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Off to Bhutan and India on November 4, 2008

 
 
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 01:02 pm
I must be a masochist; just returned from a 10-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, and I'm off to Bhutan and India in three days after my return from the cruise.

I'm sure to be taking over 1,000 pictures, so this one should be interesting. Our small group of eight has been sending each other emails in preparation for this journey, and I know all of us are excited about this trip.

I'll be returning on November 21st, so give me a few days afterwards to start posting my travelogue and pictures.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 8 • Views: 7,417 • Replies: 46
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 01:15 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Looking forward to seeing your photos and hearing your comments, CI.
0 Replies
 
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 01:42 pm
@cicerone imposter,
You are amazing, Tak. I sincerely admire your ability to keep on trucking.
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 02:00 pm
Hi, Tak!

I wish you a good and safe trip.
0 Replies
 
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 02:01 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Whatever you do, do not drink Indian whiskey! :-) Have fun, post often!
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 04:20 pm
@cicerone imposter,
November 4?!! You are going to miss The Jubilation!
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 04:28 pm
@realjohnboy,
I'm not so sure "admire" is the right word, but thanks for your thoughts. Have to spend the money before our retirerments investments are depleted from this bear market.


cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 04:31 pm
@cicerone imposter,
To the rest of you all who have posted, a) I'll stay away from drinking the water, and b) only eat foods approved by our local guide. I usually only drink bottled water, beer or wine during my travels, so it should be okay.


0 Replies
 
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Nov, 2008 01:13 pm
@blatham,
The celebration refers to the installation of the new king. NPR had a story on Morning Edition today entitled Making Happiness and Well Being a National Priority.
Bhutan is high in the Himalayas and is only about the size of Maryland with a very small population. It is a bit to get there. It is served by just one government-owned airline two planes. The mountains peaks are reported to be beautiful but are off limits to tourists because the gods live there.
The new king is 28 years old, educated at Oxford and in the U.S. He succeeds his 52 year old father who abdicated a couple years ago. The new king answers to Parliament and every poitician must retire at age 65.
Cell phones, cable tv and the internet are relatively new. People are required to adhere to a dress code everyday, even at work. Traditional native garb.
The celebration will continue for several days so perhaps Tak will catch part of it.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 08:40 pm
We went to the king's coronation celebration in Thimpu a few days ago, and was able to take his picture. Bhutan has been wonderful thus far with its beautiful country and its people. Food has not been a problem, but many have been similar vegetable dishes. The only problem is the high salt content in their foods, and my blood pressure has gone through the roof.

We spent one whole day in Bangkok, and saw more on one day than my previous four days several decades ago. They have improved their pub lic transportation system tremendously.

This will probably be the only time I'll have to post from Bhutan.


Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 01:44 am
@cicerone imposter,
Having seen the king's coronation in person must have been greta!

Enjoy the other days, too, c.i.!
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 12:23 am
@Walter Hinteler,
We're now in Bumthang for 3 nites. We in a small town after a visit to the local dzong/fort-temple, and government administration offices. The towns are now beginning to look similar with its architecture and business signs. The ladies are shopping, and I just happened to run across this internet cafe. Will write again if we run into another internet cafe.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 10:57 am
@cicerone imposter,
looking forward to your next report, c.i.!
0 Replies
 
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 02:28 pm
Hi, Tak. So it is the 21st. We hope you made it back safely and in good health. We look forward to reading your posts and seeing your pictures when you get rested up and get things sorted out.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 03:52 pm
Wow, another design change on a2k. Just returned about half hour ago, but will need to unpack and get some cleaning done. Was up at 3AM in Bangkok early this morning, and after almost 24 hours of travel, it's still Nov 21st; the miracle of travel. Talk to all of you a little later.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 04:10 pm
Hope you're having a wonderful time, Tak.
Andy
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 04:23 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Glad that you had a safe return, c.i.! Get some rest .... and then report with the photos Wink
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 09:23 am
Some personal perspectives of this journey:
What happens when one flies from the US to the far east is that we lose one day going west past the International Date Line, so our ten hour flight from San Francisco to Narita International Airport in Tokyo had us arriving one whole day after our departure date. With a three hour lay-over at Narita, our flight arrived in Bangkok after 10PM on the 5th. Two days shot, but we had one whole day to spend in Bangkok, the city with the reputation of having one of the worst traffic jams on this planet. Luckily for us, our hotel, the Royal River Hotel, is situated far north by the Chao Phraya River that provides its guests with free boat shuttle service to River City shopping mall in downtown, and another complimentary boat shuttle from River City to Saphan Taxsin where train service is available to MBK Center - the center of “the” shopping district of Bangkok. While the women shopped, I purchased a Canon with 10X zoom lens, but small enough to carry in a case hung on my belt. It was “necessary” to purchase another camera, because in my rush to prepare for this trip, three days after my cruise to Mexico, I had forgotten to pack my Canon camera. *You’re going to enjoy the pictures I took with this camera.

The beauty of the boat shuttle from our hotel to River City is that it passes by some of the most important sites of Bangkok such as Wat Phra Kaeu (which houses the emerald Buddha), the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn, and some other interesting public and government buildings while sailing under some of the most important bridges of the city. So, on with the show.

Flight out from SFO.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD003.jpg

Image at Narita airport.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD013.jpg

Late arrival in Bangkok, and our bus ride to our hotel scene. *That's a tuk tuk.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD016.jpg

Scene from our hotel room.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD021.jpg

The hotel's river shuttle boat.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD022.jpg

Scenes to River City.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD032.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD035.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD036.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD041.jpg

River City.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD043.jpg

Train to MBK.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD046.jpg

Pedestrian walks around Little Siam.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD052.jpg

My lunch at Tokyu department store restaurant.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD054.jpg

Paper sculpture of Osaka castle (submitted in a contest).
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD056.jpg

Example of Bangkok traffic.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD059.jpg

The shoppers in our group.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD069.jpg

A bridge on our way back to the hotel.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan1Nov08xD079.jpg

More to come this afternoon.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 03:35 pm
@cicerone imposter,
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.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa045.jpg

Paro airport.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa047.jpg

Tsetin, our tour director.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa052.jpg

Eagle's nest.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa064.jpg

Downtown Paro.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa080.jpg

Paro dzong.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa086.jpg

National museum.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa076.jpg

Airport from hillside.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa057.jpg

Hotel dining room mural.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v97/imposter222/Bhutan2Nov08SDa078.jpg

Thimpu tomorrow.

Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 03:57 pm
Beautiful, Tak! Thanx for the virtual tour. The architecture is stunning. (But that traffic in Bangkok looks just like Market Street at 8:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. Except the cars are all going the wrong way. Smile)
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