Hi from Bhutan! My that has a nice ring to it. Yes we are here and have had almost 2 days to enjoy urban Bhutan before we head off to the high mountains for our trek. I am a bit behind on posting as we have had a lot of touring fit into those 2 days. I will try to get a few posts in because we leave tomorrow for our trek and I will be unable to post for many days.
We flew into Paro from Bangkok on October 21st and flight in was amazing. I am very happy the pilots are as experienced as they are. We were on a 737 equivalent plane and we arrived in the middle of a rain storm so our descent was almost completely in cloud until suddenly the valley floor appeared and you become aware that you were approaching the airstrip through very tight turns with mountains surrounding you on both sides. I had a window seat and I swear that the wing tips on either side were just within reach of the mountains. Once we landed the reverse thrusters were put on with major force in order to stop before the short airstrip ran out. This was the most exciting and breathtaking descent I have ever had in a large airplane.
We cleared customs in Paro but did not stay very long as our destination that day was Thimphu the largest city in Bhutan with about 100,000 people. It is about 55 km from Paro. We met our driver Krishna and our guide Phuntsho who I kept calling Pinto. Both are very nice and have a very good command of English. It was raining quite hard that day so we did not get to see much of the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding mountains.
We had lunch at a restaurant and we decided to order some beer with our meals. Most people had the Druk lager but Dave and I ordered a local beer called Red Panda. The standard beer bottle size is almost 3 times our regular beer bottle size. It tasted quite funny but not knowing what the local beer should taste like I almost finished the whole bottle. Dave did not have much of his. Most of my travel mates tried it and I should have been suspicious with comments like “this is swill”” or “”this is still fermenting”” or “”I am sure this is what yak urine tastes like””. Alas, I did not heed their warnings. All was well until we arrived at the apartments we would be staying at for the duration of our Thimphu stay. I am sharing a 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom suite with two lovely and very entertaining travel mates Richard and Terry. We were talking about the day over a wee bit of scotch (most of my travel mates enjoy a wee scotch which thrills me to no end-especially since they bought some scotch at the duty free and were willing to share- I did not buy any, shock I know, but I had the most gear and really couldn’t carry more) when I had the sudden onset of shaking chills and nausea. It got worse so I excused my self and tried to go to sleep to shake it off at 6:15 PM! Within the half hour I was vomiting and crashed after I was done with my talk with god on the big white phone and slept 13 hours straight missing dinner that night and meeting our guide operator Tsewang Nidup. Thank god I felt better the next morning and was left with just some fatigue and lingering stomach upset. I know it was that beer so I have taken an oath of beer celibacy until the trek is over as I do not want any of these symptoms while I am trekking.
Here are just a few editorial photographs from our first day in Bhutan with the airport in Paro and a few shots of our abode. Please see if you can spot the “”dirty”” shot- hint, it is the front facade of our apartments in Thimphu. You have to like a culture that prizes the male genitalia.