Samdrup Jongkar- Silk Road to Yellow Town

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Background

Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the southeastern part of Bhutan and it borders with Tashigang to the north and Pemagatshel to the west. It is an important gateway into eastern Bhutan. Samdrup Jongkhar plays historic and geographic importance in the history of our forefathers.

People from Mongar, Lhuntse, Tashiyang, Tashiyangtse and Pemagatsel would walk to Samdrup Jongkhar ‘Gudama‘ to buy a bag of salt and other essential iteams. Some old folks recall of the local villagers heading down south in groups like people going for a yatra.

Decades ago Samdrup Jongkhar was the major business centre for the merchants from the five eastern region, weavers and Sherabtse college goers.  

Weaver Asset

Only rich would ride ponies while rest would walk under the full moonlight taking the now known as the ‘Salt route’. The weavers from the east would come to Samdrup Jongkar to trade their exclusively woven Kira. Bhutanese from other parts of the kingdom would also come to Samdrup Jongkhar for business purposes.

Daranga Mela Today

Khengpa from central (Zhemgang) would travel to Samdrup Jongkhar to buy silk in the exchange with best bamboo woven baskets.  Basically, Samdrup Jongkhar was a great Business town and a meet point for the far-flung region.

Bamboo Products

Today with the completion of Gyelposhing-Ngamlam highway once a bustling business hub has now turned to a sleeping urban town. After recently traveling to Samdrup Jongkhar, my perception of the district has changed in a big way.

Heart of the SJ town

Although little is explored for the aspiring traveller’s, I see great potential and resources in Samdrup Jongkhar to once again promote SJ as a tourist destionation for regional and local tourists. Samdrup Jongkhar can offer spiritual & wellness tour, eco-tour and we could even explore on promoting dark tourism.

‘Dark tourism’ refers to tourism involving travel to places historically associated with tragedy. Battle of Dewangiri site in Dewathang can be a great plot to learn about the history of Bhutan.

THINGS TO DO

Chokyi Gyatso Institute (Jamyang Khenytse Lhakhang)

Chokyi Gyatso Institute

The Shedra is outstanding in its commitment to the environment and the community through its collaboration with Lhomon Education (LME) and the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI). The monastery is one of the first to declare a Zero Waste policy, encouraging the community to reconsider the habit of offering packaged biscuits and snacks.

The young monks at the shedra are participating in a pilot project to develop alternative, holistic curricula, integrating art and the environment into the classroom. The students are taught the holistic curriculum, introducing them to the core concepts of the Dharma through interactive play, music and arts.

The monastery is located on hilltop. It is 18KM away from Samdrup Jongkhar town.  If you take a share taxi till Dewanthang it will cost Nu. 100 per head. There is also city bus that ply to Dewathang at 7 A.M and 4 P.M. 

Salt route trek

Ap Dorji from Radhi shares fond memories of salt route trek

Salt route trek was the ancient popular trek among Sharshops. Salt route trek is derived from the purpose the trek served prior to the construction of the national highway from Tashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar.

The people from eastern districts used to travel via this ‘salt route’ to take sat and silk from the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. ‘Gudhama’ was a popular commercial hub for both Bhutanese Tsanglas  & Bodos.

The 5 days trek will take you through pristine broad leaved and pine forests with spectacular views of villages and mountains.

Zangdopelri

The three-storied stupa is adorned with the work of the master Bhutanese craftsmen. Its intricate frescos and beautiful statues are truly a sight to behold. Due to its religious significance and convenient location, Zangdopelri is at the heart of the spiritual lives of the people of this area.

With the 5th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, the vicinity around the Zangthopelri looks extraordinarily beautiful.

Visit ‘Dewathang’ & The site of Battle of Dewangiri


Dewathang literally means “flat area of happiness”. Dewathang is 18km away from Samdrup Jongkhar. Dewathang is significant due to historical events associated with the area during British rule in India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Giant Guru Statue en route Dewathang

It was in Dewathang wherein 1884 the last battle with the British was fought. Jigme Namgyal, the father of the first king of Bhutan who led the Bhutanese troops to put up a strong resistance against the British though he ultimately signed the treaty of Sinchula with British in 1865.

Oldest Cinema Hall & Shop

Oldest movie cinema

Samdrup Jongkhar hosts the oldest cinema hall in the country that was popular among the Bhutanese & Assamese from across the border to watch the Bollywood films

However today the cinema hall is used as the stores for some shops. In between pin the oldest shop near the Mani Lhakhang in the heart of the town. Moth family first established the business in 1962 till this date.  

Memorial Well

Opposite to the roundabout towards the main town will see traffic house harbouring a ‘well’. The well is not any ordinary water tank. That is the only Well in Samdrup Jongkhar town dates back to our forefathers time.

There is a beautiful story behind the well. It is actually the ‘Memorial Well’ built by Chabil Das Moth in 1962. The father of Shiv Kumar Moth, the shopkeeper that own the oldest shop in SJ town.

Their Majesties at the Well . PC His Majesties Facebook page

Back then the local residence of Samdrup Jongkhar faced water shortage especially during the monsoon season thus as a charity to the community late Chabil Das Moth dug 12-meter feet well in the early 1960s.

Even today during monsoon season some local people fetch water from the Well. Infact some local people consider the water as ‘drup chu’.

Visit Tashi Gongphel Diary Farm

Tashi Gongphel Diary Farm breeds one of the most expensive cow namely ‘Holstein Cattle’ in Dewanthang. Holstein cattle can produce 22 litres of milk every day.  Mr Kharka, the silver medal recipient from His Majesty the King, established the farm in 1992. 

Holstein Cattle

The farm is open to visitors throughout the day. The visit to 10-acre farm will not only educate you about animal raring but it can be a great recreational activity. The farm grow mangoes and other vegetables. The farm is located on the way to JNPC, Dewathang.

Birding Safari

The lowland forest are remarkably rich and diverse with varieties of birds. Target species include the rare Dark-rumped Swift, Pied Falconet, Jungle Babbler, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Wreathed and Great Hornbill and Puff-throated Babbler.

Nuthatch

As you head further north towards through the forested foothills towards the Morong, the mid-altitude broad-leaved forest is home to extremely special, Beautiful Nuthatch. Other interesting species you might encounter include Black-faced Warbler, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Striated Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Sibia, Silver-eared Mesia and Rufous-necked Hornbill to name a few.

Visit Local Souviner Shop

Buying local products is a powerful way to boosting community agriculture thus contributing to the local wealth.

Local produce at Vegetable Market

If you are looking to buy some authentic local products visit Kantali Hut, which is located inside the vegetable market. The shop also sells goods made by Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative like baskets and many more. 

Nightlife

An active nightlife culture is found in Samdrup Jongkar downtown. Today there are two Karaokes and two Drayang. Drayang is a club where there are live performances. There is no discotheque/ clubs in Samdrup Jongkar.

Thank You Drayang

A visit to the above mentioned places is guaranteed to give the visitor a delightful night in small town of Samdrup Jongkhar till midnight.

FUN FACTS

Yellow Buildings: Most of the building /new structure are painted with ginger yellow painting.

SJ Town

Names of hotels/restaurants/Bar: S/J town is known in Bhutan for having some of the funniest names for restaurants, hotels & bar.

CLIMATE

Samdrup Jongkhar district falls within the subtropical belt and lies in the elevation of 200mts-3500mts.  Samdrup Jongkhar is hot & humid in summer and dry in winter.

TIPS FOR TOURIST

International Tourists

When crossing the Samdrup Jongkhar Bhutan gate, you will need to present your passport and visa on arrival letter that your tourist company would have arranged.  Your guide and driver will meet you at the border.

Regional Tourists

Regional tourists are allowed to enter Samdrup Jongkhar within the municipal area without a permit. However, if you wish to travel farther to the east, you will need to process for a ‘route permit’ from Phuentsholing.

Regional tourists are allowed to stay overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar.

HOW TO GET THERE (Travel Route)

Local Bhutanese:

Thimphu-Pling-IndianHighway- Samdrup Jongkhar

Gelephu- Indian Highway-Samdrup Jongkhar

Paro-Gelephu (on air)-indian highway-Samdrup Jongkhar

Tourists

Bkk- Guwahati- Samdrup Jongkhar

Australia- Singapore- Guwahati-Samdrup Jongkhar

WHERE TO STAY

Twin room at Kuenjong Hotel

There are numerous hotels in Samdrup Jongkhar. Contact Tashi Gasel Lodge, Menjong Hotel, Mountain Hotel and Kuenjung Hotel @17691818 for the accommodation.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Article are very good information for our youth and I m happy that our bhutanese life you is working very hard in promoting our country as well as culture.

  2. Hello! I am planning to travel solo this month to Bhutan from Wedt bengal. This article helps 🙂 Thanks much!

  3. Tshering,
    Thank you for a very nice and informative website.
    I and my wife plan to drive to Bhutan from the south of India and spend over two weeks. We plan to enter from Phuentsholing and exit from Sandrup Jongkar. We would like to visit some less traveled regions. Please let me know of places we can visit during our stay in Bhutan.

    Looking forward to some interesting travel in Bhutan.

    Thanks and regards

    Saji

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