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Bhutan, Nepal or both (in about 3 weeks?)

Bhutan, Nepal or both (in about 3 weeks?)

Jul 12th, 2014, 06:38 PM
  #1  
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Bhutan, Nepal or both (in about 3 weeks?)

We are planning a +- 3 week trip to Bhutan and/or Nepal in November of 2015. We are interested in moderate mountain trekking, buddhism, culture and general magic. Suggestions?
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 12th, 2014, 07:24 PM
  #2  
 
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For 3 weeks you can definitely do both countries! Here is take on Bhutan only:

The cost for Bhutan will be the most expensive as the minimum tourist tariff is quite high.
http://www.fodors.com/world/asia/bhu...ure_30002.html

The main tourist stops or towns in Bhutan are Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and all are done by driving once you have arrived by plane at Paro. The best hiking opportunity, IMO, is the hike up to the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) near Paro. You can do the iron man version from the ground up to the very top by foot or you could do the tourist version by riding a horse up to the half way point and then hike the rest of the way. I saw a few elderly people who did it by foot while I pass them on the horse and I figure it will take you around 3 or 4 hours going up. Very scenic!

Best Dzong (fortress) = Punakha, favourite town = Paro, favourite hotel = Uma Paro. Ideal amount of time in Bhutan = 5 or 6 nights.
Hanuman is offline  
Jul 12th, 2014, 09:26 PM
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Bhutan is fascinating, and I would stay longer than Hanuman suggests. It is certainly a good destination for anyone interested in Buddhism, and I would urge you to make sure you are there for at least one festival. There are many opportunities for hiking, as there are few roads and plenty of mountains and virgin forests. You would need to do some research, or check the itineraries for companies like Geo Ex. Nepal is also worth visiting, of course, but much more touristed than Bhutan.

For my photos of Bhutan see:
http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/A...tan-Festivals/
http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/A...le-and-Places/
http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/A...Bhutan-Houses/
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 04:06 AM
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Great photos^
Prachuap is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 04:31 AM
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@thursdaysd - I tried to search but could not find when the tourist tax started but did they have the $250 per person per day requirement when you went in 2001?

For my trip the tariff was reduced for Thai citizens to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the 2 kingdoms but even then I thought it was expensive for the type of lodging and food that we had.
Hanuman is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 07:17 AM
  #6  
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To me, the $250 per person seems reasonable, given that it includes food, lodging, guide, transportation, but I don't know how the accommodations actually are. Also, my husband's company gives a travel award every 5 years, so most of this trip will be on them.

We will probably fly through Bangkok. How many nights do people suggest there to rest and if we were to add on a side trip to Camodia to see Anwat, can it be done is a day trip, and if not, is one overnight enough?
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 07:35 AM
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@Hanuman - the country had only opened for tourism a few years before I went, and I believe the per day requirement had been in effect from the start, although I think it was closer to $200 in 2001. It was (and I believe still is) higher for solo travelers, and since you have to have a car, driver and guide even if you're solo I opted to go with a tour group. Turned out I would have been happier alone, but it was still a memorable trip. Note that, at least then, you had to fly either in or out on Druk Air in order to get a visa (I left overland to India). The accommodation was fine when I was there and I believe there are quite luxurious options available now. I did find the hotel buffets boring.

@cmstraf - "Anwat"? Can you possibly mean Angkor Wat? No, you cannot do it as a day trip, and one overnight is not enough. Well, actually you could (flying Thai Air) if you only wanted to see one or two temples, but the complex is huge and comprises many different temples. Three nights would generally be considered the minimum, but I found it too short and went back for a second visit. If you are really interested in visiting,I recommend that you get a copy of Dawn Rooney's "Angkor". have you been to SEA before? There is plenty to see in Bangkok, and in Thailand, not to mention the other countries. But if you want to see Nepal as well as Bhutan it might make more sense to fly via Delhi.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 08:09 AM
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We went with a group of friends but through a tour company so I guess a group tour! I did not like any of the accommodation that we were given. Creaky floors, no water pressure and the food, buffet, was the same at every place. Couldn't take it so the last two nights we jump ship and stayed at the Uma Paro and it was heaven!

@cmstraf - if you want some luxury the Uma offer two hotels, Uma Paro and Uma Punakha, in Bhutan. They do a package with tours included as well and you will not regret the rooms or the food at the Umas.

If you have more budget then the Aman properties have something like 4 or 5 hotels there but there rates is very high. A friend who stayed there said the rooms were getting a bit dated.

http://www.comohotels.com/uma/bhutan

http://www.amanresorts.com/amankora/home.aspx
Hanuman is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 08:10 AM
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Hanuman, I know that the better hotels like the Uma Paro cost extra. Only the "regular" (read very basic) hotels are included in the $250 a day per person tariff. Can you tell us how much extra you paid?

thursdays, isn't there a flight between Bhutan and Kathmandu? I seem to remember that when I researched it, there were three cities from which one could fly to Bhutan: Delhi, Bangkok and Kathmandu. And when I researched it a few years ago, the only way to get there was via Druk Air, so I think your experience is still applicable.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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Kathie I just basically called up the Uma and negotiate a price with them. As I mentioned earlier, there's a special reduced tourist tariff for Thais and after I confirmed this with the Uma they gave me an additional 25% off the lowest current rate. I think it was about $420 all in per night and this was for 1/2 board (fabulous breakfast and gourmet 4 course a la carte dinner). They also upgraded us since 2 other couples decided to join us and forgo the tour arranged accommodations.
Hanuman is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 08:32 AM
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Kathie - there are now some more airports on the schedule, but in south Asia - Dacca, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Borjhar. There's even an internal flight to Bumthang - I would think the views would be spectacular. See https://www.drukair.com.bt/COMMON.as...le20132014.htm

Given the additional options I would certainly think about combing Bhutan, Nepal and northern India rather than stopping off in SEA.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 09:37 AM
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We went to Bhutan in October 2012 for 12 days. We flew in from Delhi and returned via Bangkok (literally flying around the world). Since we were on a "private" tour, the cost was not only the $250 per person, but there was an additional surcharge of $30 each. Although we have not been to Nepal, you could easily tack it on for a 3 week trip. In 12 days we made it to central Bhutan and the Bumthang Valley, where we attended 2 festivals. As mentioned above, you should definitely make an effort to schedule your trip around one or more festivals. We used Snow White Tours and I highly recommend them. They helped us with our itinerary, which included some moderate day hikes in addition to the the climb to Tiger's Nest. Snow White will customize an itinerary to your needs. We did not spend extra money for Uma's or other luxury accommodations. Snow White consistently secured us the best rooms in each of the hotels we stayed in. Our hotels were not luxurious but they were not dumps either. Yes, there were occasional problems but nothing that would ruin a vacation. The food did tend to be on the bland side but a couple of places were able to mix it up a bit. We had fabulous pizza at lunchtime one day at a restaurant in Thimphu.

I wrote a trip report that you can find here:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...hutan-2012.cfm

If have more questions, please post...
Craig is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 09:46 AM
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Hmmm.... Cheryl and I may need to re-think going to Bhutan. Thanks to Hanuman, thursdays and Craig for all of the info.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 11:31 AM
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Thanks, thursdaysd, I did indeed mean Angkor Wat--sorry for the truly hideous spelling. Thank you also for answering my question. It clearly needs to be another trip, probably combined with Thailand.

This one will either be just Bhutan, just Nepal, or some combination of the two of them. If we do just Bhutan, we are thinking of doing two moderate treks (one from Thimphu to Palo, one in East Bhutan, making the November 11 festival for the black necked cranes, and staying one (nice but not overthetop)place in central Bhutan where we can spend some time just being and some time doing day hikes to monasteries.

Nepal I haven't researched at all yet--know only I'd like to see Mt Everest in real life. Knowledgable friend speaks very highly of Katmandu--it might be too much stimulation for us, but also sounds like an interesting city.

If we go only to Bhutan, we will fly out of Bangkok (we are West Coast). If we go to both, I may look into an open to Thailand and from Delhi. Just beginning this process--our only other trip to Asia was a magical three week trip to Japan in the fall of 2008.
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 13th, 2014, 11:56 AM
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I would recommend seeing Everest from the air, there are flights out of KTM. I loved KTM, but it is certainly not peaceful! For my Nepal trip start here http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...an-sojourn.cfm or, with pix, here http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/...culture-shock/ but if you want to trek there are many possibilities in Nepal.

For a peaceful place in Bhutan I might suggest http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev..._District.html - I stayed there right after it opened and thought the location magical. Of course, the area may have changed since then. I have to say, I found two weeks were plenty for Bhutan, but I wasn't trekking.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 14th, 2014, 12:40 AM
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Me and the cook recently spent 5 weeks in Nepal. Here's my marathon JBR on our first week, spent in Kathmandu...

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/nepal-522531-2.cfm

I haven't got round to writing anymore, but we also did...

- Tourist bus to Pokhara. Took almost 11 hours due the Prithvi Highway being blocked by a landslide.

- 9 days in Pokhara. Too long really, but you can't beat the setting, and you could almost touch the Annapurna mountains from Sarangot. Splendid views almost all the time from our guesthouse in South lakeside.

- Public bus to Bandipur.

- Bandipur, 3 nights. Living museum, absolutely traffic-free.

- Public Bus back to Pokhara for a night.

- Tourist bus back to Kathmandu.

- Bhaktapur for a week, and witness the week long Bisket Jatra (Nepalese New Year) celebrations. I'd like to be really positive about Bhaktapur, but the whole experience is marred by an endless procession of motorbikes cruisng the lovely narrow,red herring-boned streets

- Thamel for 5 nights.

- Boudhanath for the last couple of nights.

Stayed in really nice family run, charity, and Monastery accommdation.

In all the time we were in the Kathmandu are, even in Nargakot, or 2 hours away in Dhulikhel we never saw a single mountain due to the ever present smog.
LancasterLad is offline  
Jul 16th, 2014, 06:27 PM
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I like your style of travel, Lancaster, and envy you being able to be away that long. We, too, tend to stay a week in one place. I'm just now starting to read about Nepal. If we go to Bhutan, we are thinking of making the trek from Paro to Thimphu, then after a stop for the Blacknecked Crane festival and children, a week in one place in the central valley, and then on for another 5 days to Eastern Bhutan.

It's sad about the smog in Kathmandu. Someone offered me a free trip to the Everest base camp in 1972 and I turned it down (lived in London, went to France and Spain instead). Sigh--the mistakes of youth.


Kathie,
When you said "basic" how basic do you mean? Our usual hotel is small European 3 star, clean with some charm and well-located, though we have been known to do a few 4 and 5 star splurges...
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 06:50 AM
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I have not been to Bhutan, only researched extensively and decided not to go. Both Hanuman and Craig have give you some idea of the standard hotels... No central heating, usually very hard beds, bland, repetitive food. Among the standard hotels some are better, some are worse, you would need to do your research on these.

Travelers say the hotels are clean, rarely is any "charm" mentioned. The most facilities any of these hotels will have is a restaurant for those staying there. This will be a VERY different experience from traveling in Europe.

Is this your first trip to Asia?
Kathie is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 09:07 AM
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I've been to Bhutan several times and most 3* hotels in Bhutan are not equal to a 3* hotel in Europe (those that are have been built in the last few years in Thimphu and Paro). The "charm" is in the local Bhutanese style decoration and the location (mountain views, tranquil valleys outside Thimphu). Some old hotels, e.g. the Gantey Palace in Paro, have a quirky charm and pleasant grounds. I've also enjoyed staying at local farmhouses that are not 3* but the food is much better than the standard tourist buffet meals.

There are great variations among the "3* star hotels and during very times during festivals, you may get booked into one that is certainly below par (hard beds, erratic plumbing, electricity and heat, & bugs). You can get an idea what specific Bhutanese hotels have to offer on this web site: http://www.hotel.bt

There are 5* hotels--Como chain in Paro and Punakha, the Amankoras, and Taj Tashi in Thimphu too
I've traveled to Tibet & Nepal several times, but Bhutan (despite the expense) is still my favorite place for exploring Buddhist culture.
karenclang is offline  

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