Now that we are in Bhutan, we’ve suddenly entered holiday mode: a world away from backpacking!
In Bhutan, you have to join a tour so we’re on a private tour for 2 with our own dedicated guide, driver and ultra-comfortable SUV. We are being driven around like royalty and spoon-fed. Gone is the route planning, the wrestling with the IRCTC train booking website, trying to squash into shared jeeps as well as the arguing with rickshaw drivers and other touts and all other hassle. All we have to do is turn up at the allotted hour and sling our bags in the back of the vehicle and hey presto, we’re off!! Actually we don’t even have to do that if we don’t want to: it seems to be de rigeur for our luggage to be moved around for us (rather embarrassingly at times by small Bhutanese women working in the hotels) although we are trying to put a stop to that and move it ourselves while also trying not to cause offence at the same time.
And it has to be said the standard of our accommodation has improved somewhat from the rooms costing £12 per night to rather grandiose affairs. We no longer need to provide our own sheet liners and towels nor ask whether there will be any hot water (and, if so, when) or have bucket showers. On our first night we were even upgraded to a suite! It’s not all impersonal hotel resorts though; instead we’ve stayed in some charming (high end) guesthouses in bucolic settings.
True, you have to pay for it. And it is definitely not a cheap country to visit (perhaps in fact one of the world’s most expensive (??), certainly I would think Asia’s most expensive). Essentially there is a levy of US$ 250 per person per day. OK we got a small discount for booking directly with a local tour operator but then had to pay a surcharge for being a group comprising of only 2 people and then benefited from a sustainable fee discount for some nights in the 2nd week of our trip. This all makes the calculation unnecessarily complex. Let’s just call it US$ 250 per person per day which covers all food, accommodation, transport, entrance fees, guide and driver. Apparently US$ 65 of this figure is taken by the government and used to fund social welfare projects etc.
All in all, a welcome “holiday” in the middle of our trip. Not quite sure how we will cope when we return to India in mid-April but let’s not worry about that yet and just enjoy the stress free break! Beer is even readily available here too!