Day One BKK to Paro, Bhutan
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The hardest part of day one was the 2am wake up call to be at the airport at 3:30 for a 5:30am flight from Bangkok to Bhutan. Check in was easy and pleasant and when we boarded the plane, I knew we were going someplace so far away. All of the signs in the plane were in Bhutanese there was a giant dragon on the wing of the plane and the flight attendants were dressed in their native costums and were so welcoming.
One route to Paro our Captain made a stop in Dakka Bangledesh to drop off and pick up passengers. About 20 minutes later the Captain announced that we would be able to see Mount Everest from the left side of the plane. Happilly we were seated at the left side of the plane and the view of Mt.
Our decient into Paro was very quick and abrupt and one minute we are seeing the tops of the trees and mountains on each side and the next second we dropped a great deal of altitude and were on the runway and finally in Bhutan.
The Immigration process was so interesting, we had a copy of our paperwork and our Visa from the Tour Operator but the process was very long and very thourough and the customs officer had a file on each group and as I was one of two in my group we were the last to be processed. The process was very polite and thourough but seemed very foreign to me. I was used to the European Customs transfers, this was my first introduction to the Kingdom of Bhutan and how everything took a little more time and everyone was so nice and polite about it.
After we cleared customs we picked up our luggage in the luggage area which was like a minature golf course, it was the only luggage conveyor belt and approx 35 feet long. As we walked outside of the airport as only ticketed passengers are allowed in the airport we met our Travel Guide Wingchuk and our Driver Chechee whom we would grow to love and appreciate and depend on for every move and every means of access into Bhutan.
We quickly loaded into our Driver's Car which was a clean, new SUV. We immediatly realized with in five minutes why we needed an SUV. The roads were in many cases dirt roads as we drove into town. I was immediately shocked by the emptyness of the town. There were very few people in cars, the majority were walking with huge wicker backpacks full of thier goods.
We arrived to the hotel. The lobby was small and quiet, as it was off season we were the only guests in the hotel. We were asked to go to the dining room where they served us tea and gave us our itinerary and asked us if we had any questions, etc. later wer were served our first Bhutanese lunch. After all I read on food in Bhutan, I was well packed with protein bars and almonds. As typical Bhutanese food is very difficult for Westerners to eat as it is sooooo spicy and all about the red chili peppers, which were drying on the roof of our hotel at the time.
We ate a wonderful meal, about 9 courses which didn't stop.....the food was very good, the part that I ate. It was the first time I had ever hear of Red Rice , which would turn into my staple for the 7 days I was to be in Bhutan.
We were then given 4 hours to rest and relax in our room, and later in the afternoon we would visit our first monestary. Instead of staying in our room, we ventured out down the sidewalk alone. That moment was amazing as I felt so foreign and the people were so nice and we went into little store after store as they were selling hand made Jewelery and blankets, textiles and beautiful handmade fabrics....we were shocked by the prices, it was very expensive, approx $500 for a scarf size fabric.
Later that afternoon we visited our first monestary. We were very lucky to get a private meeting with the Lama and he offered us prayer necklaces and a prayer scarf for us and they monks did a very long Buddist Chant for us to offer us a safe and enjoyable trip during our stay.
Night time came early for us and I then realized what an adventure this trip was going to be. There was no hot water or heat in our room. It was approx 20 degrees outside and we only had one beaten space heater for our room. I had to take a shower, which turned out to be the fastest cold shower of my life.....NOTE: when going to Bhutan bring your own towels....We had read in a lot of travel blogs to take your own shampoo and soap, as we did, but we didn't bring our own towels.
We woke up around 5 am with teeth cattering and sore body from an inch thick mattress, but so excited to venture out and see Bhutan. We were served hot American Breakfast at 7 and left in the SUV with CheChe and Wingchuk the driver and guide at 8am. Before we left the hotel, we noticed from our hotel room that the children in Paro were walking to school with their parents. We went outside with Wingchuk our guide and he spoke with the parents and we gave the students pencils and pens.......they were so excited and grateful for the gifts and they were rushing to school.
About and hour on a beat up road we made it to the base of Tiger's Nest-which is a very old Monestary which was built into the mountain and was one of the inspirations for me to go to Bhutan.
Unfortunately, the altitude got the best of me and I could not continue up the mountain as I couldn't breath......let alone I am petrafied of heights.....why go to the Himalayan Mountains, then...right???? I continue to ask myself, but I didn't care because we were on the trip of a lifetime and I was goign to beat my frears of heights, and I was going to climb the mountain. Sadly, I waited on the 2nd Camp as I couldn't breath and couldn't catch my breath so I decided to wait as Wangchuk escorted Leonardo up the mountain to the nest.
Feeling beaten by the mountain but not broken, Two hours later Leonardo returned to camp and we all walked back down the mountain and I said goodbye to Tiger's Nest but, will return again to try to make it up the mountain another time.
Exhausted, we returned to Paro and had a lovely lunch and walked around town a bit more and we went for a drive to visit another Monestary and offer pens to the students and enjoy the amazing scenes of Bhutan.
That evening we visited a Monestary that had burned to the ground a few years back as a Monk accidentally caught the Monestary on fire with a Yak Butter Candle. The Monestary was still in tack in the foundation and it looked like an old fortress, and apparently it was used as that a long time ago.
Another night in Paro another freezing shower and sleeping in coats and hats....but that is what this trip was all about.....being in a remote place and understanding the people and stepping away from the Four Season lifestyle.