Private Hiking Tour
Our trip to Bhutan with Wind Horse was extremely successful and the experience of a lifetime. I would not hesitate to recommend Wind Horse to others, and our guides and drivers were exceptional. We didn’t get to know our driver and guide very well for the first couple days in Paro and Haa as it was only a couple days, but they were knowledgeable, friendly, and very accommodating. Pema and Dawa, with whom we spent the remaining 11 days, were both wonderful to work with. We felt very comfortable with both of them. Pema was knowledgeable, approachable, and very flexible. They were always available and started early when asked to. It was important to me to get to the Crane Festival early so I could get a good spot for photography, and they didn’t hesitate to leave at 6 AM.
My only criticism of the trip was that it had a higher level of hiking than my wife was comfortable with. I had tried to work out a trip beforehand that had more of a walking focus, but we still ended up with a couple long hikes that were more than desirable. I think we had a communication misunderstanding when planning the trip as although I am a hiker, my wife is not, and we really wanted a walking trip. Pema and Dawa were flexible and accommodating, and modified the trip to make it more of a walking trip and to make it work for us (which they did, successfully). In one case (Padseling) we were driven to a monastery and walked down instead of hiking both ways. In another (Chodrak), I hiked up with Pema, and Dawa drove my wife to meet us at the monastery. I don’t think we planned the perfect trip beforehand, but Pema made it into a perfect trip while we were there. When we had extra time the final morning in Paro as we had seen all the “sites”, I asked about a walk and he came up with the perfect walk from a few miles outside Paro through rice fields back to Paro. I think after 11 days with us he knew very well what it was that we liked.
A few other suggestions and thoughts:
1. We would have liked more cultural contact. The itinerary mentions meeting local people, and visiting homes and farms. Other than the farm stay (which was a great experience) in Gangtey we didn’t get into homes or farms. The itinerary also mentions visiting monasteries during evening debates. This didn’t happen. The little cultural contact we had was quite memorable, and I wish we had more.
2. We had too many mediocre buffet meals in hotels. The meals at small restaurants were mostly better, and were much more enjoyable. It was more culturally interesting to be eating at a place that locals eat at then in a big hotel with other tourists. As the trip progressed and we mentioned that we didn’t like the hotel restaurants, Pema tried to include more meals outside the hotels.
3. We were not impressed with Hotel Osel in Thimphu. It had very little character and felt like it could have been anywhere in the world. The food was the weakest of any we had on the trip.
4. I asked beforehand about poles and was told we should bring them. Poles were useful, but Pema actually had better poles than those we brought. Please tell people that they need not bring poles as it was quite a hassle to bring them and then we didn’t need them.
Please take the above comments as constructive criticism, as I know you want to make your trips even better. We were really very happy with our experience. I plan to tell anyone interested that they should use Wind Horse, and ask for Pema and Dawa.