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02/03/19 - Goodbye to Bhutan

We flew out of the airport in Paro heading towards Bangkok. The approach is probably a pilot's nightmare with the plane corkscrewing to gain altitude in the narrow valley. Then we were over the base cloud layer, leaving Bhutan.

Back in Paro

Another view of the dzong

From a distance

At an angle - The acceleration threw off our sense of level during takeoff.

The base cloud layer

Keywords: bhutan

02/02/19 - Last Walk in Bhutan

Our flight from Paro to Bangkok was in the afternoon, so in the morning we took a short walk near the hotel. The sun was shining, and the great snow covered mountain, Jomolhari, was brilliant in the distance. We took one last walk through the forests, the town and the fields and enjoyed the improved weather. Odds were good for our flight to Bangkok. We weren't getting a bonus day.

The manicured forest around Amankora


A fairy tale setting

One of the local birds

Another wagtail

The mountain village

Another fairy tale view

Country scene

More mountains

View from the forest

Jomolhari again

Another mountain friend

View of the valley

Another view

OK, We're getting sentimental.

Village house

A road side wagtail

Country lane

We'll be back.

Keywords: bhutan

02/01/19 - A Country Walk in Paro - Into the Snow

In the afternoon we climbed a bit into the hills west of the hotel. We started in the village and made our way up a forest road, unpaved but wide enough for motorized traffic. This had been narrower, suitable for walkers and stock, until fairly recently. The government not only widened the track, but now an electric lines up into the pass. We didn't run into any traffic, though we did pass a number of other walkers. Our guide said that they were probably from the next province to the west, a five or six hour journey.

It was drizzling as we started our climb, and it turned into what Wunderground called winter mix as we ascended. That's drizzle, flurry and light sleet. We crossed streams twice, and the winter mix turned into snow with a light accumulation. Then we approached terraced fields and a small farming village, maybe a few houses, more a hamlet than a village. There was a water powered prayer wheel and a farmer hard at work collecting tried turnips which had been spread about the field. The dominant color was brown, but there were green daikon leaves and even a small tomato vine running along the stone wall of the terrace.

Our trip down was less eventful. The snow relented. The sun emerged. Even gravity cooperated with the trail running properly downhill. It was a true winter hike and a great final hike in Bhutan.

A stream in the low country near the hotel, only 9000' up or so

A stream farther up the trail

Misty mountains

Distant snow

The trail at its worst, not too bad

Snow and ice at a stream crossing

Winter mix on a winter day

Some color

More color, more mountains

Near the village

Winter colors

More winter colors

Looking back into the valley

Daikon, still green

The village

Winter fields

We'll look up this bird and update this.

Magic, heading down and spying the dzong in the valley

Like something out of a fairy tale

Keywords: bhutan

01/31/19 - Butter Offering in Paro

We made a traditional Bhutanese butter offering at one of the temples in Paro. We lit 108 butter based candles. One hundred and eight is an auspicious number in Bhutanese Buddhism. The offering pavilion was cold when we started, each of us lighting half of the candles. We focused on our task, lighting each candle in turn. Slowly, the space filled with light followed by warmth. When we had finished, the whole aspect of the space had changed from dark and cold to warm and light.

We've posted a short video of the butter offering.

After the offering, we explored the wintry temple grounds. Branches were bare, and the air cool and damp. There was a pervasive sense of calm and quiet.

Amankora in Paro

A view from near the hotel

Snow covered mountains

Seed pods

The temple grounds

The temple again - photography is not allowed inside

The temple grounds

The butter offering

Relighting a flame

Winter grounds

The offering pavilion across the garden

The pavilion

More of the grounds

As noted, a wintry morning

More of the grounds

Prayer wheels

The view of the valley

Keywords: bhutan

01/30/19 - Our Long Delayed Flight to Paro

The weather in Paro was better today, so we flew from Bumthang to Paro. It was perhaps 12 hours on the road but only a half hour of flying. The weather was cloudy, but the ride was easy.

Boarding our two engine turboprop ATR52

A peek at a peak

A snowy ridge line below

A glimpse of a fortress

Paro below

Our final approach, a corkscrew into a valley

Another dzong

Keywords: bhutan

01/30/19 - A Short Hike in Paro

We took a short walk around the Amankora north of Paro. There was farm land, farm houses, tourist hotels, snowy mountains and everything else we expected in Bhutan.

Willow trees

This grows in front of our house. It’s an import to Bhutan as well as to the US.

Winter fields and misty mountains

Snowy mountains

Winter color

More color and mountains

A rocky stream

Another bit of the stream

Green trees on a wintry background

Terraced fields

The old dzong

More terraced fields, mainly for rice

A picturesque ruin

Terraced fields again

Hard work in farm country among the cypress trees

A prayer wheel

The dzong

What was this bird again?

Another country view

Keywords: bhutan

01/29/19 - Extra Day in Bumthang

We were set to fly back to Paro, but the weather was not cooperative. The approach to Paro is tricky. The airfield is located in a narrow valley which means a long corkscrew of a descent before lining up with the runway. The plane flying in from India attempted a landing, but the snow, winds and bad visibility made it impossible. The plane returned to India. That meant no plane from Paro to Bumthang, so our flight was cancelled. We would have to endure another day in the lap of luxury in Bumthang.

We settled back in our room and unpacked a bit. Then, we took a hike in the pine forest across the valley on a trail offering views of the valley and one of the dzongs. We passed through forest, crossed streams, slogged through mud and snow, then descended along a country road through a farming village. We were properly tired when we turned up for a last Bhutanese dinner at Amankora Bumthang.

Early morning color

A view of the dzong from the forest

Pine forest

More forest

Even more forest

Ground cover

A hillside scene

Daphne buds

A bit of mud

A forest tunnel

Low hanging branches

One of the streams - the folks from Amankora maintain the bridge crossing it here

Farm fields

A farm house with a scare crow

A view of the valley

More farm houses

More country

Some more morning light

The hotel as we settled in for dinner - Weather was worse in Paro.

Keywords: bhutan

01/28/19 - Bumthang Farm House Lunch

We visited the local fortress and another fine temple near Bumthang. The fortress was like a small city with hidden streets and courtyards. Nowadays much of it is office space with all sorts of local and national administrative offices, but it still serves as a place of worship. Then we walked cross country to another temple and saw the ancient cave, the oldest part of the sacred site.

After that, we crossed the river and walked farther into the country to a farm house for an excellent farm house lunch. Our hostess is the a member of the family that has cooked for the royal family of Bhutan for at least three generations. She served us a traditional lunch featuring buckwheat noodles, local vegetables, buckwheat pancakes, beef, red rice and, of course, the traditional green peppers and local cheese. She capped the meal by serving us small glasses of her home made ara, Bhutan’s grain based wine. She had added the rare and valuable cordyceps fungus. It was delicious. Our guide and our driver, who did not partake, each took home a plastic bottle of the ara as a souvenir.

Dramatic doorways

Dramatic views

A hidden street

A hidden courtyard

A window in a courtyard

Old murals

Prayer wheels at an old window

Farm fields in winter

A wagtail on a post

A shaggy horse

Another temple

Traditional architecture for a mountain valley

The suspension bridge

The river

Seed pods

The river again

A farm house

Our farm house lunch

The artist in her studio

Keywords: bhutan

01/27/19 - Bushman Trail in Bumthang

We took a longer hike on our first day in Bumthang. After the long ride the day before, we needed to stretch our legs. We started in farm country overlooking a convent and made our way into the hills. There was snow on the ground here and there and frozen water. There were pine needles carpeting the forest floor. We had glimpses of the valley and the mountains beyond. We climbed for a fair way, almost 1200’ from the trailhead, then we stopped for a rest. Then we descended through more pine forest before emerging just above town. We could even see our hotel down below us. As is so often the case in the mountains, things that seem nearby are often quite far away by foot or even car. We were glad when the trail met the road and we descended to meet our driver for the ride home.

Farm house

Looking down at the convent

Distant mountains

Spanish moss

Frozen water

Daphne buds

Winter ferns

A pine cone - Couldn’t you guess?

A cooperative bird

Pine forest

More distant mountains

Possibly rose hips

The trail continued

More pine forest

Coming out of the forest towards Bumthang proper

Another bit of trail

Bamboo in the forest

Even more mountains

We passed an apiary on our way to the road.

Keywords: bhutan

01/27/19 - Amankora Bumthang

These are just a few pictures of Amankora Bumthang, some taken by dawn light.

Very early morning

Dawn light in the valley

The main building

Keywords: bhutan

01/26/19 - From Gangtey to Bumthang

We woke up early, Venus and Jupiter were still in the sky, and we could see the moon over the valley. We had a long way to go up twisting roads and down into narrow valleys. We could see distant mountains covered with snow and glacial rivers. There were prayer wheels and flags and dzongs dominating hillsides. We even saw a monkey.

Parts of the road were covered with snow. Parts were under construction. Parts were narrow with steep drop offs and amazing views. Those two seem to go hand in hand. We had a picnic along the road, wonderful egg salad sandwiches. All the eggs in Bhutan seem to be organic and taste it. After a long day on the road, we made it into Bumthang in time for dinner.

Dawn light

Venus and Jupiter

The moon over the valley

We left one of our prayer bands in Gangtey

Snow covered mountains

Dramatic vistas …

… and more dramatic vistas

A hillside town

Those crenelations made us feel much safer.

A brown monkey by the roadside

One of the fortresses

The road ahead with a dramatic drop

A river below

Another view

Snow by the road

Amankora in Bumthang

The cloister at the hotel

Keywords: bhutan

01/25/19 - Gangtey - To The Crane Center

We took a longer walk, this time to the Crane Center which has exhibits explaining the lives of the black necked cranes and the efforts being made to preserve them. We walked through farm country and pine forest. There were cranes out foraging and archers practicing. Archery is like pick up basketball in Bhutan. A bunch of guys get out with their bows and arrows and shoot a few. Here, they were using compound bows, and there were a number of bullseyes, each worth two points and accompanied by a bit of celebration. Apparently, one of the archers we saw is the best archer in Bhutan.

A view from the pine forest

Winter color

More pine forest

A black necked crane posing for us

A forest stream

Still winter

Another country scene

More cranes - This has been a great year for them.


More cranes

A country road

Winter light


Celebrating a bullseye

More country

The archers in context

On to the Crane Center

Keywords: bhutan

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