I have stayed at many beautiful hotels this year and I have hardly written about any of them! It is time to set it right and I start with the beautiful Terma Linca Resort, Thimphu. What blew me completely away was its location! It is right next to the Thimphu River.
The small concrete path that you see in this picture is part of the Terma Linca Resort. It is this close to Thimphu River. I managed to walk twice along this path and enjoy the serene atmosphere by the river.
I had this huge room to myself. From the window I could see tall sunflowers and the Thimphu River. It was a comfortable room, with good supply of tea and coffee. The bathroom had a bath tub as well. By my standards this was surely a five star property but the actual rating is four star as it does not have a swimming pool. But then in Bhutan the weather is not too conducive to having a swimming pool.
My walks took me to the edge of the resort and I found this beautiful nook which was running amok with yellow wild flowers. How I wanted to have a meal on these benches but I never found time!
There was a huge weeping willow tree in the premises and they set cozy table in the hollow of it. This was my absolute favorite corner in the entire hotel. How I wish I at least managed a cup of coffee along with a book here. I did sit down quietly on one of the chairs for a few minutes before I was required elsewhere!
This is the close up of the view from my room and it was absolutely gorgeous! There was a bench in front of this spot too. I did manage to sit here for a while and just listen to the river flowing by. Terma Linca is a gorgeous property and if you are looking for a hotel away from the city, look no further!
Terma Linca Resort is part of the Makemytrip’s Premium Bhutan Package. I was invited by Makemytrip to Bhutan.
Thimphu is the biggest town in Bhutan. It seems to be in a hurry to become a city but like all the places in Bhutan that I visited it is so beautiful and charming. It didn’t feel like a big city at all.
10. Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan
Takins are weird to look at. It feels like they have a small cow’s body and a goat’s head. It is a goat antelope, whatever that may mean! The legend of Takin goes back to the divine madman of Bhutan Drukpa Kunley. It is said that he was fed a whole cow and a whole goat for lunch. When the bones were left he put the goat’s head on the cow’s body and the Takin was born! There is Motithang Takin Reserve in Thimphu where you can see the national animal with relative ease.
09. The Local Vegetable Market
As we were passing by the local vegetable market in Thimphu, we went and took a stroll. I was amazed as to how clean it was. In fact whatever I saw in Bhutan, it was absolutely clean!
08. Crafts Market, Thimphu
The crafts market at Thimphu is expensive to shop at. People accept Indian rupees everywhere and the Nu exchanges on par with the rupee. Shopkeepers don’t really bargain. An average tourist coming to Bhutan has to spend 250 USD per person per night and I guess that explains the prices and the lack of bargaining. The crafts market is next to the Taj Tashi hotel.
07. The National Memorial Chorten
The National Memorial Chorten is dedicated to the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and to the world peace. It is close to the city center. It is a small monument where you can see a lot of people doing their Buddhist rituals.
06. A Far Away View of Tashichho Dzong
We didn’t had time to go to the Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu. So I had to be satisfied with a far away view. If you peer hard you can see it close to the mountains.
05. Simtokha Dzong, Thimphu
Simtokha is said to have been built in 1629. We did a quick tour of the dzong and it was impressive. The main prayer halls of all the dzongs I visited were no photography zones. The main prayer hall of Simtokha was huge and exuded peace from every corner.
04. The National Library, Thimpu
The National Library at Thimpu is an impressive building. It has a lot books, mostly religious, after all it is the national library. But it has a massive display of pictures on the walls as well. The pictures are of the kings and the dzongs. It was quite an impressive collection. I bought a book from the library called The Dragon Finds its Voice by Bunty Avieson. It was a very good decision to buy the book as it gives a good insight of life at Bhutan.
03. A View of Thimphu City from Buddha Point
Buddha Point gives a beautiful view of the Thimphu City in almost all the directions. When I was there construction was going on at the site.
02. Dochula Pass
Dochula Pass is on the way to Phunakha. It is just outside the Thimphu City. You can visit it as a destination in itself. There is a restaurant at the pass. On a clear day I am told that you can see high mountains. But you know my tale since 2013, all I saw was the clouds!
01. The Buddha at the Buddha Point
And this is the giant Buddha at the Buddha Point. It is an amazing site. I loved it for the atmosphere and the beautiful view of the city it provided.
As you can see from the post, there is a lot to do in Thimphu and I am sure I have just scratched the surface as of now!
PS. I was invited by Makenytrip to Bhutan. And they have got me hooked to the country! While writing this post I must have thought at least a 100 times that I have to go back. Let us see when.
As Bhutan is our neighbor I was not too worried about the dress code for women before I went! Looking at the temperatures in July I knew I would need to wrap up. So I packed accordingly. Now that it has been some time since my visit I try to construct the dress code for women in Bhutan through pictures.
I saw a lot of women (men as well) in Bhutan wearing their traditional dress. It looked pretty, demure and classy! While walking through the souvenir shops of Thimphu, I asked this lady if I could click her picture. She agreed quite easily. The Bhutanese national dress for women is called Kira. I am not sure if this is Kira or a variation of it, but it looks so pretty.
It is quite common to see women in modern attire as well. Jeans and capris were quite common, some would wear shorts too. But in the same picture, in the left hand corner you can see women in their traditional attire as well!
The younger generation usually dresses in a trendy way, like anywhere else in the world! I met the girls at the Buddha Point at Thimphu as well. They were shooting for a tourism catalog. The weather is such that it is sensible to have a warp, you never know when you would find it cold.
The was a dress code at the religious places. At the Phunaka Dzong you are not allowed to wear a sleeveless top. I was wearing one, but as I was carrying a full sleeves jacket, I just wore it over my top. What the lady in the picture is wearing is fine, even a short sleeve will do at the Dzongs. But carrying a warp or a full sleeve jacket is such a wonderful idea, it keeps the cold away and it can come in handy to meet any such dress code requirements!
Here is a full picture of the traditional Bhutanese dress, Kira. For a while I was tempted to buy one for myself but I knew I would hardly ever wear it, and shopping in Bhutan is not cheap at all.
In conclusion, to me western dresses looked fine, women commonly wore jeans and shirt. Sleeveless was fine as long as you were not visiting a religious place! I also feel that women do cover up a bit more than what may be the norm in the western world. I did not see too many low necks or short skirts or skimpy shorts.
PS. I was invited to visit Bhutan by Makemytrip.
While I had just one hour before leaving office and later catching the flight to Bangkok, I got an email. It was an invitation to visit Bhutan with Makemytrip. I hardly had anytime to think how would I manage things at work. But it was one of those occasions when I decided to say yes first and think later! I am glad I followed my instincts. I simply loved Bhutan and I have such a bad hangover from the trip. When we landed in Paro, it felt as if I stepped back 50 years in time.
The most memorable part of my trip was the trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro but that is going to be a full post in itself. Bhutan is right there on the list of the most beautiful countries I ever visited. Since I came back, I have been plotting on how to go back! Here are some tips for you when (notice I did not say if) you go to Bhutan. The sooner you go the better! Monsoon is also a great time to visit.
Visa Requirements: Indians do not need a visa to enter Bhutan. You can travel on your passport or voter Id card. I used my passport and they simply stamped it. There is no visa fee for Indians. We are really lucky that we have such close ties with Bhutan. Most of the other nationalities have to pay US $250 per person per night to visit Bhutan.
Flights: Only Druk Air, the national carrier, flies into Bhutan. There is only one international airport at Paro. Flights are available from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Another way is to fly up to Bagdogra in Sikkim and then do a road transfer via Phuentsholing, but this would need much more time. You might get a cheaper price if you book the Druk Air tickets via an agent or Makemytrip.
Currency: The local currency is Ngultrum (simply called Nu) but Indian rupees are accepted everywhere. I did not change money ever during my trip. As of now the exchange rate is at par.
Hotels: There are hotels to suit every budget. I stayed at Naksel Resort at Paro and Terma Linca at Thimphu. Both are stunning properties, part of the premium package of Makemytrip.
People: People at Bhutan are amazingly mild. Even at our best behavior we may come across as brash when we interact with them. They are deeply religious. Buddhism is the dominant religion. They love their king. After the coronation of the fifth king there is even a whisky in his honor called K5.
Shopping: As a lot of tourists pay $250 per day, shopping is quite expensive. The people of Bhutan don’t like to bargain, in fact they don’t bargain much. Only alcohol is super cheap at the duty free. I bought a bottle of K5. Officially they say they don’t accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes but the lady at the airport happily took a 1000 rupee note from me.
Weather: I was in Bhutan during the monsoon. I was told that monsoons are not a good time to visit but it was lovely. You also get everything cheaper. It did rain a bit but never so much as to spoil our plans!
Language: Almost everyone speaks Hindi in Bhutan thanks to the cable TV. Apart from the local language Dzongkha they are taught English in school. Between Hindi and English you will do fine!
Overall: Bhutan is an excellent destination for Indians, I would recommend it to everyone. We are lucky that India and Bhutan share very close ties and we don’t have to pay USD 250 per person per night to visit. But NRIs have to fork out that money!
If you are looking for packages Makemytrip has some excellent ones. They know Bhutan well and thanks to them I had a great a time.