[Here is the photostream of Bhutan 2013 Day 10, for those who prefer pictures to tell a story. 🙂]
We woke up at 04:00 in the morning to prepare for check out… I was feeling so cold and couldn’t get out of the bed, as usual 😛 So we had a super quick and hot shower, and I remembered to heat up all my clothes before wearing them (that’s about the only usefulness of the electric heater that was located so far away from the bed), so it was all good.
By the time we left our room past 05:20, Dorji and Milan were already waiting for us, with our packed breakfast 🙂
It was a 20-min ride to the Paro International Airport. During the ride, I passed Dorji our remaining heat packs, and asked if he did use the heat pack in the night, like we did? Then, he shared that during the hike up, his friends saw that he had both gloves and heat packs, and asked him for the heat packs, which he gave them! Dorji is really a very caring person!
We also realised that they were only going to have breakfast after they make their way to Thimphu, which is an hour’s ride away from Paro. So at the end of the ride, as we passed them the envelopes containing the tips and our contact details, we also gave them a cookie each. I think I like to feed people 😛
We said our goodbyes just outside the airport, and Dorji said that we were very easy-going and had the same Bhutanese style of “stretchable” time, and felt that we would have gotten even closer if we did a longer tour. We were quite sad to part ways too! We wondered if we will ever meet Dorji and Milan again?
At the check-in counter, the staff was very experienced in handling Singaporeans. The conversation went this way:
- Staff: Flying to Singapore?
- Us: Yes!
- Staff: Window seats on the right?
- Us: *breaks out into laughter*
Actually, we wanted Row 6, which was the first row of the economy class, and had even wider leg space than the business class seats. Unfortunately, the window seat on the right side was already taken, so we decided to take the window seat on the left; afterall, we had already enjoyed the glorious view of the Himalayan mountain range above the clouds when we flew into Paro, and leg space was certainly more important than the view, since we would have a total of 6 hours stuck in the airplane and I thought it would be nice to see the view on the other side too. So we got back the exact same seats that we had when we flew into Paro.
We decided to have breakfast before clearing immigration, which consisted of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, bananas and lychee drinks, and it was just too much for the two of us. I gave away half of the breakfast to the staff at the duty-free shop 😛
Cleared immigration and while waiting to board, we spotted the plane that was carrying the FIFA World Cup trophy around the world! It reached Thimphu the day before. So once again, all the passengers were busy taking photos instead of boarding the plane… haha!
Boarded safely and had a great view of the valley while flying out of Paro at 07:20. We had our second breakfast of the day and as I was getting ready to sleep, the pilot announced that due to low visibility at Kolkata and other alternative airports, we were returning back to Paro! This was our shortest flight ever 😛 So it didn’t matter whether you sat on the left or right side of the plane; everyone got to see the beautiful Himalayan mountain range this time, and enjoyed the exciting fly-in to Paro.
We were asked to get off the plane, which kinda meant that we wouldn’t be flying off so soon. So we braved the 1°C to return back to the transit lounge and I was so glad that I only packed my windbreaker instead of my winter coat! Too cold for a girl who had been wearing 5 layers everyday, including thermal wear! So we spent an hour or so in the lounge using the WiFi (strongest and most stable in Bhutan that we have had) to catch up with family and friends, and to clear office emails… Gotta slowly catch up with reality you know, otherwise life will be hell come Monday.
Finally, at around 09:40, we were ready to board the plane again. It was a food-less, drink-less and duty-free shopping-less 55-min flight to Kolkata. Well, at least we reached there this time! Visibility was really quite low due to the fog, so we didn’t see much while flying in. Spent around 40 min waiting for re-fuel and new passengers to board, and so it was toilet break and drinks break for us.
Had our third “breakfast” during the 4-hour flight back to Singapore. Though it was also noodles or omelette, they were not as good as what we had previously. The noodles was spaghetti (almost kosong), the yoghurt was plain this time, and instead of fruits, we had rather “old” cucumbers and browning salad. Luckily, the croissant and muffin were still of the same standards.
When we were about to reach Singapore, we passed by an area that was raining, so we were basically in the clouds and watching water run by the window… and at 18:20 Singapore time, we touched down 🙂
Some after thoughts:
- Go without expectations; or rather, prepare for the worst and just go with the flow. Forget about punctuality; when they tell you something will take 10 minutes, it could really mean 10 minutes, or it could actually be 30 minutes. Take the time to enjoy the scenery; forget about following the itinerary and just trust that your guide is doing his or her best. You don’t have much choice anyway :p He or she cannot control the weather, the bumpiness of the roads, or demand that the animals come close to you.
- It is important to always bring some snacks and water with you at all time! And download the torchlight app before the trip! The app will provide much better lighting than the candles 😛 It would also be a good idea to practice your skills in using match sticks 😛 If you think that you might not be used to the food there, you can always pack your favourite milo drink, or sambal chilli, or even instant noodles.
- Motion sickness medication is useful because the roads can be extremely windy. The only straight and smooth roads are the runway for the planes, and the road next to the runway. Every other road is either windy or bumpy; so you might need a few days to get used to it. Sleeping in the car would help too; but you might miss all the good views unless your guide remembers to wake you up… Ours did 🙂
- Rapport with the guide is very important. The entire trip would be much more enjoyable if you can “clique” with your guide. Different guides have different styles, and we think ours was quite reserved initially (which was ok with us, since we are the slow-to-warm-up type :p), but very patient, attentive and knowledgeable. No problem was too big, and he was always very calm and assuring. Try to let your guide know where your interests lie within the first couple of days, so that he or she could try to adjust the itinerary for you. We really appreciate that Dorji would spend extra time in explaining the paintings, legends and their local way of life, and he always liked to use the phrase “we can try”. The can-try-will-try spirit!
- Lastly, don’t compare with things back home. It’s simply different!
So, why do the Bhutanese seem so happy?
We think that it is because of their simple way of life, and their strong belief in Buddhism.
We may be richer in monetary terms, but we have so many wants that we think are needs, and far too many choices…