An early rise from the hotel to catch the 6:30am flight to Bhutan. After a fairly easy checkin I found Noel, slumming it on 3 seats hat over head sound asleep. I wandered around the airport, but its so huge I only got halfway down before I returned. As I sat down a PA announcement for “Mr Utson, Just in Charge”… I guessed it was for me and the mystery of why they needed to see my passport and ticket still remains.
The flight is fairly uneventful. We stopped in Kolkata to let most of the Indians and their duty free off the plane, and got only a handful more passengers flying onto Bhutan. The best bit was the landing. The plane literally makes a series of turns as it flies through the valley, before one last sharp right turn, to line up with the runway. Apparently there are not many pilots able to land at Paro International Airport. Which is fine as only two airlines fly there and they are both Bhutanese.
After getting through a rather simple and painless immigration we found our guide Tenzin and our driver whose name alludes me, awaiting us outside. We drove through a valley to visit a lovely chain bridge. It was lovely until we walked on it and you could see straight to the river below and feel it wobble as you walk over it. Perhaps more entertaining were the shrieks of terror from a Taiwanese tour group as they dared to step onto the bridge.
We continued onto Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Its a small country town, there are no tall buildings in Bhutan, and those that are big are in the distinctive Bhutanese style. Even then the total population of Bhutan is 700,000 and only about 100,000 live in Thimphu. After a rather filling lunch we insisted on going to see the archery. They were not shooting Olympic style, they were shooting Bhutanese style over a 140m course, with a rather small target at the far end, with singing and dancing in between shots. I thought they were hanging shit on the guy because he missed, but apparently it involved giving directions or congratulations to the archer. We then visited the rather disappointing sunday market. Not very busy and no dead animals to play guess what that was.
It started to rain which dampened things, however we did visit the dzong which is a fortified temple. Who should we see but the Je Khenpo, the head buddhist and equal to the king of Bhutan. He was inside the temple and some sacred monks business was carried out, but we could see him on his special chair. The King and the Kings father also have special chairs as well. After that high we went to see a memorial chorten, which is like a stupa. Finally we ascend to see the golden buddha, my dad would have liked this buddha as there were no stairs to ascend, just a winding road up the hill.
So far I’m loving Bhutan, no beggars have asked for money, everyone is so friendly as well. We have a full day in and around Thimphu tomorrow with a hike to start the day.