A very early rise as we had to be at the airport by 6.30 for our 8.30 flight to Bhutan. Got there in plenty of time as there was little traffic. Interesting to watch India waking up, a few people still asleep on the pavement, others starting fires and cooking breakfast, stalls being opened, queues forming at bus stops etc..
Got to the airport in plenty of time, but had some problem locating the check-in desk of Bhutan Airlines – apparently they move about! Checked in, quick cup of coffee and our sandwiches from the hotel, abandoned the curry which neither of us could face at 7.00 in the morning, then through security and into the departure lounge. The female announcer here sounds like she once worked for the Wehrmacht- I dread to think what she would do to you if you missed your flight! Joined in the departure lounge by a couple of opportunistic sparrows hopping along the carpet.
Our plane arrived at about 7.45 and we were called not long after. It was already quite full having come from Bangkok. We left spot on time. It was an airbus A319-100 and quite cramped but for a 52 minute flight that didn’t really matter!
As we flew in through the mountains, the sky cleared and the sun shone. In fact it was positively hot with that lovely clearness to the air that you get in mountains. Our driver and our guide were there to meet us and both a delightful. Sunam, our guide, suggested that as there was a festival at the Paro dzong we should visit.
So we drove from the airport to the town and then strolled over the Parochu (river) on a very old covered bridge and up to the dzong. It was packed as people come from miles for the festival and of course there were a lot of visitors as well, including the inevitable Japanese!
The festival takes place in a courtyard with monk# dressed in elaborate and beautiful costumes. Three men with masques were the jesters, but also made sure the dancers kept to the correct steps. They are in the tradition of the wise fool. The press of the crowd was phenomenal and while I could see over their heads, Christine struggled. We extricated ourselves and then went in on the other side where we could see a little better. We shall be returning to the dzong on our way back, when it will be a lot less crowded.
We wandered into the town and went to a restaurant for lunch. Clearly it was a tourist restaurant, but the food was fairly local and tasty, although Christine did not like the rice! Our guid3 took us into a market set up for the festival which was not dissimilar to Bury market in terms of the goods it sold. Then he showed us an outdoor cinema with 6 screens showing Bhutanese films. Again this was a tented structure set up for the festival. Both his parents were in the film industry and he knows many of the actors.
Back in the car we drove through stunning scenery, stopping every so often to look and to take pictures. Now we are in the capital of Thimphu, which has a population of 100,000, but is clearly growing rapidly. Our hotel is modern but with traditional features near the centre.
After a brief rest and unpack we walked up the Main Street of Thimphu, the only capital city not to have traffic lights. However there is quite a bit of traffic! Still there are some lovely buildings and lots of interesting things to see. Tomorrow we will explore some more with Sunam.