22 August 2016

2. - 22 August: From Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan

Land at Paro airport after a smooth flight from Bangkok which includes a stopover in Kolkata. Very few flights to Bhutan, so the flight from Bangkok always stops in an Indian city to pick up passengers. Many Indians go to Bhutan because they are the only foreigners (with Sri Lankans) who are allowed into the country without visa or currency exchange requirements.

I tried to get window seat but no luck, yet when we board there are plenty window seats free, which is great to be able to watch the amazing Himalaya. Spectacular landing after a few tight turns by our plane as it finds its way among the mountains and into the narrow valley of Paro.

On the plane we meet group. Diverse mix of nationalities, age, and cultural backgrounds. It's part of the fun in taking these photo tours: you not only get to know the country you visit, you also learn more about your own country, or anyway about fellow Western middle-class internationally curious photographers.

Easy border formalities. Our electronic visa has been arranged in advance and we go through passport control quite smoothly indeed. At my request the lady officer agrees to enrich my passport with an unnecessary but cute rubber stamp. She even asks on what page I'd like to have it stamped on.

Bags are quickly delivered to one of two luggage carousels in the cosy arrivals hall. Ours is the only plane on the tarmac in this balmy late morning.

After a quick and relaxed x-ray check were out into the tiny parking area where we meet Matt, an Australian photographer who has organized this trip as a roving photo tour of Bhutan. We also meet Tshering, our local Bhutanese guide, who will turn out to be very knowledgeable and speaks excellent English. 

We all go for lunch at a scenic restaurant near the airport.

In the afternoon some shopping for basic necessities along the main (only?) shopping street of Paro, a small town that hosts the only international airport of Bhutan because they did not want to create noise pollution in the valley of the capital, Thimpu.

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