In a world increasingly well trammelled, there are fewer and fewer destinations that possess the aura of being comparatively unexplored. One such place is Bhutan, the landlocked kingdom wedged between India and China.
Bhutan is the subject of the latest of our Traveller Tours, which are specially-designed by Traveller’s editors and travel partners to provide unique experiences.
Among the guides we’ve assembled for this 11-day tour is Matt Wade, a former South Asia correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and Scott Woodward, an award-winning photographer of Bhutan.
Some of Scott’s work appears on these pages, including the stunning main image. Speaking of photos, Matt is pictured right, resplendent in a gho, the Bhutanese national dress for men.
He was required to wear the outfit as a correspondent when he reported on the spectacular coronation of the running Druk Gyalpo or “Dragon King”, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2008.
The Bhutnanese wisely limit the number of tourists to their kingdom, meaning our tour guests will join a select number of visitors to this amazing country.
With Matt and Scott, and our two other guest guides, you’ll experience Bhutan with experts who have an intimate knowledge of the kingdom, ensuring rare and memorable insights.
DAY 1 OCTOBER 1
Meet your guide at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and take a private transfer to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Meals none Rembrandt Hotel & Towers
DAY 2 OCTOBER 2
Visit some of Bangkok’s finest temples in the company of Matt Wade, a columnist and former South Asia Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. At Wat Traimit, you can see the largest solid gold Buddha statue in the world while Wat Pho is home to the 46-metre-long Reclining Buddha. Stop by the magnificent Grand Palace, a sprawling temple complex that boasts some of Thailand’s finest Buddhist architecture. In the evening, join Matt for dinner and a performance of classical Thai dance at the exquisite Silom Village in downtown Bangkok. Tonight, Matt will preview your trip to Bhutan in an informal presentation and touch on his eventful time as a foreign correspondent in the South Asia region. B L D Rembrandt Hotel & Towers
DAY 3 OCTOBER 3
BANGKOK – PARO – THIMPHU
Matt and the award-winning photographer Scott Woodward will travel with you to Bhutan. The flight to Paro, a valley town west of the Bhutanese capital Thimphu, takes a spectacular route across the Himalayas. On arrival, meet your tour representative for the drive to Thimphu, where you’ll check into your hotel. Thimphu is a unique mix of modern development and ancient traditions, and one of the only capital cities in the world without a traffic light. Enjoy a walk around the city’s main street and market area. Later, join Scott for a photography workshop where he will talk about his amazing experiences in Bhutan and share his tips on capturing the best nature and travel shots. Scott and Matt will join you for dinner this evening. B D Le Meridien
DAY 4 OCTOBER 4
Today, take a guided tour of Thimphu’s main attractions. Learn about the unique art of Bhutanese weaving at the Bhutan Textile Museum and see thousands of manuscripts, ancient texts and prayer-flag printing blocks at the National Library. The Institute for Zorig Chusum offers a six-year course on the nation’s 13 traditional arts and crafts while the newly-commissioned Simply Bhutan Museum offers insights into ancient Bhutanese architecture. Scott will join you after lunch as you continue your city tour and will be on hand to help you capture the best photo of Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). The last stop for the day will be the Trashichhoedzong – “fortress of the glorious religion”. Constructed in 1641, it now serves as the nation’s centre of government and religion. This evening, Matt will join you for dinner and give an in-depth talk and Q&A about Bhutanese society, politics and royalty based on his time as correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He will deliver the talk in the national attire, the gho. B L D Le Meridien
DAY 5 OCTOBER 5
THIMPHU - GANGTEY (PHOBJIKHA)
After breakfast, enjoy a dramatic drive to Gangtey (Phobjikha) Valley, passing through a dense forest of oak and rhododendron trees before emerging into one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. On arrival, check in to the multi-award-winning Gangtey Lodge, where lunch will be served. Phobjikha sits at 2900 metres, on the periphery of Black Mountain National Park, and is the winter home of a group of black-necked cranes, an endangered species, who migrate from the Tibetan Plateau. You’ll get the chance to meet and hear from a black-neck crane expert. Later, visit Gangtey Gompa, an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. For the reminder of the day, explore the tiny surrounding village of Gangten by foot and take in the fresh mountain air. This evening, Khin Omar Win, co-founder of Gangtey Lodge, will join you for dinner and deliver a short talk and Q&A on the concept behind Gangtey Lodge. B L D Gangtey Lodge
DAY 6 OCTOBER 6
After breakfast, explore Gangtey with Omar on a walk to Kilkhorthang (Gangtey nature trail). From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from there through beautiful forests and into the open valley. Enjoy a barbecue lunch after the walk. In the evening, take a leisurely walk through the village for a glimpse of everyday life and to see beautifully embellished farmhouses which are constructed without nails. You will also have an opportunity to try making suja (tea churned with salted butter) at a local farmer’s home. B L D Gangtey Lodge
DAY 7 OCTOBER 7
GANGTEY - PARO
After breakfast, drive back to Paro through the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys. En route, visit Simtokha Dzong, The Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras, which now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language. Walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong – “fortress of the heap of jewels” – which is known for its courtyard of fine Buddhist wall paintings. In Paro, take a tour of the recently established Namgay Artisanal Brewery, sample its distinctive beers and enjoy lunch in the taproom. Later, meet Bhutanese writer and author Tshering at a local cafe for afternoon tea where he’ll give a talk about his life as a journalist and author, and his passion for conserving culture and the protection of the environment. B L D Le Meridien
DAY 8 OCTOBER 8
After breakfast, travel to ancient Taktsang Monastery (known as Tiger’s Nest) which is one of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, an 8th-century Buddhist master, arrived here on the back of a tigress. The monastery is perched on the side of a cliff, 900 metres above the valley floor, and it takes about five hours to hike there and back. On the way back to town, stop by the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, which was built in the 17th-century to cement Bhutanese control over the main route to Tibet, and visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang temple, which marked the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. Those who do not want to make the trek to Taktsang Monastery can join an excursion to the 15th-century Dumtseg monastery with Tshering. Tonight, enjoy a dinner with Tshering to celebrate your amazing journey to a country that measures its gross national happiness. B L D Le Meridien
DAY 9 OCTOBER 9
PARO - BANGKOK
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok. On arrival, meet our guide and take a private transfer from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to your hotel. Enjoy free time at your leisure. Tonight, enjoy an international buffet and seafood dinner at Baiyoke Sky Hotel. B D Rembrandt Hotel & Towers
DAY 10 OCTOBER 10
Take a private transfer with a guide to Bangkok Airport for your flight home. Note: If you’re flying to Melbourne, you will have a late-night transfer to the airport for a flight home in the early hours of October 11. B
DAY 11 OCTOBER 11
Arrive in Australia
WHERE, WHEN AND HOW MUCH
TOUR DETAILS AND INCLUSIONS
DEPARTURE October 1, 2019
PRICES Twin share price: From $10,525 per person. Single hotel supplement: From $3,299 per person
- International economy class flights, from Sydney and Melbourne, with Thai Airways
- Return economy class flights from Bangkok to Paro with local carrier
- All domestic transportation in Thailand and Bhutan
- All accommodation
- 23 meals (9 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 8 dinners)
- Touring with expert national escorts and special expert hosts
- Sightseeing and entrance fees
- Bhutan visa permit for Australian passport holders
Prices are per person, twin share. Single supplement applies. Subject to availability. Airline fuel surcharge included and subject to change. While every effort will be made to ensure participation by the special guests, please note that circumstances beyond our control may result in changes to the guests or itinerary.
Booking conditions available at www.wendywutours.com.au ATAS A10517
Ph: 1300 727 998
SATURDAY 9am to 4pm; MONDAY TO FRIDAY 8am to 7pm