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frenchfrog Paro - A travel report by Isabelle
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Paro,  Bhutan - flag Bhutan -  Paro
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frenchfrog's travel reports

Paro, first sight of Bhutan

  20 votes
Bhutan is a small Himalayan country bordered with China at the north and India in the south. Bhutan is about the size of Switzerland (33 395 sq.km) but only have 690 000 inhabitants. Thimphu is the capital, with Paro being the second town of the country.


View of Paro Dzong
View of Paro Dzong
When I first mentioned that I was going to Bhutan, most people reacted by saying “Bhutan where is that?" It is true that Bhutan does not often hit the front pages! Most people did not have a clue where it was! Bhutan restrict the numbers of tourists allowed into the country. Tourists must arrive with a pre-booked tour. Bhutan policy of restricting tourism has three purposes, 1) it preserves the natural environment and the lifestyle of the locals, 2) it recognises the lack of infrastructure, and the rugged terrain, and 3) by charging all travellers a daily package fee for tourist services (hotels, transport, meals..) Bhutan is able to earn the foreign currency it needs for vital expenditure in other areas of development, (hospitals, schools...). When you arrive in Bhutan by plane, you will land in Paro which is situated in the west of the country. Just before I landed, I noticed the golden roof of the local Dzong. I knew straight away that I would love this area and that it was somewhere special. The town of Paro is at 2280m and was constructed in 1985, but all houses are built according to the strict Bhutanese architectural style.
The local currency is the Ngultrum (NU) and has the same value as the Indian rupee, 1$US is worth around 45NU.

Favourite spots:
Taktsang Lhakang
Taktsang Lhakang
The TAKTSHANG LHAKHANG MONASTERY is really awesome. It is also known as the Tiger’s Nest and it is Bhutan most recognisable image. It gets its name due to the story that Guru Rimpoche came to Taktshang, flying on the back of a tigress. He meditated for 3 months in a cave and converted the Paro valley to Buddhism. The monastery is built over the cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated. It is perched on the side of a 900m cliff. Taktshang is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites in the Himalayas and contains 13 holy places. In April 1998, the monastery was burned down, it was a national catastrophe but was rebuilt by 2002. The monastery is accessible after a short drive from Paro, and then it is about a gentle hour trail through a pine forest that goes up to a viewing platform. Here there is a tea-house where you can purchase refreshments and souvenirs. On the way up you will be able to see views over the valley of Paro, prayers flags and Chortens.

What's really great:
PARO DZONG
PARO DZONG
PARO DZONG, also nicknamed the “Heap of Jewels“, is next to the river. You could almost see its image reflecting on the water. The Dzong is one of the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. It was built in 1644 and it was one of Bhutan’s strongest fortress to defend the valley from invasions from Tibet. Today it is an administrative building for the district of Paro but also counts a monastic community of 200 monks. I enjoyed spinning the prayer wheels in the courtyard, thinking of my coming trip to the Everest Base Camp trek and praying to myself for a safe journey. This monastery set the tone for our trip to Bhutan as it was the first monastery that we saw, that was really amazing!

Sights:
Local girls wearing the Kira
Local girls wearing the Kira
Drukgyel Dzong is situated not far from Paro. Situated at the foot of Mt Jomolhari (7314m), this peak has never been climbed as it is a protected peak.
The village of Drukgyel is very pretty with old Bhutanese farmhouses. The Dzong was built in 1647 to commemorate the victory over Tibetans. Today the fortress is in ruins following a terrible fire in 1951.
A unique sight are the locals. Bhutanese are very friendly and hospitable. They are very happy, innocent and they are proud of their culture. The girls at the hotel were helping me to put on my Kira, (the National Dress), as it was difficult. All Bhutanese wear the National Dress while in public. The men wear a Gho to knee length with long socks, which is in one piece like a bath robe. Patterns are different but some look like Scottish tartans! The women wear the Kira, in two pieces; a long floor-length dress that wraps around the body and the top is like a jacket called a toego.

Accommodations:
Main street of Paro
Main street of Paro
Kichu Resort Complex
The hotel is a 15 minutes drives from the airport of Paro. Here I encountered the essence of the Bhutanese Hospitality!
The hotel is very comfy with a huge bar and restaurant. It is situated next to a river where you can find peace and tranquillity.
Rooms are spread out in little bungalows.
I went on a package so I did not pay the hotel directly, but this is an idea of the prices:
Rooms are 40$ for a single and $54 for a double, including diner.

Restaurants:
Red Panda Beer
Red Panda Beer
As it is all inclusive, I did not have the choice where to eat, but the hotel restaurants were really nice. Most of them were vegetarian althought sometimes we had meat (boiled) and fish. The food nethertheless, was really great. we were over-fed! Buffets consisted mainly of rice, spinach, potatoes, beans..
May I recommend The Red Panda beer. This Bhutanese unfiltered brew is really nice. I have to admit that I was first sceptical about drinking it, but it was really nice!

Other recommendations:
Paro National Museum
Paro National Museum
The National Museum of Bhutan. It was previously Ta-Dzong, a former watch tower with 356 years of history behind it. It is an unusually round 7-storey building with 2,5 meters thick walls. The museum was established in 1968. The Museum has in its possession over 3000 works of arts, covering 1500 years of Bhutanese cultural heritage. In the museum you will find old armours, arms, Buddhist ritual objects, stuffed animals, traditional costumes, old Thangkas as well as Neolithic tools, without mentioning a superb collection of stamps.
(Please look out for my other reports of Bhutan. To come soon...)

Published on Thursday November 30th, 2006


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Tue, Feb 13 2007 - 07:55 PM rating by travler

Maam I enjoyed reading this report and looking at the pictures.

Wed, Feb 07 2007 - 12:17 PM rating by antonioagui

I really love the pic of Taktsang Lhakang. The report is great. To be see that with my eyes soon!

Sun, Dec 03 2006 - 04:28 PM rating by st.vincent

Informative and interesting report on what looks a fascinating place.

Fri, Dec 01 2006 - 11:46 PM rating by eirekay

Isabelle, this is a MARVELOUS report! I especially liked being able to view the Album with it! Bhutan is already on my list, but this report makes me want to go all the sooner!

Fri, Dec 01 2006 - 06:50 AM rating by downundergal

I am so, so jealous - Bhutan has been high on my wish list since I was a kid. Aah, one day maybe. Love the pics especially the one of the girls. Have read Baby in a Backpack by Bunty Aviesoon? She lived there for an extended period of time. A great read. Cheers, Kerrie

Thu, Nov 30 2006 - 08:07 PM rating by rangutan

A perfect balance of history, statistics, personal views and hot tips for an unusual and hard destination [4.8] "Weiss Beer" :-)

Thu, Nov 30 2006 - 11:36 AM rating by mistybleu

Isabelle,

Such an interesting read! Your report is filled with so much information and illustrated perfectly.

Good job
Amanda

Thu, Nov 30 2006 - 10:36 AM rating by marianne

Isabelle,
Beautiful photo of the two girls. Is the national dress a kind of wrap? A very interesting report especially the first section is very informative and useful.
Marianne

Thu, Nov 30 2006 - 10:00 AM rating by magsalex

A great report. Very interesting

Thu, Nov 30 2006 - 09:22 AM rating by davidx

Wow!!! WELL worth waiting for, Isabelle. An excellent report on what sounds a really stunning area. I look forward to the next!

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