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West to East and return to West Bhutan

I am sorry to have taken so long to write. When I arrived home from my splendid vacation in India and Bhutan I was just in the beginning stages of coming down with the flu. I was sick for more than a week, but I am doing much better now.

I have some thoughts and suggestions regarding my tour in Bhutan. First, let me say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I was able to visit so many interesting and exciting places and to see a great deal of the country. Of course, I would like to have seen more, but it is not possible to cover every square inch and see every beautiful attraction in just 12 days. One puzzling thing was finally cleared up at the very last minute. I hardly saw any ladies that I would think are beautiful. But, when I got on the airplane to fly to Kolkata, every flight attendant was beautiful. So, that is where they all went.
As far as my trip and Wind Horse are concerned, I have many thoughts. For one thing, I could not have had better escorts. Lopen Singye is an excellent driver. He doesn’t speak very much, but he has a marvelous sense of humor and he was good company when Lopen Choki was otherwise occupied. As for Lopen Choki, he is a living encyclopedia of Bhutanese history and religion. His explanations were detailed and clear. He could identify every object of art in every temple and monastery. We engaged in lively conversation on a wide variety of topics, Bhutanese and otherwise. He had many questions about the history of the world and of the United States and I hope I was able to stimulate his curiosity about things in other countries as much as he stimulated my interest about Bhutan and its wonders.
Here are a few details about my experience.

First, my arrival in Phuentsholing. I reached the gate at about 3:30 PM Bhutan time. I was not aware of the 30 minute time change but I fixed that the following day. I went strait to the entrance of the Druck Hotel where I was greeted by Lopen Choki with a warm smile and welcoming handshake. We immediately headed to the Kharbandi Gompa, followed by the Zangtopelri temple. It was really great to get in this bit of sightseeing right from the start. Lopen Choki then took care of getting my visa so we could head north early the next morning. I was a bit disappointed to be left alone to wander the streets and have dinner.

We were supposed to meet at 6:00 AM the next morning, but my clock was still on India time, so I was 20 minutes late, although I thought I was 10 minutes early. But there were Lopen Singye and Lopen Choki, bright-eyed and ready to go. We got stopped at the checkpoint because they were holding up traffic until 10:00 AM due to road construction. But Lopen Choki exerted his influence and after explaining that we were on the road at that hour to get to Thimphu early, we were allowed to pass.
We got to Thimphu and did a bit of touring, including visiting the Weekend Market. AT a bit past 3:00, Lopen Choki informed me that the sightseeing was over for the day and he took me to the hotel for evening tea and, later dinner. I had a few disappointments here. For one thing, there was still daylight and we could have taken in another attraction or two. It did not do much good to get an early start and use all the morning hours, but then to waste the afternoon hours of daylight. For another thing, I was left to have my tea and dinner alone, which was not a joy, however good the food was. Also, the quantity of food ordered was about double what I could eat.

During the period while we were planning the tour, I had made some suggestions regarding what I would like to see. Anand was able to get permits for me to visit the temples and gompas and to view the wonderful sacred art in those places. I did not understand that there was an INDIVIDUAL PERMIT required for each site. So, when he let me know that I would have the permit, I thought it was one permit to visit everything. Therefore I had stopped adding the names of sites that I had discovered in my readings. I would have included about ten additional sites if I had known about this.
I was very lucky that some unexpected locations were added to the journey. The first was the honor that I had to visit the family home of Lopen Choki. That was a real treat. It also gave me a chance to view some of the scenery along the road to Samdrup Jongkar as well as to visit a weaving facility that had no sales outlet. Additionally, we made a brief stop at only college in Bhutan, which was also a nice experience.

Then, on the day we were supposed to go to Trashi Yangtse and then spend a second night in Trashi Gang, we drove all the way back to Mongar, which added a day to the journey. We later used this day to visit Ha, where I got to visit an important gompa that was originally created by Songtsen Gampo and also to view Jomolhari from the high pass on the way to Paro.

One other little disappointment was that on a few occasions, especially returning to Thimphu from Trashi Gang, both Lopen Choki and Lopen Singye drove at a speed that I considered to be unnecessarily slow. I got quite irritated by this, but I didn’t want to tell them how to do their jobs. The most enjoyable part of travel is being somewhere. Getting there is the price to be paid. Anyway, this is not a big deal, but I mention it for the record.

The hotels were all fine. Of course, in Trashi Gang, the facilities were Spartan. But I had been well aware that the hotels in the east do not have the comforts of those in the west of Bhutan. No problems about this at all. All the other hotels were fine, with the possible exception of Paro, where the water in the pipes froze during the night and I was able to get just enough to drip out in the morning to wet my hair so that I could comb it.
If there is anything I can do for Wind Horse or any of the fine staff there, I will be delighted. You can direct prospective clients to send me e-mails or call me if I can help them to plan their trip or if I can give you the wonderful reference that you would surely get from me. And, if any of you happen to head to San Diego, you are welcome to make my home your base during your time in the area. No charge–of course.

In the meantime, if you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. I will always be happy to help you all and I hope to someday return to Bhutan as your client and continue with my discoveries.

If I have any further ideas I will send them to you in later messages. Warmest good wishes,

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