Review of Bhutan Trip
I recently returned from a 6 day tour in Bhutan with Windhorse Tours. This was actually part of a larger itinerary that included Nepal, Beijing, and Tibet as well, but since this is the Bhutan forum I guess I’m only supposed to write about Bhutan. To start, I found it hard to choose a tour company since there are so many reviews here, but decided to make an inquiry with Windhorse as I’ve seen their name mentioned on here multiple times with positive experiences. Nobody asked me to write this review, nor was I compensated for it (I only mention this because I have seen some negative backlash by other people commenting to those who have posted reviews in the past). Anyways, after my initial e-mail I was called by Ugen to talk about the type of trip that I wanted and he offered suggestions about where to go and what to do. After some e-mails back and forth I decided on an itinerary that featured Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. Communication was great all the way through, I’d only usually have to wait a day or two before hearing back from either Ugen or Jambay. Whenever you send anyone a large sum of money and you don’t hear back for a week that’s always a little worrisome to me, so I appreciated their prompt responses very much. Any questions I had along the way were answered to my satisfaction, all supplemental materials were sent to me as promised, and I was left with confidence that I had made a good decision in choosing them to help plan my trip. It really is the little things that add up when you’re traveling, and I have to say that I very much appreciated that Jambay was kind enough to meet me in person in Thimphu where he gave me a hard cover 150+ page book about Bhutan.
Butterfly on Hiking Trail
Anyways, as for the actual trip itself, the entire journey was excellent from start to finish (including Nepal and especially Tibet). I’m sure most people will have a good experience going to Bhutan with whoever they choose to book with, I don’t see how you could have a bad time there to be honest. This is something that seemed evident while talking to other people who were there with other guides, either sitting next to others on a plane or simply chatting up other travelers at any of the main sights in Bhutan. And because I had these conversations with other travelers about how their trips were going, I can say with confidence that I believe my trip was just that much more enjoyable than the people I met along the way. Not to say anyone I met was having a bad time, everyone was very happy, but I was lucky to have an amazing guide who always went above and beyond what I expected during the entire stay in Bhutan. My guide’s name was Tashi, and he really did do a fantastic job. My driver’s name was Loday, and he too was great (especially navigating the bumpy and muddy roads of Dochula Pass).
I saw all of the locations I wanted to see, something that I’m sure every other traveler sees as well, but what really set my experience apart was the friendship I had with Tashi and all of the other activities he offered me to experience while he was under no obligation to do so. This is in addition to the fact that he was a great guide from a technical standpoint; for example, he spoke good English, was very personable, was extremely knowledgeable about each location we visited while also conveying that knowledge to me in a way that was engaging, and also made an effort to get to know me as a person, not just a customer. I could write a lot about every location I saw but I’m sure that information is redundant on this forum, and I really wanted to focus this review on the services of Windhorse. I will say one quick thing though, the Tiger’s Nest lives up to the hype, and it is a must see if you go to Bhutan.
Archery Match in Action
Back to the actual review: like I mentioned earlier in my post, I’m sure almost everyone who goes to Bhutan probably has a great experience, but what I want to praise Tashi for is all of the extra things we did. We stopped at an archery field during the day to watch a match that was in progress, which was pretty cool, and when I asked him if it were possible to try it out if there was time, without hesitation he said: “Of course, I’ll schedule it when we get back to Paro” (and we did, and it was awesome). Every night he offered for me to come hang out with his friends after the daily planned activities were finished; and of course I jumped at the opportunity. Bhutan was a great place to visit, and the hospitality and unwavering generosity of his friends only added to my experience. When we were in Paro, he invited me to his home and small farm where I got to meet his sister, niece, and mother where I was again treated with great hospitality and good conversation. When we were in Thimphu (during the Thimphu Tsechu festival) he met me at my hotel at night to go walk around amongst everyone camped out in their tents for the festival, saying hi to people he knew, and offering me a number of local food choices to sample. The day of the Tiger’s Nest hike I asked him if we could leave extra early in the morning so we could be the first people up that day, and of course he was happy to do so. And even though he’s not a drinker, he was more than happy to take me to some local bars so I could enjoy some of the local beers. It definitely helped that we are both in our early 30’s, but I believe he would be great for anyone looking for a tour of Bhutan.
Unvieling of Paro Taksang Monastery at cliff through the wisp of cloud.
So whether it was taking a detour from one of our hikes to meet a family at a local village to eat fresh vegetables, stopping to eat at a roadside corn stand, introducing me to his friend who is a teacher along with her students, visiting the farmers market where his mom sells her fresh produce, giving me some money when I foolishly left my wallet at the check in station at Tiger’s Nest so I could donate while I was inside, and probably some other things I forgot … I just can’t say enough about this guy. If you’re ever planning to go to Bhutan, don’t hesitate to request Tashi Gyeltshen as your guide.