Bhutan

Bhutan Travel Blog

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Arriving at Paro airport
After a bit of a travel hiatus since the arrival of little Hugh, we decided to get back on the road, dust off the boots and backpack, bite the bullet and just go somewhere!
After careful consideration, we chose the tiny himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Why Bhutan? Well it was somewhere we had wanted to go for ages. It hasn't seen a lot of tourists and is cut off from western influences to an extent. We also heard that it was extremely beautiful with friendly people. It is an extremely safe place. No Malaria in the places we would be going and the altitude where we would be is ok for a baby.
Our medical kit is probably 3 times the size it was before Hugh. We have drugs for all possibilities - though hopefully they will all stay in their packaging!

Packing!!
Its amazing how much 'stuff' you need for a baby! Although Hugh didn't get a seat on the plane, we still paid 10% of the fare for him, but unfortunately he wasn't entitled to any baggage allowance whatsoever!
We had to keep 2 bags to 20kg each (Cameron and I never even neared that when we travelled together before).
Thimpu monastery
Druk Air (Bhutan's national carrier) really enforces this weight limit and any weight over this is charged a fairly hefty excess baggage fee per kg. Even after paying this, it still only travels standby so may not even make it on the flight.

You would think 2x20kg bags would be easy. However after packing enough nappies for our trip and 20 jars of baby food, the weight was 16kg! This wasn't including Hugh's clothes or portacot, let alone Cameron and my things!
We also took a lightweight baby carrier and when we checked in, the 3 pieces weighed 39.6kg.
So on Friday 6th May, Cameron (carrying a huge backpack, 2 daypacks, and the baby carrier), plus me (wheeling a suitcase full of nappies and baby food, with Hugh strapped to me) and Hugh (happy but oblivious) set off to Bangkok pretty excited that we were going overseas again and happy that we were 'travelling with kids' and proving wrong all the people who said you can't do it!

It was 8.
5 hours to Bangkok and we were in the bulkhead row. I had requested a bassinet for Hugh a few days earlier but was told they are not for babies over 6 months. Major bummer! Holding a wriggling baby for 8 1/2 hours who is into EVERYTHING and trying to have meals etc would not be easy, but I guess that was one of the joys of travelling with a baby.
I requested bulkhead seats anyway (for the legroom) and once we were in the air, the hostess asked how old Hugh was and how much he weighed. She let us use the bassinet though she warned us that technically he was too old for it. He fitted into it fine, but the worry they have is that they may climb out of it. Hugh can't crawl, pull himself up, or climb yet, so we weren't concerned. Plus we were right there keeping an eye on him.
He was pretty bright and wide awake for a while.
pilgrim at Thimphu monastery
At one stage he grabbed my glass of water and tipped it into my lap!
He had his dinner and then we gave him a tiny dose of Phenergan to knock him out. A few minutes later he threw this up along with some of his dinner - on the airline blanket, not us or him thankfully (I often wondered whether those blankets were washed in between flights or simply repackaged - I hope this one was!). Being sick didn't seem to bother him - he was as cheery as ever. However we didn't want to give him any more Phenergan.
A little while later he went to sleep and stayed that way for 5 hours (2 1/2 movies worth)

Descending was fine. Its common for babies to scream with pain because their eustachian tubes aren't fully developed and the pressure really hurts them. They don't know that swallowing will equalise it.
Mr Tendin with Hugh
I started to feed him when I got the first inkling that we were descending and he was quiet the whole time. I think our fellow passengers were very pleased (as we were). Two people commented on how good he was and that they didn't hear a peep out of him the whole time.

Thais love kids. At Bangkok airport, so many people waved at him, cooed at him, held his hand. Walking through the throngs of touts at the exit went a bit like this:
Them: "Taxi?"
Us: "no thank you"
Them: "Oh helllooo!!!! (holding hands) Soooo cuuuuuutte! (air kiss) Hellooo baby!!!!!! (wave)"
This happened dozens of times.

We arrived in Bangkok after 10pm Friday night and had to be back at the airport at 3:30am on sunday morning. We also had to go back to the airport the next day to pick up our tickets to Bhutan.
Overlooking Thimphu
We decided that it would be easiest to stay at the Novotel Airport Hotel. We are coming back to Bangkok (and going to southern thailand) at the end of our trip to Bhutan so we didn't mind relaxing at the hotel all day saturday.

We were up at 3am sunday to catch our flight to Bhutan with a short stop in Calcutta. We had a view of the himalayas and Mt Everest on the flight.
The descent into Paro, Bhutan was pretty dramatic. We were on a large aircraft (the equivalent of a 737). Paro is on the floor of a steep valley and the plane dove steeply and wound its way though the valley - the wings of the plane level with houses on the side of the valley.
The landing strip is 1800m long and because Paro is at altitude the plane needed this entire length in order to stop.

Unfortunately our good run of landings with Hugh didn't extend to this one - he screamed the entire way down!!

Once through immigration, our guide, Karma Dorji and driver Mr Tendin were waiting for us. Independent travel is not allowed in Bhutan and the government imposes a visa fee per person per day in order the limit the amount and type of tourists (they don't want any scraggy, penny pinching backpackers). This fee covers all meals, accomodation, entrance fees, guide, transport and driver.
Although it is a developing country, government policy is to put the protection of their culture and environment above economic gain. The king one said "Gross National Happiness" is more important than "Gross National Product"

So we had arrived in Bhutan! Hugh was cheery again and we set off on our 1 1/2 hour drive to the capital, Thimphu (the only capital city in the world without a single traffic light!)
Will write more soon.

Tinymun says:
Howdy Hugh!

I hope you had a great time in Bhutan. Your Mum's blog is very interesting. Great photos too! I'm 10 months old I am travelling to Bhutan with my parents (boring!)next week. We are spending 3 weeks travelling from Paro to Trashigang in the east and back. Doing a bit of soft trekking (dad is so unfit), taking in the scenery and catching a few festivals, you know!
Quite a bit of driving involved and I was wondering how you travelled around the country? Did you have a car seat or did you travel by bus? My folks are wondering if they should bring one from home (car seat, not bus) or whether many cars have seat belts at all?! We are waiting to hear back from our tour operator but any help on this, or other tips you can offer, would be most appreciated.

Please say hi to Rosemary and Cameron.

Best wishes,

The Tinymun
Posted on: Nov 01, 2007
lrecht says:
Hope that Hugh didn't have to pay the full fare that you both did! Bhutan is expensive. Enjoying the blog since we just got back from there too.

PS - Where are you visiting in California? We live in Orange County and would be happy to have a visit.
Posted on: Aug 29, 2007
ltrye says:
Wow - such an adventure with a baby! That's impressive and also inspiring! Good for you guys.....what great family stories you're making.
Posted on: Aug 28, 2007
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Arriving at Paro airport
Arriving at Paro airport
Thimpu monastery
Thimpu monastery
pilgrim at Thimphu monastery
pilgrim at Thimphu monastery
Mr Tendin with Hugh
Mr Tendin with Hugh
Overlooking Thimphu
Overlooking Thimphu
One of the monasterys near Thimphu
One of the monasterys near Thimphu
Old wooded bridge near Thimphu
Old wooded bridge near Thimphu
Thimphu main square
Thimphu main square
Thimphu main square
Thimphu main square
Streets of Thimphu
Streets of Thimphu
Thimphu
Thimphu
Thimphu
Thimphu
Main street of Thimphu
Main street of Thimphu
Prayer wheels at Thimphu monastery
Prayer wheels at Thimphu monastery
Thimphu monastery
Thimphu monastery
Thimphu Dzong
Thimphu Dzong
Near Thimphu
Near Thimphu
Punakha
Punakha
Curious boy, near Thimphu
Curious boy, near Thimphu