Bhutan, a small Buddhist kingdom tucked in the Himalayas, has well-preserved religious heritage and traditional lifestyle. Bhutan is often likened to a hermitage kingdom, for a long time it practiced closed-door policy to protect its culture and traditions; today, it has a controlled tourism and kept a close watch on foreign influences. Bhutan grabbed the world’s attention by coining the term Gross National Happiness (GNH), an index of holistic growth instead of measuring economic development based on GDP. One of this trip’s highlights is to experience rural life up-close – live with local farmers and participate in their daily life.
Afternoon flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, upon arrival in the evening, transfer to hotel nearby the airport. Retire early to bed after dinner, rest well in preparation for next day dawn flight to Bhutan.
Early morning flight to Paro in Bhutan, upon arrival transfer (1h) to capital city Thimphu. After lunch, sightseeing in town, sites of interest include the Memorial Stupa of the third King, the symbol of Bhutan religious and political highest power – Tashichho Dzong, and the mini zoo that showcases Bhutan national animal – Takin, which has head like a goat and body like a cow. In addition, take a stroll in the local market to soak up the daily life atmosphere.
Drive for 3 hours to Punakha – the ancient capital of Bhutan – via Dochula pass, on top of the pass visit Druk Wangyal, which has a complex of 108 stupas. After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong, a monastery sitting at the confluence Pho Chhu (Father) and Mo Chhu (Mother) rivers. The majestic Dzong is known as the most beautiful fortress-temple in Bhutan. Later, visit Chimi Lhangkang temple surrounded by farmland, enjoy the serene scenery of countryside.
Drive to the beautiful bowl-shaped glacial valley of Phobjikha, set against the backdrop of Black Mountains, blessed with grassy meadows and marshland, a great place for wildlife and bird viewing. After visiting the 16th century Gangteng Monastery, take a short hiking trip in the valley to admire the nature. At night, put up at homestay in the valley, hosted by farming family, observe the locals’ daily life up-close.
After breakfast, join the host family to work in the farmland, learn about local agriculture. Later, take a cooking class to learn how to prepare typical local dishes, such as Ema Datshi (yoghurt chili), Phaksha Paa (stew meat with chili and reddish), dumplings, and more. Enjoy home-cooked lunch that you helped to prepare. Afternoon free & easy, optional activities include horse riding. Stroll through the village, mingle with local folks. At night, star-gazing.
Bid farewell to host family, drive back to Paro, en-route visit Royal Botanical Park in Lampelri to enjoy the fresh air and greenery. The park has a variety of rhododendron species brought from all over Bhutan, and wildlife identified in the park include musk deer, tiger, leopard, and red panda. Arrival in Paro in the evening for dinner.
Today hike (5h) to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the most famous sight in Bhutan. The monastery perched on a cliff 800m off the ground. Padmasambava – Guru Rimpoche from India who spread Tantric Buddhism through Bhutan and Tibet – was said to have meditated here in the 8th century. This is a sacred site for pilgrimage. Later in afternoon, visit Kichu lakhang, the oldest temple in Bhutan. During dinner, enjoy a show of mask & cultural dances with folk songs.
Morning transfer to airport, board Bhutan national carrier Drukair to Bangkok, and then connect to a Kuala Lumpur-bound flight in the evening. Arrive home at night, end of tour.
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