Today we woke to a lovely day. We had our breakfast in the rooftop cafe of the guesthouse in Bhaktapur, a charming way to start our day.
After breakfast we met our driver and were off to the Kathmandu Airport for our flight to Bhutan. We flew Royal Druk Airlines, one of two airlines in Bhutan the other being Bhutan AIr, a privately owned company. These are the only 2 airlines that fly into Bhutan!
The ride to the airport was far less eventful than our drive when we arrived. Traffic was hectic as it was the first day back at work after the festival – everyone seemed to be on the road at 8:30am!
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare as our flight was delayed by about an hour. Kathmandu Airport International departures is almost as congested as arrivals!
When we checked in, we asked for a window seat on the left side of the plane (the better to see Everest), and were rewarded with perfect seats!
When we landed in Bhutan in the city of Paro, it was like a dream! Only one flight on the ground, so only we few to process!
Dan and I walked into a sparkling immigration room, and were invited to go to the “Diplomatic” counter as he wasn’t serving anyone at the time. Lots of agents working, and everything electronic (we asked if they needed to see our paper copy of the visa – no they said, it will be online!
And get the baggage area! What a contrast to the other airports we’ve visited!
Once we retrieved out baggage, we headed out side to our waiting guide and driver. So charming! We were given white silk scarves as welcome and happy journey! I can tell this is going to be a wonderful stay!
We set off for the museum to not only see a short context of history and culture, but also to get an extraordinary view of the Paro Valley. Perched high on the hillside, the location was perfect!
The valley is very narrow, and not very long. Our guide told us that it the second most difficult airport to land in in the world! I don’t doubt it one bit. In the following photo, you can see s light in the sky. That’s an incoming aircraft that has just flown through the pass behind it, and banked turn to come down the valley, and then at about 1,000 ft it banks again to catch the runway…one of the most interesting flights I’ve been on in a commercial carrier!
After seeing the museum we walked down the hillside to the car awaiting us. A steep decent but worth stretch after sitting in airports and planes most of the day. We walked by a fort that holds quite a strategic location on the hillside, and as we came closer we could see hot peppers drying on a rooftop nearby.
When we got down to the valley, we crossed the river using a cantilever bridge, one of the oldest of its kind in the country. The river we crossed was clean and sparkling (no bottles or debris from the city). It even had brown trout, although its forbidden to fish for them within the city.
Once we met the car we went off to the Main Street to have a look in the local shops. We went into an interesting weaving shop where they weave intricate fabrics for the Bhutanese local dress. Using silks and cotton, some of these pieces were literally fit for a king!
With our exploration of Paro over for now, it was time to head to our hotel. Tonight we are staying in the Gangtey Palace Hotel. This p[lace was the former residence of the governor of the region. Quite a beautiful and historic building! We were met with tea, and got oriented to the grounds ( the newly built restaurant is a short walk outside of the old palace). Delightful all around!
An early night beckons as we have a 7 am flight into the interior of the country in the am. Only 196 km away, Bumtang would take us over 7 hrs by car to get to, or 25 minutes flying. I guess it will be worth the 4:30 am wake up! Our bed awaits! Until tomorrow…hopefully!