We are back more than a week now from our trip to Bhutan with Smith Travel. Despite a somewhat confusing start to the trip, when our itinerary changed substantially at the last minute, I wanted to let you know that, from our point of view, the Bhutan trip was an unqualified success. For this success, I give much of the credit to our superb Bhutanese guide, Kinga Dechen. Kinga, as we all came to call him, is the kind of guide travelers everywhere seek: knowledgeable, experienced, and a great companion. He was attentive to each traveler’s particular needs, but also managed the group as a whole with such deftness that traveling through sometimes difficult terrain and facing unexpected obstacles was never unbearable. More than that: Kinga repeatedly found ways to gain the group entry to places sff limits not just to tourists but to the general public. We got to view superb frescoes – widely considered the most beautiful in Bhutan – dating from the 15th century, covered in silk curtains behind a locked gate in the inner sanctum of one of the temples inside the Trongsa Dzong, Serendipity figured into our tour as well. On another occasion, during our trip from Jakar to Trongsa, Kinga spotted local villagers dressed in their finest outfits heading on foot up a steep hillside, and stopping to inquire, discovered a rare once-in-three-year religious festival – featuring a re-enactment of Buddha descending from Heaven – taking place that morning. We stopped and were enchanted!
We also greatly enjoyed the lectures and companionship of Smith lecturer Connie Kassor. Her wide ranging lectures on Buddhism, and precise explications of Mahayana images and symbols in every temple we visited, helped deepen our appreciation of the fascinating, beautiful country that Bhutan is. Her good humor and gentle manner helped keep us all on an even keel.
It was a delight too to meet and travel with other Smith alumni! It was indeed the trip of a lifetime, one we thoroughly enjoyed.