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Bhutan: The Happiest Country on Earth

The takin, Bhutan’s national animal
Indian Subcontinent Bhutan
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Where better to escape the rigours of the British winter and, should you feel so inclined, the festive season, than the happiest country on Earth, Bhutan? Our group gathered in Delhi to start our adventure in Bhutan. First was the flight to Paro, with the added bonus of flying over the Himalayas and a superb view of Mount Everest in full winter sunshine. Paro airport has the reputation of being one of the most dangerous in the world, and the descent is so difficult that only eight pilots are certified to land there. We weren’t disappointed, if a little afraid, as the aircraft dropped very rapidly into the valley, swooping and turning many times within what seemed like touching distance of the promontories. After a final left turn mere metres from the ground and a perfect landing, we were in the land of the Thunder Dragon. Meeting Sonam our guide and Gudu our driver, we headed off to the capital Thimphu and our hotel.

Old meets new - praying with a cartoon furry hat in Thimphu

Thimphu has been the capital since the 1960s, and is a friendly town of only 100,000 people. Our first day saw us visit the largest Buddha statue in the world, the National Memorial Chorten, the amazing 16th century fortress, and see Bhutan’s national animal, the bizarre takin. Tired but very happy, we slept like logs despite the barking of Thimphu’s many stray dogs and the disco below our hotel room windows.

Road stall in Bhutan selling Lays crisps

The next morning we were out bright and early and off towards Bhutan’s beautiful eastern mountains, where we will be for the next week. An early coffee stop rewarded us with superb views of 7,500 metre peaks emerging from the cloud cover below and the very beautiful Dochu La temple with 108 mini-chortens in three circles.

Rebuilding the road in Bhutan

As we drove on the scenery continued to amaze at every turn, but perhaps the most unusual sight of the day was as we were nearing our hotel at dusk when the road crew, working on widening and tarmacking the road, suddenly found that they had no road for the steadily increasing queues of vehicles on either side to cross, due to a fall of earth from their earlier handiwork. We watched awestruck as the digger rapidly and efficiently moved vast quantities of earth and rebuilt the road before our very eyes, just managing to clear a way for us as night fell. It was already dark by the time we reached the very plush Hotel Dewachen, leaving us to anticipate the views over the Phobjikha valley which await upon first light in the morning.

Dee Brown has just finished tour leading our Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon tour and the blog above was written by the group on our Christmas 2016 departure.

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