Gloebtrotting - The Kingdom of Bhutan

September 02, 2015

This spring my husband and I ticked a dream off of the bucket list - trekking through the Kingdom of Bhutan.  Bhutan is a small Buddhist country located Northeast of Nepal and is probably best known for tracking their citizen's Gross Domestic Happiness alongside Gross Domestic Product.  It is difficult to get to Bhutan, my journey was LA, Hong Kong, overnight in Bangkok, stop in India then into Paro, and they limit the number of visitors in order to maintain the pristine culture and nature (the country is 76% covered with trees).  Simply arriving in Bhutan feels like landing in a faraway place as the Himalayan peaks pop out through the clouds and you descend through a narrow canyon into the Paro Valley.  The airport is in a traditional Bhutanese style and as people exit the plane, they stop and stare at the gorgeous surroundings.

After arriving and heading through customs we drove on the only paved road in the country to Thimpu to the Aman hotel.  After a welcome drink and a tour of the surrounding grounds we headed out with our guide and driver, you're not allowed to drive alone in the country, into town where we were able to wander the farmer's market and take in an archery match, the national sport of Bhutan. After returning home to an amazing, Thai style, dinner from the chef at the hotel we were lucky enough to attend a talk with a monk who was exiled from  his home in Nepal and is a friend and colleague of the Dali Lama.  

The next day was off to Gangtey, high in the mountains of Bhutan.  The drive takes all day but has truly spectacular views the whole time and arriving in the mountains to the cool, fresh air is worth the winding, unpaved roads.  We practiced archery with our guide and driver, took a walk through the local village and past the small school and had another amazing meal overlooking the valley.  The next day we trekked high into the mountains past villages, yaks and through forests for views like something out of Lord of the Rings. 

The next day we hopped back on the road and out of the altitude to Punakha, which feels totally different than Gangtey, due to its subtropical climate.  The arrival at the hotel is special as you cross the river over a suspension bridge covered with beautiful prayer flags.  There we hiked up to a tiny temple, road bikes to a giant Dzong, played more archery, practiced our Bhutanese dancing and jumped on a white water rafting trip with some awesome Australians and a couple who happen to live about 10 minutes from us in LA.  

After our morning of whitewater rafting we headed back through the mountains and over into Paro, where you start your journey with landing at the airport, and discovered the Paro valley a bit.  This was the beginning of the part of our journey we most looked forward to, an overnight trek and camping trip.  We set off in the morning after breakfast with a packed lunch and ginger tea to battle the altitude, climbed all morning until stopping for lunch and tea at a small temple with gorgeous views of the valley and giant prayer flag poles.  We set off again in the afternoon to make it to the top of the 14,000 foot trek.  There you stop for more tea and cookies at the campsite before having the evening to explore a tiny temple perched atop a steep cliff.  After exploring and watching the mist move through the mountains to reveal and conceal the peaks of the Himalayas, we read books, ate dinner and got to bed early before a sunrise awakening and trek down to the Tiger's Nest, the most well known temple in all of Bhutan.  This large temple hangs perilously off the edge of a cliff and you can wander all around it seeing the different rooms, Buddhist statues and butter lamps all while hearing chanting monks.  

After the Tiger's Nest visit we headed back down the mountain into Paro and back to hotel where we showered and cleaned up before being treated to a final dinner complete with a huge, private bonfire and a much deserved bottle of wine.

I did the whole 8 days with my Telluride backpack from our fall collection, seen above in front of the Tiger's Nest.  It converts from a backpack to a cross body to a purse and it was great for trekking, sightseeing and dinner under the stars. 

Check out more of our imagery and the rest of our brand new fall collection, wear tested in Bhutan, on our site:

www.augustca.com

xx, Jenna