Do you dream of visiting somewhere that few people have seen or even heard about? Bhutan is one such country. As a self-imposed rule – I decided that my first international destination should be Bhutan – The happiest country in the world. I had heard wonderful things about this country and wanted to explore it thoroughly.
So here I was, a recent graduate with no clue in the world but only one goal – to set out on a journey to Bhutan. I packed my bag one day and booked my flight tickets the next and left with a close friend of mine. And oh boy, Bhutan did not disappoint at all. In fact it turned out to be very female-traveler friendly.
Here are a few moments that I was able to capture on my journey to Bhutan. Do let me know about your best moments to Bhutan that I missed out on so we can all get to learn more about this beautiful piece of land.
Getting to Bhutan:
There are two ways to travel to Bhutan – by road and by flight. If you choose to take a flight you will be arriving in Bhutan’s only international airport – Paro. And its views are to die for so make sure that you book a window seat. You might also get to see Mt. Everest on your way to Paro! You will realize that you are flying into a magical place the moment your plane will cruise pass the summit of Mt. Everest and your pilot will bank a hard left between the Himalayan peaks. If you choose to enter Bhutan via road like me, then the views of lush greenery everywhere will make your heart smile. The below picture is of the Bhutan gate that I just entered. I literally was waving a good bye to noisy India. I couldn’t wait to explore blissful Bhutan. Sigh.
You will find the traditional design of the buildings very culturally in sync with the Kingdom of Bhutan and its precious people. Bhutan has done a great job maintaining the cultural architecture of the past while welcoming modern amenities.
Thimphu Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. (Fun fact: Thimphu is the only capital city in the World that has no traffic lights– just white-gloved traffic officers. They had installed a traffic light years back but took it down because it was considered too unfriendly!) There were tonnes of memories I made – singing with monks in their language (even though I didn’t make any sense to them because I was uttering complete gibberish they were very kind and enjoyed my enthusiasm), posing in front of a humongous Buddha statue, gulping down momos-red rice-and Ema Datshi (Chilly, basically lots of chilli, hence the gulping), and randomly sitting on roads for unique poses and gawking at waterfalls. I also made a friend – Sam uncle. He was our driver and took us around Thimphu. He wore a Gho – the traditional Bhutanese outfit for men.
Thimphu Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city. It looks stunning at night due to the lights. Our visit to the Thimphu Dzong was well timed, as we got to witness the daily flag hoisting ceremony and meet the Abbot of Thimphu region. The flag hoisting is always preceded by prayers and blessing of the flag, after which the guards march the flag out and hoist it at the entrance to the Dzong.
Paro We went around the local markets to pick up some ethical souvenirs, We also ate a scrumptious meal in a local restaurant. The food was excellent; lots of red rice, local vegetables and potatoes, and their national dish – Chillies and Cheese – which is red hot chillies mixed in with a Yak cheese sauce. It may sound unappetizing, but it’s delicious and helps to spice up what is otherwise a fairly bland meal.
My favorite place was the side of the river Paro. This river made my entire Bhutan journey so blissful. I could spend my entire life here. The tranquility of the waves hushed my traveler heart and made me forget my bucket list.
A 2-hour drive from Paro takes you to one of the highest vantage points, Chele La Pass. In winters, you will encounter frozen rivers, waterfalls, alpine flowers and snow on the way to the pass. From the city’s pinnacle, you can marvel at the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys while watching the famous Himalayan yaks grazing in the distant horizon.
Our last full day in Bhutan was spent in Paro, visiting the most famous sight in Bhutan. The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is an impressive working monastery, perched on a cliff face 900m up from the valley. It’s only reachable by a 2 hour trek which isn’t easy – it took us 6 hours, but it’s a scenic hike, with fascinating views the whole way. We did the mistake of not taking a guide along with us. So we did get lost but a cute Bhutanese dog lead us to the right path. Even the dogs are super kind! I suggest that you take the help of a guide to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Having a guide means you’ll be properly prepared for the hike – Our hotel’s owner suggested we get up early to beat the crowds (which we did) and we were all grateful for the extra bottle of water he insisted we carry with us.
Even though I wanted to stay back in Bhutan, I had to get back to my life in India. I’m glad that I spent some good fifteen days just to explore these two cities and relish the whole Bhutan experience. It truly was one of its kind!