Bhutan – The Land of the Thunder Dragon – is not only filled with mystery and magic, but also happiness.
Before going to Bhutan, I always thought that it’s an expensive and exotic place because they limit the number of tourists who can enter the country.
After more thorough research for my trip, I realised that there’s no such thing as “limiting number of visitors” to Bhutan.
With the exception of Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders, all tourists need to obtain a visa and book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator : http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/tour-operators
I booked my tour package with a local travel agent at SGD3,568 for 7 days (2-to-go) in March 2016. This period is considered a peak period and the minimum daily package should be USD250 per person. The package includes a guide, a driver, our transport, meals, accommodation, as well as entrance charges for sites. NOTE: Surcharges are imposed on single or group of 2 persons, hence, its best if there are 3 or more people to travel together.
Our guide told us that the government will take USD65 from the USD250 per night they levied on tourists to be used as subsidies for Bhutanese so that they can enjoy free education and health care services. This is something I applaud the King and the government of Bhutan for. I would be happy if I have free education and health care taken care of!
The airport is also like a ‘blast from the past’ – traditional two-storey house with multi-coloured wood frontages, and sloping roofs.
The road conditions from Paro to Thimphu (the capital of Bhutan) is still quite good. There are no traffic lights in the whole of Bhutan, but there is only 1 traffic police booth in Thimphu at a round-about to direct traffic.
Luckily for us, the food wasn’t too much of an issue since we both love chillies! We got a taste of their National Dish – Ema Datshi – chilli with cheese. They put chillies into almost everything – beef, chicken, fish, mushroom, cauliflower, etc….
On our first day there, we got breathless quite easily due to the high altitudes. We got breathless when we stopped at the Dochula Pass to use the toilet and take some photos. From there, we could see the beautiful Himalayan mountain range!
The resorts and lodges we stayed in were cozy and comfortable. There were occasions where we needed to wait for the water tanks to be hot and refilled before we could take a shower. When we were at Gakhiling Lodge, there was no WIFI connection, and we encountered blackouts, as well as hot water supply issues, since we’re in a rural area.
We visited lots of Dzongs, which are formerly fortresses, but also houses administrative, military, and temples. We were lucky to participate in the Paro Festival held at Paro Dzong. There were lots of traditional dances, and the locals gathered with their families for a picnic in their traditional costumes at the temple grounds.
We met the Takin – the national animal of Bhutan. It looks like a cow and a moose combined, and they are kept at the Takin Mini Zoo for protection and preservation.
Life in Bhutan is simple and carefree. I think that is the reason why you can find happiness here. The slow pace of life in this country is a luxury for a city girl like me.
As Bhutan progresses, and when more youngsters want to get out of their country to see the world, will they still be able to enjoy the simplicity and happiness in life?