Paro to Thimpu to Punakha
Well I finally arrive in Bhutan, after a 5am wake up call, breakfast, plane journey with a fab view of Everest, the airport is in a valley in the mountains so its quite an interesting flight in flying so close to the hillside. We meeting with our guide who gives us a traditional scarf as a welcome and then meet our driver for the next few days. Tashi (guide) and Doji (driver) so far so good so we head out of the airport. Within less than 1km we run into an incident, a man in the road picking up bricks looking distressed (pretty drunk if I was to guess, and its only 10am) we try to drive round him and then he starts walking towards the car holding up the brick threatening as if to throw it, we back up and thankfully someone comes to intercede and is quickly followed by a police officer! Tasha makes a comment that the son has done something bad to his father which is why he is ‘upset’!! Well so much for the happiest place on the planet… we drive on.
Day 1 ends up being a whistle stop tour trying to fit two days into one, Tashi checks our itinerary to make sure it matches his and then starts to work his way through the list. Bhutan is really interesting, roads were only built here in the 1960’s when the country really started to open its borders, some parts are still not accessible, till then it was pretty closed off, and electricity is a pretty recent thing too only this century and strangely now they sell this to neighbouring Nepal and India. Top export next to apples and potatoes! So altogether Bhutan its relatively unspoilt with beautiful scenery, its very clean, the spring water from the mountain is crystal clear.
We started at the National Memorial Chorten, moved quickly onto the Buddha statue overlooking Thimpu (sure I will be seeing many more of them over the coming days!), there is a dog lying on the ground, basically I thought it was dead until it suddenly moved. Apparently they sleep all day and bark all night and they are everywhere! We took a quick look at Taschichoedzong, know as the “the fortress of the glorious religion”.
Had a fabulous vegetarian lunch at the Aroma restaurant which is a lovely little place…. I am still a bit wary of meat at the moment so playing it safe but the food was delicious. The national dish is chilli and cheese so something to look forward to, although apparently its extremely hot, and as we drive past the houses we can see red roofs everywhere covered in drying chilli’s.
After lunch we visit the Mini Zoo, to observe Takin (national animal of Bhutan) half cow, half goat its an interesting animal which is in decline and this “zoo” is really more a sanctuary as there are some injured animals there as well (tiger attack apparently!). Alongside Takin we see Deer, and other mountain animals. We then take a long and windy (very fast) drive to Punakha to the Dzong before it closes at 5pm, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, where we get to see the current Abbott (on a par to the king in power within Bhutan) and get his blessings and take a tour of the beautiful grounds. With a quick “rest room” break which is very much like the Thailand in that this is the hole in the ground standing up loo where you try not to pee down your leg! We run into a few people off the delayed flight, say a few hi’s and then move on, I am sure we will see many more as the days go by.
Then we head to the hotel (Zangto Pelri) which is really lovely, fabulous little huts with a mountain and river view. Basically we are the only people here, me and Nora the other woman on the tour with me and a one other European man. Spot of dinner in the hotel with an early night for another early morning and whistle stop tour tomorrow.