Day minus 1 (and counting...)
I am already dreading the morning.
The alarm is set for 0315 and the taxi booked for 4 am. Druk Air changed our flight from a lovely non stopper, albeit leaving BKK at 4 something, to a one stopper leaving at 6.50am. This has necessitated a further night in Bangkok. originally as check in is at least two hours before departure, we thought that we could have had a late check out and hung about at Suvanabhumi Airport until we could actually board with the first flight.
We are booked into the R Penjor Lodge in Thimphu for four nights and from there the world, in the form of Bhutan, is our oyster.
Now its is morning, Day 2. Day 1 was excellent aside from the very early rise and absolute maniacal taxi driver from the Aspen Hotel in Bangkok to the airport at around 4 in the morning. He drove at expressway speeds on the suburban streets. We were hanging on for dear life I can tell you.
Once at the airport we headed straight to the Druk Air check in counter which is at Row W, way down the far end of the Departures Hall, it would be at Row Z if there were one! Our hearts dropped as we realised the knot of eager checker inners were in fact at our check in counter.
Talk about baggage, I was convinced our plane would be needing a trailer!!! People had boxes labelled,'Genuine Toyota Spare Parts.' I kid you not, one man had a full windscreen for a Toyota Prado along with many, many other boxes of bits and pieces. Then there were the professional shoppers who had at least 3 trolleys a piece and who had to keep leaving the queue for that one more little thing so as the queue moved their co-shoppers had to shuffle up and down their road trains of stuff pushing each trolley just a little bit closer to check in!!! Rice cookers, curry cookers, flat screen TVs, laptop computers and sundry other electrical and household items. It must be a pretty pricey way to source these things as the Druk Air person told us that excess baggage was THB 175, or 5 or 6 dollars per kilo. I guess it must make good economic sense as our flight, KB 141, certainly had hundreds of kilos of excess stuff.
The flight was fortunately uneventful enough and we landed at Paro after the carnival ride like approach to the landing strip there. Glad to be back onTerra Firma we completed our arrival procedures and contracted a taxi to take us to Thimphu. I am glad Karma had told us the regular price as we knew our man was trying to overcharge us by a couple of hundred but he was happy enough to accept our offer of 1,000 ngultrums, or about 15 dollars for the 45 km trip.
The Bhutanese currency is pegged to the Indian Rupee and is currently languishing in the doldrums of foreign exchange. For us the silver lining is that we are getting around Nu 60 to the Aussie dollar whereas a year ago it was less that 50.
The sweet smell of the pine trees was my first real physical impression of being back in Bhutan. As we motored toward Thimphu the waft of pine needles cleared our heads and allowed us to see the surrounding countryside more sharply. It felt GREAT to be back. The houses, the temples the impossibly placed prayer flags, the Tata trucks, the dogs, the people, the roadside fruit and veggie sellers, the man and boy walking two cows along the side of the road and on and on.
Suddenly, or so it seemed, we were in the capital, Thimphu. We had seen some pretty major housing development just before getting to the main urban area so Thimphu is growing and developing apace along with most other major Asian cities. We felt it an extremely good omen when a parking space opened up directly in front of our hotel and we parted company with our by now, new friend, Gopal, and promised we would call if we needed his taxi services again.
We were warmly greeted by the owner of the hotel who had reserved us the best room in the house with a great view over the main street of town. The traffic is consistent but quite slow moving so manoeuvring across the street is not too daunting, the cars sometimes even stop at pedestrian crossings unlike in many other places where drivers seem to have no idea just what those funny white lines on the road are for.
After checking in and catching up we headed out into the fray to start on our list of things to do. New Kira for Vicky, check, find tailor for new blouse and jacket, check, new sim card for the phone, check, new data stick for mobile internet connection, check, lunch and a breather, check, new Gho for me, check! OMG we are doing so much and accomplishing tasks left right and centre!
After the floor attendant of the hotel finished 'making water' in our room (not quite as biological as it sounds, more a plumbing solution really...) we were able to wash off the dust of travel, refresh and once more head out in the now cool Thimphu evening for a spot of dinner and bottle of their finest Druk 11.