Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

As Phuentsholing opened yesterday, many rushed to enter the new pedestrian terminal. There was curiosity and excitement in the faces of the visitors.

Among the visitors from across the border was a septuagenarian couple from Delhi, India. They were the first regional tourists who entered the country from Phuentsholing’s pedestrian terminal yesterday.

After a smooth entry, officials welcomed the couple with khadars and gifts and led them to the documentation section.

Mohinder Kumar Rakheja, 74, and Guddi Rakheja, 75, had hotel bookings in Paro from September 21. Not being able to enter the country as planned, they waited in Jaigaon for the gate to open.

The couple will stay in Bhutan for six days. They will also be celebrating their 48th marriage anniversary in Bhutan on September 25.

American visitors enter via Phuentsholing

Guddi Rakheja, a retired teacher, said she travelled to many places across the world “but Bhutan was in my dream list for a long time. We have finally come to beautiful places in Bhutan.” The couple’s children, a son and a daughter, live in the UK and the USA. They are eager to come to Bhutan, Mohinder Kumar said. “They couldn’t make it this time but they will someday.”

After the immigration documentation, there was an issue with the couple’s hotel reservation in Paro. Immigration officials called and arranged another hotel for them.

A taxi was also arranged for the couple.

Another Indian tourist, Dharmendra Gulwani, a government employee from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India said he has come to Bhutan to explore Buddhism.

“I do spiritual practice and meditation. So I was eagerly waiting for the borders to open,” he said.

Dharmendra said he will stay in Bhutan for three days and visit Thimphu and Paro. He will also visit Paro Taktshang.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering graced the opening of the pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing yesterday.

International border gates opened after 30 months after it was closed on March 23, 2020 as a measure to control Covid-19.

Along with the border gate in Phuentsholing, international borders in Samtse, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar were also closed. All the borders opened yesterday.

Hundreds of people from both Phuentsholing and Jaigaon entered and exited the pedestrian terminal. The two peoples welcomed one another with khadars and sweets with loud goodwill friendship slogans.

International tourists also entered the country from Phuentsholing yesterday.

One of them, Jared, 45 from Virginia, USA, paid the new SDF of USD 200.

“I visited Nepal and loved it. Then I learned about Bhutan. I heard Bhutan is a very clean country,” he said, adding that he wanted to come to Bhutan earlier but couldn’t as the border was closed. “It is very clean here. I loved the hospitality. It is incredibly beautiful.” Jared said he would love to see temples and monasteries while in Bhutan.

About the new SDF, Jared said the rest of the world is going through similar tourism policy changes. “Prices are increasing. The pandemic has affected all countries across the globe. And for Bhutan, it really makes sense because it is incredibly beautiful. It is worth paying.”

His friend, John Dunn, who is also from Virginia, said they had planned and booked their trip to Bhutan in January 2020 but couldn’t make it due to the pandemic.

“Bhutan is a fascinating destination. I have watched YouTube videos about the country and learned more about it,” he said.