Bhutan and Thailand Adventure with World Expeditions
6th May 2013
This is not a travel
log where the events of every day are detailed. Instead, I have
presented some of the highlights, lowlights, unusual, humorous
and embarrassing events of the trip along with relevant photos
and some opinions.
Others may have
seen things differently but this is the way I saw things.
Anything I say about anyone or anything is purely in fun. Some
information and photos I obtained from others on the trip. I may
have enhanced some of the information I gathered. Anything that
is blatantly incorrect please let me know. All photos used have
been converted to a smaller size for faster downloading.
Words, photos or
video can never convey the visual impact and "feeling"
of some of the places we visited. You have to be there.
There are lots of single and multiple photos to
view. Wherever you see any coloured text that is underlined such
as "this photo" or "these photos"
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trip was organised through World Expeditions by Dennis, the
"President" of the Warby
Ghost Riders cycling group.
We started in Bhutan after an
overnight stay in Bangkok (Thailand). Eleven days in Bhutan and
then back to Thailand for four days. Both destinations involved
cycling and visiting tourist spots. Support vehicles followed us
on all bicycle rides. Both trips were locally run by
Adventures and were slightly modified versions of one their
Eleven people took part in Bhutan. Three
of the eleven returned to Australia after Bhutan and in Thailand
one person joined which made nine,
Peggy & Royce
Tandin Dorji was
our primary guide in Bhutan. Highly intelligent and articulate he
became part of our families. Passionate about Bhutan and its
culture, flora and fauna, he had an answer for every question we
asked. We even got to meet his 8 month old daughter at the end of
the trip. See this
photo. Numga was our other guide who was just as enthusiastic
as Tandin. See this
"Seen" Suwamin was our guide in Thailand. Extremely
enthusiastic and articulate, he excelled in looking after us. See
The drivers of the
vehicles attached to each team in both Bhutan and Thailand were
also excellent. I could not fault their support. In Bhutan, I
think their names were Kinzung and Pema.
is an unusual country. Here is a list of things they don't do or
have (many of) in Bhutan
Smoke. As of May 2013, it
the only country in the world that completely bans the sale and
production of tobacco and tobacco products.
the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face
imprisonment for a period of three to five years.
I did see one older person smoking in the countryside.
lights. There was a set in Thimphu, the capital, but they were
removed. There is lots of traffic in Thimphu but it is
controlled by police. See this
Cars. When we were visiting there was a ban on the importation
of cars. Apparently, this happens from time to time to limit the
number of cars in the country.
It is banned because the Buddhist culture does not kill
anything. I asked if they allow one to catch fish and then let
them go but did not receive a definite answer.
I was not accosted by any in Bhutan or Thailand. In Bhutan, I
did see a few people sitting beside prayer wheels with a
donation tray but they did not actively accost me. Ironically,
the first beggar I was accosted by was at Southern Cross station
when I returned to Melbourne.
machines. Despite looking everywhere we could not find one.
There was espresso and filtered coffee and it was usually very
strong. Tea was usually very weak.
creams. Very few places sell them.
hassling you to buy something. This is different to all other
I saw very few. They were clustered in some places (like the
Tigers Nest monastery) but nothing like in other Asian
scooters. Very few.
Only saw a few.
Did not see one. Taxis are plentiful and very cheap. Norm took a
taxi to the Budd in Thimphu and only cost the equivalent of AU$5
for 1 hour including 30 mins waiting time.
Resorts. There are none in Bhutan but there is lots of snow.
Except for a few valleys, I don't think there is anywhere in
Bhutan where the land is flat enough for any long dual lane
free-ways. I did see a concrete overpass in Thimphu.
Swimming Pools. I was told there is a heated one in Thimphu but
did not see it.
KFC, Pizzas or any of these Western take-away places.
Difficult to get in some places.
I looked in a few bakeries but could not find any iced doughnuts
like what we have in Australia. At Bangkok airport on our way
home I purchased a doughnut but it was terrible.
Well, I did not expect to see any but I did find a "meat
shop" in a village. See this
photo of the sign expanded.
There is a small amount of legalised gambling allowed but only
due to the influence of nearby India. In general, gambling is
signs are in English and it is taught in all schools as the
regulations seem non-existent.
Helicopters. There are plans to purchase some.
King has been known to ride a bicycle so we did put out an
invitation for him to ride with the Ghostriders but we got no
rides in Bhutan. They were exhilarating and the views
spectacular. The best was 52Km, a
drop of 2,000m in about 2.5 hours. We even passed cars and
trucks on the way down. We did slip and slide a bit around
corners and over gravel and hit numerous potholes but nobody had
an accident. In the case of the riders in the front, we were
going as fast as we could. Simon "ululated"***
every time he passed a vehicle or people and some even
ululated back. I could not ululate but Ray and Tandin could.
Visit to the "Tigers Nest"
in Bhutan. A monastery built on rock face. Long difficult walk
to get there but well worth it. Gonny and Peggy took a horse
ride part the way, walked the rest and walked back down. They
had a fire in the monastery in 1998 and it was restored. I could
not see any signs of a fire and the "new" beams looked
very old. However, I was told that old beams were sourced for
Air-conditioning in Thailand.
*** Ululating is a loud, long,
wavering, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a
trilling quality. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud
voice accompanied with a rapid movement of the tongue and the
uvula. Simon was very good at it. See youtube for examples.
On our very first night, we had
to stay overnight in a hotel in Bangkok called the Convenient
Grand Hotel. They did provide transfers to and from the hotel
but I would not recommend the hotel. It was a long way from the
airport and the city centre. They provided us a breakfast in the
morning but it was terrible. My perception of the hotel may be
tainted because we arrived there about 9.30 PM and left there at
4.00 AM to catch the plane to Paro.
humidity in Thailand.
Did We Feel
Always. In Bhutan, I did not see any "dodgy"
We all took a large number of photographs. I
Best Meals and
I could not fault any of the organised food on both
trips. Even though the Bhutanese food was primarily vegetarian it
was delicious. I was told that the few meat dishes offered used
meat imported from India and that it may be "dodgy".
Whether this is true I could not confirm but I avoided the meat
dishes. Others ate the meat dishes and did not get ill. The
desserts in Bhutan were a little light and quite often there was
watermelon. Bhutanese love their chillies but most dishes had
labels and the staff also warned us about the hot dishes.
The best food was our first night
at the Boutique Raft
Resort in Thailand. We all started
off by ordering our own selections. Seen, our guide, then
ordered a huge selection of other foods. In the end we had more
than enough and it was delicious.
The food at the Khin Lom Chom Sa
Phan restaurant in Thailand was excellent.
Focusing on seafood they had a vast selection and the service
was fast and the food good quality. An open deck beside the
river with a view of an unusual bridge across the river.
Bhutan the weather never stopped us doing anything. It never
rained whilst we were riding.
In Thailand it was hot and
humid every day. The consequences of this is are detailed
photos of individuals,
photos of two or more and
photos of everyone.
Embarrassing and Mistakes
I lost my
wallet in Thailand. I panicked and cancelled my credit cards
only to remember where I may have left the wallet. The next day
Dennis located it where I thought I had left it. Thanks to
everyone for their concern.
At the end of
the trip, I left my helmet and attached rear view mirror with
the guide in Thailand.
Norm left his
two drink bottles in Bhutan as a donation.
In Thimphu we
visited the largest Buddha in the world. On the way back we
stopped at a scenic point for photos. Someone noticed that Ray
was missing. We had forgotten him!. Drove back up and found him
walking back. He took it very well.
Dennis had a camera mounted on
the handlebar of his bike and the mounting broke on one of our
downhill rides in Bhutan. The camera hit the ground but was not
(72)/Simon (54). The average age was 66.
In Thailand, the riding was very difficult.
Extreme heat and humidity forced us to stop continually for
drinks. I did not urinate until well into the afternoon on some
days. They say this means you have not drank enough but I did
drink as much as I possibly could. The first day riding was the
worst. I did not notice, but Dennis dropped behind a few
kilometres before we finished for that day. When he finally rode
in he was completely spent. I have never seen him that bad. I
would not recommend riding in Thailand in such conditions.
The Price of
In both Bhutan and Thailand petrol price was
comparable with Australia. However, LPG in Bhutan was around
Thailand we stopped riding briefly to visit a cave. I noticed a
group of youths pointing and laughing at me. I asked the guide
what they were saying and he said that they were saying I was
lady-boy. I believe this came about because of my lycra cycling
pants. Ann (my wife) made me some new ones and they were multicoloured.
Le Tour De
In Thimphu, we rode from the hotel to the base of a
mountain and then walked up a zigzag track to the Cheri
monastery. About 16km ride. It was not an easy cycle and some
took the minibus along the way. After visiting the monastery and
having lunch, Tandin, Ray and myself were the only ones that
wanted to ride back. Tandin and Ray got away from me on the
downhills but I caught them on a long uphill only to fall back
when we hit a headwind near the hotel. The minibus was following
us and unknown to us the others in the minibus were treating it
as the Tour De Bhutan with appropriate commentary.
With Phallic Symbols
at least 5 buildings I saw phallic symbols painted beside the
entrance door. Many shops had wooden penises for sale. I asked
one shopkeeper what they were for and he replied that they ward
against bad luck or something like that. See
photos. Such things would be banned in Australia and I found
them unnecessary and offensive..
was so cheap to get done by the hotels we stayed at that most of
us used it at times. The maximum I paid was $8 AU for a large
bag. It usually came back neatly folded with some of the buttons
mountainside out of Thimphu they are building the largest Buddha
in the world at 51.5m. We visited it one afternoon. Still not
complete but it was very impressive. See
photos. This visit was not on the itinerary but the guides
were happy to take us there after we asked them.
Dewachen where we stayed in the Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan for 2
nights. Set high on the side of the valley with a magnificent
view it was a beautiful and magical place. The Phobjikha valley is home
to the rare black necked cranes from Tibet who spend the
winter there. Massive rooms with
valley views. Even the shower had a view of the valley through a
small window. In terms of atmosphere it was probably one of the
best places I have ever stayed in. No TV or internet and the
power went off on the first night after a huge rain downpour.
Power had not come on before we left but it didn't matter. They
had a generator (they turned it off at 9 pm) and they cooked
some things on the wood fire in the dining room. We had wood
heaters in our rooms which most of us lit. It was booked out by
us and a group of Americans. A room with twin beds costs approx
$60 AU per night including sales tax and service charge. See
Raft Resort in Thailand where we stayed for 2 nights. Hotel
units set on rafts on the River Kwai each with a private view to
the river. See this
photo (from their brochure).
Simon and myself had digestive problems. Simon
recovered in a day or so. I had loose bowels for a few days but
it never stopped me doing anything. A few others mentioned that
they had upset stomachs but nothing major.
There were no
injuries. This is surprising considering some of the downhill
rides we did and the speed involved.
I lost 3kg and Dennis
lost 5kg. Suspect most of this from riding in Thailand.
Thailand, we visited various places associated with the
Thailand-Burma railway. We walked the bridge over the river Kwai,
visited the Chungkai War Cemetery, visited the Hellfire Pass
museum and walked to the Hellfire pass and lastly had a ride on
the death railway train. At the end of train journey we walked
back over a dodgy trestle bridge and visited the Krasae cave once
used as a hospital.
Many of us have a family connection with
the events associated with the Thailand-Burma railway and I found
it very emotional.
Saw some seats
with no backs or bottoms at the archery field in Paro (Bhutan).
Very uncomfortable to sit on. See this
The hotel in
Thimphu had a phone beside the toilet. See this
photo. Also had the biggest shower rose ever. See this
In Thimphu I
noticed they have 24 Seven and 8 Eleven shops. See this
photo and this
Television was only recently
introduced to Bhutan. At Bangkok airport, whilst waiting to
check in for our flight to Paro, there were lots of passengers
with flat screen televisions taking them back to Bhutan.
bikes the same as parking cars? See this
photo. The sign says "NO PARKING IN FRONT OF DUTY ROOM"
but they do not ask us to move on.
wheels in valleys where there was a water source were powered by
the water and thus were in continuous operation.
Phobjikha valley in Bhutan, Norm and myself went for a walk one
afternoon and on the way back were hailed by Tandin and Numga
(our guides). They were in a house/shop having drinks with some
friends. We joined them in the house and stayed for an hour or
so having a good "Harry" chat. Saw their friends a few
days later in the Dochula restaurant near the Dochula pass where
we erected the prayer flags.
On the same
walk as above, we were aware of a young girl (about 15) walking
behind us. She asked us where we were from and we ended up
having a long discussion with her which I found very
interesting. She spoke good English. She was wearing glasses and
I wondered how far she had to go for the optical care given that
the valley is very remote.
Many of us
tasted the local "Druk" beer. It was very good but had
an 8% alcoholic content.
photo of the best house I found (in Thailand).
photo of an unusual maker and product in a can in Thailand.
The spider and
the frog. Took this
photo at the Chimi Lhakhang temple. Expected the frog to eat
the spider but it didn't. The "Divine Madman" built
the temple. It is famous for infertile women to visit to pray
photos of interesting signs.
looks we got from some locals as we rode past, in file, in our
bright Ghostriders jerseys was amusing.
One evening in
the dining room at the hotel in Paro we were joined by a group
of people all dressed in white jumpsuits. They were on a
"retreat" and did not talk. It was a bit strange.
visited the Cheri monastery out of Thimphu we had lunch and then
played a game of throwing these large darts at a target.
photo of a mailbox in a remote area in Bhutan. The box was
mounted high near the roof line and you would have needed a
chair to reach it.
photo of a staircase carved out of one piece of wood. We saw
lots of these.
do you make of this
photo. It looks a bit ghostly to me.
The Black Necked
Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan they are passionate about the habitat
of the Black Necked crane. The valley is a migration destination
for the crane which are a threatened species. They have put the
electricity underground where the crane nests. We visited an
information centre and watched a video about the crane. See this
We visited an archery competition in Paro (Bhutan).
photo. The bows that they were using are very expensive but
the safety of the participants at the target end was a worry. It
was about 140m to the target and they were standing very close to
the target whilst arrows were being shot. This is the only
Olympic sport that Bhutan has ever won a medal in. See this
photo. When an arrow shoot is successful, the participants do
this weird dance. Found out later that they imitate the mating
dance of the Black Necked crane.
Apart from some breathlessness, nobody had a problem. The
Phobjikha valley sits at 3,000m and we spent two days there.
Most of the time we were between 1,500 and 2,500m. The Lawala
Pass marked the highest point of our trip at 3,298m as recorded
by Dennis' trusty Garmin. See
The Guns of
our ride to the Chen monastery out of Thimphu, we were stopped at
one point because the Bhutanese Royal Body Guards were practising
shooting. I did hear the noise in the distance as we were
approaching but I thought it was blasting. They eventually let us
pass after we loaded our bikes on our truck and we all piled into
our minibus. See
Difficult Landing in the World
At Paro International
airport. The short runway is in a deep valley surrounded by very
high mountains. To land and take off, the pilot has to manoeuvre
the plane through valleys between the mountains and execute sharp
turns. I was lucky to have a window seat behind the wing and
could see the wing-tip nearly touch the grass as the plane wound
its way to the runway. There are videos on youtube that show the
landing but one is taken from the cockpit and does not show the
wing-tip nearly touching the ground. There are only a few pilots
that are certified to land planes at Paro.
Suspension Bridge in Bhutan
meters long and 200m above the Pho River. And we rode over it on our bikes. I found it scary. Just
focus on riding and don't look down. See this
photo. We passed over it on our ride to visit the Punakha
monastery. The track to get there was dirt and very muddy due to
heavy rain the night before.
We also rode across a bridge in
Thailand but it was not really a suspension bridge and not as
scary. See this
Dogs have a
free rein in Bhutan and don't seem to be owned by anyone. During
the day they sleep and at night roam the streets and bark
Did not see
that many cats.
see many chickens running around. Was told they keep them locked up
because of roaming dogs.
our walk to the Cheri monastery out of Thimphu, We encountered a
group of people with huge lenses on their cameras. Nearly needed
a porter to carry them.
In Bhutan on
our last day we were privileged to be entertained by the
Tshangyang Wangpoi Duedtse. Male and female dancing and singing
accompanied by instrumental backing. It was very good and lasted
about an hour. We were fed tea and pastries during the
performance and I purchased their DVD. Afterwards we were
offered Australian wine and each given a gift of a scroll. The
head of Bhutan team who we had not yet met intended to meet us
but was ill. It was a fantastic and emotional end to our Bhutan
photos. When we first arrived in Bhutan and got settled in
the minibus, we were all presented with a white scarf. A lovely
start to our adventure. Some of us wore the scarf’s later
In the town of
Punakha in Bhutan some of us decided after dinner to visit a bar
in the town. Our guide took us to a bar he knew. We had the
privilege to be entertained by a talented local singer playing
his guitar. See
Myself and Norm. In Bangkok on the last day, we
spent over an hour lazing in the pool on the roof of the hotel.
John waded into the river after we crossed the suspension bridge
biggest export industry for Bhutan. All their electricity is
generated by hydro. They sell it to India and they plan to build
more stations. Bhutanese are charged 2c/KWh for electricity
(Australia is about 30c), probably the cheapest in the world. In
the Paro main streets and some parts of Thimphu the electricity
lines are underground.
Other Things We
lowering of the flag at the monastery near the King's palace in
Thimphu. Lots of marching by the guards. Afterwards we visited
Norm and I
walked to the Stupa in Thimphu one night after dinner. Another
evening we walked around the block and through some of the dimly
lit areas in Thimphu.
Did a nature
walk in the Phobjikha valley. About a 3 hour walk from the
hotel through the nesting grounds of the Black Necked crane, a
forest, a village and a steep ascent to the Gangtey
Tandin gave us
all prayer flags to erect at the Dochula pass (3,200m). At the time it
was very misty and cold and there were thousands of other flags
already there. See
photos. A few days later we passed through the same pass
and the weather was clear.
National Museum of Bhutan in Paro. I found it interesting.
Visited a farm
house in Paro. Had a drink of something there which I did not
like. See this
photo. Watched some monks chanting (and then we had to give a
a school in the Phobjikha valley in Bhutan. They said it was
in Bangkok. Some areas reminded me of the canals in Venice
complete with sludge, rubbish and decrepit buildings. I
wonder where the sewerage ends up. See
Arun (The temple of Dawn) in Bangkok at the end of the canal
cruise. Afterwards, we decided to walk back to our hotel which
took a few hours. It was very hot but an interesting walk.
elephant park on one of our rides. See
Lawa cave on one of our rides.
Muang Sing historical park at the end
of our riding.
Dennis and I
walked to the "Grasshoppers Adventures" office in
Bangkok one morning. This company was used by World Expeditions
to conduct the cycling tour in Thailand. The owner, Jason, is an
Australian and lives in Tecoma (in The Dandenongs). See this
Dennis and I
went to the PatPong night market in Bangkok
visited a few. Some were in difficult places to get too and not
everyone made the journeys. They were all very similar inside.
The best one was the Punakha monastery. Not because of the
architecture but its location. Set between 2 rivers with a lovely
garden surrounding the complex.
monastery we visited in
the Phobjikha valley had an internet room. See this
photo. Unusual, because the hotel we stayed in in the same
area did not have internet.
Gonny, John and Norm. Gonny had knee issues. John
had an ankle issue and Norm had trouble with breathlessness at
higher altitudes. Gonny and John are no strangers to long and
difficult rides as they have both ridden around Australia.
The French and
In the restaurant in the hotel in
Thimphu one evening there was a table full of French tourists.
They ate all the dessert before all of us had eaten. This caused
some consternation amongst us and there were a few words spoken.
Luckily, they did not understand or speak much English.
encountered some American tourists in the Phobjikha valley at the
hotel we were staying in. A group of older, well educated people.
Others spoke extensively with some but I only chatted with one
rather eccentric lady.
of the dwellings in Bhutan we saw were of a reasonable standard.
I did not see any "shanty towns" like I have seen in
Cape Town or Peru. There was the occasional derelict building but
no large groups of them.
Thimphu is in a building boom. On our
ride from Paro to Thimphu we rode through the centre of Thimphu
and there are new buildings being erected everywhere. They use
bamboo for scaffolding. See this
photos of some locals.
I was not very happy with the driver who drove us
to and from our cycling location in Thailand. It was about 3
hours drive each way and he completely ignored any speed limits
and the minibus had no seatbelts. However, he was good ferrying
us around whilst cycling.
In Bangkok we flagged down a Tuk-tuk
to take us to a night market in Bangkok. He was a crazy driver.
We took a taxi back.
Paro, after we visited the Tigers Nest monastery a few of us
wanted to check out the shops. Tandin suggested we have coffee
first and he took us to "tshernyen's cafe". It was a
modern building in a newer section of Paro. The poor girl who
served us did not know what hit her. Eleven people wanting coffee
and cake. Five minutes later help arrived. The coffee and cake
was very good. She even put on some Kenny Rogers background music
for us. See
we did not have to worry about. In Bhutan, they had bottled water
on hand all the time and the drivers were continually offering to
fill up our drink bottles. In Thailand, it was even better. They
had water, ice and electrolyte supplements. At some breaks they
offered fruit and Seen even purchased drinks for us. Because it was so
hot Dennis and Simon put ice inside towels they placed on their
heads. Gonny soaked her jersey in water. Dennis also made sure
everyone had ice down their backs.
The Roads and
Bhutan, most of the roads were in poor condition. Potholes,
washouts and landslides can be expected around the next bend. The
best road was between Paro and Thimphu. It is very difficult
maintaining roads in Bhutan because it is so mountainous. Roads
either follow valleys alongside rivers or wind up and down the
sides of mountains via the occasional pass at some high altitude.
However, there was a lot of roadwork occurring.
Much of the
roadwork is done by manual labour. In particular, women with
children on their backs breaking rocks with hammers.
women cleaning gutters by filling up a cloth with silt, carting
it across the road and dumping it. See
In Thailand, the roads were very good.
photo of a shop front in Paro. The size of the shop was about
the size of the woman sitting at the front..
The Bikes and
In Bhutan we had Trek
bikes with front suspension and they performed perfectly. The
punishment inflicted on the bikes on the downhills was
extraordinary. Some of the potholes we hit were massive but the
bikes sailed over them.
Our frame sizes had been forwarded
before the trip and the bikes were matched to our sizes ready for
us. Simon was very lucky. He is very tall and they did not have a
bike to suit him so they purchased the latest model Trek bike for him. Bikes were mechanically checked before every
In Thailand, the mountain bikes were also pre-selected to suit
our sizes. Each bike had a handlebar bag and a label attached with our name and
travel insurance policy details (which I thought was a bit
The only problem we had with the bikes was 2
punctures and these were both on Simon's bikes.
The rear brake
on the bikes was operated by the RH lever. This is different to
Australia and we were alerted and made aware of the
The rides we did were:
In Paro we rode from the hotel
and back to the ruins of the Drukyel monastery at the top of a
valley. About 34km.
From Paro to Thimphu along the
best road in Bhutan. About 60km.
From Thimphu to the base of the
Cheri monastery and back. About 32km.
From Thimphu via the
Pass to Punakha. About 65km
From Punakha to the Punakha
monastery and back. About 16km.
From the Lawala Pass to the town
of Gangtey in the Phobjikha Valley. About 10km.
From the Lawala Pass to the town
of Wangduephradong. About 50km.
From Kanchanaburi near the bridge
over the River Kwai to the Boutique Rafts Resort. About 35km.
From the Boutique Rafts Resort to
a suspension bridge. About 40km. This day involved extensive
riding through farming and bush areas and was interesting.
From the Boutique Rafts Resort to
the Maung Sing park. About 60km.
Reception and WiFi
In both Bhutan and Thailand mobile
phone reception was good in all towns. In Bhutan, they had good
(and free) WiFi in all hotels except in the Dewachen hotel where
we stayed in the Phobjikha Valley. Bhutan has only embraced
mobile and WiFi in the last decade and I was impressed with the
last evening in the Dewachen hotel in the Phobjikha Valley we
played UNO for a while. We all had a good laugh when John got
caught with a handful of cards. So many that he could not handle
them. See this
happened in Punakha. Dennis asked the guides if they could get a
cake and some candles. The cake had to be shipped in from another
town. Not sure why, because on a walk around town I did see a
bakery and went inside and they did have cakes there. See this
It Is Not What
In Thailand, we
stopped for a break from riding at a small shop in the country.
Our guide pointed out a "Coke" stand full of drink
bottles but the bottles were full of petrol. There were no fuel
stations nearby and this was the way fuel was sold. See
Bhutan they accepted US and AU dollars. I did not see any ATM's
but then I was not looking for any. The Bhutanese government
imposes a compulsory tax that all tourists must pay. It is in
the order of $200 AU per day and was included in our tour cost.
This tax goes towards funding things like the free education and
free healthcare programs in Bhutan but makes tourism more
was generally litter free. However, some places were worse than
others. In Punakha there were lots of signs around about litter
and lots of litter. I was amused by one sign showing a bin but
the bin was missing. See this
photo. In both Bhutan and Thailand the bottled water used
came in biodegradable plastic containers. I did not see any bins
specifically for recycling.
beside the Damchen Resort where we stayed for two nights we
visited the local produce market that occurs every Friday. It
was fascinating. Weird, cheap vegetables and fruit. Mangos 40c
each. Scales with rocks as the balance weights. Faulty produce
was thrown into a vacant area where the cows later consumed it.
photos. Saw a lady spooning a white liquid from a huge
container into small bottles which she sold. It was labelled eye
ointment. Everyone had mobile phones.
many small handicraft shops in the main streets of Paro and
Thimphu but I was not very impressed with them. Some of the
souvenirs were tacky. Like the miniature solar powered
prayer wheel. There were four
others that I did like:
Dochula restaurant near the Dochula pass where we erected the
prayer flags and rode through. In particular, Gonny and myself
purchased magnificent hats that had been embroidered by local
women working in a room near the restaurant. See this
In the main
street of Thimphu we were taken to a shop run by the
Government. Good quality but a bit expensive. Some of us
visit to the monastery out of Punakha we rode to the Nazhoen
Pelri Skills Training Centre for disabled children and youths.
photo of their sewing room. Good quality merchandise and we
purchased some items.
centre in the Phobjikha valley in Bhutan. Items made by local
women. Norm and I purchased large cloths. The cloth I purchased
was about 1m x 2m, brightly coloured with some gold threading.
I met and talked with the lady who made it. She told me it took
her one and a half years to make. At $350 US it was the most
expensive item I have ever purchased overseas but well worth
it. We are using it as a bedspread.
Olathang in Paro where we stayed for three nights. A lovely
hotel overlooking the Paro valley. Twin units set in the
grounds. For two nights, Norm and myself had a unit with a
balcony overlooking the valley. See this
photo. Service was excellent. You could get a cup of tea
anytime in the reception area. Large rooms and large dining
Riverview in Thimphu where we stayed for two nights. Just a
typical large hotel. Nice view of Thimphu, service was good, everything
worked and it was not far from the city centre. See this
Resort in Punakha beside the Punachu river where we stayed for
two nights. Rooms very small and some of the reception staff
lacked English skills but it was OK.
The Nouvo City
hotel in Bangkok where we stayed for two nights. An OK hotel. It
did have a very good breakfast and a pool on the roof which Norm
and myself used one afternoon. We used the attached restaurant a
few times. Once we were the only ones there and we are sure the
food was made elsewhere and brought in.
The Price of
Cheaper than Australia for most things.
What We Did or
Not Need or See
everyone on the trip for your fantastic company. Dennis for
arranging the trip. All the guides and helpers along the trip.
is an interesting place. It is the
only country in the world that supports a policy of “Gross
National Happiness” and bans the sale and production of
tobacco. The people are friendly and happy and it is one of the
few Asian countries that appears to have minimal corruption. The
current King has overseen tremendous development in all fields
and I am impressed with him and the Government.
rating of this trip is 9/10.