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Three Weeks in Bhutan

Three Weeks in Bhutan

Old Feb 28, 13, 6:14 pm
  #16  
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The next morning we took a little day trip to Haa which is as far west as I went. The Haa valley was only recently open to tourists at that time. There’s not much to the town. But we saw so very picturesque snow on the trip over the pass











My final day in Bhutan was supposed to be the day to climb to the Tiger’s Nest Temple. But I knew there was just no way I was physically up to the climb so we skipped that and just visited some other old temples around Paro.










Jumolhari, Bhutan’s highest peak


I’d have to go back to my book and look up the name of this temple. It is one of the oldest in the country.








Paro Dzong






Me and the guys with our trusty SUV


Paro Dzong



The end. Bhutan is a very interesting place. All of the driving is tiring though even just as a passenger. Ultimately I didn’t fall in love with it like some people do, but it was worth a visit. It’s one of the least developed places I have ever been. If you need big comfy chain hotels, wifi and satellite TV everywhere it’s probably not the place for you.

I recommend two books if you are planning to go. One is the Odyssey guidebook called Bhutan Himalayan Mountain Kingdom by Francoise Pommaret. She has lived in Bhutan a long time. It’s very comprehensive and has a lot of historical info. The other is the memoir called Treasures of the Thunder Dragon A Portrait of Bhutan by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. She is one of the former queens. The 4th king married four sisters. She is one of them and tells the story of her life growing up in a fairly well-to-do family. And then she includes a sort of travelogue of her walks across the country meeting the people after she became queen. It’s a charming book and a very nice read.

And while my guide and I didn't really click I don't hesitate to recomment Keys to Bhutan. They were great about communication with me before the trip figuring out the itinerary and answering all of my questions. www.keystobhutan.com
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Old Mar 1, 13, 2:05 pm
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Wow, breathtaking. Thank you for sharing. Bhutan is high on my list of places I'd like to go. What were your accommodations like? I know if I'm taking my mother we'd stay at the Amans, but if I'm going by myself then I wouldn't care for them... but would hope the basic accomodations are still comfortable!

Also, hope you don't mind me asking but which tour did you do?
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Old Mar 1, 13, 5:44 pm
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As the previous poster said: Wow!
Amazing photos. And the cat photos, Mr. Halfcape always seeks out cats to photograph on our trips. He calls his collection of photos "cats of the world."
Thanks for sharing.
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Old Mar 1, 13, 9:16 pm
  #19  
 
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Great Trip Report...! I was surprised to read that Indian migrant workers go to Bhutan for employment...
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Old Mar 1, 13, 9:35 pm
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Originally Posted by embla View Post
Wow, breathtaking. Thank you for sharing. Bhutan is high on my list of places I'd like to go. What were your accommodations like? I know if I'm taking my mother we'd stay at the Amans, but if I'm going by myself then I wouldn't care for them... but would hope the basic accomodations are still comfortable!

Also, hope you don't mind me asking but which tour did you do?
I'd have to look up the amount. But I paid the standard rate which I think was $240 a day for 20 or 21 days. Then the flights between Bangkok to Paro were an extra $900 or so I think. That was business class though. I think economy was about $300 less.

The accommodations ranged. In Thimphu I stayed at the Kisa Hotel which is fairly nice. They have satellite TV, wifi, and the room was a good size. Breakfast was fairly basic. I ate dinner there as well and they had a pretty good menu in addition to the typical buffet.

In Gangtey the Dewachen hotel was quite nice as well. The room was enormous. Heat in the room came from a woodburning stove which was a typical thing for many hotels. They have some one come and start a fire for you. At this hotel the guy sprayed a ton of kerosene on the wood to get things started which was pretty smelly. I am not a big fan of woodburning since I had some allergy/breathing issues. The room has two twin beds if I recall correctly. They were OK comfort wise. It's a very beautiful hotel though. Once the fire goes out things get pretty cold. So you have a lot of blankets which is cozy. I don't recall the food so I expect is was the typical buffet stuff.

In Jakar I stayed at the Riverview (I think that was the name). The room was a good size. Again they had a wood stove. The decor was a lot of wood paneling so it seemed pretty dark inside. The bathroom had no real separate shower, just and hand held shower thing and a drain in the floor. So you sort of had to be careful about that.

The place in Tang I think I described pretty well above. In Mongar we stayed at the Wangchuck hotel. It was very large right in the middle of town. The room was pretty big and had carpeting. The shower was a little moldy. I think the room I was in had two double beds. There was satellite TV. They have a business center that had OK internet for a fee. You could either use their computer or I think they let you plug the network cable into your laptop. The food was very good and had a nice variety. The buffet offerings changed from day to day. I liked this place quite a bit.

In Trashiyangtse don't remember the name of the hotel. It was quite new at the time. The plumbing in the bathroom was pretty 3rd world. I think they don't have a lot of skilled workers when it comes to building. I seem to recall there was just an open drain in the floor under the sink and a blue plastic pipe that directed water from the sink to the drain but didn't reach it. The food was pretty good although basic. The room was a good size with a big window. I seem to recall that there was a red lightbulb which was kind of odd but maybe it was to keep from attracting bugs.

I think I described Ranjung guest house.

In Punakha I was at a very nice hotel called the Meri Puensum Resort. The rooms are in a number of bungalows that have about 4 rooms in each. My room was quite large and also had two beds (I think they were twins). There was satellite TV. I think for internet there was wifi in the main building that worked OK. The food was fairly basic. The grounds are beautiful with lots of flowers and there's a big outdoor area with sofas under a sort of gazebo with a bar. The place has pretty nice views as well.

In Paro I stayed at Janka Resort which is a little ways out of town. I walked to town and back once and I think it took about 20-30 minutes each way. The room was very large with lots of windows which helped with the paneled walls. The bathroom was enormous. Breakfast was quite good in the usual buffet style. I ate dinner there one night and seem to recall that it was pretty good.

As I noted above there was a lot of sameness to the food in most places. They have buffets for most meals. I got a little tired of it. The better food was definitely at the places in the east.

Last edited by glennaa11; Dec 6, 14 at 9:24 am
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Old Mar 1, 13, 10:11 pm
  #21  
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Here are a few videos. I guess we can't embed them for some reason.

http://youtu.be/gixCauf_xt4
This is a a waterfall that runs right over the road between Trongsa and Kuenga Rabten

http://youtu.be/9UzkNpLcfqI
This is what it's like to drive on the "national highway". Sorry about the wind noise

Some videos from the Jakar festival
http://youtu.be/2wZBE4Q49mU

http://youtu.be/2Otv4rSAhpE

http://youtu.be/gfaYr0zuvpw

http://youtu.be/ToETShaoZ8E

Butterflies!
http://youtu.be/ixEUHHWfzLU
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Old Mar 1, 13, 10:12 pm
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Thanks for the very interesting report and great pictures. Bhutan is definitely on the bucket list!

I was surprised that it was the first snow of the season on the mountains, I would have thought there was a fair bit around by then. What were the typical daytime and night time temperatures?
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Old Mar 1, 13, 10:24 pm
  #23  
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Originally Posted by mad_atta View Post
Thanks for the very interesting report and great pictures. Bhutan is definitely on the bucket list!

I was surprised that it was the first snow of the season on the mountains, I would have thought there was a fair bit around by then. What were the typical daytime and night time temperatures?
It varied a good bit based on altitude and latitude. Some of the more southerly places are not as cold.

But typically it was fairly cool I would guess high temperatures in the 50s F some places maybe low 60s, particularly in Punakha. When it was sunny it definitely seemed a bit warmer. I recall mostly wearing long sleeved shirts and either a light fleece pullover or a bit heavier jacket. I was happy I invested in a Marmot rain jacket before I left because it got a lot of use over the first week. Overnights were generally quite cool. I rememeber wearing my fleece hat to bed on the way back through Jakar. But they also give you plenty of blankets to stay warm and cozy. So at night I would guess temps were in the 30s F. Since most places don't have a lot of insulation or insulated windows there's not much to keep the cold out.
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Old Mar 2, 13, 4:19 pm
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Stunning pix. I'm a sucker for mountains, greenery, and water, and your pix had them all.
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Old Mar 2, 13, 8:54 pm
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Thanks for the report

You have quite an eye - awesome sights, vivid colors and the pics capture much of it,
-thanks for posting
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Old Mar 2, 13, 11:45 pm
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Very impressive. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Mar 3, 13, 10:44 am
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Great report, thanks for sharing in such detail!
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Old Mar 3, 13, 10:50 am
  #28  
 
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Thank you for posting this most interesting trip report.

I have thought about going to Bhutan. I will go when I can get enough money together for the trip.

I knew there was a minimum amount to be spent for each day that a visitor wants to spend in the country. I suppose that the type of accomodation you choose will make a sensible difference in price.

Is everything inclusive, food, lodging and tours or is there extra to be added every day like tour guide fees or fuel for the car or other?

Yet in the pictures I find that the Bhutanese population looks very basic. Where does all the tourist money go to? Do the people of Bhutan get any advantages from tourist money? Does it go to the King or to government?

It seems they have a good amount of foreign visitors from all the ones I see in the pictures.

Is it possible to get more like tailor-made visits.

What I would really like to see in Bhutan are the craftsmen and workshops especially weavers and textiles from the People's to the Royals textiles and weavers. Also paintings but textiles I would really want to see.

I wonder if they would show these?

Then the airport and the fabulous descent and climb in and out of Paro.

I would have to see if there are local flights via India, mostly Darjeeling. I want to see the tea gardens and spend some time there also.

I don't think I can afford 3 weeks in Bhutan - certainly not the Aman resort - but one week would be quite interesting.

Thank you again for posting your trip report.

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Old Mar 3, 13, 11:44 am
  #29  
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Originally Posted by CDG1 View Post
Thank you for posting this most interesting trip report.

I have thought about going to Bhutan. I will go when I can get enough money together for the trip.

I knew there was a minimum amount to be spent for each day that a visitor wants to spend in the country. I suppose that the type of accomodation you choose will make a sensible difference in price.

Is everything inclusive, food, lodging and tours or is there extra to be added every day like tour guide fees or fuel for the car or other?

Yet in the pictures I find that the Bhutanese population looks very basic. Where does all the tourist money go to? Do the people of Bhutan get any advantages from tourist money? Does it go to the King or to government?

It seems they have a good amount of foreign visitors from all the ones I see in the pictures.

Is it possible to get more like tailor-made visits.

What I would really like to see in Bhutan are the craftsmen and workshops especially weavers and textiles from the People's to the Royals textiles and weavers. Also paintings but textiles I would really want to see.

I wonder if they would show these?

Then the airport and the fabulous descent and climb in and out of Paro.

I would have to see if there are local flights via India, mostly Darjeeling. I want to see the tea gardens and spend some time there also.

I don't think I can afford 3 weeks in Bhutan - certainly not the Aman resort - but one week would be quite interesting.

Thank you again for posting your trip report.

Lots of questions here! The daily rate is all inclusive. It includes regular accommodations (not the luxury Amans, Taj Tashi, etc), all food, guide, driver and car, fuel, admissions. If you want to trek I think it covers that too.

While there are well-known sights that almost everyone goes to, it is quite easy to make custom tours. You tell the tour operator what you want to see and they will create a custom itinerary. My itinerary was custom. I had originally proposed going on their two week program called Click the Dragon 2 (http://www.keystobhutan.com/photography/dragon_2.php). But once we started the planning Anan who is one of the owners and the photographer suggested that if I could afford a few more days it would be possible to go all the way to the east and back. So that was what I ended up doing.

All of the agencies should charge the government mandated fees. Any agency should be able to tell you what the current tariff is and what surcharges may be applicable based on group size, season, etc.

The only extra things I had to pay for was souvenirs and tips for the guide and driver.

As for where does the money go, well, it goes into the economy. It pays for the hotels and the people that work there, it pays the guides and drivers, pays for the vehicles and fuel, food, etc. I would imagine there are some taxes on the business that go to the government. They are trying to upgrade the infrastructure where possible. But the country receives relatively few visitors. Apparently in 2010 which is the year I went there were a total of 29,000 visitors. A limiting factor has been the number of hotel rooms and the number of available tour guides and vehicles. Like I said, as a solo traveler I think I got an amazing deal since two people would have spent twice as much and received pretty much exactly what I did.

For crafts, there is the school in Thimphu that I mentioned where you can see the students doing their crafts including carving, weaving, embroidery, painting... I forget how many craft disciplines there are. I am pretty sure I must I have also seen some other craftspeople here and there but it was not my primary focus. I am sure those sorts of things can be arranged though. I would hazard to guess that these days some of those textiles for example are imported from India and China along with a lot of other items. As is the case in lots of the developing world, solid waste is a very big problem that Bhutan needs to get a handle on. But I did buy a nice silk scarf that was apparently made in Bhutan. There are some small shops here and there with crafts and Paro is full of souvenir and crafts stores. I also bought a beautiful hand-painted Mandala and some other art work. While the government tries to mandate that people wear the national dress, the younger people especially wear western style clothing. Since the introduction of satellite TV 15 years or so ago things have changed pretty rapidly with regard to things like fashion.

In a week you could see the western side of the country which is where most people visit. I would say that Punakha is also a must if you can make it out there. Staying as long as I did got me all the way to the east of the country which is much less visited and which I really enjoyed.
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Old Mar 3, 13, 12:12 pm
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Originally Posted by glennaa11 View Post
Lots of questions here! The daily rate is all inclusive. It includes regular accommodations (not the luxury Amans, Taj Tashi, etc), all food, guide, driver and car, fuel, admissions. If you want to trek I think it covers that too.

While there are well-known sights that almost everyone goes to, it is quite easy to make custom tours. You tell the tour operator what you want to see and they will create a custom itinerary. My itinerary was custom. I had originally proposed going on their two week program called Click the Dragon 2 (http://www.keystobhutan.com/photography/dragon_2.php). But once we started the planning Anan who is one of the owners and the photographer suggested that if I could afford a few more days it would be possible to go all the way to the east and back. So that was what I ended up doing.

All of the agencies should charge the government mandated fees. Any agency should be able to tell you what the current tariff is and what surcharges may be applicable based on group size, season, etc.

The only extra things I had to pay for was souvenirs and tips for the guide and driver.

As for where does the money go, well, it goes into the economy. It pays for the hotels and the people that work there, it pays the guides and drivers, pays for the vehicles and fuel, food, etc. I would imagine there are some taxes on the business that go to the government. They are trying to upgrade the infrastructure where possible. But the country receives relatively few visitors. Apparently in 2010 which is the year I went there were a total of 29,000 visitors. A limiting factor has been the number of hotel rooms and the number of available tour guides and vehicles. Like I said, as a solo traveler I think I got an amazing deal since two people would have spent twice as much and received pretty much exactly what I did.

For crafts, there is the school in Thimphu that I mentioned where you can see the students doing their crafts including carving, weaving, embroidery, painting... I forget how many craft disciplines there are. I am pretty sure I must I have also seen some other craftspeople here and there but it was not my primary focus. I am sure those sorts of things can be arranged though. I would hazard to guess that these days some of those textiles for example are imported from India and China along with a lot of other items. As is the case in lots of the developing world, solid waste is a very big problem that Bhutan needs to get a handle on. But I did buy a nice silk scarf that was apparently made in Bhutan. There are some small shops here and there with crafts and Paro is full of souvenir and crafts stores. I also bought a beautiful hand-painted Mandala and some other art work. While the government tries to mandate that people wear the national dress, the younger people especially wear western style clothing. Since the introduction of satellite TV 15 years or so ago things have changed pretty rapidly with regard to things like fashion.

In a week you could see the western side of the country which is where most people visit. I would say that Punakha is also a must if you can make it out there. Staying as long as I did got me all the way to the east of the country which is much less visited and which I really enjoyed.
Thank you so much for answering my questions with so much detail. I am sure it will help others too.

I wonder if it is possible to see the King and his beautiful Queen while in Bhutan. Maybe they have public reception days?

Also I love butterflies. Some of the ones in your pictures and video are quite big and beautiful with amazing colours. We don't see butterflies in our parts of the world anymore. I guess the air pollution has them all disappearing and maybe the cell phones and other waves too.

i was wondering about bees and if they have bee keepers there. I would love to taste local honey if I go. With all the greenery and flowers the local production has to give the best possible honey.

Your pictures are wonderful. We are almost there with you.

I hope I can go to Bhutan before the place gets too Westernized and too touristy.

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