05.11.2015 - 07.11.2015 15 °C
After my first few days in Bhutan, I feel like this is a land where time stands still.
After the thrill of the flight into Paro which is by far the most spectacular landing approach I have experienced (for those interested watch the technical details on the approach here (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4jnPtYmXPSM), the past few days in Paro have been very laid back. There is no traffic, let alone traffic lights, no rush for anything, and apart from dogs barking at night there is no 'noise' about the place.
Locals go about their daily business, a number of them dressed in their national dress, including children who wear this as their school uniform. It's a nice change seeing these customs in the day-to-day sense, rather than via your typical tourist "cultural experiences" that are so often the only preview you get into the traditions of other countries.
The people are incredibly friendly also. By virtue of an education system that teaches the bulk of the curriculum in English, most people can speak English well, and they love talking about both where we have come from to visit, but also about Bhutan. They also love posing for photographs and checking them out on your camera or phone afterwards, with modern technology still a novelty to the Bhutanese.
The first day we wandered about Paro town, and myself and another member of my group hired some mountain bikes for the afternoon, which some locals help us source. It was great stretching the legs after virtually two full days of travel. Whilst on our way back into town we came across an archery tournament, the national sport, so got to watch that for a bit. The targets are ridiculously small and are fired at from a distance of 150m away, and with a strong breeze at the time it's amazing that they were still able to hit the target.
On Saturday we did our first lot of guided sightseeing, visiting the Paro dzong; the national museum; the country's oldest dzong where we got to sit with some nuns as they practiced their prayer rituals; and finally an old ruined dzong. Again, there is very little 'tourist' feel to this, whilst we do have a guide showing us the way and explaining things as we go, there is not a lot of other tourists around and you mostly feel like we are just observing people going about their business.
As there is pretty much zero activity after dark, we generally adjourn to our hotel bar and restaurant where the meals are included in this trip. So far the local food and beers have been pretty good, though they do tone down the chilli in the food for the tourists. There is a lot of cheese and potato served with most meals, so I'm pretty happy.
Today we head off to Panakha, crossing some mountain passes before descending into the valley, which may get the adrenaline flowing again given the state of the roads over here.