Bhutan – Population 800,000 was an absolute monarchy until 2008, it has never been colonised. The minimum fee for tourists that visit the country during peak season is US$250 per day and during off peak season US$200. This fee includes accommodation, food, car, driver and a guide. You have to book your tour and get your visa through an authorised travel agent. The only airlines that are allowed to fly into the country are Druk and Bhutan Airlines, both are significantly more expensive than other commercial airlines. As you would expect there are very few tourists. It is clean, the people are friendly and the views spectacular.
My marathon journey went from Perth to Kuala Lumpur to Dhaka to Paro by air. I was picked up from the airport and driven to Thimpu where I finally checked into my hotel after 19 hours of travel.
Thimpu – A big statue of Buddha, a Stupa, a Fortress and the National animal called Takin, which has the head of a goat and the body of a cow. No photographs allowed inside religious places. First day at 2,200 metres was breathless.
Punakha – From Thimpu we drove to Punakha passing the 108 Stupas then to Chimi Lhakhang Temple in honour of a crazy monk called the Divine madman who painted the town red wherever he went, his legacy being the Phallus symbol and after that the obligatory fortress.
Paro – From Punakha we drove back to Paro, after about 2 hours of driving the hotel I stayed at called to say they had put the wrong suitcase into our car’s boot, so we had to drive back to a meeting point and find a car going back and give them the wrong suitcase and then the hotel had to find a car coming our way to bring my suitcase to me. In the end it all worked out but until I got my suitcase that evening I was not too happy.
The main attraction at Punakha is the Tiger Monastery built into a cliff, I made it halfway before my tachycardia kicked in and I had to return. My knees thanked my heart as they were not looking forward to the hike hahaha.