Initially I wanted to share trip report here day by day (I have shared my first day report earlier) but after that I decided to consolidate everything into 1 post instead.
Travel agent: Druk Asia
Hotel: Uma Paro / Hotel Lobesa / Hotel Kisa / Hotel Norbuling / Gangtey Palace
Hotel – Uma Paro
We decided to spend a night in this 5 star hotel. We paid USD700 for a valley view room. The hotel is great, the service is great, the staff is friendly and the food is fantastic too. Other than that, I feel that we were paying too much for these. It’s Bhutan, actually a lot of hotels can also offer such great view too. Maybe it would be more worth if we choose to stay in their villa but it will cost more of course.
Day 2 - Paro - Punakha
We set off at 9am to Punakha. It took us an hour from Paro to Thimphu (54 km) and another 3 hours from Thimphu to Punakha (71 km). The road condition between Paro and Thimphu is quite good, just a little bendy but not bumpy. We passed by many attractions along the way from Paro to Punakha. The first stop is the iron chain bridge which one will have to cross it to get to Tachog Lhakhang Dzong. I was told by my tour guide that crossing this iron bridge will clear all our sins. After about 1 and half hour drive, we reached the second attraction, Dochula pass. It's very foggy when we were there so we didn’t manage to see snow capped mountain from Dochula Pass. Then another 1 and half hour drive, we reached Punakha and we had our lunch there and after checking in hotel in Punakha, we proceeded to the famous fertility temple, Chimi Lhakhang. Night programme was the most interesting part for the day. We visited one of the karaoke club in Lobesa town in Punakha. I may sound ignorant but it's an eye opening experience for me as I didn't expect Bhutan would have night life. These karaoke girls would approach their customers with a book and pen, asking them if they would like to pay Nu.100 (USD1.60) dedicating a song, these girls will then perform on stage. Ladies are welcome to enter this place and there is no entrance fee required. We ordered a bottle of locally brewed Bhutanese beer Druk 11000. It is a 650 ml glass bottle. Taste of this beer was great and smooth.
Hotel – Hotel Lobesa
I love this hotel. It’s a 3 star hotel but the service is 5 star. The wifi was not working well during our stay but hotel owner did his best to fix it and he called our room personally to inform us after he fixed the wifi. He also delivered ironing board and iron to our room personally. Our room was located at 2 floors below the lobby. I saw how one of their staff (a small build girl) help our neighbor and carried a maybe 15kg luggage on her shoulder from her room to lobby. That’s impressive.
Day 3 - Punakha - Thimphu
We were supposed to move on to Wangdue, visit Black Crane centre and spent a night in farm house at Gangtey. However, I was told that black crane is no longer there anymore (they only come to Bhutan early November to end March) and there were 3 road blocks on the way from Punakha to Gangtey. If we insisted to go Gangtey, we would need to very early the next day and spent most of our time (8 hours) on the road to Thimphu. So we decided to give up Wangdue and give up farm house stay which was one of the highlight in this trip. Take note of this if you also plan the same like our initial itinerary.
So we moved on to visit Punakha Dzong and Pho Chhu suspension bridge. I wore short sleeve (not sleeveless), boots and jeans and he told me better put on a scarf to cover my arm in Punakha Dzong.
Since it's last minute change, booking of hotel could be difficult. However our tour guide Tobgay (from Druk Asia) he did a very job and managed to get us a good hotel in Thimphu town.
Hotel – Hotel Kisa
What I don’t like about Bhutan hotels is, most of their shower heads are wall mounted which I really hate it. Hotel Kisa bathroom is the only one which their bathrooms come with hand held shower head. And the best part for this hotel is, heater in their bathroom, you will love it when you are taking shower in freezing cold day.
Day 4 - Thimphu
It’s a relax day, Thimphu city tour day. We visited big Buddha, zoo, national memorial chorten, paper factory, art painting museum, post office. We did our personalized stamp at the post office. At night, we visited a karaoke club in Thimphu but it was not as fun as the one we visited in Punakha, and it cost more Nu.200 to dedicate song.
Hotel – Norbuling
Hotel Norbuling and Hotel Kisa are actually beside each other, so both are facing stadium and main road. The
Day 5 - Paro Tiger's Nest
We left Thimphu to Paro at 6am without having breakfast in hotel. We were brought to the same restaurant for breakfast when we had our lunch on the first day. Breakfast was delicious, we had sausages, french fries, eggs, fried rice and bread toast. After breakfast, we proceeded to Tiger's Nest. Many street vendors were seen at the foot of mountain. It took us only 10 minutes drive from Paro town. We bought a figure of Buddha in sexual union with his female consort at Nu.600 (US$9.60) on our way back. The first half of the hike was slowly climb into a pine forest and we passed by a few buildings. After 45 minutes hike, we reached the cafeteria which marked the half way of the hike, it is also the first view point.Some tourists will have their lunch break here which serves only vegetarian food so we decided to have our lunch in Paro town instead. You can have your toilet break here, have some tea or coffee and biscuit. Finally, after another 1 hour we made it to the holy Tiger's Nest. It took us around 2 and half hours to reach the monastery, 45 minutes to the cafeteria and 1 hour from there to monastery with a few stops in between snapping photos. Photography is not allowed inside. Everyone has to deposit hand phone, cameras and backpack at this point. Security will conduct pocket check (just for male guests only) before you enter.
Tips to hike Tiger's Nest:
1. Wear comfortably. I have seen people suffering there due to the wrong foot wear. I wore sleeveless sports attire with fleece jacket. Half way through the hike I took off my fleece jacket as I started feeling warm.
2. Bring your hiking stick. If not, you can also purchase a wooden one at the base parking lot at Nu.50 (US$1). You will find it useful when you come down from Tiger's Nest.
Wear sun block.
3. Do the hike slowly and steady. I found this way is much faster than walking fast but keep stopping
4. Do the hike on the last few days in your itinerary. This is to allow one to get used to the altitude and prepare for the trek up to monastery.
5. Visit toilet before you reach base parking lot. There is no public toilet there. The nearest will be at the cafeteria on the way up to Tiger Nest.
Hotel – Gangtey Palace
This is probably the worst hotel we stayed in Bhutan, in our life. Hotel wifi is already not working few days before we checked in, they know it and many guests complained about it and when we asked the hotel staff, their reply is: “oh many guests are complaining about it and to solve the problem we have to rewire everything”. Ok I’m not sure if they are going to do anything about it. Second problem, the electrical plug. All hotels we stayed in Bhutan would provide at least 2 different kind of plugs in our room or they provide us some multiplug which we can use but not in this hotel, we asked but nothing can be provided. Our phone and camera battery was not charge for 2 days, luckily we brought spare battery. On top of these problems, the room is very cold but they did provide us a portable heater in our room. Other than these, this hotel is located on the hill which opposite Paro Dzong, the view is unbeatable and I would say it is even better than view I saw in Uma Paro
Day 6 - Paro festival, Flower exhibition
We reached Paro Dzong at 10am. Festival dance already started and the whole Paro Dzong was filled with people. We didn't manage to get to the front roll to enjoy the festival show. We were standing behind most of the time. I would advise you to start early maybe at 7am if you want to grab the front seat. I was told that some people actually went there at early as 3am-4am. I wanted to take some photos but I was too short and I could only stand behind the crowd so my husband carried me up at some point when I wanted to snap pictures. Haha.
We were very lucky that we could visit the first Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition when we were in Bhutan. It was beautiful and fantastic. Bhutan ladies are all very fashionable, very trendy. They make up, they dressed up, they carried leather handbag, they wore high heels and they also wore sunglasses, and they are all very beautiful.
We also visited Paro Museum in the afternoon. In the evening, we visited farm house and had dinner there. We also tried the hot stone bath, USD15 per pax. The stone was heated up by direct contact with fire, washed and put into the water. That's how the water was heated up. No rinsing is required and we could just enter the wooden bathtub naked. It was very good and very relax especially during cold weather but most of the time we were busy pouring ice water into it to adjust the water temperature. Haha but it's really fun. There were 15 Japanese staying a night in this farm house and we also saw 1 minibus bring their guests there for the hot stone bath. This farm house is making good money just within a night. We had dinner with our tour guide and driver and I get to know actually Bhutanese also eat their meal with bare hands like Indian and Malay. The dinner was delicious, traditional type with chili cheese, beef curry and omelette. We enjoyed our night in this farm house.
Day 7 - Paro - SG
We left hotel at 5am and proceed to see the giant painting at Paro Dzong. To my surprise, there were many people there when we reached. They were there to get the blessing. We just quickly took a few pictures as we need to catch our flight at 8:00am. Because it was way too early, hotel breakfast was not available when we checked out and we probably can only have our breakfast on the plane at 9am so I thought I could buy some bread off the shelf from bakery shop but there was not available too. So my tour guide Tobgay (from Druk Asia) was very helpful, he immediately called the same restaurant we visited last few times and asked the restaurant to prepare some simple breakfast for us. I really want to thank our tour guide for this. I knew he was putting in 200% of his effort to help us.
I will update again when more of my photos are ready.
For day 1 pictures, click here …blogspot.sg/2015/04/journey-to-last-shangri…
For day 2 pictures, click here …blogspot.sg/2015/04/journey-to-last-shangri…
For day 5 pictures, click here …blogspot.sg/2015/04/journey-to-last-shangri…Edited: 12 April 2015, 21:57