Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paro over the Himalyas

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM

Someone long ago told me about the Himalyan Kingdoms. She said she specially liked Bhutan because one morning she woke up and saw the mist in the quiet of the morning. It was so heavenly beautiful. Every since then Bhutan was on my list and I dont know why it took me so long to finally decided to go. I thought I was done with traveling this year after the Caucasus, but out of a whim, I've decided to make the Himalyan Kingdoms this year.

Everyone who's been to Bhutan had told me how they loved that place. And about the thrilling flight to Paro. Since Paro was nestled among hills, the plane had to descend rapidly and maneuver among the hills. Only 8 pilots were qualified to fly in and out of Paro. And so I was specially looking forward to the adventure. I got a window seat on the left side to make sure I get to see the Himalyas this time.

Once past the security check-in at the KTM Tribhuvan airport, it was confusing. People everywhere and no monitors to tell you which gate to embark. Suddenly Paro was announced from one of the gates and we went in. Druk Air, the Royal Bhutan Airlines, the only airline that flies to Bhutan, had excellent service. As we flew by the Himalyas, the pilot announced the appearance of the famous peaks, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, all the familiar names. We were given drinks and a box of munchies, sandwich, cookie and peanuts. The descend into Paro was abrupt and the plane was so close to the hills, I could wave to a man walking his dog. Then suddenly the plane banked right and touched down. Compared to the heat and dust of KTM, Paro's mountain air was fresh and cool. The airport was the most beautiful in the world. The terminal was built in Bhutanese traditional building architecture, with the Bhutanese window frames. There's a wrap around balcony on the inside of the terminal building, every inch painted. Everything and everywhere was clean and orderly. Our local guide Namgay was there to greet us. He and the driver both wore the traditional customs. He told us they were required to wear the traditional wear when they work. Welcome to Bhutan! Now the real vacation started!

On our way to our hotel, along the gorgeous clear Paro Chhu river, we stopped at vintage points to photograph the Paro Dzong. Imposing gorgeous building. All along our way, we saw Bhutanese houses with architecture unlike anything I've ever seen. By law the houses must have the design of the traditional style with the bhutanese window frames, and painted with buddhist motifs and religious symbols, like the white tiger and phallus. The road was narrow, only 1 lane but paved, unbroken and clean. Our hotel, the Dechen Hill Resort sat on the hill side offering views of the valley and the Paro town below. The day was cool with clear blue sky. We were offered tea and sugar crackers at the hotel reception.The crackers were wonderful. My room was big but very cold. The bathroom was antique and not very clean. Later V and I walked up the hill to check out the 5 star hotels. Dinner that evening was a hot soup and a never ending flow of chicken, cooked veggies, chili and cheese (the local favorite)and red rice. I've never had red rice before. The resort hotel was comfortable but noisy at night as all the dogs who slept during the warmth of the day, became alive at night. They barked and howled and walked around all night long. I could hear them pawing in front of my room, which was on the ground floor. They sounded right next to me when I finally retired to bed, so I've moved to the bed furthest from the window. Even with the electric fire on, the room was freezing so I've pulled the 2 woolen blankets from the extra bed and I was still cold. Under 4 heavy woolen blankets, it reminded me of my first night in Patagonia, in the ever hateful hotel there.

Everyone visiting Bhutan was required to spend a minimum of $250USD and must have a local guide, so all our meals were included. The food was excellent and the service and hospitality so far far exceeded any I've experienced anywhere in the world. So perhaps people didnt exaggerate when they said they loved Bhutan.



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