Long influenced by the deep culture of Tibetian Buddasim culture, I was deeply attracted by the thought of being under a crimson Himalayna sky and starting my pilgrimage to explore the hidden treasures of Bhutan. But I had never been able to act on my dreams because I was worried my daughter wouldn’t be able to adapt to the high altitude of Bhutan. This year, I finally crossed this out of my checklist with my husband’s encouragement. One reason was because I felt the girl is mature enough and the other being that after I talked to our travel agency, they told us that we would not be crossing 3000m during our trip. So as long as we bring along the needed medication and an adventurous attitude, we should be all set to go！
Where Is Bhutan？
(Taken from Wikipedia)
Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Indian state of Sikkim, the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, China in the west and south, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal in the south. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region’s second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.
The precise etymology of “Bhutan” is unknown, although it is likely to derive from the Tibetan endonym “Böd” for Tibet. Traditionally, it is taken to be a transcription of the Sanskrit Bhoṭa-anta “end of Tibet”, a reference to Bhutan’s position as the southern extremity of the Tibetan plateau and culture.
Bhutan is divided into 4 administrative regions, the Western Region, Central Region, Southern Region and Eastern Region. In our 8 day journey, we visited Thimpu, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha, and Paro. If we have the chance to visit again, I’m definitely going to visit the Gasa Region:)
Preparing for Takeoff
機票 Plane Tickets
從台灣到不丹沒有直飛班機，可以先飛到曼谷、德里、加爾各答、新加坡或是加德滿都再轉機至不丹帕羅機場。有兩間航空公司可選擇：Drukair跟Bhutan Airlines，我們選擇從台北飛到曼谷(Bkk)再從曼谷轉機到帕羅機場(Paro)，台灣到曼谷是自行上網購買中華航空、曼谷到不丹這一段是請旅行社幫忙代訂Druk air，價錢有比自己訂便宜一些。原本班機銜接時間安排得剛剛好，但大概在12月初的時候旅行社來信說不丹回曼谷的班機被改時間，只好趕快更改行程延後一天回台灣了，提醒大家務必要再三確認班機時間喔！
There aren’t any direct flights from Taiwan to Bhutan, therefore, people usually transfer in Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Singapore or Kathmandu before taking a connecting flight to Bhutan Paro Airport. There are two airlines that fly to Bhutan：Drukair and Bhutan Airlines.
For this trip, we chose to fly Taipei–Bangkok (BKK)–Paro Airport. From Taiwan to Bangkok, we booked China Airlines by ourselves and asked our travel agency to book our flight to Bhutan with Drukair(it’s cheaper to ask the agency to book for you.) However, in the end we had to change our returning flights because our returning flight to Bangkok’s time was changed so we delayed going back by a day.
Tip: Check your flights constantly throughout the trip! You never know when something changes~
Bhutan doesn’t accept individual visa applications(you’re only allowed to apply through agencies.) If you plan to visit, you will need to do so through an agency who will plan your itinerary according to your needs. Average cost of a day in Bhutan during peak season is around 250 USD and 200 USD for low seasons (Includes: meals, tickets, tour guides, accommodation, and travel tax of around 65 USD.) After you complete your payment, the agency will send your information over for you to apply for a visa. You will need to bring a photocopy of the visa your agency gave you to board the flight. We finished all our payments in December of 2019 and they sent us the visa after a week or so. The fee is 40USD for each person.
Note：Due to transferring through Thailand, I also did some research on Thai visas. In the end, I chose the electronic visa/ However, it was only after they took our visa away at customs did I realise that we wouldn’t have visas for the returning trip. I quickly looked online and found that the easiest way was to apply for a visa on arrival. You can also pay an extra 200 baht to go through the express lane. MAKE SURE you have your passport, proof of return ticket in English, and a copy of your hotel booking(your travel partner needs to sign this) when you enter the express lane, to make sure everything goes smoothly. Because I have Camilia with me, it was a no brainer that we went the express lane and after, we have absolutely no regrets.
旅行社 Travel agency
當初就是因為看到把世界當教室分享去不丹的美景後寫信請他們幫忙推薦旅行社，後來他們回覆我是 Bhutan Pelyab Tours，果真上網一查詢發現評價很棒，而且寫信給Norbu幾乎都是馬上回信，這讓我非常驚訝，我常常一想到問題就寫信問她，從去年七月份開始接觸後來回大概有一百多封信件XD，但她還是很有耐心的一一解答我的問題與擔憂，服務真的很棒！毫不考慮的就馬上下訂了:P。實際到當地後發現他們公司不止她很有效率，導遊跟司機也都很親切，尤其我們帶著小孩難免比較擔心適應的問題，結果整趟旅程導遊Karma都很細心的照顧卡妹，連爬山都牽著她，甚至要爬虎穴寺的時候Karma跟司機Rinchen還輪流揹她走最後的那七百多階樓梯，讓我們順利帶著小孩爬上虎穴寺，真的很感謝他們！
這趟旅行本來沒有計畫要拍全家福，但最後想了想都去到不丹了不拍有點可惜，所以就在快出發前寫信詢問旅行社，她幫我介紹了當地最棒的Yeshilhendupfilms攝影團隊，讓我最驚訝的是拍攝前一天居然是由旅行社老闆親自載著攝影師過來跟我們行前討論，拍攝當天也都全程陪同，甚至要離開的前一天也特地到旅館陪卡妹射箭以及贈送我們紀念品，真的能感受到這間旅行社的員工對待客人的熱情以及服務的細膩，下次有機會再訪一定也會毫不考慮的選擇Bhutan Pelyab Tours。
價格包含 · The price includes
- 不丹簽證 Bhutan visa fee (US$ 40per person).
- 三星飯店 3-star categories hotel twin sharing room or double sharing room or triple room.
- 每天三餐+野餐 All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in day.
- 瓶裝水、茶、咖啡 Bottled water, tea, and coffee on the trip.
- 當地永續發展稅費 A sustainable development fee of $65 per night.
- 門票費用 Museum fees and other special entry fees.
- 私人包車 Toyota mini bus/ Hyundai minibus with experienced driver throughout the trip.
- 專業英文導遊與司機 Sight seeing as per itinerary with qualified and licensed English speaking guide.
- 傳統服裝 Gho and Kira (traditional and national dress of Bhutan) for your use during your stay in Bhutan.
- 手機上網卡 Bhutanese sim cards.
- 安排射箭與飛鏢活動 Archery and dart.
價格不包含 · The price excludes
- 私人消費 Laundry/beverages/telephone calls, and any personal expenses.
- 旅遊保險 Travel insurance.
- 機票費用 Airfares.
- 機場稅 Airport taxes if any.
- 超重行李費Excess baggage charge.
- 導遊、司機小費 Tips for guide and driver.
- 額外付費服務 Services not mentioned.
After seeing all the fascinating sights on their website, I wrote to TravelwithMikeAnna to inquire if they could provide me with some recommendations for travel agencies. They replied promptly and recommended Bhutan Pelyab Tours. After doing a quick search online, I found that this company is really top of their game. When I wrote to Norbu, she was always quick to reply to any questions that popped into my head. We have probably exchanged over hundreds of letters during this time XD. She was always patient in her responses and resolved all my inquiries one by one. I really loved the service here and made a booking right away! 😆
When we arrived, we saw that everything was as advertised. Everyone was efficient and both our guide Karma and the driver Rinchen were as friendly as can be. Because we have kid with us, we were concerned whether she could adapt to this environment, but throughout this journey, Karma really took care of her, holding on to her when we were mountain-climbing and making sure of her well being. While visiting Paro Taktsang, Karma and Rinchen took turns carrying the kid while ascending the last 700 steps！These actions were so sweet and deeply appreciated, thank them so much!!!
Originally, we didn’t plan to do a photo shoot, but in the end, we didn’t want to miss out on anything so a couple days before we departed, we wrote to Bhutan Pelyab Tours and they recommended Yeshilhendupfilms, one of the best photography studios in the area. What surprised me the most was on the first day, the owner of this agency personally introduced us to our photographer, and accompanied us throughout the day. Before we left, he even came to our hotel to spend time with the girl, teaching her archery and giving us many souvenirs to take home. We really felt the enthusiasm this agency’s staff had towards us as well as the dedication they provided us every step along the way. If we could visit again, we would definitely book again!
Regarding payment, it is possible to wire the money over or pay by card(there is a 4.75% handling fee,) you can pay everything up front or submit a 30% deposit then complete the rest of the transactions a month before departing.
Note: All payment must be completed before a visa is issued.
Here’s a list of everything the agency provides:)
The Price Includes
- Bhutan visa fee(USD 40/person)
- 3-star hotels(twin sharing/double sharing/triple)
- Bottled water, tea, coffee on the trip
- Sustainable development fee, USD 65/night
- Museum and other special entry fees
- Toyota minibus/Hyundai minibus with experienced driver
- Sightseeing as per itinerary with qualified and licensed English speaking guide
- Gho/Kira (traditional dress of Bhutan) for use during stay in Bhutan
- Bhutanese SIM cards
- Archery/Dart activities
The Price doesn’t Include
- Personal expenses(Laundry, calls, beverages…etc.)
- Travel insurances
- Airport taxes(if any)
- Extra baggage charge
- Additional service charges(if any)
The official languages of Bhutan are Tsongkha and English, Tsongkha is closely related to Tibetian(Bhutan’s main religion is Tibetian Buddhism.) At first I thought it would be difficult to communicate, but through emails with Norba and interactions with the locals, I found that their English is better than I expected! So when you go, don’t be afraid to talk to people:)
不丹使用的貨幣為努爾特魯姆 Ngultrum (簡稱Nu.)，但因為只能在不丹使用，所以建議帶美元、歐元到不丹機場或是市區兌換當地的貨幣。有些市區店家也會收美元，但建議先換一些在鄉下可以使用。
The main currency in Bhutan is Ngultrum(Nu,) but because it can only be used in Bhutan, I’d suggest taking along some USD and Euros for exchange. Some shops in the city area accept USD but most places in the countryside require you to use Nu.
The current exchange rate is 2.3675 Nu to 1 TWD (1 USD=71.22 Nu)
B-Mobile and Tashi Cell are the two main telecom companies in Bhutan. Signals in big cities such as Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa, Bumthang…etc. have better signals than the countryside. As soon as we arrived at the airport, our guide gave us our SIM cards which included data for us to go online. When we need more date/call time, we can ask them to charge our cards for us. Additionally, most of our hotels have WiFi as soon as we arrive. I’m a heavy internet addict so having good Wifi is a MUST when traveling XD
Bhutan uses the type C adapter(two circular prongs.) One thing I discovered on this trip was that there was usually a switch beside each socket that you have to turn on in order for the electricity to flow through.
其實本來懷抱夢幻的想法可以全部旅程都住在aman，但後來看到我們家三個人的報價覺得我好像又可以飛非洲一趟了喔，然後剛好Bhutan Pelyab旅行社的Norbu回信給我，她表示基本報價套裝內的飯店主要以三星級為主，也可以補差額的方式換其他飯店。我先請旅行社給我他們配合的飯店清單，又因為看到Six Senses飯店新開幕三心二意，加上也想要貼近人民生活所以有幾晚試試看當地的傳統農家，但因為是冬天拜訪不丹所以熱水跟暖氣真的很重要！如果是一般農家可能在熱水方面要特別注意，通常一個人洗完後要再等30分鐘後才會有下一桶熱水，暖氣也沒有像飯店這麼充足，對我們真是新鮮的經驗，但當然比起來還是最愛五星飯店系列啦 😎
Originally we wanted to stay in Aman for the holed trip but that dream bubble quickly burst after just a glance at the rates. At that time, Norbu told me that most of the hotels that work with them are 3 stars and provided me with a list of hotels that cooperated with. I also saw the newly opened Six Senses Bhutan so I was in quite a dilemma at the start. We also wanted to see if we could stay at a local B&B to get a taste of the authentic local culture. When you book these lock places, it is always important to see if they provide hot water and heaters. We went during Winter so these are a must this trip. Usually, you have to wait half an hour for hot water after showering and the heaters aren’t as sufficient as the ones in hotels. However, this was a novel experience that we really enjoyed!Obviously, we still prefer 5 star hotels lol
不丹地處高原，飲食偏高熱量，以辣椒、馬鈴薯和醃肉居多，本人是無辣不歡重度患者XD，所以吃得很習慣。本來因為帶著卡妹有點擔心她吃不習慣，畢竟她不像媽媽愛喝酒又愛吃辣，還幫她帶了一堆零食跟登山用的乾燥飯，差點連大同電鍋都搬去了 😛 ，結果根本
沒 用 到！那邊的食物好吃得要命，每天都飽到不行（但這也是因人而異，如果你愛吃辣可能感覺會跟我一樣），常常因為中午吃太飽晚上就吃不下了，飯店還會一直來詢問是否有那裡不習慣還是要不要幫我們送進房間裡用餐，但我不是不吃是真的吃不下 😀 ，尤其是當地的酥油茶、辣椒起司跟餃子、馬鈴薯、紅米飯，都令人食指大動。
Bhutan is a high altitude country and their cuisine reflects as such. People need energy in their system so the food there are high in calories and mostly consists of chili, potatoes and meat. Personally, I am a slave for anything hot so everything was at the tiptop of my tastes. However, I was worried that the kid would not be used to the food here so I brought a ton of snacks and easy prep meals just in case.
In the end….we didn’t eat them 😎
The food there was absolutely fantastic and we returned to our hotel stuffed. Everything from butter tea to chili cheese to red rice and dumplings were delicious we could keep our mouthed from watering. There were many times when we couldn’t eat dinner because we are too much at lunch😂 The hotels would even ask if we need something different because we didn’t show up at their dinner but it wasn’t because we didn’t like the food…we were just way too full!!!
包車方式觀光，像這次我們一家三人是坐八人座的車，卡妹還可以躺著睡覺，空間很大很乾淨。但因為不丹的山路實在很顛頗，我都逼自己上車就趕快睡覺不然真的覺得自己要孕吐惹 😛 ，標準的上車睡覺下車尿尿XD
For most of our trip, we took a chartered bus. The bus we booked this time seated 8, it was quite comfy in the car(the girl could lie down and take a nap!) and the space was perfect for us. But because Bhutan’s roads were quite rocky, I had to force myself to fall asleep quickly in order to not suffer from motion sickness(it really brought me back to when I had morning sickness… 🙁
Basically, my schedule was：Sleep, eat, sightsee, sleep, pee, take photos, and repeat XD
推薦季節 Suggested Seasons
後來在查資料的時候發現了一個很吸引我的高山節慶：Royal Highland Festival ，如果還有機會拜訪不丹，我一定會選擇秋天前往！
Before departing, I did my homework and tried to find out everything I could about our trip. Online, it was generally agreed that the recommended seasons to visit were around Spring and Autumn(due to the pleasant weather as well as the many festivals hosted at this time.) Winter in Bhutan was incredibly cold and Summer is it’s rainy season, therefore, Spring/Autumn was the perfect time to visit.
However, the only time our family had off was during school vacations so we chose to take this trip during Winter. Additionally, Norbu also recommended Winter to us as there’s less tourists and the snowy landscape is absolutely stunning. To be honest, if it wasn’t for her recommendation, I really would have a hard time deciding when to go!
When I did some further research, I found the Royal Highland Festival which immediately drew my attention. If I ever get the chance to visit again, I’ll definitely attend this fest!
穿著 What to Wear
第三層：防水外套（Aigle、Montbell Gore Tex）
When we checked the weather before departure, we saw that it was going to be around -3~10°C. It’s usually warm during the day but when the temperature drops significantly after sunset. Since we already visited the Arctic last October, the clothing we brought were quite similar. The one difference was that we tossed the snow boots and brought trainers instead(most of our trip was on foot so having a good pair of trainers was essential!)
- Layer 1: Fitting sweatshirt, Merino thermal underwear(Brands: Smartwool, Odlo, Icebreaker, Mammut…etc. The one we have is from Smartwool.)
- Layer 2: Wool sweaters, Polartec combing coats, Uniqlo light down vests
- Layer 3: Waterproof coats(Aigle, Montbell Gore Tex)
- Thermal Tights/Leggings(Uniqlo, Smartwool)
- Woolen Socks(Smartwool)
- Hand warmers
攝影配備 Photography Equipment
這次到不丹主要會以拍攝人文及風景為主，所以帶了Sony A7III搭配Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM (小白二代)、Sony FE16-35mm F2.8 GM廣角鏡頭。但要特別注意進到寺廟內不可拍照。
This trip I focused more on shooting people and landscapes. The camera I brought with me was the SONY A7111 with lenses CANON EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM and SONY FE16-35mm F2.8 GM.
Note: It is forbidden to take photos in temples!!!!
- 個人旅遊藥品 (高山症藥物、腸胃藥、感冒藥、益生菌、維他命、暈車藥。女生則要考慮生理期的部分是否需要吃延經藥，因為會有滿多登山的行程，如果生理期來的確會比較掃興，建議還是要詢問專業旅遊門診醫生或是婦產科醫生。)
- 薑茶 (預防高山症)
- 濾掛咖啡包 (那邊的咖啡只有即溶的又不太好喝，對於每天需要喝兩杯黑咖啡的我每次出國都一定會自己攜帶咖啡包)
- 室內拖鞋 (農家民宿不會附拖鞋、飯店內的也不是拋棄式的如果較注重個人習慣的建議自己帶)
- 牙刷牙膏備品 (就算是五星級的飯店也都不會有牙刷，所以一定要自己帶)
- 衛生紙 (當初要帶的時候老公還一直嘲笑我幹嘛帶，我還帶一整包那種咧，但住農家如果備品不足的時候真的很好用)
- 登山帽、防曬用品、水壺 (滿多登山的行程，都很需要)
- Personal medication (Alpine, gastrointestinal, cold medicine, motion sickness, probiotics, vitamins…. Girls need to consider whether menstrual period medicine is needed, due to this trip being mostly physical, that time of the month would be best avoided. I’d suggest consulting a gynecologist before departing.)
- Photographic equipment
- Ginger tea (This is really good for altitude sickness)
- Filter hanging coffee bag (There’s only instant coffee here and it’s not quite to my taste. For those who are caffeine addicts like me, I definitely bring my own coffee bag every time I go abroad!)
- Indoor slippers (Farm/Guesthouses don’t usually provide slippers, and the ones that hotels provide aren’t usually discardable ones. If you are more wary of personal hygiene, I would recommend you to bring your own.)
- Toothbrush/paste (Even five-star hotels don’t always provide these, I highly recommend you bring your own)
- Tissues (When I put it in the suitcase, my husband always, but I still always bring a whole pack just incase the farmhouses has insufficient supplies)
- Mountaineering cap, sunscreen, water bottle…etc. (There’s quite a lot of mountain climbing on this trip so equipment is important!)
節慶活動 Cultural Events (2020)
如果你也喜歡參加節慶，那不丹絕對是一個值得拜訪的國家，因為一年四季都有節慶（除了我們這次拜訪的淡季一二月沒有 😯 ），安慰自己沒關係以後還有機會參加lol。如果為了節慶要去不丹的話，建議一定要提早規劃，因為機位有限真的滿熱門的喔！我們本來是計畫要參加四月份的Paro Tshechu，但回程機位被預訂額滿了加上假期沒辦法請假這麼多天，只好改成冬天拜訪不丹，好處是淡季幾乎都沒有遊客也比較悠閒，但下次還是希望能參加他們的節慶，一定很熱鬧！尤其最夢想在十月份可以前往不丹最北邊的Gasa地區參加Royal Highland Festival， 但一定得從現在開始訓練自己的體力，因為旅行社小姐說目前還沒有到laya的公路，只能靠著爬山兩天才能到達XD，買尬光想就覺得累但我會加油的(握拳
If you love festivals, Bhutan is the place to go. With festivals year round(other than Jan/Feb when we were visiting ><) If you plan on heading over for the festivals, I suggest that you definitely plan in advance, because tickets are limited and a lot of people are going. We planned on attending the Paro Tshechu in April but had to scratch that plan because we couldn’t get plane tickets:( Another reason was that I had work and couldn’t take that many days off so we chose to visit during winter instead. The good part of this was that we were in the off season so there aren’t as many tourists, which made for a much more relaxing trip. Next time we’re in Bhutan I hope to be able to visit Gasa and attend the Royal Highland Festival in October. But before that, I think I’ll stick to working out and improving my stamina as it is a 2 day hike to Laya XD Even just thinking about it makes my legs ache🥵
Day 01 Arrival in Paro and travel to Thimphu
Druk air (Bangkok to Paro)
Tachogang Lhakhang Temple
Buddha Dordenma statue
National Memorial Chorten
National Textile Museum
Six Senses Thimphu
Day 02 Discover Thimphu
Lunch @ Folk Heritage Museum
Centenary Farmers Market
Day 03 Thimphu to Gangtey
Gangtey Valley Nature walk
Day 04 Gangtey to Punakha
Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge
Dhumra Farm Resort
Day 05 Punakha Family Portrait shooting Day
Day 06 Punakha to Paro
Paro Rinpung Dzong
National Museum of Bhutan
Day 07 Paro
Day 08 Depart Paro