Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chalk and Cheese - goodbye Bhutan, hello India

630am and we already fed, watered, checked out and in the dreaded Omni taxis headed for the border. If ever you wanted to contrast one country with another, just stand at the border between Bhutan and India.

I snap a shot of the early rising sun through tropical trees and look around. Bhutan is pristine. Not a shred of litter, neat and tidy all round. Three policemen keep a watchful gaze on the heavy border gate under a large portico, intricately carved and painted in the traditional Bhutanese style. Their shining boots, crisp dark blue uniforms and white belts are a quiet statement of national pride.

We walk across the border into India - into chaos. Dirt, noise, crowds even at this early hour - it envelops you in an instant. Tony and I reflect that there are at least 1,000 Indians for every Bhutanese - but nothing like the same multiple of country size. And Mike drily reports the observation of a friend that in India there are 800 million people and 600 million toilets. Doesn't take long to figure out the consequences of that one. (To reinforce the point I read later a headline in the India Telegraph that only 50% of the schools in Bengal have a toilet!)

Our Omni drivers this morning seem less loaded than yesterday's but that doesn't stop them driving like lunatics. The roads continue to be little more than dirt tracks. After two bone-shaking hours we arrive at the train station for the long haul 20 hours) to Kolkata.

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