Posts Tagged ‘Bhutan’

The Last Shangri la

November 2, 2012

The picture in the ads you’ll see in the back of travel magazines for Bhutan is always of the” Tiger’s Nest” Monastery.  Tucked in the Himalayas, this developing nation only gets about 50,000 visitors a year and it was the October destination for the Travel Queen.

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Bhutan's Tiger's Nest

The first thing to strike us was the natural beauty.  Staggeringly high mountains thick with untouched forests dotted with terraced rice fields.  Glacier cold, clear rivers and streams crossed by simple bridges decorated with hundreds of prayer flags.

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Bhutan

Access to Bhutan is only through organized, all-inclusive tours.  Group sizes range from 1 to about 20.  

This is not a country where you could successfully explore on your own.  There is only 1 airline, Drukair, the national airline which has only 4 planes in their fleet.  There are no rental car counters – your tour will include a vehicle and driver.  Good thing because there are NO stoplights in the country and street signs or highway markers are rare.  The roads are also narrow, winding and not in the best of conditions.

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Hotel accommodations are clean and simple – think National Park lodging in the US but with poorer quality workmanship.  Plumbing is Western so there are regular flush toilets and showers in all.  Just don’t be surprised if the plumbing leaks or the electrical is hinky.  The beds are ROCK HARD, so much so that we took the comforter, folded it and put it under the sheet in an effort to add some cushion. 

The government mandated that by the end of 2012 all hotels must have Wi-Fi.  Usually it’s only in the lobby and even then, service is hit or miss.  I had a peek inside the wiring closet of one of the hotels and suffice it to say, it wasn’t close to any US standard. 

Most meals will be at your hotel and buffet style.  Typically 5 items with rice being 1 of them.  The food is at best “uninspired”.  I brought my own peanut butter and was the envy of our group.

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But Bhutan is not about luxury hotels (there are only a couple), great spas or fabulous cuisine.  Its about the natural beauty which it has in abundance.  Next week I’ll cover the hikes and help you select the amount of activity that’s right for you.

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Gearing Up

September 21, 2012

In two weeks we leave for our walking trip in Bhutan.  This trip, named one of National Geographic’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime will have us walking 3-6 hours a day, sometimes on trails, other times on various rural “roads” at average altitudes of 8200 feet – afterall, it is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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I like adventure but a nightly bed and private bath are mandatory.  This trip includes both.   To prepare for this amount of walking, particularly at higher elevation, we spent 2 weeks at our condo in Deer Valley, Utah (8400 ft) and we hiked or some other physical activity every day.

My husband ended up buying new hiking boots (3rd time’s the charm!) and chafe resistant underwear.  I bought a “cooling towel” and we both bought new, seamless, sweat proof socks.  I determined which flavors of Clif Bars that I prefer, that they are “friendly” to my system and that Starbucks Cool Lime refreshers is the only water flavor additive I enjoy.  I also concluded my Prada sunglasses were more comfortable in all day active wearing than a couple of other brands intended for such purpose.  All that matters – who needs a headache or too frequent bathroom stops from your gear – including your snacks!

If you have an active trip in mind – even if not to a place as remote as Bhutan, gather and try your gear out early and often.   I got my hiking boots for Christmas and broke them in at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas (and got a foot massage that afternoon at the Venetian spa!) as well as many hikes over the next 8 months in the Seattle area.  I’ve kept track of which shirts, shorts and pants performed well on each of these weekend outings so I bring the right clothing – nothing that creeps, binds or chafes!

On Rattlesnake Ledge over 4th of July I learned to tuck my laces loops under the cross laces to avoid  a loop catching on the hook and tripping me – AGAIN.  Better to have a skinned knee at home than on a trip.

Planning ahead has also allowed me to take advantage of sales leaving me more money for the next adventure!

Gear doesn’t have to be expensive but it does have to be comfortable and work well to make the most of your adventure.  Plan ahead and try everything out locally before you head off on a “trip of a lifetime”.

Dream Vacations Start with a Dream

September 2, 2011

My friend, Marcia Brixey, helps educate women on financial matters.  She also keeps a “Dream Board”.  This board has images clipped from magazines, internet articles or even photos from friends to represent what she wants to accomplish this year.  She often has travel items on the board along with career and other personal goals.  Dream boards are a popular way to visualize, and consequently achieve, many goals.

I’ve never been one to make an actual “Dream board” but that doesn’t mean I don’t visualize – even fantasize, especially about travel destinations.  My first international trip was to Martinique, a French island in the Southern Caribbean. Why?  I liked the sound of the name.  I liked saying “I’m going to Martinique” and I did say that – probably for 18 months before I actually bought the ticket and went!  Didn’t know much more than than and, given how totally unprepared I was, I still managed to have a memorable time.

Now with the internet, there is NO excuse not to dream – and do some research!  Bhutan keeps coming up in our household lately.  My husband has a fascination with “hiking in the Himalayas”.  He’s seen ads each month in the back of the 2 travel magazines we subscribe to and we’ve gone so far as to visit the website for Boundless Journeys and their trip offerings to Bhutan.

We’re also doing a lot of hiking here in the Pacific Northwest – usually talking about hiking in Bhutan at least part of the way along the trails.   Certainly knowing you want to go on a hiking trip gives you an incentive to get out more locally to “get conditioned” for the future trip.

What is YOUR dream vacation?  Do you even have one?  If not, go buy a travel magazine or two this weekend.  We like National Geographic Traveler as well as Travel and Leisure.  Put one in your bathroom at home and take another to work to peruse over your lunch hour.  Turn down pages, tear out pictures, log on to websites for more information or use the images as postings on your own “Dream Board”.  Talk about various destinations with friends, coworkers and family – if they haven’t been personally, sometimes they know someone who has and can provide valuable insights.  Be sure to include those who might go with you too.

All dream vacations start with a dream…start dreaming and don’t be surprised when your dreams become reality!


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