Bhutan should be on everyones must visit list...
Bhutan, the best birthday present
Back in February I travelled to Bhutan, 'The Land of the Thunder Dragon'. Spending my birthday sitting on a plane is not the way I would usually choose to celebrate, but this was one of the best presents I could have asked for. Our journey into Bhutan started with an amazing flight down into the Paro valley, sadly on the Bangkok route you do not fly over Everest, K2 etc (you need to fly from Delhi to see this), but the scenery is still stunning. Over the eight days I spent in Bhutan, some of the journeys were long, but we were entertained by Gambo our driver and Tara our guide.
Onto the Wangdi Valley
From Thimphu we set off over the high mountain pass Dochu La (3,050m) where on a clear day you have panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas, for us though the weather was turning and as we drove down into the Wangdi Valley snow was beginning to fall and settle. We were extremely lucky that some of the rare Black Necked Cranes, which the valley is famous for, had not yet migrated.
Waking up to snow
The following morning we woke up with the most spectacular views across the valley and about a foot and a half of snow had fallen in the night. After a nine hour car journey (usually a five hour journey) we arrived and it was completely worth it. A few of the highlights are the Amankora Bumthang that sits adjacent to the first and second King of Bhutan's Palace - Wangdichholing, now the home to a community of monks. As well as the wonderful Dzong's, temples and palaces in Bumthang, there are fantastic short treks through the valleys, a Red Panda beer processing plant (the only beer made in Bhutan), Swiss cows and a cheese factory.
A picture of things to come
On the journey back east to Punakha we stopped to visit what I would say is the second most spectacular Dzong, infact it is the longest Dzong in Bhutan. We were also fortunate to see Golden Langur monkeys and at lunch we were surrounded by a troop of the most beautiful very healthy grey Langur. The journey back was easy, most of the snow had melted so you could begin to see glimpses of what the mountains would be like in the months to come with some wildflowers and rhododendron bushes beginning to flower.
Stunning Dzong at Punakha
Punakha, once the capital of Bhutan, was the biggest surprise of all. We arrived on the Kings birthday so there were plenty of celebrations and the Dzong is stunning, strategically built on the river island between the mighty Phochu and Mochu Rivers.
The Tiger's Nest, Paro
Sadly our journey had to come to an end, but we saved the best till last, the Tigers Nest in Paro. It's just as beautiful as I remembered, and although photographs are almost as common as the Taj Mahal it is just incredible when you see it seemingly effortlessly clinging to the side of the mountain. When we got back to our rooms a Kira (the national dress) had been laid out for each of us with hand, foot and back warmers and we were taken to a wonderful old disused monastery for dinner. Aman had erected a tent with a roaring fire to keep us warm and we had the most incredible food I have ever eaten (that said I wasn't too keen on the yak).
Watching the traffic officer in the centre of Thimpu, directing the traffic from a small roundabout. I could have watched him for hours, he was so incredibly graceful, and it was almost as if he was performing on stage. And sitting listening to 200 monks at a Dzong, chanting prayers before the Head Abbott, was an incredibly humbling experience I could have sat there for hours.
A wonderful experience
I could write for hours about my experiences - the wonderfully friendly people, the towns, the ancient culture, the delicious food, it is all so fascinating and it should definitely be on everyone's must see list, you must go now and explore it for yourself. contact Original Travel