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Amazing time as a family in Bhutan
Apologies for the much-delayed email. We can't begin to tell you how much our family enjoyed our visit to Bhutan. It was truly a memorable experience for us, and our week there is something we will always treasure.
Druk Asia met all our expectations, and we were well taken cared of by our knowledgeable guide, Ugyen, who was quick to adapt to our requests and had very good recommendations that suited our interests and needs. Ugyen was very considerate to our two boys, and made sure that the activities matched their stamina. Our driver was careful (which we appreciated) and made sure we were comfortable throughout the drives, and that the van was always clean, and our belongings safe and secure.
On our accommodations:
Taj Tashi Hotel in Thimpu had the best service, great location, great breakfasts and very comfortable room. What impressed us the most is the personal approach to service. Our waitress packed us a small snack box to take with us when she found out we were going to go on a hike later in the day, and remembered us enough the next morning to ask how the hike went, and if we needed another snack box or more water bottles to take with us. The cultural show in the evenings were a bonus.
The inns we stayed in in Punakha were fine too - spacious, clean, with good views. But the best hotel for us was Zhiwa Ling - gorgeous setting, beautiful architecture, and just a joy to be in. The food was excellent, and the grounds were great for exploring. The boys had a good run around the property, I enjoyed the spa, and we had a lovely afternoon tea at their Tea House. We also had an amazing night stargazing. We had such a great stay there that our youngest declared that we have to move to Bhutan and live in Zhiwa Ling!
We loved Bhutanese food! Ugyen figured out that Scott and I actually love the chili cheese and so made sure we had a bowl of it with every meal :) There was always a variety of dishes served to us, and our kids always found a dish or two they liked. It was good though to be able to have Western food choices at the beginning and end of the trip, as it made for variety. Zhiwa Ling has the best steak sandwich in the world, we think, and we were always happy with whatever we ordered as they were always delicious! Their bar was also great. But overall, we thought eating in Bhutan was a treat!
We had a vote for the best day of the trip, and surprisingly, we all picked the day when we visited Pobjikha, even though it is a long drive going there and even longer coming back. Punakha Dzong was beautiful, and each Dzong and temple we saw were special in their own way. We appreciated the choices made available to us for each part of the visit, but in the end, we were happy not to pack too much in one day, giving us more time to enjoy ourselves with each visit. We appreciate the choices given to us though. We had a very good mix of learning about Bhutan's culture, history & wonderful people, as well as great time in the outdoors (the hikes were great!), and some shopping :). Maybe next time I'll look for a cooking class so I can make chili cheese in Singapore!
Minor (but memorable) incident:
We had the unfortunate incident of renting an ornery horse/mule to take our youngest up to Tiger's Nest, and having the mule spooked by the horses galloping on their way down. It started to run away with Dylan, and Ugyen and another guide tried to stop the mule from running away but in the end, Ugyen had to grab Dylan off the mule, resulting in a mildly sprained ankle. Ugyen did the heroic thing of carrying Dylan on his back to the rest stop (short distance from where it happened) and back down (much longer). I guess the lesson there is not to rent a horse last minute (we only decided when we got there, and there were no choices as all the other horses were booked).
Overall: We had an amazing time as a family, and we hope to visit again. Our best day, hands down, was the day trip to Pobjikha. A visit to the dzong, followed by a fantastic vegetarian lunch, an unforgettable visit to the local school (where our son played his recorder and the kids sang us songs, and Scott and I helped with geography lessons) and an easy hike around the spectacular valley.
We would want to explore the possibility of doing some charity work, in particular to support the school we visited, and later on, to explore helping out poorer villages in Eastern Bhutan. We had brought with us school supplies we bought in Thimpu, and a bag full of barely worn winter clothes for boys (our kids only got to wear them for a couple of weeks a year) and we were assured that it was a welcome gesture. Would you know if Druk Air has rates for air cargo, if we want to send more winter clothes, books & such? We will be looking at sending boxes to Thimphu, and then figuring out how to forward it domestically from there.
We have already shared our recommendations to our friends, and have highly recommended Druk Asia as the travel agency of choice. Thank you for making our first visit to Bhutan memorable.
Best regards and Kadin-chhey-la,