Novel Experiences, Amazing Pictures, Wonderful Memories
We explored Bhutan with the Better Bhutan team in late September 2017 and spent an adventurous ten days traveling through central Bhutan.
We came to Bhutan via Delhi, so managed to fit in a short trip to the Taj Mahal at Agra before the short flight to Paro. The flight is, like most things linked to Bhutan, pretty unique, we flew business class and in the hour long flight had a drink and three course meal served impeccably as we took in spectacular views of Mount Everest and the rapid decent to the international airport at Paro.
Our guide Yeshey and Driver Kuenga (Ali Baba) met us at the airport and we were soon adapting to life in Bhutan with the ever present placid sleeping dogs (who play at night!), the chilli cheese and rice with every meal and the unusual butter tea.
Our ten day adventure took us from Paro to the capital Thimphu, and the largest seated Buddha in Asia, then onto the fertile Bumthang valley.
Along the way we visited centuries old monasteries where we were often the only tourists being shown ancient statues and paintings after one of the monks unlocked the temple for us. We saw lots of wildlife including monkeys, foxes, yaks and even a brown cobra (from a safe distance!).
The trip was peppered with novel experiences including a hot stone bath in the valley of the black cranes, micro-brewery, craft school and hand loom visits and a traditional homestay meal, and our guide and driver made us feel safe as well as entertained us as we exchanged teaching each other songs on the longer drives across the mountains.
Bhutan is still a relatively under-developed tourist sector, despite the cost. The road infrastructure is pretty poor, hotels are relatively basic and retro in styling and fittings and the food is pretty similar in most restaurants. The dogs are safe and well cared for, but they are noisy at night so best to take some ear plugs!
That being said it is a truly unique holiday experience, the people are genuine, warm and the history and natural beauty is phenomenal. Traveling with Better Bhutan is probably best explained through our experience in Paro on our second day. We climbed the 3hrs up steep tracks through woodland and along cliff faces to the Eagles Nest Monastery and it was one of the hardest physical activities we have ever done, but it was totally worth it. The views from the top were amazing and along the way we stopped frequently and Yeshey balanced the pace well to take into account our less than perfect fitness levels. On the way down it rained heavily and the tracks became tretcherous but each time we slipped and looked like we would fall, Yeshey was there to offer an arm, lay down some dry ferns or show us where to step to keep us safe. We reached the bottom smiling and laughing and met by the ever cheerful Ali Baba with a spotless car and fresh bottles of water.
We had a great trip and have come home with amazing pictures and wonderful memories.
Justin & Mark Varney-Bennett
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