Hello to the Windhorse team,
Thanks for the opportunity to give some feedback on our recent tour. Back this past winter my daughter Leah and I were discussing where we might travel to celebrate her graduation from college. We discussed a number of different locations bur were intrigued by the idea of visiting Bhutan and experiencing the culture, particularly as influenced by the underlying Buddhist philosophy as well as the beautiful landscapes. As we looked at different agencies to arrange our tour, Windhorse was the only one offering a horse trekking tour. Both of us love to ride, so this settled the issue and we set up a tour that included a horse trip in the Tang Valley.
Suffice it to say that our trip was far beyond any expectations we had beforehand. From the moment we arrived in Paro it was clear we had come to a very unique place on the face of the earth. We had hoped to leave behind the paraphernalia of Western Civilization and indeed we had. One of the most significant factors in the quality of our tour were our guide and driver, Sonam Loday and Sonam Tenzin. As time went on during the tour, our appreciation of their attentiveness to our needs and the detail with which they filled in the history of the sites we visited only increased. I know our experience would not have been the same without the rich and detailed narration by our guide Sonam. He knew of our interest in Buddhism and was able to vastly enrich our understanding of this very important part of Bhutanese Culture.
Our accommodations were very comfortable and the food was enjoyable and satisfying. The hotel staff were universally pleasant and anxious to please. At no point did we experience a rude, angry or disagreeable Bhutanese person, which I think is quite remarkable and must reflect the depth to which Buddhist Philosophy has penetrated the culture of Bhutan. The horse trek was amazing. I will always remember riding through deep pine forests on inches of fallen needles, silent as ghosts or emerging into high passes with spectacular views in all directions. We were made very comfortable during the camping and riding portion of our tour, all of our needs being anticipated and provided for.
We did some walking after a chance to acclimatize and although demanding, was very much worth the effort. Hiking on Dochula pass as well as the trip to Takshang will be experiences I will remember forever. The visits to the Temples and the opportunity to participate in the ceremonies were a rare and wonderful experience for a westerner and remain my personal highlights. Sonam Loday went out of his way to arrange a visit and overnight stay at Padtseling Monastery as well as an audience with the Tulku Rinpoche, for which I will always be grateful.
I will admit that this trip changed me deeply and in ways that will persist for many years, if not forever. I am already thinking of how and in what capacity I might return to experience more of this wonderful culture and country. I cannot say that there is anything specific that I would have wanted to change about our trip other than the cloud cover which obscured some of the views. I hope that the tourism industry is allowed to grow at a sustainable pace and continue to provide visitors the same experience we had. We did have a discussion with Mr. Rinzin at the office in Thimphu about our specific recommendations regarding the horse operation and again offer our help in finding needed supplies and tack to help develop it. ( We have found a good used western roping saddle for a small framed horse which would be good for the current horses in Tang. If you like, we could forward it to Ugen in Minneapolis.)
Thanks again for the opportunity to visit your country and please feel free to contact us if there is anything we could help you with. – TID 8511, Bhutan Private tour (1.06.14 to 15.06.14)