An early morning alarm got us moving and heading down to the hotel lobby, bags in hand to catch our 6 am transport to the airport. Following check in and navigating the myriad steps involved in clearing Nepalese airport security, we made it to our gate for our flight to Paro, Bhutan. Some tips if you are flying Druk air Internationally. The economy counters are crowded: a lot of time can be saved if you are traveling in a group or as a couple by getting in the business class line up. Once you get there have a spokesperson say you are traveling in a group and have them hand all the passports to the check in agent. Have the spokespersons passport on top. The agent will then keep the passport on top and hand the rest back, they will then check you in one at a time. They will ask to see your Visa for Bhutan at that point. The next step is past guards at the foot of the escalator leading to the departure gates, then through security and screening, then a final boarding pass check into the departure gate area. Once your flight is called you board a bus and are transported out to your plane on the tarmac.
The plane was full. A totally unexpected pleasure was the incredible Himalaya’s popping up above the clouds. Out flight path took us to 31,000 feet and the view was spectacular! We didn’t have window seats but a lovely young Spanish man in the window seat very kindly offered to take some photos with our phones. The highest peak is our old friend Mt Everest.
After a steep descent and “threading the needle” into Paro we landed easily and disembarked into lovely cool weather and fresh air! Paro airport is lovely, quiet, beautiful buildings, immaculate inside and out.
The valley itself is gorgeous and we look forward to exploring it at the end of our time here. Our Intrepid guide and driver were there to meet us and we had a quick look around Paro before heading for Thimphu.
We exited the valley with a stop along the roadside to view the immense expanse of rice fields where harvesting is underway. Once the rice is cut and dried it is threshed by beating against rocks on plastic sheets. All done by hand. Photos taken, we headed for Thimphu our base for the next two days.
A wonderful surprise was that our group of five who have continued on from the Nepal trip are the only folks on the Bhutan trip- it is lovely to continue traveling with people we already like and enjoy.
Thimphu is the largest city in Bhutan and has the distinction of being both the capital as well as having no traffic lights. It is also the home of the only escalator in Bhutan which was built into a shopping centre. The shopping centre is now closed as people refused to ride the escalotor to access the stores. Our guide told us the story of his first trip to Bangkok where he saw his first escalators. It took him a long time to work up the nerve to get on one.
Noise is a major difference between Bhutan and Nepal. Gone are the millions of motor bikes, beeping horns and the cacophony of engines, beeping, and shouting all enveloped in clouds of dust. Our blood pressure dropped immediately when we exited the plane. Agriculture and livestock contribute to 45% of the country’s income. Tourism is another major contributor. We began our time in the city with an excellent lunch and a photo op in the main square.
Following lunch we began to explore the cultural history of the city and surrounding area with a visit to the Living Museum of Bhutan. The Living Museum is an interesting historical exhibition, including pre-industrial life. Of particular note was the archaic kitchen, masks from the Cham dances characteristically performed during the Tshechu Festival every fall and an archery demonstration. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.
We are now at our hotel which overlooks the city having a rest before a dinner out with our new guide.
Perhaps our goat will make an appearance…