his eight manifestations and the wall is covered with paintings of Buddha's life. On the second floor it contains eight Bodhisattvas and statues of Avalokiteshwara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal while on the top floor the main statue is of Buddha Amitabha.

Kharbandi Gompa - Kharbandi Gompa  was founded in 1967 by the Royal Grandmother. The monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha and statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rimpoche.

Characteristics of Phuntsholing

Phuntsholing is uniquely more urban than other Bhutanese towns, having absorbed the neighboring culture, but distinctly far more quiet and orderly than its neighbor. Simply looking at a satellite photo, Jaigaon is packed with small buildings whereas Phuntsholing is dominated by larger structures placed in rows. Phuntsholing also hosts Bhutan's housing projects for Bhutanese refugees.As the majority of goods traded go into Bhutan, and as it hosts the most accessible Indian marketplace to Bhutan, Jaigaon is much larger and receives far more visitors.

There is a stark gap in the culture across the border, which is separated by a long wall with a single Bhutanese gate. Locals can sometimes even cross without being asked for papers, but visitors without an Indian passport will need a visa presented by a hired registered tour guide; even one's Indian Voter ID card will suffice within the town of Phuntsholing, but beyond that one needs the above mentioned documents. The gate is manned by Bhutanese Army guards. The terrain inclines soon after the gate.

The border evidently separates two very different peoples and cultures. Jaigaon is busy and noisy, similar to many other West Bengal centers of commerce, albeit with many conspicuous Bhutanese shoppers.  

How to Reach Phuntsholing

Approachable only by road, the city is linked to major Indian Railways node, NJP (New Jalpaiguri) being the biggest and major junction. Apart from that, there are also stations at HSA (Hasimara) and NOQ (New Alipurduar) Jn, the former being the most nearest railway station (only 18 km from Phuntsholing). From the northern towns of West Bengal, one has to take a bus from any of the local bus terminals to Phuentsholing. Buses are run both by travel Indian and Bhutanese government operators. Once at Phuntsholing, the Lateral Road gives travelers access to the rest of Bhutan.

Road to Thimphu
From almost anywhere in the city, one can see the road to Thimphu snaking up the hillside, and in the evening it is easy to see the headlights of distant vehicles heading towards the capital. Opposite the big ground PSA is the road that links rest of cities of Bhutan. The Lateral Road, Bhutan's main highway, begins in Phuntsholing and winds some 557 kilometres (346 mi) to Trashigang in the east.



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