Bhutan’s airport looks like it was designed by Walt Disney. The buildings are covered with carvings of dragons (Druk means dragon in Bhutanese) and the windows are highly decorative. It is the country’s sole airport, because Paro is the only area flat enough to accommodate a runway. It’s a very SHORT runway, but a runway nonetheless.
The mountains that surround the runway make landing quite exciting. So exciting, that only 8 pilots are skilled enough to fly into and out of Paro. Fortunately one of those 8 was flying our plane today.
Tashi, our guide, and Gembo, our driver were waiting for us outside the terminal, ready to get this party started. First stop, Paro’s dzong. Every city/community had its own dzong. Back in the day when the Tibetans’ favorite leisure activity was invading their neighbors, the dzongs were fortresses. Today they have been repurposed into administrative and religious buildings.
Anyone thinking about visiting Bhutan should take a close look at those stairs. They are steep, uneven, and lacking handrails. And they are everywhere!
After touring the dzong and the national museum, we stopped for lunch at a typical farmhouse. In a “typical farmhouse” the ground floor is where the cows sleep. They are protected from predators, yes, but this arrangement is multipurpose. They also act as the home’s furnace, generating heat (among other things) for the floors above. The second floor is used for storage, mainly food. The room we viewed was loaded with drying rice. The top floor contains the bedrooms, the kitchen/gathering spot and the altar.
Our hostess served us a delicious meal, complete with butter tea, into which you tossed grains of toasted rice. Okay, so maybe that last part wasn’t so delicious–at least not to me–but the fresh spring asparagus was particularly wonderful.
Our hotel, the Thimpu Tower, is smack dab in the center of town, right by the historic clock tower. It was very easy to stroll through the capital city and check out their version of a traffic light.
By the way, that’s the ONLY “traffic light” in Thimphu. Like Massachusetts and New Jersey, they DO have “rotaries”, but their traffic circles are a bit more decorative.
My lovely room overlooks the “clock tower plaza” and from my window, you can see the largest Buddha (in that particular contemplation pose) in the world. Tashi tells us its construction is being completely funded by Asian Buddhists from Singapore, Thailand, China and Indonesia. A much more up close and personal view will follow.
There is construction everywhere in Thimphu. I needed to watch my step at all times to avoid the uneven pavement and the frequent holes in the sidewalks. (I sure was missing Mike, who normally does all the watching for me, making sure I don’t trip over my own feet or fall into one of those holes!)
The kids roam freely in the land of gross national happiness. These two were moving so quickly, I couldn’t get a good shot, but you’ll get the idea. What better toy than a box and paper bag? They were having a blast!