There was much confusion over the time of our flight out of Paro to Kathmandu. When we booked it the flight time was 2:45pm but it is important to reconfirm as Druk Air flights having a monopoly means they can basically just do as they like. Pensoc had made a call a few days earlier to get them reconfirmed but hadn’t bothered to follow up with the office until the day before. It was at dinner that he finally got a text saying that our flight number was departing at 8am and another flight was leaving at 2:30pm. We were disappointed to think we’d lost the morning in Paro, particularly as we had nothing on our itinerary for the morning so we were hoping to be able to be dropped in town and go free range. However, with our flight having shifted so much and there being a new afternoon flight so close to our original time we were somewhat skeptical and asked Pensoc if he could double check. We really didn’t want to get up at 5am if we didn’t have to.
After dinner we left it at Pensoc agreeing he would double check and phone our room. We started to get packed up and decided to pay to use the hotel computer to backup the photos. 9pm we finally got a call, our flight was indeed the 2:30pm flight. We arranged for Pensoc and Sangay to pick us up at 9:30am and drop us into town. We were chuffed. We stopped packing and watched Sky TV instead while we could.
After breakfast we got organised for another (the last) new country and got ourselves a plan for when we landed e.g. what we were going to do about money as you can’t get it outside of the country and what hotel we would get a cab to. We had considered booking somewhere for the first night but it is much better to be able to see a room and check out a few places and have an opportunity to negotiate on the price. We’d be there late afternoon so had plenty of time to find somewhere.
When the guys picked us up we asked to be dropped at the Post Office as we’d decided to see if we had enough local currency to post the India and Bhutan guidebooks back. Pensoc of course came in with us – we were frustrated at not being able to do anything by ourselves. It was dead inside. We stuck the books on the scales and asked how much. It was cheaper than we thought and well below the money we had left. We went out to the car and pulled some more stuff out of our rucksacks and put it into the bag, went back inside and said ‘how much now?’ – nicely in budget we left and went down the street (with Pensoc of course) to a shop where he asked if they had a box. Box scored we went back to the post office to pack it, which Pensoc did for us of course. The Mongolian sellotape came out, the box was too big for the items so Marie went out to the car and pulled one of her thick jackets out and her thick hiking socks (sorry Dave). Wrapped, labelled and customs declaration done we were super excited to offload so much.
Next stop we went to the internet to make a start on catching up on the blog. We actually persuaded Pensoc to leave us for a while and we told him we needed longer than we did so we could have a wander around town on our own. Afterwards we had an early lunch before being dropped off at the airport. It was a glorious day and we could see mountain tops. It made us a bit sad to be leaving.
So what did we think of Bhutan? Well on the clear days when we could actually see, not just be in, the Himalayas we could really see how stunning it is. It also without a doubt has a very unique culture. However, it’s efforts to protect it seemed to us to have led it to be slightly insular. Most of all we absolutely hated the lack of freedom. The guides seem to be scared of letting tourists talk to locals, as one guide told us (not ours but the other one we spent a long time talking to) ‘we have a small population of only 700,000 so it is very easy for others to influence many people very quickly’.
So is it the last Shangri-La? We think the title ‘The Last Hermit Kingdom’ suits it better.
- All you can eat buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner are not good for your waistline.
- Our suntans have faded fast, we are no longer a colour that says ‘I’ve just spent 4 months in Asia’
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