Bhutan

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Cyllarus
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Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:10 pm

Any one spent time in Bhutan? We are planning sub-continent trip for early winter 2019 - late January start in Sri Lanka, work our way up though India for couple of months and then a week or so in Bhutan.

Recommendation for Bhutan based travel agency appreciated. Unless govt policy has changed in past year all tourists have to use travel agency. Thinking of travelling overland into Bhutan from Darjeeling. think you are only allowed to overland one way and must fly otherwise. isd this still right?

Merci

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Lincoln
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Re: Bhutan

Post by Lincoln » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:24 pm

Its 100% on my list...long way off yet.

Mutha has been hasn't he?

Either way OP i'll be following this post closely...do us a favour and post costs/routes/visa rules etc so we can have an idea.

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mad hatter
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Re: Bhutan

Post by mad hatter » Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:59 pm

following also!
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Bill Barilko
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Re: Bhutan

Post by Bill Barilko » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:11 pm

Avalon has been there and of course Our Great Leader.
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muthafunky
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Re: Bhutan

Post by muthafunky » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:33 pm

I went in 2012. Avalon had been a number of years earlier - 2005 or something? In any case, I used the agency she recommended and they were great, however I notice their site is no longer in use and there were complaints about them in 2013 and 2014. They were called Nirvana Expeditions. So unfortunately, I'm no help when it comes to recommending an agency.

We went for three weeks or so. Flew in to Paro, had a look around the valley and saw Tiger's Nest. We did the Jhomalari Trek, which was spectacular. Ten days or so I think? You leave near Paro and end up near Thimphu. Spent a couple of days there, then headed overland to Bumthang for the Fire Festival there. Stopped at Punakha and Trongsa along the way. Oh, also up to the Phobjikha Valley to see the black necked cranes.

Happy to give more details or recommendations if that's what you're looking for. I've still got the full itinerary in my email. Looking at the invoice, we were there 20 days and paid $10,271, which includes everything in country (besides souvenirs, alcohol, and tips) and airfare to/ from Bangkok. Not sure how prices have changed, I know we paid more than standard per day costs because there were only two of us. Felt luxurious going on a trek with 4 staff (guide, porter, cook, horsemen) and a train of 8 horses with all of our gear.

The roads are quite bad in Bhutan, so I'd avoid any overland travel that isn't explicitly scenic or interesting. It's slow and uncomfortable.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Thu Jan 04, 2018 2:08 pm

Lincoln and Mad hatter.
Won't be much to post for several months as trip plan is start in Sri lanka late january 2019 and work our way up to Bhutan for April'ish. Planned this trip for 2015 and had relevant Bhutan info for that year but health issues put end to extended travel for last couple of years.

Thanks mutha, if you could forward copy of your itinerary pm, would be much appreciated. We are looking at 7-10 days max and Chomolhari trek interests us. Approx $500 day for two of you good as I think individual costs are around $300/day now.

Cheers

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Homerj » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:08 pm

muthafunky wrote:I went in 2012. Avalon had been a number of years earlier - 2005 or something? In any case, I used the agency she recommended and they were great, however I notice their site is no longer in use and there were complaints about them in 2013 and 2014. They were called Nirvana Expeditions. So unfortunately, I'm no help when it comes to recommending an agency.

We went for three weeks or so. Flew in to Paro, had a look around the valley and saw Tiger's Nest. We did the Jhomalari Trek, which was spectacular. Ten days or so I think? You leave near Paro and end up near Thimphu. Spent a couple of days there, then headed overland to Bumthang for the Fire Festival there. Stopped at Punakha and Trongsa along the way. Oh, also up to the Phobjikha Valley to see the black necked cranes.

Happy to give more details or recommendations if that's what you're looking for. I've still got the full itinerary in my email. Looking at the invoice, we were there 20 days and paid $10,271, which includes everything in country (besides souvenirs, alcohol, and tips) and airfare to/ from Bangkok. Not sure how prices have changed, I know we paid more than standard per day costs because there were only two of us. Felt luxurious going on a trek with 4 staff (guide, porter, cook, horsemen) and a train of 8 horses with all of our gear.

The roads are quite bad in Bhutan, so I'd avoid any overland travel that isn't explicitly scenic or interesting. It's slow and uncomfortable.


Cool trip!
Did u ever post pics mutha?
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Re: Bhutan

Post by muthafunky » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:01 pm

I guess searching it looks like I didn't. Would it be lame to post a trip report five years after the fact?

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Wilster » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:26 pm

muthafunky wrote:I guess searching it looks like I didn't. Would it be lame to post a trip report five years after the fact?


Take a chance!
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Re: Bhutan

Post by Homerj » Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:00 pm

muthafunky wrote:I guess searching it looks like I didn't. Would it be lame to post a trip report five years after the fact?


Not to me it wouldn't...but hey if its a PITA don't bother.
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Re: Bhutan

Post by Lincoln » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:42 am

muthafunky wrote: Would it be lame to post a trip report five years after the fact?



Not at all,i'd be very interested, not least just to find out what you get for $300 a day!

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:44 pm

http://www.tourism.gov.bt/

Good website with desription of various treks. Outlines what one gets for fee of $250/day - meals, accommodation, service of guide, trek gear i think, etc.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:41 pm

$250/day inclusions:

MINIMUM DAILY PACKAGE
The minimum daily package covers the following services.
• A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium).
• All meals
• A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
• All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
• Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours

It also includes:
• All internal taxes and charges
• A sustainable development fee of $65. This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.

The minimum daily package for tourists travelling in a group of 3 persons or more is as follows:
USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December.
USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.

These rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan.

On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to providing breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on usage basis.

The list of hotels and lodges approved to provide accommodations all listed on this website. If your accommodation is not listed on this website then it is not licensed cater for international tourists.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:10 pm

I went and wrote about here. Even tho you're super not-into me, it's worth a search.

With only 2 weeks of Mama-care that I can off load this year, I'm seriously thinking of going again for 6 days with a Bhaktapur add on. The new 5* star hotels look worth it to me, and I expect that the food would be more mercifully Bhutan-fusion than full on chili's over potato home fries and so-so curry all of the time. if I go, I'm def. going on the $500 a day plan. It also ups the chance that you're in a range rover on your own. Warning: Chinese have been hitting Bhutan hard, just like they are the world over.

You will really freeze your ass off in January. Mark Weins has some good youtubes on the little restaurants. You spend most of your day on the mini-bus, but the un-deforested Himalayas is worth the ass-burn. Some of the tour stuff like the stamp museum is skippable.

Bhutanese Incense is rightfully world famous, given that they alone have some of the aromatic trees that it's made from. Be careful tho, one of them smelled like a burnt frankfurter and another like a motel ash tray. Go for the Green Tara. All of it's half priced at Bodnath in Kathmandu.

I bought an animist blanket off someone's clothe's line that's worth about 2 grand these days, but I have to believe those days are gone for good. But if you see something you like, even in a temple, feel free to ask. They are def. ready to deal. Their local textiles are still not mass produced and a buy, but you really have to like plaids in muddy colors. Here's an OK book, but you can get the definitive one as an indian reprint in Kathmandu:

https://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Bhut ... tiles+book

From the Land of the Thunder Dragon is the better textile book and a good read on the art and sensibility behind it.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:56 pm

Beat Raven Interesting tips - esp the one about Chinese tourists as I had my fill of them over a Chinese New Year at Angkor Wat. We were on bicycles and they kept racing by us in convoys of diesel fume belching busses. We mostly avoided them by going to outlying temples.

Bhutan not on agenda until late march or early April however. What time of year were you there?


Even tho you're super not-into me, it's worth a search.

Little puzzled by this. You referring to me or the other respondents to my OP? If me, don't think I am on this board often enough to appear to have favourites or non-favourites.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by mad hatter » Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:45 pm

interesting thread
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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:02 pm

No worries, not big in Canada is my middle name. You're another one prone to thanking every one in a thread except me. It aint personal.

I went in January (20 years ago, solo). The Mark Weins youtubes indicate a fair bit of development since then with more restaurants open and a bit of a crafts-hustle happening now (again, it's all 1/2 price in Nepal).

It's worth emailing a bit with your guide before you go and asking him what he might want from the west. My guy wanted the complete works of Emily Dickerson and some Bob Marley cassettes. American Marlboro's were also cherished. Smoking is illegal there, and every last man, woman, and child you see will be smoking. Johnny Walker pours freely, but they love something sweet and unusual like Chartreuese or Tequila Rose. I wanted yak fur to cover some old french provincial chairs, and they got me yak fur. If you want to see a Bhutanese film (Like a buddha soap opera), you can do that and skip the stamp museum.

I'm sure it's more regimented than 20 years ago, but so few people will even bother to make any special request at all that if it's not a taboo thing, they're happy to oblige, partic. if you show some cultural understanding/appreciation. Most people are happy to be led around sort of agog. That said, I asked for hash 20 years ago and they freshly rolled up some temple balls for me (good, not great).

I'm into Bon nature worship and its intermingling with shamanism. Buddhism was imposed everywhere in the world by force, but the old spirits still need placating. There's a very well written Bon book on Amazon (one copy left) with great pics, but for most people, a wiki-glance will do it.

Also, get an older version of the Lonely Planet guide for about $2. The newer ones aren't nearly as detailed about the folklore nor as well written. I want to get some Tibetan medicinal herbal seeds for my garden and maybe see a Tibetan doctor. It's a great experience in Nepal, so maybe better there.

Supposedly no antiques like my old blanket can leave the country now, but I see a fake-laden antique store is now open in Paro. My blanket looks like this, but is about 8 foot long:

https://www.rugrabbit.com/node/58675

It's inconceivable that that blanket is 19th century in that condition. They lie. Saddle Blanket usually means fragment from a larger piece. The crosses are power signs. You see the cross motif everywhere.

On average, the art and temples are a letter grade+ less good than in Nepal. Much more limited color palate and range of saints. You're there for the last bit of green himalayas and the unspoiled vibe. Much is made of them being the happiest people in the world, but I still give that nod to the Lao.

By wild chance, if the Mama-planets align, We'll be there in Mid April for 10 days. There is an economy of scale where going for 10 days is twice as good as going for a week in terms of the routing. The eastern part was much more remote, but that also means that there's not much there. I crossed the border into Assam on foot. Great days.

I wouldn't sweat Chinese people. Chinese people who go to places like Bhutan are diff from the Chinese people I see on a walking tour of Whore's Row in Pattaya.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by mad hatter » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:25 pm

Thanks for that BR, whats your 10 day trip likely to have on the itinarary?
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Re: Bhutan

Post by DCComic » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:37 pm

We went about 10 years ago.
Flying into Paro is worth it. Taking off from not so exciting.
Trekking and monastery visits are cool. Thimphu not so much, but there was a rock club which was a weird and welcome change of pace.
We were shown the black cranes and a thakin. Er... hmmm.
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Re: Bhutan

Post by muthafunky » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:38 am

Ema Datse was about the only food I liked. Actually, our trekking meals were great, but your average hotel cuisine is pretty forgettable.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:52 pm

Def. underwhelmed by those cranes. Another motivation for a $500 per person private tour. The reg. tour route is as restrictive as N. Korea's.

Like I said, Bhutan's effect is cumulative; the individual sights are not that impressive; the various temples are much more samey than SEA. The Kathmandu Valley is a few hundred percent more interesting.

One good thing about my Buddha book is that it connected me to a lot of not faking it anthropologists who needed the laugh. Meditation is another freemason-like network. I'm hoping to meet up with some westerners living there and connect with meditation teachers, trad. medicine people, and shamans.

Otherwise, My wife still isn't all the way well, so I anticipate doing that hard walk up to Tiger's Nest on my own.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by Cyllarus » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:59 pm

Beat Raven. I do appreciate your input on Bhutan so thanks much.

You're another one prone to thanking every one in a thread except me. It aint personal.

You appear to be a little sensitive about this and again I don't think I am on board that often and don't really recall whether or not I have been appreciative enough for advice you may have provided in one of my OPs. I don't keep a spreadsheet.

Hope your wife's health improves soon.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:54 pm

Short version: Before you write the check, know why you're going.

It's a very closed off place where everything is kept at arms length from you. The wild life aspect for example tends to be overstated. I notice they're no longer offering spotting of the long gone white tiger on the itineraries. You won't be brought to a temple when people are worshipping unless you show up during a festival.

There's def. a Potempkin's Village vibe to Bhutan. Unanimously, people love the trekking experience (plenty of youtubes to ascertain if you might) along a route that will be vetted with a Kim Il Jung ferocity. If you resist a bus tour of Italy, what makes you keen on one in Bhutan?

Like Tibet or Mustang, people show up expecting to be hit with an effortless burst of spiritual exotica (because uh, this is costing me a lot of money), but it's just another mostly poor and empty place. There's def. a little Emporer's New Clothes in Bhutan's marketing -and I'm a guy who loved my Bhutan trip.

Anyone remember a long ago Lonely Planet post of mine called Sex In Bhutan (about having sex in Bhutan)?

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Re: Bhutan

Post by muthafunky » Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:41 am

I can't say I had the same experiences as you. I found the temples and especially the fortresses more interesting than in Nepal. Tiger's Nest, the temples in Bumthang, the fortresses at Punakha and especially Trongsa. There were few tourists and locals praying at the temples we went to. They tended to be pretty visually inspiring.

The black necked cranes themselves aren't amazing in and of themselves, but the lore surrounding them is interesting, and walks through the Phobjikha Valley are really nice.

The trekking was different, but definitely much quieter and less developed. The main routes in Nepal have a ton of tourists and there are many villages along the way, our trek in Bhutan involved long sections without people. They didn't talk up the wildlife to us though we did see quite a few herds of blue sheep. My main complaint with Bhutan is the days are long and the treks arduous with views that - while amazing - don't quite compare to the visuals in Nepal.

I feel like with Bhutan it's good to go at an age where the trip doesn't seem expensive. Ten grand for three weeks in the Himalayas seems like a steal compared to the other trips we take now. I feel like you're paying to see a place like Nepal or Tibet without the depressing politics, beggars, filth, and tourist hordes. Maybe that makes it Potempkin Village, but it's what the country is like. You don't see a particularly sanitized version of it or anything.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:20 pm

Citizen Baba worked with a few thousand refugees from Bhutan who would disagree. You see what they want you to see. If you're saying you don't want depressing politics of poor people, then you are in fact wanting a disneyfied experience.

While everybody raves about it, nobody goes there twice. It's a tour bus one and done. If I can't get off the tour schedule, even at a grand a day for 2, I'll probably give it a miss a 2nd time myself.

Nothing wrong with a chill and buffed up destination; I didn't love that authentic spiritual mecca called Yangon. Plenty of misery in Bhutan, it's just been edited out from the view from the tour bus.

It starts with your tour guide. In a place where the per capita is $2,800 a year, someone getting tipped out a couple of hundred dollars a week is not JoeBlow Bhutanese.

In Southeast Asia, every country would kill to be Bhutan. Well healed and super well behaved tourists paying up front to a government monopoly. It's North Korea with Buddha statues.

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Re: Bhutan

Post by BeatRaven » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:38 pm

CNN lists Bhutan among the 12 places you shouldn't travel to in 2018, citing unspecified impacts to it's fragile ecosystem:

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/plac ... index.html

They recco Arunachi Pradesh area of India as a less trampled alternative. It's a restricted area, so you're still on a tour, but only for $75 a person. Lots of mountains and Buddha's:

http://www.arunachaltourism.com/index.php#0

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Re: Bhutan

Post by muthafunky » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:30 am

BeatRaven wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:20 pm
You see what they want you to see.
Not really. If you want to go visit the Lhotshampas I'm curious what kind of tour they'd arrange but it's pretty distasteful if you get your tourist kicks by gawking at the poor and oppressed. But in general you can go and see whatever you want to. The guides and drivers are there for you, but you can dismiss them if you want to.
If you're saying you don't want depressing politics of poor people, then you are in fact wanting a disneyfied experience.
Really? The only choice is depressing politics and poverty or Disney? Sheesh. I guess I better cross off most of the world.
While everybody raves about it, nobody goes there twice.
Nepal probably rates as my favorite travel experience ever and I haven't gone there twice either. They're not exactly the easiest places to go to.
It's a tour bus one and done. If I can't get off the tour schedule, even at a grand a day for 2, I'll probably give it a miss a 2nd time myself.
You can do whatever schedule you want. You determine the schedule. If you don't want to have your car drive you around you can ditch that too.

Is it a grand per day for two these days? It was half that when I went in 2012.
Plenty of misery in Bhutan, it's just been edited out from the view from the tour bus.
Can't say I saw any tour buses. Where are the miserable parts of Paro, Thimphu, Bumthang, etc?
It's North Korea with Buddha statues.
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Re: Bhutan

Post by Kikilamour » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:34 pm

hmmmmm very interesting. i have a nepali friend i'd go with. she's been before and probably has some insight on how to get where /what you want. i'll ask her.

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