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We signed up for the trip to Bhutan with very little knowledge
We signed up for the 11D trip (15-25 Dec) to Bhutan with very little knowledge of what to expect as not many among our circle of friends have visited the country. At the end of our trip, we feel moved to share some highlights so that others may also get to know this beautiful country.
My family of four (2 teenage daughters, my husband and I) enjoyed the first hike in Thimphu and on day 4, we requested our guide, Ugyen Tenzin, to work in a hike each day, and he delivered it beyond our expectation, availing to us the varied dramatic landscapes of Bhutan in winter through the 7 hikes we undertook.
GANGTEY: Although tough for us to rank our favourite hike, if we have to, it would be in Gangtey, where Phobjikah Valley (Home of the Black-necked Crane) is. We are glad that Ugyen and Sonam (travel specialist) speedily arranged for us to extend another night at Gangtey so that we could go on a hike, looping from the hotel into the Gangtey-Phobjikah Wetland Conservation Area and back to the hotel. What Ugyen did to made this full day hike even more special for us was to have us hike in everyday Kira and Gho together with a few of the hotel staff, complete with Bhutanese outdoor cooking for lunch! We experienced firsthand as authentic a local hike experience as possible!
BUMTHANG: In exploring the Chokhor Valley, we chanced upon the 4.7km Kharsa-Dozam Trek, and we asked to try it. Both Ugyens discussed and agreed to lead us on the trail, while taking care to have one of them moving ahead to recce while the other moved along with us. This is one of the more challenging hikes and both Ugyens guided us through the muddy tracks and even improvised a bridge for us!
PARO: We did a late afternoon hike in Paro, the Zuri Hike, after a long day driving from Gangtey to Paro. Ugyen’s surprise for us was to time our drive and hike so that we could witness the skilful landing of the plane by Druk Air pilots! From the vantage point he identified, we had a stunning view of Paro Valley and the Paro International Airport. Although the timing for that day was very tight owing to the long drive and our request for another view of Dochula Pass, driver Ugyen’s skilful driving and guide Ugyen’s good understanding of our hiking pace enabled him to time our activities such that we could enjoy leisurely breaks in between the drive and yet were in time to witness the spectacular landing of the plane!
The much-awaited hike to Tiger’s Nest was a deeply moving experience as it made the seemingly impossible possible. On the hike up, it seemed impossible to traverse the steep slopes and never-ending steps we saw ahead of us, but with each stretch conquered and when we looked back, we were encouraged by the progress made and even more motivated to push on. Guide Ugyen’s ‘warm-up’ hikes and pre-hike precautionary briefing prepared us for the hike physically and mentally. We relished the magnificent view and every moment of the hike!
Knowing that we wanted to interact more with the locals, Ugyen made the following arrangements for us:
* Kinley and her staff (Dekiyl Guest House in Bumthang) taught us to cook Momos and Kewa Datshi;
* Migwa and Dashi (ABC Lodge) accompanied us on the full day hike in Gangtey;
* the many locals working in the fields whom we joined in loosening the soil in the hazelnut plantation, warming ourselves seated around the outdoor fire at the end of their work day, and chopping firewood to feed the fire;
* two ladies who agreed to let us carry their baskets filled with radish part of the way;
* a farmer whose ride Ugyen hitched for us to experience a bumpy yet most thrilling ride on the tractor-trailer;
* At the farmhouse hot stones bath, we had a chance to enjoy a drink in the kitchen and played with the 5-year-old grandchild; and
* (as a bonus) we learnt to sing and dance to the latest popular song, Dahben Labchi, from Migma, Dashi and our two Ugyens!
Through these interactions, we saw for ourselves what Ugyen shared: Buddha’s teachings, not so much as a religion, but as a way of life. It brings about new understanding of the people and culture of Bhutan. We witnessed through the actions of both the Bhutanese as well as both Ugyens the respect of and care for the environment, and we are inspired. The generous sharing by Ugyen about the history, people and culture of Bhutan have us falling in love with your country!
The beauty of Bhutan is also experienced in rafting down river Mo Chhu; touring the majestic dzongs (of which Trongsa Dzong left the deepest impression) and monasteries; contemplating the marvel of Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge; and beholding the awe-inspiring Buddha Point as well as the breathtaking view at Dochula Pass.
11 days connecting with unspoiled nature and experiencing the warm hospitality of the Bhutanese left us with a deep appreciation of your beautiful country. This is only made possible by the thoughtful rearrangement of the itinerary by guide Ugyen Tenzin and the expert navigation by driver, also Ugyen Tenzin. Both gentlemen took good care of us and ensured that we got to experience aspects of Bhutan in as authentic a manner as possible. For a group who hiked a fair bit, we did not suffer a single cut — that must attest to the great care our Bhutanese friends have taken of us. We are also grateful to Sonam who provided critical administrative support for the changes to our itinerary during our trip. Kudos to all three of you! It is certainly a privilege to visit your lovely country and meet the many beautiful people.
Karden Cheyla! Log Jay Gay!