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

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

Jul 17th, 2014, 02:28 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
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I spent a week in Bhutan in early April,
2013. We were a group of 4. Accommodation was similar to the pics Craig posted. I thought it was quite reasonable for an all inclusive $250.

The food was quite bland, with the Bain-Marie reigning supreme in many places. A request to our guide to take us to more authentic Bhutanese places yielded more interesting (and hot v's lukewarm ) food. We had a very good dinner one night in Thimpu when the owner of the tour company joined us.

I enjoyed the week, didn't do much walking as I had an injury I was nursing so I could do 3 weeks trekking in Nepal.

I'd go again and, as other friends did, take 2 weeks, do more trekking & staying with local families.

To answer the OP - yes, you can easily have a good holiday in Nepal & Bhutan in 3 weeks. Caveat: I've not been to either in November - twice to Nepal in March-May.

We flew Druk Air KTM to Paro. One friend flew into Paro from Bangkok.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 06:19 PM
  #22  
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Hi Kathie,

It's our second trip to Asia. The first was a 3 1/2 week trip to Japan which we made in 2008. It was wonderful--but leaves us completely ignorant of the rest of Asia.

The Himalayas are a long time dream. Why did you decide not to go to Bhutan (besides the food)?
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 07:35 PM
  #23  
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And where and what is Simmin?? Please excuse approximation.

This thread is wonderful for us. It makes me think it's time for me to write up our week in Paris this year and MAYBE give to the Fodor's world our discoveries about how to take Italian friends to Yosemite in high season and avoid crowds.
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Jul 17th, 2014, 08:59 PM
  #24  
 
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There are a number of reasons we opted out on Bhutan (doesn't mean we will never go there). One is that you have a guide with you all the time. Frankly, that drives me crazy. I want to be able to sit and mediate or simply soak up the atmosphere at Buddhist sites. Bhutan's attitude toward historic places is to make them new. Much of what you will see are reproductions. I also find the approach to tourism kind of straight-jacketing. There are a number of typical routes you can travel. That may have loosened up some now, I don't know.

Sikkim is the place we loved. It was an independent kingdom, but got absorbed by India. So it is in the far eastern corner of India, bordered by Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. There are many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, some that existed before the Chinese invasion, some that came after the invasion. There have always been close relationships among Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.

Here is my trip report: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...p-to-india.cfm
And you can find the photos at www.marlandc.com

This will be a very different Asian trip than Japan! I love SE Asia for Buddhist culture: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma/Myanmar. Sri Lanka was one of my favorite Buddhist trips. I have reports on most of these places, just click on my name, then click to look at all of my trip reports.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 17th, 2014, 09:17 PM
  #25  
 
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I agree with a lot of what you say, Kathie. We were lucky in being only 4, with a guide & driver who were happy to deviate from the structured Dzong to Dzong itinerary & to let us loose when we wanted to explore.

As it was my first trip, it was a good glimpse and enough to pique my interest in going back & exploring a few
less travelled tracks, seeing how people out of the tourist gaze live & work.

I'm not much into camping but am ok with very basic accommodation if that's what there is where I want to go. Western style 5 stars doesn't tend to be conducive to noodling around the backblocks in places like Bhutan & Nepal.

Very nice for a couple of days R&R afterwards, though.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2014, 08:19 PM
  #26  
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Thanks so much about warning about Dzong to Dzong itineraries. Can you tell me a little about what you did when you were let loose? Also, have you been both to Nepal and Bhutan?
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 19th, 2014, 08:59 PM
  #27  
 
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We went to the fantastic vegetable market in Thimpu; to our guide's Aunt & Uncle's farm just out of Paro; wandered around the streets on our own in Thimpu, went for an unscheduled walk in the forest behind the big golden Buddha ( can't remember the name of that town).

Shared lunch with an art teacher & a couple of students.

Yes, been to Nepal twice. 2012 with a small group of friends - basically Pokhara - Poon Hill trek - Chitwan- Bhaktapur - KTM. 3 weeks

Last year with guide & porter. Travelled with small group of friends KTM - Namche Bazar, then we 3 trekked Everest Region for 2 weeks. I also spent a week at a remote village near Dhading. 5 weeks including Bhutan.

There's a half done trip report for the 2013 Nepal wander.
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Jul 20th, 2014, 06:53 AM
  #28  
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If you were to choose between Nepal and Bhutan, or pick a combination of both, given a plus or minus three week itinerary, what would you suggest?

--We would like to do 4-5 days of moderate trekking (Thimphu-Paro or Eastern Bhutan?)
--go to 1 festival (children's black necked crane festival Bhutan Nov 11)
--spend 5-6 days someplace lovely (maybe Pokhara, maybe Bhumthang valley) where we can relax, have some time being and not just doing, maybe day hikes)

--I've read through the Lonely Planet Bhutan book but am just beginning to research Nepal.

--54 yo husband had triple bypass surgery in October of 2013. We hope this will not be an issue in our choices, but is obviously a consideration. He has cardiologist appt about this in September. One low altitude alternative would be Patagonia, but the Himalayas have caught my heart sight unseen. Low altitude trip there also a possibility
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 07:48 AM
  #29  
 
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I would have found three weeks too long for Bhutan. It is a fascinating place, but very homogeneous. Of course, I wasn't hiking. Make sure that the festival includes dances.

I visited Patagonia in 2012 and loved the scenery (and Iguazu falls, which are not Patagonia but shouldn't be missed) but Nepal is more interesting.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 07:55 AM
  #30  
 
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You might want to consider doing your trekking in Bhutan, then have city time in Nepal. The whole Kathmandu Valley is filled with world heritage sites. Arranging your time in that way would give you contrasts in the Himalayas.

I've never known anyone who raved about the scenery in Pokhara, so I'd plan on the gorgeous scenery in Bhutan.

Take a look at my Nepal trip report for info on all the world heritage sites: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...mandu-2008.cfm

We spent 8 days in the Kathmandu Valley.

So I'd suggest approximately two weeks in Bhutan, then a week or so in the Kathmandu Valley.

Photos are at www.marlandc.com
Kathie is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 08:28 AM
  #31  
 
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I think Kathie's suggested itinerary makes sense. Note that even with our guide we could wander on our own in Bhutan, if we wanted to. We just didn't have that much extra time to do it and didn't feel we were missing out on anything by not doing it. Our hikes and other excursions were pleasant diversions from the typical dzong to dzong itinerary but we were pretty dzonged out at the end.

If you wish to see the black-necked crane festival, keep in mind that there is very little lodging in that area and what lodging there is has probably already been booked up for that November date. Also, if you wish to visit eastern Bhutan while limiting your stay to 2 weeks, you should check to see if there are flights either to or from the Bumthang Valley from Paro. When we visited, the landing strip had been built but flights had not started.
Craig is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 09:54 AM
  #32  
 
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It's possible to do an east-west tour in 2 weeks if you fly one of Drukair domestic flights. There are flights now between Paro and Bumthang 3 days a week--Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. But from Bumthang it is a long VERY slow drive to Eastern Bhutan that will take at least a day--better to break it with a stop over in Mongar. The airport at Yongphula in the east won't open again 2015 at the earliest. The advantages of visiting eastern Bhutan: fewer tourists, lower altitude and warmer weather, and if you're interested in textiles, plan visits to the weaving villages of Koma (a day trip from Mongar) and Radhi (a short drive from Trashigang). The textiles are cheaper when bought directly from the weavers than from the tourist boutiques in Thimphu.

One alternative to booking a hotel in Gangtey would be to have your tour agency arrange a farm or home stay in the area. It won't be as comfortable as staying at the Dewacan Hotel but it's true there are not many hotels in the Gangtey area and the festival will attract a lot of tourists. Same will be true of festivals in the Bumthang area. The farmhouse cooking will be better than the standard bland tourist buffets and you may get the chance to meet the cow that provides your milk and cheese.

You can wander around the town in Thimphu, Paro, Bumthang,Mongar, Trashigang, etc. without your guide and unless s/he is asked your guide won't join you for meals. I also often got up early and took a short hike before breakfast without a guide in tow. Outside of Paro and Thimphu, you won't find many fluent English speakers and our guides were helpful in carrying on conversations with monks, nuns, hermits, weavers, musicians, and older Bhutanese who hadn't gone to school.

A plus in traveling to Bhutan, is that you can ask your Bhutanese travel agency to customize your trip to your specific interests. I'm a teacher so I enjoyed talking to students & faculty at the teachers' training college in Paro and visiting Sherubtse College in Khaling. One of my friends was a musicologist, so talking and playing with musicians in Thimphu was a highlight for her.

Try not to let a tour agency impose one of their standard tours on you--you'll likely see the same people at the same places for days. Even when visiting Takstang, which can occasionally get crowded, you can hike above the it to visit Magcik's hermitage, spend some time meditating (if you choose) and then come down to Takstang later in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.
karenclang is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 11:20 AM
  #33  
 
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I spent 3 weeks in the Kathmandu area recently, and almost 2 weeks in Pokhara. If you value your health, then don't plan on spending too much time in Kathmandu

The scenery in and around Pokhara is superb. The air is clean, clear and pollution free...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Po...w=1024&bih=653

On the other hand Kathmandu, while it has plenty of charm, is dirty, polluted, traffic jammed, noisy and chaotic...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ka...w=1024&bih=653

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Ka...w=1024&bih=653

http://www.devalt.org/newsletter/jun03/of_5.htm

In the Kathmandu Valley alone there are over over a hundred brick factories, whose chimneys spit out black acrid smoke at all hours of the day and night...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Ka...w=1024&bih=653
LancasterLad is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 03:29 PM
  #34  
 
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I'd agree with Lancaster Lad about the air quality in KTM. Pokhara is the starting point for many treks, so naturally full of tourists, but I quite like it.

Bhaktapur might be a viable alternative. Although, as a world heritage site, it's a day-trip let's Mecca, it's quite a different town at night and I liked it.

Next time, I'll go somewhere a little less developed in Nepal.
And have a couple of nights at Dwarika's when I get back!

For the OP, I think a week in Bhutan & 2 in Nepal would work pretty well.
Just do your homework & find what you'd like to see & do ( and do include a festival in Bhutan ) - and then be flexible ... Because you'll be in Asia & everything can change, be slower, or different from what you envisage.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Jul 20th, 2014, 08:59 PM
  #35  
 
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Sarangot provides a glorious back-drop to Pokhara, a 20 minute drive to the east...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=sa...w=1024&bih=653

Get an adrenalin rush from Sarangot...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=pa...w=1024&bih=653

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=po...w=1024&bih=653

Phewa Tal (Fewa Lake), Pokhara Lakeside runs along it's eastern shoreline...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=po...&sa=X&ei=NJnMU
_LsK6nL0QW-sYHQBw&ved=0CB8QsAQ&biw=1024&bih=653

And towering over the Phewa Tal's western shore is the World Peace Stupa...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=wo...w=1024&bih=653

On the down-side of Pokhara, I think it's become over developed with too many ugly buildings springing up.
LancasterLad is offline  
Jul 26th, 2014, 08:27 AM
  #36  
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Just a thank you to Thursdaysd for the beautiful photos. I just now had the time to go through the whole slideshow. They are wonderful!
cmstraf is offline  
Jul 26th, 2014, 11:22 AM
  #37  
 
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Thanks cmstraf! It was a fascinating trip, hard to take a really bad photo.
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Aug 1st, 2014, 08:12 PM
  #38  
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Craig,
We are thinking in terms of November 2015. Do you still think it is too early?

Kathie,
I really like the idea of trekking in Bhutan and ending up in Kathmandu Valley. I also like the idea of buffering Kathmandu with a very comfortable and peaceful hotel. ( We did that in Palermo in Sicily with the Palace Centrale and were so glad.. And in NYC I have favorite hotel near Central Park in the Upper West Side, same principle) There was also an appealing Nepal itinerary in GeoEx--three parts, short trek in Annapurna area followed by time in Kathmandu, then short trek in Everest area.

I am getting excited already....and trying to think of ways we can save up enough miles to be able to fly over the "pond" as a friend calls it Business. I think we will have to do the other part economy.

I'm both scared by and intrigued by the Asian cities. Have never been around much urban poverty.
cmstraf is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 02:11 AM
  #39  
 
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Too early for November? - more likely, too late...

We reserved hotels a year in advance. However, Bhutan flights can only be arranged 6 months ahead of time...
Craig is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2014, 06:04 AM
  #40  
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Thank you Craig--but don't we have about 15 months from now? I was thinking that we need to have hotels in place by October. There is a chance that we will have a guide who is part of Nepalese/Bhutanese royalty available to us and I am hesitant to make any firm plans before we are in contact with him (not possible for another few weeks) but I am taking your warnings very seriously.

Maybe I will try to go ahead and make reservations for the Black Crane festival asap (if it is possible for us/me to do this on our own)

To all of you: Did you learn any of the language before you left?
cmstraf is offline  

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