Flight from Singapore to Paro
These days, I am starting to get quite apprehensive about taking long-haul flights because I dislike air turbulence. Thank goodness, the trip from Singapore to Paro International Airport was smooth, and there weren’t any hiccups. Flight amenities were kept very basic, and there was no personal entertainment onboard. We transited at Kolkata and waited for about 45 minutes on the plane before the plane took off again.
I was super excited when I got off the plane because the mountainous view was just spectacular.
Once I arrived at the airport and picked up my luggage, I went to look for my guide and driver who were already waiting for me at the arrival hall.
Lunch at Dharma Siddhi Restaurant, Thimphu
From Paro International Airport, we traveled to Thimphu which is about an hour drive. Along the way, we made two pit stops to take a breather and get used to the high altitude. I did not have any altitude sickness or experience any discomfort of any sort. But I did encounter motion sickness after the long winding journey in the car. Thankfully, we reached the restaurant for lunch just before I was just about to throw up.
Lunch was a simple buffet affair with some local vegetables like fiddlehead fern and chicken. The dishes are usually cooked with chili and cheese. They tasted no different from our usual Chinese-style dishes eaten at home. Red Bhutanese rice is served along with the vegetables. This rice variety has a chewier texture than the ordinary white jasmine rice. Food overall was delicious.
Our first stop was the National Memorial Chorten, a Tibetan-style chorten or stupa. This beautiful white-washed chorten is one of the main attractions in Thimphu. You will catch sight of the elderly people walking in a clockwise direction around the Stupa with their handheld prayer wheels in one hand, chanting the religious mantras.
Simply Bhutan Museum
Simply Bhutan is an interactive living museum where you can get a better understanding of Bhutanese culture and their traditional lifestyle. There will be a museum guide who would show you around the museum and bring you to the various stations to discover more about the Bhutanese traditions.
Traditional Bhutanese wine, ara is stored in this wooden cylindrical container called Jandop. I had a sip of ara which is made from rice.
You can also join the Bhutanese ladies in a traditional cultural dance as they sang Bhutanese folk songs.
You will also notice that the Bhutanese people like to dry fresh food like chili, cheese, and vegetables so that they could be kept for an extended period of time; especially during winter when it is difficult to obtain fresh produce.
We also got to enjoy a cup of hot suja tea (or butter tea) mixed with roasted puffed rice.
Centenary Farmer’s Market
Just before we end the day, we headed to Centenary Farmer’s Market where the locals would shop for fresh produce and other basic necessities. They also sell a variety of incense power for praying purposes. There are two levels. On the ground floor, you can get fresh produce imported from India and on the second floor, you can purchase fresh organic produce from the local farmers. Poultry is usually imported from India as it is against the law to kill an animal here in Bhutan.
These incense could be smelt from a distance, and the pleasant fragrance draws you close to have a whiff of it.
I spent my first night in Bhutan at Hotel Osel, and I was impressed with the clean and spacious rooms. The only qualms I had was the loud barking noises created by the stray dogs living beside the hotel. The barkings can get loud and frequent throughout the night. It is a typical daily affair in the Thimphu where the dogs get active at night and create loud barking noises. You might need to bring earplugs if you are a light or sensitive sleeper.
There is a buisnesscentre here at Hotel Osel with cozy sofa, armchairs and a few computer desktops. This 3-star hotel also has a spa center and a cafe. Everything looks brand new here and well-maintained.
Here’s how my twin bedroom looks like in the hotel.
I was glad to find that there is a bathtub for me to soak in it.
After exploring the hotel, I went outside to take a short walk since it was still early in the late afternoon. Most of the shops were closed since it was a Sunday late afternoon. Be prepared to spend quiet evenings in your hotel room as there isn’t much nightlife over here in Thimphu unless you head to the nightclubs. Yes, there are music nightclubs here!
Dinner was ready at 7 pm. Once again, it was a simple buffet-style dinner. There were some Bhutanese and Indian delicacies. It felt so good to be eating warm food as the temperature outside gets very cold and chilly.
Watch how my first day in Bhutan unfolds in this video below!