Yes, entering Bhutan from India requires a change of gears in many ways. Even though the towns of Jaigaon (India) and Puentsholing (Bhutan) are glued together and locals walk happily back and forth through a big gate, for us, they are two different worlds in many ways.
After two months of traveling independently through India using exclusively public transportation, our Bhutanese guide and driver pick us up at the border in their traditional dresses (the Bhutanese government requires you to sign up with a tour operator, no independent traveling is allowed).
Our vehicle, an immaculate Hyundai, seems huge (in India they would fit at least another 7 people, and only then the car would move to get some gas first) . When we stop for a break our Bhutanese guide and driver politely open the door for us.
Once we get to a hotel, the driver honks and someone hurries out and insists to carry our heavy, suddenly dirty looking backpacks to our rooms. In India we would have walked for an hour with our backpacks, haunted by millions of rickshaws drivers looking for a small commission, until finding an acceptable hotel.
In Bhutan dinner is served at the hotel, the large silver recipients of a buffet are awaiting the tourist. The food is correct, tasteless and boring (even the American says “I am ready to be more adventurous”). In India we go to a small restaurant, order the freshly made bread with something spicy and learn from locals how to eat with no cutlery.
In Bhutan tourists exclusively eat with other tourists, some restaurants separate between local customers and tourists ( “it’s a better experience for the tourists”, a waiter tells me while I am thinking why on earth?).
The average tourist in Bhutan is somewhat older than us, loves to talk about his grandchildren and which son he will spend Christmas with, travels in larger groups, he also wears ridiculously expensive outdoor clothes to ensure he looks agile and dynamic and has the most amazing camera with all the necessary accessories. In India the average tourist is just out of college, ready to have the time of his life, with loose comfy clothes, wanting to do a little bit of meditation and just hanging in there.
In Bhutan the day is well planned, always with a visit to some monastery and never off the tourist route. In India the days just unfold spontaneously.
The landscape in Bhutan is beautiful, snow-capped mountains, gorgeous valleys, cute houses, friendly people, etc. But after 6 days of lots of space in the car, opening doors and bows, silver buffet recipients, French fries, pre-heated hotel rooms, grey-haired fellow travelers and rigid days, we are ready to leave this bubble. Maybe Nepal will require another change of gears, who knows?