Intro to Bhutan:
All visitors to Bhutan must have government authorization who sets the minimum daily fee at $225 per person. From this basic fee, the government takes 33%, and the remaining money is given to the “independent” local guide who must pay for all the accommodations, food, entry fees, driver and vehicle whether the guide has one or 15 visitors. Whatever money left over is his “profit.” Our private group of eight agreed before the trip to donate $170 per person as our tip fund for the porters, waiters, and others who provided our group with “service” for the entire trip including our three day trip into India.
We were informed by our local guide that Bhutan has about 16,000 visitors a year, and produces the second largest income to their country after their sale of hydroelectric power to India. Over 80% of their GDP comes from agriculture.
Bhutan is a very beautiful mountainous country with views of the Himalayas’ snow-capped mountains, and the many valleys that reminded me of Norway, except Bhutan's valleys are filled with farms growing rice, grains, apples, oranges, mustard, chard, onion, garlic, potato, carrots, and other fruits which makes them self-sufficient in food production.
November 7: We flew on Druk Air (Bhutan’s national airline) from Bangkok to Paro, located in west-central Bhutan (the Land of the Dragon), and we were met at the Paro airport by our tour director, Tsetim (tseteem), who stayed with our group through India. In addition to our skilled driver, Namgay 1, we had a tour guide trainee, Namgay 2, who stayed with our group for the duration of our ten day tour in Bhutan. After our private group of eight checked into our rooms and had lunch at the Dechen Hill Resort not far from the airport, we were taken to the Tiger’s Nest, Taktshang Goemba Monastery (1692), built by the Second Buddha, Guru Rimpoche, high on the mountain rock that we observed from the road. We were informed it takes about three hours to climb to the top that sits nearly 2,700 feet above the valley floor, and one hour to walk down. One of the important reasons we didn’t climb to the monastery (ha ha ha) is the simple fact that by going to Thimpu early the next morning, we had the opportunity to observe the King’s last day of the three day coronation festivities.
Our second visit for the day was the National Museum (Ta Dzong), considered to be a temple because of the ancient religious’ artifacts it contains. The museum has works of art, handicrafts, stuffed animals, costumes, armor, stamps (even some like President Lincoln), and other objects which is an excellent way to introduce newcomers to the cultural richness of their country. We were then provided with sightseeing around Paro Valley, and getting a good view of the Paro airport from high in the mountain roads that surrounds it.
Druk Air, Bhutan's national airline, from Bangkok to Paro.
Tsetin, our tour director.
Airport from hillside.
Hotel dining room mural.