Better Bhutan

Michael Loved Bhutan

The thrill starts before you even land. As the plane approaches Paro, you get an awesome view of the snow-capped peaks along Bhutan's northern border. Then the plane banks sharply left over the mountain, and Paro valley (and the airport runway) is suddenly beneath you. The plane makes a sharp descent down into the valley, then a U-turn to bring it back and down onto the runway. One of the most spectacular andbreath-taking landings you will experience.

My guide (Karma) and driver (Tenzin) were waiting for me, and offered me a "tashi khaddar", the white scarf given as a traditional greeting. They drove me first to a view-point overlooking the town to orient myself, then to Paro Dzong. (Dzongs are ancient fortresses around which most Bhutanese towns grew.) From there it was a short walk up to the National Museum, which covers a broad spectrum of topics and is a good general introduction to Bhutan. Then to my hotel, Tashi Namgay, (very good) for my first night.

The next morning, we headed for Thimphu, the capital. Enroute, we stopped at Tachogang Temple with its prayer flag-festooned iron-bridge. Prayer flags of all different sizes, shapes and colors are found everywhere in Bhutan. Then over the pass (my first encounter with yaks) and into Thimphu. There are no traffic lights anywhere in Bhutan, but Thimphu does have a traffic policeman (in an ornate "birdcage") at the main intersection! Sightseeing included Kuensel Phodrang (the giant Buddha statue) overlooking the town, Changangkha Lhakhang (oldest temple in Thimphu) and the King's Memorial Chorten. Late afternoon visited Thimphu Dzong, which serves as the seat of government.

The next day, still in Thimphu, visits to a paper factory, the Takin zoo (the takin is the national animal), Heritage museum (which incorporated an ancient traditional dwelling), and most interesting of all... the School for Arts and Crafts, where students are taught handicrafts including woodcarving, sculpture, painting, embroidery, etc.

My two nights in Thimphu were at Hotel Pedling, conveniently centrally located, but with one drawback... the dogs who convene to howl at 1am! It is against Buddhist practice to harm any living creature, so the dogs are given free license. My guide offered a positive excuse... that the dogs howl at night to keep the demons away. Maybe that's why all the dogs sleep in the daytime!!!

Michael Little
New Jersey, USA

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