Written by Dr. Puretz.
Bhutan is a land of grand mountains and intense Buddhist tradition. Druk Air’s flight path into Paro prescribes a beautiful arc into a long narrow valley. This landing is an open window into a land of mountains and hillsides dotted with traditional homes, rice paddies, and ancient Buddhist adornments (temples, monasteries, Dzongs, and prayer flags).
Namgay and Karma, our guides (and hosts), met us at the only airport in Bhutan. Dressed in traditional attire called a Gho, we loaded into a good-sized Toyota bus and went off to a delightful hotel. After each day’s travel, we were treated to warm hospitality and afternoon tea. We had relaxing nights at the Olathang Hotel and two days visiting the cultural treasures of the Paro Valley. Among the special experiences was the hike to the Tiger’s Nest of Taktsang. This monastery perched on a shear cliff is a challenging hike that visually rewards one’s effort many times over.
Our trek began at a trail head up behind the national museum, where our horse and six mules were loaded with the necessary gear. A modest hike through farmland and orchards kept us moving upward. We quickly understood that there are two directions in Bhutan, upward and downward. We camped in relative luxury as far as backpackers are concerned. Skillfully prepared traditional dishes were served in the dining tent along with desserts and tea.
Two of our campsites were beside mountain lakes that provided Namgay the opportunity to catch our trout dinner. Every direction provided a panorama of mountains, lakes, streams. The ever-present prayer flags remind one of the Bhutanese devotion to Buddhism. We engulfed ourselves in the culture and customs of the prayer flags, prayer wheels, Chortens (stupas), and Dzongs (castle-like monasteries) during our trek on the Druk path.
The steam room and sauna in the Druk Hotel was our first stop in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. This certainly made our transition back to civilization quite easy and very rewarding. The city is a gem in the country of the Dragon people as the Bhutanese refer to themselves. The artisans (textiles, woodcarvings, and paintings) showed us an aspect of a vibrant city that left us wanting to visit again.