Paro – Welcome to Bhutan

We are happy to arrive in small, calm, Bhutan. We have a bias towards small countries.

Welcome to Bhutan

We fly from Delhi to Paro in Bhutan. On the way, we pass the peak of Mount Everest (according to the captain.)

Probably as close as we’ll ever get to Everest

Landings at Paro’s pocket-sized airport are exciting. You descend close to the mountains, then bank steeply right and down a valley.

To no great surprise, it makes the list of ‘ten most dangerous airports in the world‘.

Barely room to turn around at the end of the runway

We are met at the airport by our guide, Tula, and our driver, Rinzin.

(In an effort to avoid overwhelming numbers of visitors, Bhutan practices ‘high-value, low-impact’ tourism. This means most foreign visitors must travel with a booked package, at a substantial daily rate, including a guide and a driver.)

Paro isn’t the biggest town in Bhutan, but it is where the international airport is located.

Rinzin waits in front of our car

On our way to the hotel, we pass groups of young monks.

Monks on the road

Our hotel is a training ground for a local hospitality college.

Our accommodation

The view from our hotel.

Our first stop is the Rinpung Dzong. A dzong is a fortress/temple.

Also known as Paro Fortress
View over the Paro River
Bridge over the Paro River

It’s an ‘auspicious day’, so the monastery has many visitors. These local girls and women wear the kira, the national garment for women.

This lone girl dances to her own inner rhythm.

Svarasa‘ – trust your instincts

Up the hill is a national museum, currently under repair for earthquake damage.

The grouping of white prayer flags are a memorial for a deceased person. According to Tula, they should be ‘high up and overlooking a river.’

We hike up into the surrounding hills.

Paro from above

We drop in on a small monastery. Tula discreetly checks if anyone is home. The resident monk is in town, running errands.

Tula emerges from the monastery

We visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in the country.

Tula works the prayer wheels. He wears the kilt-like national garment for men, the goh.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

In the courtyard of Kyichu Lhakhang. We are not used to having a third person to take our photo together.

I get a lesson in spinning prayer wheels.

‘It’s all in the wrist action…’

Rooftops in Kyichu Lhakhang.

Local truck carrying logs.

Another day, we hike to the Taktsang monastery.

Taktsang from afar

In truth, we cheat slightly: we ride ponies halfway up the trail.

Pony up

Lots of prayer flags along the way.

Catch the Wind

My pony, Tinka, is a good little horse.

‘Does he have a cold?’ ‘No, he’s only a little hoarse.’

Nearly there. We are hardly alone – Western visitors are few, but Indians can visit visa-free and travel independently. They are abundant.

Also known as the Tiger’s Nest

Last image of the day is the Rinpung Dzong lit up at night.

The Dzong Remains the Same

Sight or Insight of the Day – Paro

A thing in Bhutan is a ‘hot-rock bath’. This involves heating rocks in a fire.

They call me ‘asbestos-toes

Next, you drop them into a tub of water. The client-containing part of the tub is protected from the rock-containing part.

Meanwhile, the client on the other side luxuriates in the steamy brew.

For more rocks, just knock…