Asia 2009 - Facts and Information
Planning and Travel
Background information
ASIA 2009


 To Paro
 Paro 1
 Paro 2
 Paro 3
 To Thimphu
 Thimphu 1
 Thimphu 2
 Thimphu 3
 Thimphu 4
 To Punakha
 To Phobjika

 To Trongsa
 To Jakar
 Around Ura
 To Mongar
 To Tashigang
 Tashigang 1
 Tashigang 2
 Tashigang 3

 Delhi 1
 Delhi 2
 Delhi 3
 Delhi 4
 Delhi 5

 Mount Abu
 To Narlai
 Narlai 1
 Narlai 2
 Narlai 3
 Narlai 4
 To Udaipur
 Train across India


First thoughts
Reading one of Audley's brochures gave us an interest in Bhutan and a little research suggested that the time to go was as soon as possible if we were to see the country before tourism got a grip on the place and changed it. We were also conscious that the general rate of change in Bhutan is very fast. To get to Bhutan it was really most sensible to go via Delhi. We thought it would be worthwhile having a couple of days to see Delhi (and allow recovery time in case of any long-haul flight problems). We also felt that we needed to see at least a little bit of India and chose Rajasthan which was close to Delhi and had a lot to offer our interests.

The outline plan was to fly to Delhi, then on to Bhutan and drive eastwards in the country. The question was how far east? The eastern parts of this mountain kingdom are as yet little visited by tourists so was attractive to us (although we knew accommodation might be 'interesting'). Bhutan is small but driving is slow and in the end we decided to drive, or rather be driven, from Paro in the west to Tashigang in the east and then on into Assam to return to Delhi. There is only one road so there were few decisions as to where we went, it was more about how long we wanted to stay in each place. In our bolt-on to Rajasthan we identified a number of things we wanted to see. And so we went to Audley who we had used several times before to plan an itinerary. The first produced was wrong as it gave us too long in Rajasthan and not long enough in Bhutan. This was our fault as we had rather gone into overload and suggested too many places in Rajasthan. We firmed up our expectations of the trip and decided the priority was to see Bhutan (three weeks) and have a quick look at India (about ten days). And so it was.

Getting there and back
For the long haul to Delhi we opted for Business Class and were advised to choose Jet Airways. Their flights were on time, service was good (although not exceptional) and they provided a full lie-flat bed, especially useful outward as it was an overnight flight. Also, joy oh joy, the toilet was big enough for a manly six-footer to navigate comfortably.

Foreign visitors to Bhutan must fly at least one way. Air Druk, the national airline and only commercial operator available, operates a very small fleet of A319s. We paid the small amount extra for their Business Class which was well worth it. Service was very good and the flight past Mt Everest was spectacular.

It is worth commenting that at Delhi International Airport the Business Lounges are before, not after, Security. Also all loose items such as bags or umbrellas that you take on the plane must have a label from Security. Eleanor's stick caused problems because we didn't know this!

Getting around
In Delhi we had all transfers arranged (or that was the theory, one failed and we ended up in a dodgy, scamming 'taxi'). We also had a driver and guide for our full day in Delhi, but arranged a driver only for a couple of half-days when we went to some sites on our own. The driver only cost us IR 1500 for four hours through the incoming agent, a hotel car would have been a lot more.

In Bhutan you have no real choice about getting around. You either have a guide and driver (which we did), or you join a coach group or you trek. Whatever you choose you are charged a set rate per day which is inclusive of all accommodation, food (but not drink) and transport. Bhutan has a very limited road network which is only 50 years old and whilst surfaces are quite good the roads are narrow and incredibly bendy so progress is very slow.

We decided to take the train from Assam to Delhi - a 30 hour trip. The logic was it would be more fun than flying and give us a chance to see a little more of India. We travelled AC1 class and had a coupe to ourselves. (Accommodation in AC1 is in two or four berth compartments - you won't know which until shortly before departure). Food came round at regular intervals, as this was a Rajdhani Express it was included in the fare. Western style toilets were bearable. We also took an overnight train from Delhi to Abu Road, again a Rajdhani service and also in a coupe. This was a bit of a period piece with rather old fashioned service with an adequate toilet. Our third train was overnight from Udaipur to Delhi on the Mewar Express. This was in a four berth compartment shared with two other passengers who maintained strict silence all the way. Toilet was not good.

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