The gods were smiling on us
12.10.2016 - 12.10.2016 15 °C
We had an early start again today to check in for our flight to Paro in Bhutan. Being the eager travellers we are, we arrived at the airport three hours before our flight, only to find that the Druk Air counters were unmanned until just over 2 hours before scheduled departure. Never mind, I couldn't have slept in if I wanted to as my body clock hadn't adjusted to the time difference yet.
Locating the lounge, we found a spot to have our second breakfast of the day (we had an early breakfast at the hotel in case there was not much available in the lounge). John was very nervous about the flight to Paro as it's landing approach is between the surrounding mountain range. So once again, a pre-flight beer took the edge off his nerves. Not that I needed it, I had a glass of bubbly because I'm on holidays and I can.
We were bussed out to board our plane which was located quite a distance from the terminal. As it was only a small A319 Airbus, the passengers were quickly boarded and we were on our way in no time. We had our third breakfast of the day.....we certainly were not feeling like any more food by this time, but the coffee and cake were too good to resist.
Flight was smooth for the short 2 hour flight to Kolkata where we stopped to pick up more passengers. Unfortunately we were required to remain on the plane during the stop. There was a short delay in departing Kolkata as the weather had turned nasty in Paro - news that John did not want to hear. The beauty of the stop in Kolkata that it is only 50 mins from Paro and a good place to wait for the weather to clear. As soon as they got news the weather had improved we were on our way. Drinks were served as well as a light snack. The Gin and Tonic I ordered tasted like there was no tonic added, no many how many times I topped up the tonic in my glass. About 30 miles out of Paro came an announcement from the Captain and it was not good news. It seems the weather had closed in again and we would have to hang around for about 30 mins circling the area until visibility improved. After nearly 45 minutes we were told we were going to land shortly although I was not convinced the weather had changed. Ever so slowly we began to see a break in the clouds, then a quick turn and we landed in Paro in pouring rain. From John's perspective it looked like the wing tips were nearly touching the mountains. Our request for seats on the left side of the plane was useless as we saw nothing of the magnificent Himalayan mountains, except for the peak of Everest which is so tall it popped through the clouds. Despite this, I think we were lucky to land today and we were grateful to step out onto terra firma.
On exiting the airport after completing the usual formalities, we located our guide Mr Wangchuk and set off for the 1 hour drive to the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu. Recent rains have had a major impact on the road, and we saw rubble from landslides littering and blocking part of the highway. Thankfully we have a good driver and he safely navigated us to our destination.
Arrived into the chaos of a major festival in Thimphu, the Thimphu Tsechu and the town was overwhelmed with local and tourist visitors. First stop was to check-in to the Druk Hotel, our home for the next three nights. Being keen to get out amongst the action, we picked up our cameras and wandered around town for a couple of hours. The atmosphere around town was busy and colourful with a huge market occupying the main part of town.
As it was difficult to move here, we took a detour to the National Memorial Chorten and joined the locals circumambulating around the whitewashed chorten. Whilst John stalked the locals taking photos, I enjoyed interacting with a group of elderly worshippers who were hanging out socialising near the room with the giant prayer wheels.
Returning to town we wandered around the streets soaking up the festival atmosphere until my feet ached and we returned to our hotel for a rest until dinner. We dined in the hotel's restaurant where they served a buffet with a reasonable variety. We particularly liked the Bhutanese red rice, a few of the Indian style curries and the naan bread. As jet lag was starting to catch up with us, we turned in after dinner for an early night.