AT THE VERY TOP OF THE EARTH IN BHUTAN, TIME IS RELATIVE. Your clock is six hours ahead of London, 30 minutes ahead of Calcutta, 15 minutes later than Katmandu. And it’s half the world and 500 years away from wherever you are right now. Imagine Britain during the Elizabethan era: men are wearing white ruffles at the neck, puffy knickers to the knee, dangling swords, hats with brims and feathers. Women wear plunging square necklines, jumbo jewels, leopard skins over silk, and kirtles. Today in Bhutan, men and women still wear what their ancestors wore when Queen Elizabeth began her Golden Age. Continue reading
If you just go with the flow, no matter what weird things happen along the way, you always end up exactly where you belong. —Tom Upton
FIRST, YOU HAVE TO GET THERE. MY DRUK AIR FLIGHT was supposed to leave Bhutan at 0900 hours, but they cancelled the day before and gave no reason. Lotay and Fin warned me this might happen. And it happens more times than you might imagine in a country with a king who hits the bulls eye with a bamboo bow from a football field and a half away, with airlines owning a monopoly on flights, where the former king supported four wives (all four sisters), and where nobody panders to backpackers. Continue reading
BHUTAN IS ONE OF THOSE PLACES YOU CAN’T GET TO FROM HERE. And if you’re a budget traveler, you can’t get there from anywhere. Bhutan enforces a fixed daily rate of US$250 on tourists during high seasons and $200 during off seasons. You are not permitted to travel without a guide and driver, and there are some restricted areas you still can’t visit. If you travel as a single traveler as I did, you pay a surcharge of $40 per day. When I asked Kinga, my guide, why the government restricted travelers like this, he said: “To keep the backpackers out. We want to protect our culture. We don’t want Bhutan to become another Katmandu.” I guess you have to respect that kind of thinking. Continue reading
I WAS WRONG, AGAIN, OF COURSE. I thought my most-recent adventure/ extravaganza to the Maldives and the coast of Kerala would be my last journey in which I would not need to consider the cost of things: like $42 hamburgers or houseboat rentals. Turns out, I will soon be embarking on a trip to Burma (OK, Myanmar), Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Ahem…you may have noticed my kinky little widget to the right displaying a countdown of days till departure.