The long awaited trip to Bhutan has finally happened. I have always wanted to visit this small Himalayan Buddhist nation coined the “Happiest Country on Earth”. Unlike its south asian neighbors, Bhutan was never colonized. It is not an easy place to get to compounded with limits set by the government as to the total number of visitors per year. Also from what I understand, accommodation options are somewhat limited to either the ultra luxurious lodges or very basic hostels and homestays with not much in between. Currently, you can fly to Bhutan from Bangkok, Singapore, and a few other places in India. We flew into Paro on Drukair from Bangkok with a brief stop in Kolkata. Apparently, Paro is one of the hardest airports in the world to land and take off and only a small number pilots are certified to land here. The airport is surrounded by steep hills and is only operational during daylight hours because pilots must use the manual mode and hand-fly the plane through a narrow alley between the mountains to reach the airport. One tip is if you fly Drukair, the business class is only US$50 more expensive than economy and much more comfortable.
We decided to stay at the all-inclusive Amankora for our 7-night journey. Amankora has 5 lodges spread out in the Kingdom of Bhutan but we will only have time to stay at 3 of them. Not only is Amankora probably the nicest hotel in the country, it also arranges all the transfers from lodge to lodge as well as activities and guides for you. If you are familiar with the Aman resorts, you will know they are a head and shoulders above the rest and they are known for their excellent service and ability to anticipate their guests’ every need.
We were in Thimphu on a Saturday which is the local market day. Our guide took us to the main market and introduced us to many of the local produce which we have not seen elsewhere. Interesting visit indeed! We also spent some time visiting the different cottage industries such as weaving, paper making, and thangka painting.
Unfortunately, during our visit, Cheri Goemba which is the first monastic body established in Bhutan was closed for renovations. Instead, we went on a hike with views of Thimphu and Trashi Chhoe Dzong and ended up at a monastic school where the young monks were playing soccer outside their monastery. A nice end to our brief couple days in Thimphu.