I’m sort of dragging my feet on these Bhutan posts, I realize. There was so much to see, but also a lot of things we experienced that I can’t quite decide how to characterize online, on a blog. So let’s start with first impressions. So often, first impressions can make such an impression, literally (for better or for worse).
We landed a bit early, and since we were in business, we deplaned first. And then we had no checked luggage, so we were through customs in probably 3 minutes. Which put us outside, in a swarm of people. There were two people coming back with trophies from a weightlifting competition, which rated quite the welcoming party upon their return! So there were friends and family, complete with a “congratulations” banner, etc.
We popped off to the side, and a few people came to ask us if we needed a ride. Interesting, since you really weren’t supposed to be “unaccompanied” at any time…they all seemed very sincere and happy to help. And, thank goodness they were, because they all knew who we were looking for from Uma Paro, and kept an eye out for the vehicle. But another person actually went inside and called our driver (or the hotel…we didn’t really know what was going on), which was fortunate, because someone at Uma Paro had written down our arrival time incorrectly! Our driver and guide arrived soon after. We just figured we were early (over 40 minutes) and needed to wait, and we really appreciated the other people there looking after us. That was a really favorable first impression!
I’ve never been anywhere geographically similar to Bhutan before (i.e. Tibet or Nepal or Northern India). To say it’s beautiful is a bit of an understatement. It’s stunning, and it truly looks mostly untouched. All of the buildings are constructed in the typical Bhutanese style, leaving the towns–including Paro–looking like a page of a story book or a photo you would see in a museum. The river that runs through the Paro Valley looks like one of those fake rivers that you see on a train set. It’s edges are perfectly defined, with beautiful buildings on either side.
I don’t want to pretend that there isn’t a huge, huge differential in wealth in Bhutan. Most obviously there is–you have the people flying in business class with 4 LG flat screen tv’s and even just driving the quick 15 minutes to Uma Paro you see how many people actually live. Simple homes, many do have some windows (I’m assuming that’s a priority due to the temperature), mostly constructed of wood, concrete floors, dogs everywhere, chickens wandering around, no cars, etc.
We were quickly whisked away from the airport to Uma Paro, which is nestled into the forest, full of chirping birds and the scent of pine. It’s incredibly peaceful.
If I had to describe Bhutan in just a few words, it would be simple, picturesque, and peaceful. In this case, first impressions were pretty indicative of our entire trip.