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Plans for Nepal/Bhutan continued: how does this sound??

Plans for Nepal/Bhutan continued: how does this sound??

Aug 30th, 2014, 06:13 PM
  #1  
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Plans for Nepal/Bhutan continued: how does this sound??

Hi guys,

Our planning has moved another step forward with our 2015 trip to Nepal and Bhutan. We have definitely decided to go with Dhamey Tensing Norghay's Noble Traveller (sounds like great company, doesn't come through so clearly on his website) and Dhamey has assured us that we can have the guide who took close friends of friends to Bhutan recently. The friend of friend has done much guiding himself, is smart, charismatic and funny and anyone he says is
GREAT, I trust to be.

So where we are now is SF-Bangkok (unsuccessfully begged husband to redo kitchen so we can have another miles for two free business tickets) with United then two nights in Bangkok at the Shangri-La hotel. Then this is the 3 week itinerary that Dhamey suggested:

Nov 3: Bangkok - Kathmandu
Nov 4: Kathmandu (Mountain Flight)
Nov 5: Kathmandu - Pokhara (mid day flight) (Mountain Flight back up in the morning)
Nov 6; Pokhara
Nov 7: Pokhara - Kathmandu
Nov 8: Kathmandu to Paro
Nov 9: Punakha
Nov 10 Phobjikha
Nov 11: Phobjikha (Black Neck Crane Festival)
Nov 12: Trongsa
Nov 13: Bumthang
Nov 14: Bumthang
Nov 15: Bumthang - Paro (flight)
Nov 16: Drukpath Trek
Nov 17: Drukpath Trek
Nov 18: Drukpath Trek
Nov 19: Drukpath Trek
Nov 20: Thimphu
Nov 21: Thimphu
Nov 22: Paro
Nov 23: Paro (Tiger's nest day hike)
Nov 24: Depart for Bangkok

We will either add another night to Kathmandu at the beginning OR (and here's question 1) spend 3 nights in Kathmandu then 1 in Bukatapor. I'm drawn to the beauty of Pokhara but concerned by descriptions of over tourism but would love to see the views of the Annapurna Range..but am interested also in Bukatapor. (spelling)

In Bhutan, I like how he arranged it, am a bit nervous about the trek but would REALLY like to do it, also concerned about could this be an overdose of temples and forts?

I'm also excited!!! All thoughts welcome. Thanks for all those so far. Kathie I think you should consider this.
cmstraf is offline  
Aug 30th, 2014, 06:56 PM
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Personally, I'd cut Pokhara in favor time in Kathmandu. I've been swayed by accounts of the degradation of that environment going back 30 years. I don't see much use in driving maybe 20-30 km to stay in a different place in the Kathmandu Valley, so I'd cut Bhaktapur in favor of intensive time in Kathmadu which is just packed with World Heritage sites.

I'll be very interested in your report on Bhutan. I've researched it and listened to and read others' accounts and am still ambivalent about it.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 30th, 2014, 08:45 PM
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I agree with Kathie. There is little point in going to Pokhara unless you're going to trek, and none at all if the clouds are down. I was there for four nights, and the clouds only started to lift the morning I left. You can get great views without flying to Pokhara.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 30th, 2014, 11:57 PM
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Wherever you are in Nepal, if the clouds are down, then there's not much point being there. That can just as easily be the case at any place on an itinerary. It's a risk, and if you don't accept the risk, then you could miss out on some seriously fabulous scenery. I wouldn't put any plans in concrete in advance, as it is very easy to organise a trek once in Kathmandu (Thamel), and it'll be significantly cheaper than organising it all from your home country. The most important thing is to get the right Guide.

We spent 12 days in the Pokhara and Bandipur area in April this year. The clouds were down for one day only in both places. The weather was glorious as were the views. Seeing the Annapurna Range from the viewing point at Sarangot just after dawn was special.

Bandipur is special. A real living museum, absolutely no traffic, and only a two hour drive from Pokhara.

We spent almost 3 weeks in Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley. The clouds were down almost every day, and when they weren't there were no distant views due to the pollution and smog. We never saw a mountain even from Nargakot of Dhulikel, which are the recommended places for spectacular sunrise views.

We had mixed feelings about Bhaktapur, where we stayed for a week for the Nepal New Year (Bisket Jatra). There's no doubting that it's a beautiful UNESCO site, with much work completed and much still to do. But, apart from Durbar Square which is traffic-free, the rest of the Heritage Site is ruined by motorbikes cruising aimlessly.
LancasterLad is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 05:07 AM
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No, the most important thing is NOT to get a good guide, it is to get lucky with the weather. I managed just fine in Nepal without a guide, in fact I would have found one a nuisance a lot of he time. (Click on my name for my south Asian TR starting in Nepal.)
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 06:00 AM
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Hopefully you will head to Punakha after arriving in Paro, so that you will have 2 nights there. There are major dzongs (forts) in most of the major towns and temples within the dzongs. There are also a few free-standing temples. If you think there is too much of that, tell your tour operator or guide to stick to the highlights. There are also monasteries, most of which require some hiking to reach - the ones we went to were quite rewarding. It seems you have quite a bit of time in the Bumthang Valley. We spent 3 nights there because there were 2 festivals going on but I didn't see that there was much to do otherwise. Are you planning to do day hikes?
Craig is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 06:49 AM
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Thursdaysd.

I agree. We never had a guide for what we did either, and for the same reason. The only Guide we needed, and we walked a lot, was sound detailed planning [with a Plan B], a good Guide Book, common sense, and a bit of risk assessment here and there.

But there are a lot of treks, where it'd be irresponsible not to hire a Guide, and that being the case you need to make sure that you know exactly who you're hiring, and what you'll get for your money.

Unless you've got a nailed-on firm recommendation, then hiring a Guide independently from a website or message board, is courting trouble.

Several times when sat in a cafe/restaurant in Thamel we hooked into conversations between trekkers and their potential Guide, ie the Guide was being interviewed to assess whether he met the exact requirements of the person hiring him. On one occasion the trekker got a bit agitated, cut the interview short and left the cafe.

The weather obviously is important, as is making sure you've got the right kit for whatever you plan doing. But weather is also v.unpredictable in that neck of the woods. And if you decide to go it alone without taking expert advice, you could live to regret it.

It looks like things could be changing soon, and for certain treks employing a Guide will be compulsory...

http://www.ekantipur.com/2014/07/30/...rs/392907.html
LancasterLad is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 07:05 AM
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But notice that the OP is not planning on trekking in Nepal, but in Bhutan, where a guide is compulsory, even if you are not trekking.

I think it is wise to think of Bhutan as the place where you will be enjoying mountain scenery and trekking, and concentrate on stupas, shrines, temples and other world heritage sites in Nepal.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 08:57 AM
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Is OP original poster?

Kathie is right. We are not planning on trekking in Nepal. We are also not planning on using a guide. We have always traveled independently, Bhutan will be our virgin experience with a guide, and I am a bit concerned it could be claustrophobic, though not enough so to opt for an organized group of strangers.

Kathie, it sounds like you are suggesting day trips to other sites in Kathmandu Valley. How does one get there--trains, buses, taxis? Does 5 nights sound like too many? With some misgivings, I think we are passing on your suggestion of the Hyatt (location is exactly what we always choose) and going to make the Dwarika our splurge. My friend who stays there at least yearly says that it is one of the best hotels she has been in in the world.

I am really grateful for the suggestion of including Nepal. I have the feeling we will not regret it.

Craig, I will tell tour operator only the highlights and I will ask about spending 2 nights in Punakha. I prefer 2 nights minimum and our usual mode of travel is to spend at least a week in one place (in Japan, it was Kyoto). This reminds me I also need to tell Dhaney that we love gardens (although this may be a moot preference in November). We are planning to do day hikes in Punakha Valley.
It sounds like LL had a better experience Pokhara..and that indeed much depends on the weather gods.

Part of why we are doing all this organization and research now is that we want to get award flights (desperately raising miles) 330 days before we depart and thus need itinerary in place. DOES ANYONE KNOW IF THE 330 DAYS STARTS AT 12:01AM CHICAGO TIME, OR LATER? THE UNITED PERSON I FOUND TO ASK WAS IGNORANT.
cmstraf is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 09:12 AM
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I have done RTW awards three times with AA miles and OneWorld. I believe the cut off date applies to ALL flights, not just the first. However, at least on my awards, you could change the dates, although not the routing, without penalty. I also got one open segment, which cut down on the miles needed and let me do long overland routes while still flying biz class over the oceans. Good luck getting seats!
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 09:16 AM
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As one who frequently uses miles on United for these long flights, I can tell you that the "free" flights are not always posted right away. The best way to follow this is to take a look at what flights in November 2014 are available today as well as those approximately 330 days out from today. By seeing what becomes available, you can monitor and strategize to get what you want. Does that make sense?

There is little in the way of botanical gardens in Bhutan. I believe there is a Royal Botanical Garden in Thimphu, but we did not visit.
Craig is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 09:17 AM
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Yes, OP is original poster.

You can take taxis to other parts of the Kathmandu Valley. None of the drives are especially far. The longest is to Changu Narayan, on a ridge overlooking the valley. This gets you out to see the countryside. Five nights is not too many. We spent 8 full days on our last trip visiting all of the World Heritage sites in the valley. You can hire a driver for the day. We did for one of our days to Changu Narayan and Bhaktapur, but otherwise just took taxis. No trains in Nepal.

Do tell us all about Dwarika!

In my experience, the 330 days is not exact. It may be from the time of the flight you are trying to book. At least, that was once my experience.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 07:28 PM
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HELP! My husband just panicked when he realized that three weeks in Nepal/Bhutan means 4 weeks away from work. Wonders if we can collapse four weeks into three? Can someone help with suggestions?
One thing that comes to mind immediately is staying in Kathmandu for 4-5 nights, definitely leaving out Pokhara. After that?
One difficulty is we get back just BEFORE Thanksgiving, losing 2 days PTO.

Related question: We need to fly United back from Bangkok to SF. The United person just told me that one possibility is a 1 hour layover (out of the question for us), the next is 2 hours (outside of my comfort zone, I prefer 3-4, but possible)? Do any of you have experience with these flight schedules?

I don't yet know how to say thank you in nepalese or dhonga but many thanks.
cmstraf is offline  
Aug 31st, 2014, 07:45 PM
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Husband is now considering longer trip. The problem is that his boss is from India, never takes more than 2 weeks to go to visit family. 3 weeks we can do without repercussion, he thinks that 4 weeks really stretches it.
cmstraf is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 03:49 AM
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I assume you are referring to the layover in Tokyo. We usually have had about 2 hours, which is enough time to go through security and hit the business class lounge before continuing on. Our experience has been that the flights tend to run on time but I would be nervous about a 1 hour layover.

I agree that 4 weeks is a long time to be away from work.
Craig is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Well, you really can't cram a four week trip into three weeks without cutting destinations.

I'd start, though, by encouraging your husband to have a conversation with his boss about taking 4 weeks for this trip. One long trip is much more refreshing than several short trips. I encourage people to train their bosses on this matter. Maybe his boss will catch on and take a four week trip home to India!
Kathie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 04:49 PM
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Kathie,
You made me laugh out loud! Better still---maybe his boss will take two weeks of actual vacation after two weeks of caring for aging parents "vacation" and come back a happier more mellow manager....

I have just gotten two of my closest friends to agree to run their biggest expenses through my credit card in next two months--such depths I fall to in the desperate hope to avoid flying economy over what my friend Erica calls "the pond".

DH is now saying he will take 4 weeks (using his usual pop surprise method which makes DW--me--nervous.

I know it would take cutting--the only easy thing I see is slicing a day off Kathmandu. I know I must do the trek (just passed trial with flying colors), you have made me feel same way about Kathmandu , know about tiger's nest, the black crane festival..and have NO idea how to choose between Bumthang and Punakha..and no desire to.

Craig, thanks for reassurance about flight connection. I tend to be my business executive's daughter in things like arriving to airport early, allowing lots of layover time etc, but I do not really want to spend a night in Narita on the way home.

I've never had a comment removed by moderators before...it's aroused my curiosity..
cmstraf is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 05:51 PM
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I think I saw the comment before it was removed - a piece of advertising. Actually, while people are sure the mods are censoring their thoughts, most of the removed posts are advertising... do you need a fake passport? How about Chinese-made designer goods? or i can be your free guide in China...
Kathie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2014, 07:22 PM
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thanks.
cmstraf is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2014, 04:28 PM
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All trips to Bhutan are an overdose of temples and forts...but that is what you are there for. Nepal is really interesting. I was sorry we didn't spend more time there. But...it is all good.
Elainee is offline  

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