Six Senses – Bhutan Land of The Dragon People
Bhutan has been on my bucket list for years. As a child, I dreamed of seeing the awe-inspiring Himalayan mountains. I’d watch movies such as Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt and think to myself, “I have to go to this exotic destination.” Experiencing this country not only left an indelible imprint on me but has also restored my faith in traveling off the beaten path.
Before leaving on my trip, I was amazed by how many people asked, “Where is Bhutan?” This beautiful, harmonious and extraordinary country borders both India and China, with close neighbors such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Flights go daily on Drukair from Singapore and Bangkok, making it an accessible destination. If you have not yet flown on Drukair, you will enjoy its old world, very luxurious feel with attentive flight attendants and delicious food. The aircraft are state of the art and wonderfully appointed making this a remarkably comfortable airline experience.
Traveling throughout Bhutan is similar to traveling throughout Africa, in the sense that it is a journey, albeit a spiritual one. Each Six Senses Lodge has its own unique temples, monasteries, treks and farmer’s markets. It is amazing to think that there are over 1,000 monasteries and temples in Bhutan. The Bhutanese are warm, hospitable and joyous people. Bright smiles and a common prayer bow welcome you wherever you may go. The slogan in Bhutan is GNH (Gross National Happiness), which is remarkably fitting. Traveling throughout this country is an authentic experience that encourages you to take an inward glance at your own life and how you live it. Your pace becomes slower and more methodical and by the end of your journey, you begin to notice the little things. Throughout the trip, the movie “As Good as It Gets” kept popping into my mind. I remembered Jack Nicholson’s character stating, “You make me want to be a better man”, which really represented the Bhutanese people and their long-lasting effect on those they encounter. They truly embody all that is good in the world.
Your adventure begins by flying into Paro and starting your journey in one of Western Bhutan’s four valleys; Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey or Bumthang. Circling back at the end of the trip, your last destination will be Paro. Ending back in Paro is done for two reasons. The first reason to end in Paro is so that you do not have the long drive back on the day you fly out, with the second being that this is the valley you access the infamous Tiger’s Nest in. It certainly makes sense to trek each day, building up to the most difficult and momentous trek of the trip to Tiger’s Nest.
Arriving into Paro and stepping off the plane, I was struck by the beauty and cleanliness of the country as a whole. You are greeted by a picture of the King, his wife, and son painted on the side of a building, looking very regal. You can immediately sense these people are proud of their royal family, traditions and truly embrace the customs of their beloved country and Buddhist religion. While Jay and I traveled throughout Bhutan, we would continue to see pictures of the royal family and encounter locals who shared the adoration of the family by wearing pins with the royal emblem.
After being met by our guide and driver, we began our 1.5-hour journey to Thimphu. The drive had us meandering through valleys, across rivers and passing many temples and dogs. Dogs are everywhere in Bhutan and there is a saying that the first and last bite of food goes to the dog. Due to the fact that no animals are killed in Bhutan, all meat is shipped in from neighboring countries. Being an animal lover, I marveled at this and made sure to save a bite of my food each day for one of the dogs.
Arriving at the Six Senses Thimphu was simply astounding. We were greeted by warm, friendly and sincere smiles. Accepting our warm towels, we walked into the most serene lodge. Gorgeous hardwood floors and a roaring fireplace greeted us as we marveled at a view of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. I looked at my husband Jay and said, “How long are we staying?” We immediately knew that this lodge and our time spent here was going to be significant. The natural beauty of Six Senses Thimphu is hard to describe and resonates through each six senses property in the region. Simply put, it’s perfection. The General Manager, Sally Baughen, manages these properties like they are her own family. The staff adores Sally and she has the unique ability to be highly professional while at the same time being incredibly warm and welcoming, along with her loyal dog who is the most adorable creature ever.
Traveling throughout Bhutan is an experience like no other. From being invited to private prayers to visiting local farmers markets, to hiking at several iconic sites, to ending the trip at Tiger’s Nest, it is a trip we will not soon forget. We are very thankful for the opportunity to visit Bhutan and wish everyone would one day experience this magical place. It restores your faith in travel and touches your heart. The only other place in this world that has touched us so deeply is Africa. Bhutan is a must-visit and Six Senses’ lodges will meet every expectation and leave you wondering, “When can I come back to this stunning country?