In my journey to travel the whole world, Bhutan had yet not come in my to do list. But absolutely no regrets, it is an unspoilt kingdom nestled in the eastern part of the Himalayas where culture and traditional lifestyle is still intact.
As there is no direct flight from Mumbai we routed the journey via Kolkata, DRUK-AIR (Royal Bhutan Airlines) is the national carrier of the Royal Government of Bhutan and the only airline officially allowed to fly into Bhutan. When the announcement came from the cockpit to prepare for landing I could swear that the wings of the plane were going to touch the mountain sides as we descended into the Valley of Paro. I soon realized that it was the least of my worries as puts it so cunningly ” There are only two emotions in a plane boredom and terror” and it was the latter that filled my being when I saw what must be the shortest airstrip in the world. I braced myself for one of those “have you been shot down or fallen from the sky” landings but the jet touched down on the runway with the same grace and poise.
Our Base in Bhutan was the capital – Thimphu, as we drove from Paro to Thimphu our Guide told us about the friendly relations India shares with Bhutan due to which an Indian can enter Bhutan even without a passport and there is no daily allowance policy like it has for most of the other country citizens.
Monasteries, temples and religious monuments are dotted across the landscape, bearing witness to the importance of Buddhism, while red-robed monks are everywhere, mingling freely in towns, villages and markets. Most of the population continue to live in small, isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice and cereal crops. The general approach to life is more relaxed. It is rare to see Bhutanese nationals in Western dress, men wear a knee length, hand-woven robe called the “kho”¦ and women wear an ankle length garment called the “kira”¦, which is made from fine, hand-woven fabric, for which Bhutan is well known.
A trip to Bhutan normally begins and ends in Paro. As we disembarked from our flight the first thing that struck us was the very distinctive architectural style reflected in all of the buildings, unlike anything we had seen before. Willow trees line the main road from the airport to Paro town and a pleasant peace fills the air and from the high places bright coloured flags flutter in the wind sending out their prayers on windhorses. Paro is host to the national museum and the oldest dzongs in Bhutan.
Tiger’s Nest, a few kilometres outside of Paro town, is an absolute must for all visitors. The hike on foot to the monastery takes about 3 hours up hill and around 2 hours downhill, this may vary. It is said the Guru Rinpoche arrived in Paro Valley more than a millennium ago on the back of a legendary tigress. He meditated in a cave for 3 months and a monastery was later built called Tigers nest or Taktshang Lhakang.
Punakha another city, 2 hours’ drive from Thimphu is the winter capital of Bhutan, it houses the second oldest monestary, Punakha Dzong. The Dzong is located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley.
Bhutan was different than any place I have seen till date, it had a young, fresh, clean, with very spicy food. Being so close to India it had very little resemblance to our country. The people are religious yet modern in many aspects.
Bhutan has many adventure options, especially treks, so that is one agenda in my mind for the future, as of now made friends for life and with the help of them lived the Bhutanese way for 7 days.