Bhutan’s strategy of “low volume, high quality” tourism has made it a highly-regarded destination among discerning travellers. It costs an official USD 250 per day per person to sample the charms of this isolated Himalayan kingdom, an amount that includes land transport, accommodations, food and guide service.
We were down at the bar in town enjoying a local beer (Druk 11000 “Super Strong”) when Randall received a text from a Bhutanese contact he had made, proposing a bike ride the next morning. When he read the message to me, I envisaged a meandering, casual ride around town to help get our bearings, followed by a friendly cup of tea. What was on offer, however, was something very different – a 110km ride from Thimphu to Paro and back again, along the winding roads just above the valley floor. As our first social invitation, we were certainly not going to turn it down, despite not being acclimatised to the 2,350m where we’d landed only two days earlier.
There is an ethereal beauty to Bhutan that visitors just can’t get enough of.
It was just after 11pm, Wednesday, in the western town of Paro, Bhutan. It was also Ladies’ Night, and we were walking towards Destiny Club disco to celebrate the last night of our trip. Young girls in mini-skirts and heels overtook our big group, checked out our casual clothes and said: “Tourism day?”
Expanding Bhutan’s air connectivity to 5 countries, a direct air link between Singapore and Bhutan was established after national airline Druk Air flew its inaugural flight to the island state, on Tuesday.
Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck was on board as chief guest, leading a delegation, compromising of DHI, Druk Air, and government representatives, among others.
Among international arrivals Japanese were the dominant visitors in the first seven months of this year according to records maintained by the secretariat of the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
As of July this year, 3,923 Japanese tourists had arrived in the country. Within the same period 2,561 American tourists had visited.
Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, strikes a beautiful balance between the sacred and the secular, old and new, sound and silence, and form and function.
Tourism Council Secretariat’s recent proposal for funds from tour operators to support their functioning met with an outright denial from more than 100 tour operators, who had an emergency meeting yesterday in Thimphu.
While on a recent photographer’s cross-country tour of Bhutan, my wife and I were enjoying the early morning panoramic view of the Tang valley, just after erecting our personal prayer flags. This was a magical place for us, and we had come to experience the unique culture without any expectations of seeing much wildlife.