I have always been fascinated by the unique and untouched corners of the globe, places off the beaten path, the “road less travelled” destinations. One place that has held my imagination for many many years is Bhutan. The idea that a country can function with happiness being placed higher than profit, just resinates with me and I needed to see and experience this country myself. So the research began. First stop for many travellers researching a new destination is good old google. To my surprise I actually found a few tour companies that travelled to Bhutan, some of the big names are World Expeditions and Intrepid Tours, everyone knows these companies, they are large corporate companies that see a large proportion of the market. They both have great reviews and like most large organisations the usual few negative ones thrown in there as well. However the pre-determined departure dates around the time that I wanted to go did not suit my schedule, so I looked a little further, with the aid of my good friend Kylie from JetSet Hillarys. We came across the Adventure World “Land Of the Thunder Dragon” tour, they had daily departures and better still, the tour included flights return to Kathmandu.
Bhutan is such a unique travel destination, it is a Himalayan Kingdom with whom’s name fills the imaginations of travellers with magic and mystery. The Bhutanese have created a very unique way to control the flow of tourist into Bhutan and still make enough revenue to sustain the travel industry, which from my experience is growing at a steady rate. Bhutan have introduced the Gross National Happiness Philosophy which includes the famous $250.00USD per day VISA, which makes Bhutan sound like one of the worlds most expensive destinations. However this VISA/ tariff is all inclusive. The VISA includes your accommodation, food, transport, entrance fees and your local guide. The only thing that you will need to pay for yourself, are the souvenirs that you wish to purchase and the beers at the end of the day. On that topic you wont find many cheap, Chinese made souvenirs here either, not saying that they are not around, they are there and more arrive every year, its just that the Bhutanese like their local products and I sincerely hope this hangs around. I feel much better buying a souvenir that has been made locally, by locals and the money stays local. With this costly VISA you will not find Backpacker style accommodation and this is no accident. Bhutan is not a place that you can just rock up and travel through at your own leisure. You need to travel with a organised tour company however you do not need to travel in a large group. If you wish to travel by yourself, simple organise a personnel tour, you can even organise your own itinerary.
My Adventure World, “Land of the Thunder Dragon” tour started in Kathmandu. I jumped on the Druk Air Jet plane, Druk Air is the Bhutanese Airline, the aircraft was new and very comfortable. One thing I feel I must mention is be ready for the crazy landing at Paro airport. I have never seen a huge jet liner manoeuvre like that. The pilots have to thread the plane between two mountains before landing.
Once through one of the most friendly and easy going customs gates I have ever seen I was met promptly by Pelma my tour guide from Adventure World, who use a local provider called Etho Metho Tours. I was given a traditional welcome and off we set. The vehicle we were travelling in was a reasonable new Toyota Hiace van, it was clean and comfortable. Pelma was such a nice person and I soon realised pretty much every one in Bhutan is so peaceful and welcoming. On the long drive into Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan we stopped at the famous Iron Chain Bridge and I quickly figured out that Pelma both loved being a Tour Guide and that he was incredibly knowledgeable about Bhutan and Buddhism. I was about to have an amazing experience in Bhutan with this amazing guide.
Through out my tour the accommodation was amazing, every night we stayed at beautiful hotels, all with incredible views, the rooms were all amazing and they all had WiFi in the common areas. I noticed that the hotel food was a westernised version of local food. I understand that this is what some travellers want, but I much prefer to drop myself into a countries culture and really try to experience the real country. I bought this up with Pelma and every meal after that I received a little taste of what the local food was like. I new some of it wouldn’t suit my taste but I wanted to try it. To my surprise the local food is magnificent, some of it is super hot so be ready.
The roads in Bhutan are some of the most breathtaking drives I have been on and surprisingly well made. They zig zag there way around the mountainous country side and boast an impressive 6-7 bends per km. There were shear cliffs, sometimes with nothing then a few well placed rocks stopping you from tumbling off the edge, even so I always felt safe. Our driver was highly skilled at negotiating these roads and always put our safety ahead of pace. I started to get a little motion sick in the rear seat of the van, Pelma instructed me to switch with him and sit in the front. Pelma explained that this is a common occurrence on these windy roads. Whilst I was in Bhutan many of the roads were under repair I believe this is an ongoing thing. The roads get destroyed by the extreme weather, the summer monsoon and the winter snow storms. The roads are built by hand and you get to see and watch the locals working on the roads when you get stopped at one of the many road blocks. Some of which you may be stuck at for at least an hour until they open that section up. So it came at no surprise to me when Pelma informed me that our van had broken down. This allowed me to wander around Thimphu with Pelma, I got to watch one of Bhutan’s main sports, Archery. This was amazing to watch as the competitors were really accurate and unlike any sporting event in Australia, I was able to get really close to the action, so close in fact that I could hear the bows fly past. The van was getting hammered by all the road works and ended up braking down twice more, Pelma was always super apologetic. The third time, it was replaced with a brand new Hiace van. The new van was already on its way from Thimphu to Punakha and changed out. I was pretty impressed at the effort that Etho Metho went to get a new vehicle to us.
The sites to see in Bhutan are the same site that all tourists see a bit of a tourist loop, so expect to see many other people at the main sites. We kept on bumping into the same people at each stop, at each restaurant and some times at the same hotel. I noticed at one of the restaurants when I ordered an extra coke that I was charged 100BTN then a few days later when I ordered another coke I was charged 50BTN, this didn’t bother me but I did find it interesting. As you would expect at most of the religious sites you are unable to take photos inside the buildings. This is ok, you are in a very important building and respect needs to be shown. However when I was outside the buildings or in the courtyards I wanted to take heaps of photos and film as much as I can. I found it awkward to take photo’s as my guide seemed to be explaining something all the time and I wanted to listen and learn. I learnt that I would have to just take photo’s while Pelma was still talking, at times it felt a little rushed at these sites. We once run out of time at the Punakha Fortress due to my guide speaking to much at an earlier site. These peaceful temples bring a sense of calm over you and I would of loved to stayed at some of them for much longer and really soaked it all in. I think Pelma realised this and he took me to a less visited temple the “Dzongdrakha Monastery” in Paro. This was one of my favourite temples I have ever visited and I got that moment I was looking for. For a better insight into what happened there click here for the post and youtube video. I was able to get the cultural experience I was looking for. That was one of the most rememberable experiences I have ever had whilst travelling, and for that one moment I thank Pelma from the deepest of my heart.
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#100happydays #day48 we hiked up to the dzongdrakha Temple. We could hear the monks chanting. The sounds were beautiful, what happened next was far beyond anything I could of imagined. I was invited into the temple where the monks were chanting. I sat down with then and had some butter tea and local rice. I got blessed and parted ways. That moment I will never forget. Thank you Bhutan. #paro #dzongdrakhatemple #bhutan #dzongdrakha #travelbhutan #travelasia #travel #traveller #blogger #blog #buddism #monks #monastery #moments #buddist #backpacker #solotravel #mykombiandi #facebook #grossnationalhappiness #gnh #happy #ilovebhutan #livingthelife #livelife #memories #philosophy #
Pelma was really good at reading how I was reacting to situations and quickly figured out what I was looking for and at every opportunity he would create something magical for me. We were at a Monastery and I had an oppurnity to interact with some of the young monks who were learning there scripts.
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My Spiritual Awakening at The Peace Stupa in Bhutan, Daily Vlog is now live on the Tattered Passport YouTube Channel, Link in Bio. Every morning I pinch myself, I can not believe that I am actually in Bhutan. #auyt #adventure #adventureworld #adventuretravel #blog #bhutan #blogger #buddhism #dailyvlog #epicadventure #facebook #onelifeonesearch #punakha #peaceout #perthblogger #perthvlogger #stupa #subscribe #temple #travelasia #travelblog #travelvlog #travelbhutan #travelblogger #tatteredpassport #vscocam #vlogger #youtube #youtuber
This was an exceptional experience, then I was introduced to two young men. These young men were true re-incarnations of the 9th Chief abbot and the 69th Chief Abbot of Bhutan. This was such an amazing experience, such an amazing thing for me to meet someone so special. Later that day Pelma explained to me to process that these two boys would of gone through to figure out who they were in a previous life, quite extraodnery.
The most famous site in Bhutan is the Tigers Nest Temple or Taktsang Monastery and when you arrive at the Tigers Nest Resort you can instantly see why.
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#100happydays #day47 The incredible view from my hotel room window in Paro, Bhutan. And yes that is "The Tigers Nest" on that cliff. #bhutan #paro #tigersnesttemple #tigersnest #travel #travelbhutan #travelblog #traveller #solotravel #backpacker #behappy #blogger #blog #buddism #buddist #temple #mykombiandi #monastery #vlog #vlogger #youtube #facebook #grossnationalhappiness #gnh #ilovebhutan #livingthelife #livelife #philosophy
The temple sits proudly high on the cliff face looking over the valley. The walk is an approx. 1 1/2hr hike up depending on fitness levels through rhododendron forests,however you can hire a horse if you so desire. Expect to see many people up there, both locals and tourist. Expect to wait at rooms before you can enter, but be patient it is well worth the wait. I was lucky enough to walk into a room and the Taktsang head monk began a teaching. I sat down with him and one other couple and listened, listened to his wisdom, it was another one of those moments, those moments that I was looking for.
In conclusion I would highly recommend Adventure World if you want to experience Bhutan. The tour is well organised, the accommodation is brilliant and the guides are very knowledgable in all aspects of Bhutan. If you are like me and are used to travelling super cheap and using hostels be prepared for a different form of travel in this breathtaking country. Pre-organised tours are usually inflexible and this is an issue as well with Adventure World, but I was not disappointed with the level flexibility I experienced. Be ready for a little bit of the Tourist Loop mixed with some genuine cultural experiences, if you want them.
I have not received any form of payment for this review, it is the opinion of myself. I understand that others may have varying experiences of such tours, which I would love to hear about, so please feel free to comment below about your experiences with Adventure World, or any tour company in Bhutan.
One Life, One Search.