Sorry it’s taken me awhile to get back to you, I’ve been rather busy writing and doing book layouts.
My trip was great thank you. I thought you matched my guide with me very well. Yeshi and I got on great.
The first driver I had till my trek was great too. However I’m sure you’ve heard about the young driver I had from Gasa to Phobjika valley! He was literally dangerous! I’m not a nervous person at all and I tried joking first en route and then as it continued I I started to be more firm.
I’m aware that Bhutanese do not like confrontation and Yeshi said he just closed his eyes!
However once we arrived I asked not to be driven by him and Yeshi sorted the problem out quickly so that I had a great driver for my return. The ideal would be to have the same driver for the whole trip especially if you are a single traveller as you build a relationship.
I did have one massive frustration and that was the cultural aspect of Laya. On your website and even in the Lonely Planet guide book they say exactly the same words (so I’m not sure who copied who or from where) :
“They dress in black wooden jackets with silver trims ….wear lots of silver jewellery on their backs; on many women this display includes an array of silver teaspoons.
The village women are easily encouraged to stage an evening ‘cultural’ show which consists of Bhutanese circle dancing accompanied by traditional Bhutanese and Layap songs.’
None of that is true. It just doesn’t exist anymore. And when I interviewed an elder Dema aged 79 she said that has not happened since she was younger. so it must be a minimum of 15-20 years out! It was a problem for me because it was the main focus of my trip apart from the festival. I was pretty disappointed and maybe had I known before I could have arranged to go to the Lunap village if that was any different or go somewhere else. You must get the company to change their information about Laya. I intend to write to the Lonely Planet to inform them too.
One small point regarding trek guiding is that while I enjoyed walking on my own a fair bit of the time I did twice start to go in the wrong direction. The first time a local corrected me. But the second time was over half an hour and I was right near Laya but hadn’t seen Yeshi for about 40 mins and started to worry. He then turned up. But as a tip…the track has some sheer drops and as I was on my own should something have happened he would have been too far away to help. It might be good to advise on this for single trekkers. Thanks.
I do have some advice about the accommodation at the Hot springs in Gaza too. It is not good. Even the first room I had the bathroom was pretty horrid and that was a good room. I was given the option to camp but didn’t know what the room would be like. The room had a bed and was fairly clean so it was ok for one night. However on the return I had to have a different room and it was pretty disgusting and the guys tried to set me up nicely but once I heard rats in the floor I asked to camp. I think it might be advisable to suggest that people view a room first them decide or just say that it is camping. A much nicer version for me would have been a homestay up in Gaza as I would have liked to be up there as it is so beautiful and didn’t get time to look around.
The $30 thing was fine. However I think you forgot to tell Yeshi about the contact I wanted to meet from the cultural institute. He said he would find out but it didn’t happen and in the end we didn’t have tie to arrange a meet.
Just as an observation – I think what I found was that due to the sheer politeness of the Bhutanese and wanting to give you an answer to questions I noticed that I was given the wrong information a number of times when I double checked. I guess this won’t matter to many people but as I was on a fact finding mission that left me feeling like I wasn’t sure which information was 100% accurate.
One helpful piece of information which I didn’t come across anywhere before I went was that it would be impossible to see any ritual prayers or cultural events other than the festival due to the dates only being fixed a few days before by astrologers and because of having a fixed itinerary being unable to see any. One was taking place in the Punakha farmhouse the next day and one in Laya the day after I left so that was very frustrating.
Obviously I had more specific standards than most people visiting but I just thought that I would be honest with you in case it helps you in the future.