From New Delhi the plane went north west towards Kathmandu, then due east to Bhutan. My window seat on the left side of the plane gave me a bird’s eye view of the Himalayas; it lived up the name of the most spectacular flight routes in the world. It was surreal flying by the world’s highest peaks including the dominant Mount Everest perched in the clouds. As we approached Paro airport the captain informed the cabin that we would be landing in the next 5 mins and warning not to be alarmed by the landing maneuver. We were still at a very high altitude, traveling in an easterly direction the plane veers north and at the same point nose dives at a somewhat alarming angle. Descending at a pace we rapidly approach the Himalayas (no runway in sight). Within 1-2 minutes the wings are what appears to be meters for the tree lined mountain slopes, swooping into the Paro Valley. White knuckled the plane wings level out but we are still nose diving towards the unseen runway. It’s all over in a matter of seconds as we land safely….thank Jazus. I have since found out only 8 pilots in the world can land at Paro due to its difficulties.
The airport building itself is beautiful, ornate wood carvings and stone, what I know now as typical of Bhutan. The second thing I notice is the airport staff (male) are all dressed in the traditional Gho. It’s liked a knee length bathrobe, tied at the waist by a belt. As we disembark all the tourists are dotted about the pavement taking pictures of the terminal and the air craft. There is none of usual directioning of the ground handlers stopping you or rushing you along.
We are met by our driver once thru boarder control and we load up our Toyota twin cab and hit the road. Thimphu is an hour’s drive. By the time we reach the city limits, the mixture of sleep deprivation, the constant twists and turns of the road, tuck fumes is making me quite nauseous.
Thimphu is a very small city; it feels no bigger than my home town in Ireland. The architecture is fascinating. A picture paints a thousand words so I’ll add a few for you to check out. I arrive at my accommodation. I’m in a common 5 story building on the top floor. At 2,700 meters the climb with my bags feels every bit of the high altitude. Somehow I thought I wouldn’t really feel it but I was wrong. I settle myself in and go to bed. I have a lot of sleep to catch up on.
We are currently looking for other accommodation. While this apartment has all the basics the nightclub and a mix of other small problems aren’t appealing when I have to live here for a year. I have already viewed a much nicer place which I may take.
While mountains surround the city, the peaks have very little snow, if any. It is remarkably dry, so much so for the past two evenings the city has been draped in smoke from surrounding wild fires, none of which threaten the city (yet). Since we are still north of the equator our seasons are the same as Europe and North America. While it gets below freezing at night it warms up to the mid-teens during the day.
I’m conscious of not rabbiting on but I have to mention the dogs. Since this is a Buddhist country it is seen as a sin to hurt or kill animals and so there are dogs everywhere. You don’t notice them during the day but once night falls if all goes off. The dogs are mostly wild and travel the city in packs. They are all quite friendly and I don’t feel like they’re going to rip the arm off me just yet but the barking and howling at night is unbelievable. Not just one dog barking here and there it’s like a chorus of 15-20 dogs barking at any one time. It goes on all night. Thank God I brought ear plugs!