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Bhutan is the most enchanting, ethereal, and exciting country my partner and I have ever travelled to!
Bhutan is the most enchanting, ethereal, and exciting country my partner and I have ever travelled to! Entering Bhutan was like being transported to a classic period drama, infused with sophisticated modern technology. In particular, our experience was made truly magical and mesmerising by the tour guide (Sonam lhendup B) and driver (Karpola) Druk Asia assigned us with. They are a dynamic duo that went above and beyond to ensure we were happy! I can say with 100% certainty that their flawless service is the key reason why we have crowned Bhutan our favourite destination of all time!
We literally cried on our departure flight.
Sonam - tour guide
Firstly, Sonam Ihendup B, our tour guide, is incredibly charismatic and engaging - he explained the cultural and historical significance of every place we went to with such passion and conviction. Listening to him was highly entertaining, and we never felt as though there was information overload. Sonam provided us with the most important details of each location and communicated it in a way that was accessible and not dry at all! I generally find history and geography boring, but Sonam made everything in Bhutan seem fascinating - my partner and I just could not stop asking him questions! He is a wealth of knowledge and could answer everything about Bhutan accurately - from the economy to their fashion!
Secondly, he went above and beyond to tailor the itinerary to our preferences - ensuring we got the PERFECT balance between picturesque sightseeing, traditional Bhutanese activities, and explanatory tours of spiritual and cultural places. He provided us with effective advice on how to get the most magnificent view; showed us savvy techniques to accurately perform unique Bhutanese activities; and provided us with practical tips to effortlessly complete stunning treks (without him we would have given up on our hike to Tiger's Nest!). Also, he made sure we went to authentic and delicious Bhutanese restaurants and shops that weren't just tourist traps!
Thirdly, Sonam did everything he could to accommodate our preferences and make sure we were comfortable. We never felt pressured to do anything against our will, because Sonam always double checked with us to ensure every aspect of our trip was precisely to our standards.
Sonam also had great intuition and knew exactly what to say or do at every moment to ensure each experience was as enjoyable as possible. For example: providing us with engaging explanations of monuments, and practical tips to maximise the enjoyment of each place - then giving us space to privately immerse ourselves in the location. He was also very handy - helping us fix random things such as a broken nail clipper!
Above all, he is such a genuine, kind and compassionate person. We had such amazing conversations because Sonam is so worldly, cultured, and intelligent. There were so many life-changing quotes and lessons we learnt from Sonam - he is someone we truly aspire to be! Our talks were very diverse and ranged from hilarious, light-hearted banter to deeper philosophical discussions. He is such an engaging and eloquent conversationalist - so much so, that we wanted to speak with him endlessly and pick his brains!
Karpola - driver
Our driver Karpola was so caring, helpful and stunningly respectful. He was highly skilled and had the most amazing work ethic of anyone we have ever met.
Firstly, the roads of Bhutan are difficult to navigate (there's a lot of steep curves and narrow lanes) but Karpola managed to drive so smoothly and safely. He never speeded, nor did we feel any turbulence or bumpiness - he somehow managed to make bumpy roads feel seamless for passengers. He always knew the fastest and most scenic routes to places - ensuring we were always early and had the best views.
Secondly, he is so helpful and went out of his way to ensure we were as comfortable as possible. He always prepared the right tools/resources for every location we visited, offered to help in any way he could and found ways to make each of our activities as fun as possible!
Thirdly, like Sonam, he also knew what we needed at every moment without us asking - offering water when he could see how tired we were, carrying our bags when we were so tired (we didn't ask!), and calming our fears if we appeared slightly apprehensive.
Last, but not least - he was such a respectful, hardworking, humble and down to earth person! Karpola was also a lot of fun and had an excellent sense of humour! Although we cracked jokes and laughed together, we also had substantive conversations on deeper topics. There was always something to learn from him.
We'll never forget his natural comedic charm and all the times he went out of his way to ensure we were content.
Overall synergy of Sonam + Karpola
Both Sonam and Karpola made us feel as though we were right at home, even though Bhutan is so different to Australia! I can say with all honesty that they are the best tour guide and driver we have ever had the pleasure of meeting!
Bhutan by itself was amazing - the stunning scenery, preservation of age-old traditions, spiritual stories and unique participatory activities! However, without Sonam and Karpola, Bhutan would not have been as enjoyable as it was. The dynamic duo made our entire year with their kindness, wisdom, humour, and amazing passion for their country. We have never felt so sad to leave a country and are now adamant to learn Bhutanese!
This was truly a trip of a lifetime and regardless of whether the daily tourist tax goes higher or lower - we will always come back to Bhutan to visit Bhutan because our experience was so enchanting. We are already planning our 2024 trip to Bhutan and will 100% be requesting Sonam and Karpola.
Our travel agent, Ugyen from Druk Asia responded promptly to our enquiries and answered all our questions in extensive detail. She ensured that we understood every aspect of travelling to Bhutan - from the legal factors to cultural etiquette, historical facts, must-see sights/activities and general information on how Bhutan operates (e.g. how locals travel around, whether there was pay wave available etc). I loved that she was always there to lend a supporting hand and assist us with any enquiries before the trip and throughout.
Thank you Druk Asia, Sonam and Karpola for making our time in Bhutan a fairy tale.