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Bhutan

Experiential Tours of Bhutan

Bhutan is a truly amazing place with spectacular Himalayan scenery, colourful festivals, historic monasteries and a population who are more concerned with Gross Domestic Happiness than Gross Domestic Product. The people of Bhutan are warming, charming and gladly welcome you to discover their deeply Buddhist and traditional way of life. A journey through Bhutan will take you through deep valleys, high mountain passes and will certainly be a memorable experience.


Centuries of self-imposed isolation have left the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan virtually untouched by the influences of the modern world, and the traditional way of life, inseparable from a deep-rooted belief in Buddhism, continues virtually unchanged to this day. Modernisation is strictly monitored - new buildings must be made in the age-old Bhutanese style, and people are obliged to wear national dress in public.

 

Buddhist influence

You should not be surprised if your tour plans are changed at the last minute following an auspicious sign or warning from a monk or perhaps even a generous invitation to join a religious celebration. It is this adherence to Buddhism and the dismissal of the material world that make Bhutan such a fascinating place.

For those with an interest in Buddhist culture or the prospect of visiting a country little known beyond its borders, Bhutan provides a unique experience.

 

The environment and pace of life

Remoteness and a profound and time-honoured reverence for nature has led this ‘land of the Thunder Dragon’ to be one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world and a leader in environmental conservation.

Urban settlements like Thimpu have sprung up in the last few decades, but the majority still live in small rural villages, the pace of life is slow and businesses open depending on the mood of their owners.

 

Special Knowledge

Paro is usually the entry and exit point to Bhutan, and flights operate from Delhi via Kathmandu and Bangkok via Calcutta. Bhutan can also be reached overland from India, but it is a long drive from the border to the main places of interest.

 

Accommodation

As an emerging tourist destination you will find a limited choice of accommodation in Bhutan, although the king recently permitted the first luxury resorts to open and these now extend beyond Paro and Thimpu to increasingly remote parts of the country. In the meantime, most accommodation is much more basic and in many rural areas there are often power failures. However, all the rooms we use have bathrooms en suite and often have a bukhari (a wood-burning stove) to take the chill off the cold night air.

 

Travelling in Bhutan

Journeys in Bhutan can be slow as the one main road running east to west weaves its way over the Himalayan foothills and routes are occasionally closed by landslides. Delays, however, are more than compensated for by the beautiful scenery and the provision of a private vehicle and guide allows you the opportunity to rest, take a walk or photograph as much as you choose.

With their first-hand knowledge of Bhutan our specialists will help to plan your visit to ensure you get beneath the skin of this mystical kingdom.


Language

Bhutan's official language is Dzongkha, but 18 other languages including Nepali are spoken. English is the medium of instruction in schools and is widely spoken.


Money and expense

Bhutan's currency is the Ngultrum (Nu), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is fixed to the value of India rupee. Carry a mixture of travellerscheques (American Express is most widely accepted) and cash in US dollars which can often be used for the purchase of souvenirs. There are bank branches in all major towns.

A few outlets in Thimpu accept payment by credit card, but with a surcharge added. Daily expenditure varies from person to person, but in general you should allow US$5-10 daily for laundry, drinks, phone calls overseas, small souvenirs, postcards and stamps.

 

Food & Drink

The Bhutanese diet is mainly meat, dairy products, rice (red or white) and vegetables. "Emadatse" (chilli and cheese stew) is the national dish with many variations throughout the country. Beware: traditional Bhutanese food always features chillies! Meat dishes, mainly pork, beef and yak are lavishly dosed with red peppers, which are a common sight drying on rooftops.

Social occasions mean serving salted butter tea, or "suja". "Doma" or betel nut is offered as a customary gesture of greeting. The Bhutanese enjoy "Chang", a local beer, and "arra", country liquor, distilled from maize, rice, wheat or barley. Your meals will generally be in the form of a small buffet with a variety of dishes to choose from and simple picnics are often carried for long journeys. Bottled water is widely available.

 

Social Conventions & Etiquette

Whilst visiting Dzongs, monasteries, temples and festivals ensure you dress neatly and modestly (covered arms, no shorts, three quarter length trousers, short skirts or tight or skimpy clothing). Do not wear a hat in the precincts of Dzongs or religious complexes.

Walk clockwise around Chortens (stupas) and Mani (prayer) walls and refrain from smoking on the premises. If you see a prayer flagpole on the ground waiting to be erected, do not step over it, as this is considered extremely disrespectful: walk around it instead. Never stray onto the dance ground at festivals in search of the perfect spot - this is the height of bad manners and will definitely give offence to all Bhutanese who see you.

The giving of alms to mendicants and holy men in the vicinity of markets and outside temples is an accepted practice. In exchange for your contribution of a small coin, a prayer will be intoned for you. Take your cue from the Bhutanese on such occasions and, when in doubt, ask your guide what would be the appropriate thing to do.

 

 

 

 

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