The friendly Bhutanese

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My wife, Jackie, and I took an 11-day trip to Bhutan in October ’03. The trip was arranged by Ron at Starlink Tours (5250 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 617, Los Angeles, CA 90045; phone 866/337-0909 or visit www. starlinktours.com). The cost of the entire trip, including plane fare from Los Angeles, hotels, all meals (including mid-morning and afternoon tea or coffee), a private guide and driver and all sightseeing was $2,989.

We have been to over 70 countries, and Bhutan is the most beautiful place we’ve been. We flew into Paro on Druk (Dragon) Air from Bangkok, and immediately upon deplaning we were overwhelmed by the scenery. Everywhere we looked there were towering mountains, waterfalls and the traditional unique architecture of the country.

We found the Bhutanese to be extremely friendly. For the most part, the people wear traditional clothing which is made from locally woven cloth and very beautiful. At our first stop, the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, our host, Karma Phuntsho, could not do enough to make us welcome. This included early morning coffee in our room.

Do not look for upscale lodging or restaurants. Most of the hotels and restaurants are basic, but the charming people who work in them make up for any deficiencies. During the eight days we were in the country, we saw one TV set and had no central heating or air-conditioning.

The food, no matter where we ate, was uniformly good and varied. If you like your food spicy, this is the place for you. The Bhutanese love their hot chilis (normally mixed with cheese).

Here are a few facts about the Kingdom of Bhutan. The country is ruled by a very popular king and has an elected assembly. The population is about 700,000, with more than 40% under 16 years old. The country is all mountains, 72% covered with timber. If one tree is cut down, five must be planted in its place. The economy is based on subsistence farming, and the main export is hydroelectric power to India.

The Bhutanese currency is the ngultrum, but on our trip the dollar was readily accepted in most business. With exceptions for guides and drivers, tipping is highly discouraged.

Besides three days in Paro staying at the Tiger’s Nest, we spent two days at the capital, Thimphu, a city of approximately 70,000. While we were there, the annual Bhuddist festival, lasting four days, was in progress. The main event was all-day stylized dancing at a monastery. All the Bhutanese wore their finest — a dazzling sight to behold.

One night, after a spectacular drive through the eastern Himalayas, we stayed in Wangdi in a hotel overlooking the Pochu River. The following day we drove to Wangdi to visit the Gantay Valley where rare black-neck cranes migrate for the winter. Unfortunately, we were too early for the migration. We stayed overnight at a lodge (very basic — no heat, but hot water if we asked for it and solar-powered electricity as long as it lasted). The food was extremely good, and the hosts could not have been nicer.

Our guide for the trip, who was working for the local tour company, Bhutan Yodsel Tours & Treks, was Namgay Wangchuk. If you go to Bhutan via Starlink, be sure to ask for Namgay as your local guide. He is knowledgeable and eager to please and seems to know everyone in the kingdom.

Yodsel Tours is owned by Dawa Penjore. While in Thimphu, Dawa Penjore called us at our hotel and we had a 3-hour dinner with him. He is charming and meets with many of his clients to see that all their needs are being met and to ask how his services can be improved.

If you would like further information concerning this tour, feel free to call Jackie Wilson at 858/565-9798.

JERRY WILSON
San Diego, CA

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife, Jackie, and I took an 11-day trip to Bhutan in October ’03. The trip was arranged by Ron at Starlink Tours (5250 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 617, Los Angeles, CA 90045; phone 866/337-0909 or visit www. starlinktours.com). The cost of the entire trip, including plane fare from Los Angeles, hotels, all meals (including mid-morning and afternoon tea or coffee), a private guide and driver and all sightseeing was $2,989.

We have been to over 70 countries, and Bhutan is the most beautiful place we’ve been. We flew into Paro on Druk (Dragon) Air from Bangkok, and immediately upon deplaning we were overwhelmed by the scenery. Everywhere we looked there were towering mountains, waterfalls and the traditional unique architecture of the country.

We found the Bhutanese to be extremely friendly. For the most part, the people wear traditional clothing which is made from locally woven cloth and very beautiful. At our first stop, the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, our host, Karma Phuntsho, could not do enough to make us welcome. This included early morning coffee in our room.

Do not look for upscale lodging or restaurants. Most of the hotels and restaurants are basic, but the charming people who work in them make up for any deficiencies. During the eight days we were in the country, we saw one TV set and had no central heating or air-conditioning.

The food, no matter where we ate, was uniformly good and varied. If you like your food spicy, this is the place for you. The Bhutanese love their hot chilis (normally mixed with cheese).

Here are a few facts about the Kingdom of Bhutan. The country is ruled by a very popular king and has an elected assembly. The population is about 700,000, with more than 40% under 16 years old. The country is all mountains, 72% covered with timber. If one tree is cut down, five must be planted in its place. The economy is based on subsistence farming, and the main export is hydroelectric power to India.

The Bhutanese currency is the ngultrum, but on our trip the dollar was readily accepted in most business. With exceptions for guides and drivers, tipping is highly discouraged.

Besides three days in Paro staying at the Tiger’s Nest, we spent two days at the capital, Thimphu, a city of approximately 70,000. While we were there, the annual Bhuddist festival, lasting four days, was in progress. The main event was all-day stylized dancing at a monastery. All the Bhutanese wore their finest — a dazzling sight to behold.

One night, after a spectacular drive through the eastern Himalayas, we stayed in Wangdi in a hotel overlooking the Pochu River. The following day we drove to Wangdi to visit the Gantay Valley where rare black-neck cranes migrate for the winter. Unfortunately, we were too early for the migration. We stayed overnight at a lodge (very basic — no heat, but hot water if we asked for it and solar-powered electricity as long as it lasted). The food was extremely good, and the hosts could not have been nicer.

Our guide for the trip, who was working for the local tour company, Bhutan Yodsel Tours & Treks, was Namgay Wangchuk. If you go to Bhutan via Starlink, be sure to ask for Namgay as your local guide. He is knowledgeable and eager to please and seems to know everyone in the kingdom.

Yodsel Tours is owned by Dawa Penjore. While in Thimphu, Dawa Penjore called us at our hotel and we had a 3-hour dinner with him. He is charming and meets with many of his clients to see that all their needs are being met and to ask how his services can be improved.

If you would like further information concerning this tour, feel free to call Jackie Wilson at 858/565-9798.

JERRY WILSON
San Diego, CA