Bordered though it may be by India on three sides (with China to the north), the Indian tourist count to Bhutan doesn’t even begin to compare with the numbers that we send regularly to Nepal. Part of the reason is the country’s deliberate inaccessibility: Bhutan thinks it has done quite well by picking and choosing the modern trappings it wants—it was the last country in the world to warm up to telephones and acquired its first Internet connection in 1991—and prefers to subscribe to the principles of Gross National Happiness instead of, well, the more Gross National Product. Expectedly, even as the rest of the world woos the tourism dollar, Bhutan still allows only its national carrier to fly into Paro, and just so that you don’t get the wrong idea, Druk Air doesn’t offer online bookings.
Bhutan-esque: A performance at the Tsechu festival. Gypsy Feet
Making Bhutan just that bit more accessible to the discerning traveller—about the only kind the nation wants—is Gypsy Feet, a relatively new “alternative” travel company that, after opening up north-eastern India, has focused its sights on western Bhutan. In a nine-day tour in September, it plans to cover Thimphu, Dochu-la, Paro and Haa Valley. Scheduled to coincide with the fabulously picturesque Tsechu festival, the itinerary includes hikes to the Cheri Goempa monastery and the precariously perched Taktshang monastery, a sampling of the local night life and allows ample time for bird-watching, photography and gasps at the awe-inspiring natural beauty. Because they’re “alternative”, expect much communion with local lifestyles and off-beat modes of travel and experiences.
Gypsy Feet, set up by three ex-corporate types and one MPhil. student, will arrange for air tickets from Kolkata, Bagdogra and New Delhi to Paro; in case air tickets are not available, it will organize overland transportation to Bhutan. The group departs on 19 September and accommodates less than 10 people, so as to ensure personalized attention. At Rs37,000 (exclusive of airfare) the cost per person covers accommodation in boutique hotels, food, intra-country transportation, permits, entry fees and guide.
Click here for further details or check out upcoming trips on the Gypsy Feet page on Facebook, or call them at 040-42020159 or mail email@example.com (09833002343) or firstname.lastname@example.org (09177660028).
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