Tashi Delek. Welcome to Bhutan!

After collecting my luggage, I took a deep breath and walked out of the airport to find my guide. To visit Bhutan, it is mandatory that you have a guide and a driver for the entire stay. Thus, these two people are who I’d be spending the next nine days with during my solo trip to Bhutan. While I get along easily with most people, I desperately hoped we would connect.

Dressed in a gray-colored gho, a pair of black knee-high socks and freshly polished black leather loafers, my guide smiled warmly holding a sign with my name. Nicole Melancon, Trans Bhutan Trail. 

Tashi Delek. I’m Singay. And this is Dorgi, our driver,” Singay said pointing to another young man dressed in a red and green plaid gho, Bhutan’s traditional dress“Welcome to Bhutan”. 

Little did I know, Singay, Dorgi, and I would be great friends by the end of the trip. We made the perfect team, and their jokes, laughter, knowledge, and passion for Bhutan made the trip all the more memorable.

My two new friends. Dorgi (on left) and Singay (on right).

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The last hiker of the year on the Trans Bhutan Trail: Part 1 Arrival

As we made our descent into the emerald-green Paro Valley I couldn’t stop myself from thinking I was in a scene from the Avatar. It almost didn’t look real. Just twenty minutes before, we had passed Mount Everest on the lefthand side window of the plane and I was instantly spellbound. After over ten years of dreaming, I was finally almost there.

The landing at Paro airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, is one of the most difficult and dangerous in the world. In fact, only 15 pilots are authorized to land there because it requires a manual, visual landing. Trying to navigate a jet airplane through a country that is known as the most mountainous country in the world requires guts.  Especially since Bhutan’s average elevation is 10,760 feet and mountains cover 98.8% of its total area. The only other place I had felt so fearful of landing was over the Himalayas of Nepal. And Nepal is what brought me to Bhutan.

As we descended, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy by the magical surroundings outside the window. The valley was lush, verdant, and blanketed in trees. Lovely calming music that felt like being more at a spa than on an airplane was gently playing through the Druk Air’s loudspeakers. If this was the world’s last Shangri-La,  I was certainly very excited to see it.

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