Bhutan is not the easiest country in the world to get to due to some tourist restrictions. Flying into Bhutan is a separate challenge. Druk airlines is the only commercial airline to fly into Bhutan and they only offer flights out of about five cities, including Bangkok. Low and behold, I was already planning to be in Thailand, so this was the perfect opportunity to visit Bhutan.
The airline was interesting and I would say they tried very hard. The breakfast was massive, though I wouldn’t say balanced (read: it came with dessert). I also noticed the flight attendants being very chatty with the people in my row. Upon further investigation and sheer nosiness, I learned I was seated beside part of the national basketball team which had just played in Bangkok. The team only started within the past couple of years and they are still experiencing growing pains.
As we were about to land in Paro, the visibility was very poor so we circled above for nearly an hour until we could make a safe landing. I was greeted by my guide, in the traditional outfit, holding a sign with my name on it. We met our driver and drove to the capital city of Thimphu.
Thimphu Day 1
Apparently the hotel I was staying at had moved since they were last there.
That coupled with insane traffic due to a local festival, yielded a long walk to nowhere in the rain! My guide seemed so worried that I was upset and having a bad time but of course I didn’t mind. Things happen and it is what it is. We reached the hotel and then went for a little site seeing around Thimphu. We visited a temple, the largest Buddha in the world, and the soccer stadium before heading to dinner.
Dinner was delicious. I learned of a very popular local dish that translates to chili cheese, which is essentially a more spicy, less cheesy version of queso. Delicious but so spicy. The guide was also worried about my stomach after eating it!
Thimphu Day 2
The next morning we attended the final day of the local festival. As a result, I dressed like a local. The women’s dress is essentially a very long piece of fabric that ties into a skirt with a long sleeve (mismatching) blouse that is closed with a safety pin.
The men look like they are wearing knee length bathrobes with knee socks. My favorite part was seeing tiny children in traditional dress. We spent the whole morning at the festival, which, to be honest, was fairly slow moving and boring. It was also raining.
We left for lunch time and this was the closest I’ve ever felt to being in a stampede situation. People were still coming in as people were exiting and there was only a single file line to do either. I should also mention the blockades were “community police officers” holding hands, adding more people to the mix. People weren’t patient and they were pushing, despite the fact that there were small children getting squished because they were well below eye level. It took exactly thirty minutes to exit the festival.
After lunch, we visited the heritage museum which was actually quite interesting. I saw the way traditional houses are set up, a man with cerebral palsy who makes wood carvings with only his feet, and got to play archery!
That was the last thing on the agenda for the day and the guide kept asking what I wanted to do! I didn’t know, I’m not from there! So they ended up taking me to a preservation for their national animal, the takin. The what?? I never heard of this animal and did not recognize it upon seeing it.
The guide was blown away by my inexperience, but I hope I am not alone in this. Have you heard of takins? I had dinner at the hotel and went to bed early before departing Thimphu the next day.